Latest ACA Blog Posts

August 17, 2011

When you’re a camp counselor, you walk the fine line of doing the job you were hired to do — keep kids safe, healthy, and having fun — and doing it your way. It takes a lot of initiative and self-direction to make it through a camp day. Think about these questions before you start writing your resume:

How did I manage my goals and my time?
How did I explore and discover learning opportunities?
What did I do to hone my program planning, supervision, and evaluation skills?

Being on duty 140 hours per week or more is not for the faint at heart. Kids are demanding, and when you live on-site, you cannot simply leave the office when the clock strikes five. Camp counselors are on duty when mosquito bites get itchy, someone falls and cuts his knee, or homesickness strikes in the middle of the night. To be a camp counselor, you’ve got...

August 15, 2011

At camp, do you realize that you’re learning flexibility and adaptability, while also practicing your creativity? Ask yourself these questions before adding to your camp job description on your resume:

How did I adapt to new roles and responsibilities?
How did I find ways to balance diverse opinions and values?
How did I work to solve conflicts?
How did I adapt to the needs of various campers?
What were some of my most creative moments?

A camp counselor's flexibility, adaptability, and creativity are constantly being tested. Between developing fun cabin night activities, helping campers think of a skit to present to the camp, designing an idea for an activity booth on "Disney Day," or figuring out how to take a three-day camping trip in the pouring rain from a nightmare to an adventure, counselors must use the resources available to them — often on a tight time schedule — to actively engage...

August 10, 2011
Camp Memories

For 150 years, campers have returned home from camp excited to share what they learned at camp, who they met, and the fun activities that filled their days. Camp nostalgia has long been a part of the fall season: "Camp continued to resonate in children's lives during the school year as they recalled happy moments, explained camp rituals to their family and friends, attended the occasional reunion, and prepared for the summer to come."

What's your favorite camp story or memory? Share it in the comments below! Also, be sure to check out ACA's resources on keeping alive not only the stories, but the life lessons and good habits learned at camp once the season is over.

Information from Leslie Paris' Children's Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp, p. 262.

August 10, 2011

Everyone has skills and abilities. Some are your unique aptitudes and talents that come to you naturally and easily. Other skills and abilities will be added or improved upon through education, training, and experience.

You will need many skills in the 21st century job market.

The experience gained from working a camp is a stepping-stone on your long-term career path. You have the opportunity to acquire and practice critical 21st century job skills at camp that will be transferable to all of your future environments — professional and personal.

Translating these might be as difficult as getting campers to bed each night, but if you can identify the skills you have developed, then you will have those important items that fill a resume and carry you through interviews.

Many human resources managers in lots of different fields find summer...

August 9, 2011

The Summer 2011 issue of the journal New Directions for Youth Development focused on “Recreation as a Developmental Experience.” In it, an article by Barry A. Garst, Laurie P. Browne, and M. Deborah Bialeschki was published — “Youth Development and the Camp Experience.” This excerpt is food for thought: “Research with adolescents suggests that young people reinvent themselves through the camp experience by escaping the negative impressions of others and revising their self-identify at camp. Undesirable personal characteristics can be shed in favor of new ways to think, feel, believe, and express themselves. Through camp groupings, campers also have opportunities to explore different social roles and build social capital.”

As always, you can find more camp trends and research at our Research homepage.

August 3, 2011
Color Wars

Color wars have brought team unity and the thrill of competition to camp since the mid-1910s. These fun-spirited meta-games are thought to have started as elaborations of Capture the Flag, which was popular at northeastern boys' camps at the time. In these Capture the Flag games, boys would split into two color teams, "often blue and gray for the Union and Confederate armies of the American Civil War," and would try to sneak onto each other's "territory" without beeing seen.

Color wars allow every camper to shine — whether it's playing sports or checkers, creating the best camp cheer or just cheering the loudest. What's your favorite color war activity?

Information from Leslie Paris' Children's Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp, pp. 120–121.

August 3, 2011

Summer sessions are winding down. You've played every game, walked every trail, seen every type of discipline problem, and down time is still the hardest time to keep campers engaged and safe. Down time inevitably means more discipline issues and a higher risk for accidents and injuries. Whether it's a deck of cards, a quick clean up game, a magic trick, or a perfect phrase that stops campers from arguing, every counselor has a a go-to "bag of tricks" to help manage a typical day at camp.

