Latest ACA Blog Posts

January 21, 2014

This guest post is by Audrey Monke, owner and director of Gold Arrow Camp.

I love flipping my calendar to January and the promise it offers of a fresh start. There’s something about the clean pages of a whole year stretched out in front of me that makes me believe I can accomplish more this year than I ever have before.

One thing I’ve learned is that just flipping to the fresh page doesn’t actually make anything different. I have to put some effort in. After being a camp director for more than twenty-five years, I’m still trying to get better at my job. I’d like to share three ways I’m going to be a better camp director in 2014, and I hope you get some ideas you can use, as well.

1. Look Back

As you look back on 2013, ask yourself two questions:

  • What were my strengths as a camp director?
  • What were my biggest failures and what did I learn?

Are you...

December 19, 2013

Guest blog by Stacey Ebert

For sleep-away campers, the end of June brought endless smiles. School closed for two whole months and our second family greeted us with open arms. Mornings were spent with sleepy-eyed bunkmates and nights came alive with laughter. Days were filled with friends, canteen, and food-fights in the lodge, and countless memories were made.

Ask those of us who went to camp and no matter how long ago it was, we can still sing our favorite song, tell you about our beloved counselors and share our fond camp memories. Those who went to camp were guaranteed to have their life enriched. Maybe you learned to swim or that you loved chicken barbecues. Or maybe that one special staff member helped you see something in yourself you never knew was there. There’s wisdom in summer camp and it seems that it’s not until we leave that we realize the weight of so very many of its gifts.

1. Build...

December 17, 2013

Guest blog by Ann Sheets

The time between Thanksgiving and the New Year always seems to go by in a hurry for me. It seems like it was just yesterday that we were ringing in this year — and already it’s time to celebrate the holidays and start another year. Holidays always make me slow down a little and think about how lucky I am, especially to be involved with the camp community. At the risk of being a little sentimental, here are some things that I am particularly thankful for, now and throughout the year:

I’m thankful . . .

  • that my parents let me go to camp when I was a child. Those first experiences in an organized outdoor program, out in nature and with my friends, set the stage for a lifelong love of the outdoors and the camp experience. Neither of my parents had been campers as children, but they both recognized the importance of camp, from learning independence, to sharpening skills, to spending...
December 5, 2013

Guest post by Scott Brody

American fifteen year olds are lagging behind students from other nations in math and science, according to the results of an international assessment exam called PISA. Though we'd like to think of ourselves as an educated nation, these results point to some glaring deficiencies in the way that we educate our children. For the record, our shortcomings are not limited to children from lower income families; students from wealthy American families fared no better in the results when compared to similarly well-off peers in other countries.

What is hidden behind these results, however, is an even more unsettling insight. The PISA test, unlike the standardized tests that are administered in most American schools, assesses older students in mathematics literacy...

November 27, 2013

Guest post by Anne Archer Yetsko

Cheley Colorado Camps, Estes Park, Colorado

When I speak with friends who work in other industries, I always tell them that if you have an applicant who has been a camp counselor and has a positive reference from that camp, they should move to the top of that pile of applications that are overflowing on their desk. A camp counselor is one of the hardest jobs out there. It is not all fun and games. Here is my list of the top 10 qualities you get when you hire someone who has been a camp counselor.

  1. A good communicator: Camp counselors have to be able to communicate well with children, parents, coworkers, and superiors. This is different from any other job because parents leave the most valuable thing in their lives...
November 18, 2013

Guest post by Lydia Pettis

When I was eight years old I spent four weeks at a summer camp for girls in West Virginia. My mother grew up in this camp, and I imagine she hoped I would grow to love it as she did. Nestled in a corner of the Shenandoah valley, surrounded by mountains, the camp provided wide-ranging activities. Best of all, it had horses, and we rode several times a week. Four weeks, however, was a very long time for a little girl's first adventure away from home. Every day I received a warm, newsy letter from mom or dad, and every day I wrote the same thing... "I miss you. I am homesick. I want to come home." This was followed by a list of all of the activities and adventures that had taken place in the last day or two. Looking back on this time it is clear that I was generally recognized by camp staff as the most homesick camper that season. Special attention was given to me in many ways, such as being chosen to be...

November 13, 2013

ACA has teamed up with Teach For America to present two webinars for young professionals. Learn tools that can help you land your dream job and master it once you’ve got it!

These webinars each offer one continuing education credit (CEC) toward your professional development goals. Track your progress online.

The Art of Public Speaking and Networking
November 19, 6:30–7:30 p.m. ET

  • Learn the importance of effective public speaking and networking
  • Tips for successful public speaking and networking practices
  • How to draft and deliver an effective elevator pitch

REGISTER (Free for ACA members!)

Operate and Manage Like a...

November 11, 2013

Guest post by Jean G. McMullan

The season of thankfulness and of giving is upon us. Summer gifts of leadership from our staff to campers produce ongoing positive effects that last all through the year. We savor the memories of difficult times during camp season as well as small triumphs when campers feel the warmth and support of their counselors. Ideally, camp is a year-round gift.

The powerful effect of the camp experience is working as campers in their winter venues tackle more difficult school projects or make friends with someone whom they never before cared to know. And some campers may find that they now have the guts to stick up for a person being bullied or who needs some extra help.

