Latest ACA Blog Posts

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...

June 19, 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

“Catching ZZZs”
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, 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 Experience

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...

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