Tell us: What's in your bag of tricks?

August 1, 2011

They say the brain is innately social and collaborative . . . which means it must be very happy at camp! Let’s start a “Feed the Brain Campaign.”

Feed the brain in a safe camp environment with steady doses of:

  • Challenges with low threats
  • Opportunities to talk and listen
  • Places to make friends and new acquaintances
  • Chances for variety and innovation
  • Time to problem solve and make decisions
  • Events that support resiliency

If you think these things are not important, consider whether you would hire someone who did not have a well-nourished brain — these factors can, in fact, tip the scale!

July 27, 2011

"Goldie" . . . "Turtle" . . . "Chippy" . . . "Daisy" . . . "Lando." One of the oldest — and most fun! — camp traditions is doling out and receiving camp nicknames. Why do we love camp nicknames so much?

According to Leslie Paris, author of Children’s Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp, special camp names throughout history have “testified to new identities and experiences, asserting children’s disjunction from ordinary life while illustrating their active participation in making camps into special spaces of personal transformation. Nicknames also ritualized new ways of thinking about family and kinship outside traditional bounds” (p. 105).

July 27, 2011

If we think our efforts to teach campers how to resolve conflicts, solve problems, and collaborate with others for the good of the camp community are not important — just look at Congress. These are critical competencies that our campers will need in the future as we attempt to solve the world's problems against a backdrop of competing priorities and agendas. Your work is so important!

To that end, I asked the camp community to be ever diligent about safety. We shared resources to help you talk to campers about violence and terrorism. But I was reminded that maybe our most important job is doing what we do best — providing opportunities where we can learn, share, and grow together. Fostering peaceful humanity; learning about one's self and others. The camp experience is about self, the environment, and learning . . . engagement at its best...

July 27, 2011

Camp is an action-packed adventure — so it’s no wonder that campers can become a little tired, moody, or grumpy at the thought of the camp season ending and having to say goodbye to their friends.

Use these 4 tips to help campers beat the “end of camp blues”:

  1. Remind campers that they’ll miss camp because they had fun — and that feeling is normal.
  2. Encourage campers to reconnect with friends at home and let them know the importance of sharing camp experiences and stories with those friends.
  3. Tell them to watch for or plan local reunions and get-togethers where they can connect with friends from camp.
  4. Explain that they can stay in touch with camp friends. Have them exchange addresses, e-mails, or phone numbers.
July 26, 2011

What we do and say, as those who influence the lives of children and youth, is of the utmost importance. Whether a parent, a caregiver, a counselor, a teacher, a person driving the bus, a cook, or a journalist, we cannot fail to take time to think before speaking or to research before writing. We must not fail to consider the consequences of our words. Words said or written, in anger or carelessness, can impact the lives of children and youth for a lifetime. Words define truth whether true or not. Words have such power they can alter reality — for good or ill. Don't risk being shallow.

Remember, we are bakers . . .

July 25, 2011

I’m on flight 3088 reading Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki. And I read the following: Bake a Bigger Pie. “There are two kinds of people and organizations in the world: eaters and bakers. Eaters want a bigger slice of an existing pie; bakers want to make a bigger pie. Eaters think if they can win, you lose, and if you win, they lose; bakers think that everyone can win with a bigger pie."

The 20/20 Vision is about baking a bigger pie. We want more children, youth, and adults to have the access and opportunity to have a camp experience. We want an increasing number of professionals and paraprofessionals who work with children, youth, and adults to have the access and opportunity to improve their knowledge and competence so quality services are provided to others. We want to be a...

July 21, 2011

Check out this video from the counselors at Tim Horton Camp Kentahten. Tell us why YOU work at camp by posting a comment below. Better yet, make your own video and share it with us!  

July 20, 2011

Again this week, we look at “apps” you don’t need a cell phone to access at camp! Kim Aycock, MST, shows you how to be flexible this summer with a “Gumby App” — for those times when bad weather, technical difficulties, or longer-than-expected activities threaten “regularly scheduled programming.”

Kim writes:
“It may be impossible to teach someone to be flexible, but rather, it may be helpful if you are aware of times when you will be called on to 'be Gumby' as a counselor and adapt to any changes that come your way. Veteran staff can verify that you may need to use 'plan B' because the weather is bad; a technical difficulty with equipment arises; a planned activity takes ten minutes to complete and you thought it would last for an hour . . .”

Try this game with campers to...

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