Latest ACA Blog Posts

September 3, 2013

Recently we celebrated the fifty-year anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It was inspiring to see the honor and reverence paid for such a day in our history. That said, we must not forget that the spirit of MLK is not a one-day event. The spirit of his words must live in us every day to ensure we get to the Promised Land.

Each day, we must find a way to take the concept of unity and seek a shared framework for being. I fear too often we find it hard to define ourselves as “one” because we become distracted by our differences. It is fair to recognize the rich diversity of experiences, strengths, and weaknesses that we possess as individuals, communities, and the world.

Yet, what bonds us — allowing us to celebrate our differences?

One shared framework to consider is that of humanity, humility, and hope.

Humanity in our compassion. Humility in our ability to...

August 28, 2013

Guest post from Green River Preserve in Cedar Mountain, North Carolina. Read the original at

As you get back into the routine of the school year, of driving morning carpools and coordinating afternoon extracurriculars and homework, you will likely continue to hear “At camp, we . . . ” stories trickling into conversation at the dinner table or in the car. The reality is that it can take months for a child (and the staff, too!) to truly process the effects and experience of summer camp. Children process experiences using many different techniques and almost every technique utilizes some form of communication.

Perhaps your children like to draw and you find they are drawing more pictures of plants, animals, and other natural features.


August 26, 2013

We have reached the end of another summer season. I have watched the Facebook posts of those who are leaving camp to go back to school, home, or another job. Each post is overflowing with mixed feelings of both sadness and hope. The songs, words, and prose abound with memories embedded deep within the recesses of the emotional memory muscles.

What has been learned and shared over what accumulatively may seem like nanoseconds in time will repeatedly resurface during the forthcoming years, having a profound impact on future experiences that will draw from these moments. Ellen Gannett inferred such influence in her recent blog post when she wrote about Willis Bright’s ideas on navigational and interpretive skills. As Willis suggests, those skills actually serve as a moral compass, often for life.

Yet, why does this happen? I have often suggested it is the...

August 21, 2013

What’s your favorite memory from this summer? Tell us at and you might just see it here on the Counselor Blog! We’re looking for stories about:

  • lessons learned
  • favorite mentors
  • skills you gained
  • camp moments you’ll never forget

Submit now through September 16. Stories should be 500 words or less. 

Include with your story:

  • a camp photo (if you have one) (be sure to fill out our photo release)
  • the name and location of your camp
  • a 25-30 word bio
  • your Twitter handle (if you have one, we’ll mention you when we tweet the link to your blog from @ACAcamps

Looking forward to your stories! As always, stay in touch with camp...

August 20, 2013

Guest post by Lance Ozier

Lance OzierSummers have always belonged to children, and the traditionally fun activities that kids enjoy while on vacation at camp might not seem to have any relationship to the skills needed to be successful in school and beyond. After all, most camps are not summer study programs — camps have always served as respites from school, as an oasis from the textbooks and homework associated with the classroom. But as recent research suggests, the seemingly fun and playful activities that engage kids at camp not only serve as important skill builders that mitigate “summer learning loss”; these camp experiences also develop what economists call “noncognitive” factors known to be predictors of life success.

As we drive at full speed into a new school...

August 12, 2013

This summer at camp, you undoubtedly learned a lot about character. We've compiled a few quotes on character from some famous former campers and camp staff.

Share your thoughts about character in the comments below, post them to the Counselor Facebook page, or tweet us at @ACAcamps!

“It’s important to push yourself further than you think you can go each and every day — as that is what separates the good from the great.”
— Former camper Kerri Strug, Olympic gold medalist, gymnastics

"Well, when you're trying to create things that are new, you have to be prepared...

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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

  1. Global Awareness is a core subject for 21st-century learning. (Partnership for 21st Century Skills)
  2. Personal connections with cultural exchange visitors enrich our lives with new perspectives.
  3. 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. 

Positive Self-Esteem
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

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...

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