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Latest ACA Blog Posts
July 1, 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 1, 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...
June 30, 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 24, 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 23, 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...
June 19, 2013
Guest post by Brian Trota
Summer is upon us and you know what that means? It’s summer camp season! My wife and I just welcomed our first born child a few months ago, so it will be a while before we send him off to camp. But many of you are smiling as you remember your experiences of having sent your kids to summer camps throughout the years. I know from my nieces that summer camp can be a lot of fun: meeting new people, making lasting friendships, and learning a lot of new things.
While you prepare your child for a summer of healthy growth and experiences, don’t forget to keep his or her eyes healthy as well! Here are 5 tips to keep your kid’s eyes thoroughly protected this summer:
- Buy a Good Pair of Sun Glasses. It’s imperative to buy a good pair of sunglasses for your child. So do your research and make sure to find ways to keep them secure on him or her....
June 18, 2013
Chances are you’ll encounter some camper behavior this summer that leaves you frustrated, confused, or worn out. But don’t worry — these tips will help you handle difficult camper behavior and keep everyone on track for a great experience!
Remember to follow any behavior management guidelines specific to your camp or your director’s preferences, and keep the following in mind:
- Give the camper one warning; make it clear that the behavior or action was inappropriate and undesirable.
- Give the camper a chance to explain; he or she may have a good reason for the behavior.
- Be consistent and impartial.
- Stay cool and calm; keep strong emotions in check.
- Avoid lecturing or embarrassing the camper; discipline in private if possible.
- Stress that the camper's behavior is the problem, not the camper's personality. Help the camper identify acceptable alternatives to the...
June 17, 2013
Guest post by Ann Sheets
In his closing keynote speech at the 2013 ACA National Conference in February, Dr. Gary Krahn spoke about children's creativity. He reported that during the preschool years, children score a 98 percent on the Torrance creativity test; at five years old, the score drops to 50 percent; after children reach the age of ten, their creativity score drops to less than 30 percent. His point? Formal education inhibits creativity in children.
Fast forward to the present time for summer camp. What better place than camp for children and youth to think outside of the box, to stretch their minds unbound by academics, and to be creative?
The ACA National Board of Directors recently created a work group on noncognitive skills, those skills we take for granted that we teach at camp, such as self-esteem, leadership, grit, curiosity, and creativity. I am very interested in seeing the results of their work, especially...
June 14, 2013
ACA recently teamed up with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in an effort to keep getting more kids outdoors, reaping the benefits of nature experiences.
Camp is one of the best places for kids to experience nature, and a whopping 71 percent of camps intentionally target programs to connect children with nature and the outdoors (ACA's 2011 Sites, Facilities, and Programs Report). Time in the outdoors is great for unstructured, creative play and discovery opportunities, as well as moments to unwind and de-stress away from a screen. (Read more about the benefits of nature here.)
This June 22, the whole family can enjoy an outdoor experience by participating in NWF’s Great American Backyard Campout. When you register for free, you’ll receive instant access to...
June 11, 2013
Making sure your campers are safe, healthy, and having fun all summer long is your main goal. To do that, you need to take care of yourself!
Here on the Counselor Blog, we want you to have the best resources for self-care . . . because camp is just that much more fun when you’re alert, ready, and in control.
Read up on these past blogs before camp starts, and make plans to be at your best!
“Stay Healthy at Camp!”
What you’ll learn about: eating well, staying active, getting enough sleep
What you’ll learn about: how much sleep you really need, tips for getting more rest
June 4, 2013
When applying and interviewing for jobs, work experience plays a critical role. According to Forbes.com, 66% of employers believe interview performance and relevant work experience are the most important factors in their hiring decisions — far more significant than strong academic performance.
Employers want to know you can apply what you’ve learned in the classroom to the real world. So what can you do this summer to make sure you reinforce and highlight the skills that are most relevant to your desired career?
These skills are critical — and you’ll be using them all!
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has defined “Learning and Innovation Skills” — critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and...
June 4, 2013
Some of my son’s best memories at camp were related to the friends he made from other parts of the world. His appreciation of what makes us different and, more importantly, how we are all the same, was profound. Even today, as a young adult, he draws on those camp experiences to make sense of the world.
Camp has always been a unique developmental environment that weaves global citizenship with other outcomes such as critical thinking skills, leadership, and character development.
And now more than ever, the gifts of culture that our international visitors bring are critical. Not only because the Partnership for 21st Century Skills calls for social and cross-cultural skills as a stepping stone to success. But, importantly, because we must teach our children cultural empathy and understanding — to see themselves in others, recognize the beauty in differences, and unite in...
May 30, 2013
Summer Learning Day is Friday, June 21, 2013! Sponsored by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), Summer Learning Day is a national advocacy day to spread awareness about the importance of summer learning for our nation’s youth in helping close the achievement gap and support healthy development in communities across the country.
Camp is the most comprehensive summer learning environment there is! Kids enjoy healthy doses of: experiential learning, inquiry, activity and nutritious meals, skill acquisition, relationship building, and more — all while having fun!
The following are some summer learning facts from NSLA. Your child can make the most of summer by enjoying a camp experience, and there is a camp for every child and every budget. For...
May 28, 2013
Campers (especially first-timers) will be counting on you to make your group’s “getting to know each other” process fun and meaningful. As the group leader, it’s important for you to be prepared and enthusiastic about the upcoming camp session. Here are a few ice breaker activities to get your group’s friendships growing and dialogue flowing!
A Tangled Web
Gather your campers in a circle sitting around you. Hold a large ball of yarn. Start by telling your group something about yourself. Then roll the ball of yarn to a camper without letting go of the end of the yarn. The student who gets the ball of yarn tells his or her name and something good about himself or herself. Then the student rolls the yarn to somebody else, holding on to the strand of yarn. Soon your group has created a giant web. After everyone has spoken, you and your campers stand up, continuing to hold the yarn. Start a discussion of...
May 28, 2013
I am most intrigued by how young people learn. In the most basic of terms, do young people best learn by rote or real experiences? In truth, I believe it is both; however, too often the rote experience is taking precedent, and real experiences are being diminished. To what end?
Rote learning is often by memory without thought or meaning. It is more often than not delivered using a passive lecture/telling style. Activities and operations are carried out by a teacher giving out information. As such, one may be able to “pass” by the nature of memorization but without understanding.
Real, authentic experiences in the learning process call for young people to actually and actively participate. This process provides fertile ground for deeper understanding and meaning beyond memorization. Skills such as critical thinking and problem solving are inherently involved in such collaborative and interactive experiences. Real experiences are...