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August 12, 2013
In July, I had the opportunity and privilege to visit a number of ACA camps in Southern California. Visits to camps are always inspiring. This trip was particularly enjoyable because I was given the opportunity to not only spend some quality time with camp owners and directors, but I was provided additional discussion time with counselors.
These young people are without question the best ambassadors and champions for the camp experience. They understand the intrinsic value and importance of the camp experience for youth. What I was also impressed with was their ability to articulate what they are gaining from the experience: leadership, ability to listen, contribution, problem solving, humility, joy, and friendship.
Amidst all of their impressive, thoughtful expressions of purpose and promise, I was buoyed by their laughter and camaraderie. They shared stories, embellishing and editing with great artistry of language. They used words to paint...
August 7, 2013
Whether you already have a new camp leadership role, or you’ll be going for one next summer, there are a few things to keep in mind as you become a camp leader.
Your role is different than it was as frontline staff member, and your responsibilities are more complex. Keep in mind these tips from Harvard Business Review (HBR) and Careerealism as you make the transition:
- Find the middle ground between listening and ordering. Michael Watkins from HBR calls this a “consult-and-decide” style. Show you value others’ input, but that you will make the decision that is ultimately best for your camp.
- Own your title as a leader. As...
August 6, 2013
Am I missing courage? I am a Wizard in an Oz of my own making.
I love to assimilate thoughts and concepts that may appear ambiguous and create meaning. To do so takes courage because at times the results may appear foolish. Yet, when I apply my genuine emotions (my heart) and use my brain to utilize the best thoughts collected from others, every once in a while, new meaning and provocation emerges.
That happened this week when I was re-reading an article by Edutopia.
The article was discussing brain-based learning and emotion science. The term brain-based learning resonated with me more directly than simply saying “teen brain research,” which often expresses “how the brain is developing.” Attaching the word “learning” illustrated what I think is the real value of brain research! It is about how we learn — not just understanding how the brain develops. Combining brain-based learning with...
July 31, 2013
You might call them international staff, but they’re really camp cultural exchange visitors! We love working with and learning from people from other countries — and there’s no better place to do that than at camp!
Did you know?
- According to ACA’s 2013 Compensation, Benefits, and Professional Development Report, 50 percent of ACA camps utilize international staff.
3 Reasons to Love Camp Cultural Exchange
- Global Awareness is a core subject for 21st-century learning. (Partnership for 21st Century Skills)
- Personal connections with cultural exchange visitors enrich our lives with new perspectives.
- Learning about each other leads to a more peaceful...
July 22, 2013
Guest post by Audrey Monke
“Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree.” —Marian Wright Edelman
In our cut-throat, competitive culture, where assertiveness and achievement are glorified and valued, I believe the importance of focusing on kindness as a character trait is often overlooked. There are anti-bullying posters and speakers at most schools, but where is the message about the powerfully positive impact of kindness?
All youth development professionals, including teachers, coaches, and camp staff, know that wording things positively and telling kids what we DO want them to do is far more effective than a list of “don’ts” and “nos.” So, why hasn’t this message translated into how we teach children to treat one another? We’re talking with children a lot about not bullying each other, but we’re not talking with...
July 22, 2013
One of the greatest treasures of a camp experience is the bond formed between campers and their counselors. Not only do campers receive a bounty of fun times and memories with their favorite counselor, but they also take steps on a developmental path that leads to a healthy, happy future.
Research from school psychologist and adolescent counselor Stephen Wallace, MS Ed, shows the importance of role model and mentor relationships:
- 46 percent of teens with a mentor reported a high "sense of self," versus 25 percent of teens without a mentor.
Please note that the ...
July 16, 2013
The fun doesn’t have to stop when it rains! If you’re looking for some ways to spend a rainy day at camp, try these activities out.
1. Marshmallow Tinkertoys and Towers
If there’s one food that you have in abundance at camp, it’s probably marshmallows! Put those to use on a rainy day by building a 3-D house, tepee, or even a marshmallow buddy with pretzel sticks and marshmallows. (Idea from www.parents.com/fun/activities/indoor/kids-indoor-games-activities/)
Or even better, build a S'more tower, like the picture to the right. (Great idea, Camp Howe!)
2. Board Games
Bust out your favorite board game. From Pictionary to Monopoly, board games a great way to get everyone involved on a rainy day. If you have a big group, set...
July 12, 2013
Kids come home from camp with lots of stories — games they played, meals they ate, and, most importantly, friendships they formed. Often times, the relationships formed at camp have a lifelong impact on a camper’s life. Having special camp friends is not only fun and eye-opening for campers, but it’s also critical to their well-being. According to psychologist Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness, “a person’s happiness is best predicted by the breadth and the depth of their social connections — their ties to other people. Camp gives kids a wonderfully rich opportunity to extend both the breadth and depth of their relationships.”