We revel in gifts of e-mails and calls that trickle in to camp leaders during the off-season. These earnest notes from campers, staff, and parents give momentum to keep going — to plan for yet another effective and exciting...

November 5, 2013

Guest blog by Tish Bolger, ACA President

As advocates for children and youth, it is our job to make sure they are provided with the very best learning opportunities during their developing years. Some of the most important opportunities we offer the children and youth in our charge are nature experiences.

Camps and youth programs are continually striving to create “Carbon Footprint Champions” who have vast experience with nature, conservation, and stewardship. That is why a recent commercial from Toys “R” Us — which seems to place an emphasis on a trip to a toy store to the detriment of the outdoors — is so disheartening.

In response to the commercial, the American Camp Association (ACA)® has created a way for members and other youth advocates to reach out to Toys “R” Us CEO Antonio Urcelay to share...

October 29, 2013

Did you know that on October 31st, the planet will become a 7 billion-strong population? And half of that 7 billion are under the age 25! An overwhelming number, isn’t it?

Yet, I can only get my head around the implications (such as available resources, including all of the issues surrounding climate change — water, food, weather) if I consider the issue from my small perspective. What do I do?

I know I can turn off the lights, drive less, watch less TV, reduce my use of plastic, turn down my heat, and recycle. Yet, the camp community also has an opportunity to help each camper become a champion of the “carbon footprint” effort. A campaign for our planet led by the world’s most important asset — youth. Youth changed our use of seat belts. Youth changed our sense of responsibility to pick up trash and not throw waste out of our car windows. Youth helped us support Smokey the Bear. They are powerful advocates...

October 21, 2013

What is something that everyone who has ever gone to camp has done that is virtually impossible to re-create in any other setting? Campfires, of course! Our camp is 76 summers old and there are some long-standing traditions and songs that everyone comes to expect. I really appreciated the first campfire of our Girls Camp this summer, filled with beautiful singing and complete with harmony. Sitting there, it made me think about all the campfires I have experienced over 45 summers at camp, and the way singing has been an important part of my life, at camp and away from it.

It made me think too that we have moved away from the singing culture of my childhood, and those childhoods of my elders. I heard a monk once describe singing together as “breathing together.” There is recent research that documents its effects on our...

September 30, 2013

I have talked about the early childhood movement in the past. The success of this movement was a result of practitioners working with researchers to take early brain development science and make a compelling business case. This helped the public think of child care as something other than warehousing children or “babysitting.” It was a movement that revolutionized early childhood.

As a result, I predict that we will see a second movement — this time in youth development — within the next decade.

Let me suggest a trifecta, if you will:

1.) The growth of youths’ emerging critical thinking, problem solving, reflective skills, communication, and creativity — when supported by active, participatory learning — makes the case for a recalibration and realignment of a comprehensive educational/developmental system for young people. Home, school, and out-of-school programming (camps) must come...

September 24, 2013

Want to learn something new, share some ideas of your own, and connect with people who also love camp? There are local ACA conferences being held across the country this fall and winter!

ACA, New England — October 4, North Andover, Massachusetts

ACA, Virginias — October 15-16, Shepherdstown, West Virginia

OctoberWest — October 21-22, Orange, California

ACA, Oregon Trail — November 7–8, Gresham, Oregon

ACA, Keystone — November 12–14, Macungie, Pennsylvania

ACA, Heart of the South — November 12–14, Burns, Tennessee (just outside of Nashville)

ACA, Great Rivers — November 13–14, Moravia, Iowa

ACA, Rocky Mountain — November 20–22,...

September 23, 2013

Guest post by Marla Coleman

10-for-2. It often feels like we live 10 months for 2 months! Campers. Staff. Directors. (And dare we say parents, too?).

Sadly, those precious months have drawn to a close. We intentionally design the last week or few days to ensure that it seals our memories forever. Whatever the traditions of each camp — Olympics, candles flickering on the lake, “burndown” of the year, closing ceremonies — they really are one giant zip-lock bag. These rituals allow us to preserve the fun, the growth, the challenges, and the triumphs.

We can expect a letdown of sorts when it’s all over, not unlike the experience campers have. After all, we were on quite a high for those 8 weeks or so, delivering the ultimate experience: It’s exhilarating to be at camp every day — be yourself, be appreciated for who you are, know that no one is judging you, and feel liberated...

September 18, 2013

The following is a Summer Story from 2013 by Jake Klingensmith (see right), Geza Head Counselor at Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI). Check out GUCI on Twitter: @URJGUCI. Thanks Jake and GUCI for sharing your Summer Story!

This is my fourth summer as a counselor at GUCI, and over the years I’ve had a lot of time to figure out what my role as a counselor is and what kind of counselor I want to be. I’ve spent three years at Carnegie Mellon, a school that is very heavy in technology, and I see people spending a lot of time sitting in front of screens. I see the amazing things that can happen on those screens, but I know there are more amazing things that happen out in the world — especially at camp.

As human beings we have an unbelievable potential to create and to interact with the world. During my time as a counselor, I‘ve noticed that many children today spend more and...

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