ACA research supports the idea that campers extend their connections at camp....
July 10, 2013
“We don’t learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”
—John Dewey, influential educational reformer
After a day on the ropes course or canoeing on the river, we ask our campers to reflect on what they learned about themselves, their skills, and their relationships. We know reflection is a powerful tool — but as leaders, are we using it ourselves?
Well, now’s a good time to check in!
How are you doing on your goals? What skills have you gained? What have you learned are your strengths, and what could you improve?
If you’re keeping a journal of what you’ve learned this summer, take some time to look back at what you’ve written and set some new goals or refine some old ones if you need to. If you haven’t logged the skills you’ve gained, take a...
July 9, 2013
Recently, camp has received some uninformed exposure in the media, and as stewards for youth and the camp experience, we must be prepared to respond with facts. We must use this opportunity to shine a light on the critical 21st-century skills our campers learn, our care in providing role models, and our continued efforts to reach every child with a quality camp experience.
If I were queen, I would wave my magic wand and ban all poorly researched articles that allow people to unfairly use their influence. (Although, I am happy to say that Dr. Drexler, who wrote the blog post I’m referring to, appended her post after receiving my letter and reading the many comments in support of camp.) If I were queen, television would look for ways to...
July 2, 2013
As a camp counselor, you have a special bond with your campers. Maybe it’s because you teach them new games and songs, eat your meals together, and experience the thrills of camp as a team. And maybe it’s something more, too . . .
Michael Thompson, PhD, an author and psychologist, writes in “Why Camp Counselors Can Out-Parent Parents”:
Children love to learn, but they get tired of being taught by adults. Children want to learn from older children, and, at a camp that means older campers, CITs (counselors in training), and camp counselors. They want to live with them, emulate them, absorb them. In our age-segregated society, camp is the only place in America where an eleven-year-old can get the sustained attention of a nineteen-year-old.
So this summer, take advantage of the unique opportunity...
July 2, 2013
Guest post by Marla Coleman
“Play is not a luxury we should ration, but rather a crucial dynamic of physical, intellectual, social, and emotional development for children of all ages.” So says Dr. David Elkind, author of The Hurried Child. In fact, play is the work of childhood, experts clarify. It is what gets children ready for learning in the first place.
But did you know that over the last two decades, children have lost eight hours per week of free, spontaneous play? And a recent study concluded that kids’ overall ability to follow instructions was inversely related to the amount of time they had to practice imaginary play. That’s because play teaches self-regulation and other lifelong skills needed for success. It is the catalyst that makes us more productive in everything we do and leads us ultimately to happiness.
Here’s the good news: Play is both the stage and the backdrop for the...
July 1, 2013
In the heat of summer, camps are accustomed to taking precautions to ensure the safety and comfort of campers when temperatures get extreme. Drinking plenty of water, moving more “active” programming to times when it is cooler, encouraging use of sunscreen, and training staff to recognize signs of heat-related illness are ways that camps make sure that kids are having fun while in the sun.
You can partner with camps during times of extreme heat by talking about the following CDC recommendations with your camper before camp:
- Drink Plenty of Fluids — When weather is especially hot, increasing fluid intake is essential, regardless of your activity level. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16–32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour. This does not include liquids that contain large amounts of sugar...
June 25, 2013
On the first day of camp, your main objective is to make your campers feel comfortable. But it’s also a great opportunity to make parents feel more comfortable about the camp experience, too!
In their absence, you will take on many of the responsibilities of a parent for your campers. So it’s important you present yourself as the warm, informed counselor you were hired to be! Here are some of our favorite tips:
Get yourself in the right mindset.
Most of you aren’t parents, but that doesn’t mean you can’t imagine how it feels to be dropping your child off at camp. In her Camping Magazine article, “Wow Your Campers’ Parents,” Audrey Monke describes an exercise from training expert Michael Brandwein:
Michael Brandwein . . . has an exercise called “A...
June 24, 2013
James (Pop) Hollandsworth passed away last week.
I met Pop Hollandsworth early in my ACA career. I was attending a conference in ACA, Southeastern and was advised to go to Pop’s workshop on “how to climb a tree.” To my surprise, when I arrived at the session (being held under a tree), I saw a diminutive, sparkling elderly man who was in his eighties. He reminded us of the simple beauty and magic of climbing a tree — a tree full of life lessons.
Regardless of Pop’s size or age, the power, energy, and spirit this man emitted was extraordinary. In the years that followed, whenever I had the privilege of sharing time with Pop, it was the same — I left his presence knowing there was good in the world.
The last time I was with Pop was in Hong Kong for the 2011 International Camping Congress. I was exhausted from the long flight and bemoaning my weariness, when once again, I saw that diminutive, sparkling...