Latest ACA Blog Posts

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...

May 24, 2013

Before summer starts, make sure your camper is geared up — literally! — for all the fun activities at camp. Here are some tips when it comes to packing:

  • Pack Light — Remember your camper will be living out of a duffel bag, trunk, or suitcase for the duration. Packing light helps campers keep track of items and guarantees that they can handle their own luggage at camp.
  • Check Camp Packing Lists — Individual camps should provide a recommended camp packing list, complete with any required equipment, preferred footwear, etc. Be sure to carefully review what is needed, paying special attention to those items that may not be permitted at camp.
  • Label, Label, Label — Laundry pens, iron-on labels, and press and stick labels will distinguish your camper’s belongings from those of other cabin or tent mates. Most camps ask that you label each item,...
May 21, 2013

How much do you know about the typical kid in America?

Use this infographic to learn a little bit more about today's kids . . . and your campers! Familiarizing yourself with their realities, strengths, and challenges will help you connect from day one. (Viewed best in Chrome or Firefox.)

May 20, 2013

Guest post by Jean G. McMullan

Again we are roaring into the summer camp season. The months spent before camp opens are some of the most pressing, most challenging, and often the most anxious of times. Will parents adequately prepare their campers for the thrill and fun of the camp experience? Will staff measure up to the high expectations of the directors and the campers?

Since the very first organized camp experiences over a century and a half ago, it is a pretty safe conjecture that preparations for camp are, although very different in specifics, still quite similar in nature. I wonder if we actually capitalize on a basic reason that camping is so viable. What is there about camp that holds thousands of past and present campers in a state of excitement and anticipation — or as an indelible memory? Even if a camp experience has had an occasional negative outcome, how can a simple, small camp or large, multi-activity camps...

May 20, 2013

You’ve done your research, worked as a family to find the right camp for your child’s experience, and signed up your camper for the experience of a lifetime! Naturally, leading up to the big “First Day of Camp,” he or she might have questions, just like the first day of school. Encourage your child to talk about his or her feelings, and use this guide for talking about camp with your first-time camper!

Who will be my friends?
Reassure your camper that camp is all about making new friends! Some campers know each other from past summers or from school, but many come to camp in order to meet new friends. Camp counselors will help him or her make friends the very first day of camp. It's nice to have winter friends and summer friends — other kids with whom your camper shares special experiences.

Who will help me have fun at camp? How do they know how to care for me?

May 13, 2013

So you have your dream job this summer — working with a ton of kids, having fun, and staying active at camp!* How do you make sure that you get exactly what you want out of your summer at camp? We’ve already talked about what to expect. Setting goals before the summer can be helpful and make you more aware of your desired outcomes.

Get Clear on What You Want

Start by asking questions like this:

  • How do I want my campers to feel at the end of their session?
  • What would I want campers’ parents to be able to say about my counseling abilities?
  • How do I want my coworkers and supervisors to feel about my counseling abilities?
  • How do I want to feel at the end of the summer?
  • What will allow me to do the best job I can?

Make SMART Goals

After you know what you want, make SMART...

May 13, 2013

ACA camps work intentionally to develop communities that bring everyone closer — living and learning together.

Seth Godin once said: “For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

ACA camps create “tribes.” Within camps, there are often multiple tribes witnessed by cabin groups or activity groups while each unique tribe still feels a part of the camp community, at large.

ACA camps who participate in international exchange programs are setting the stage for an expanded understanding of today’s culture and the opportunity to create a “global tribe.”

This is an extraordinary demonstration of global leadership within the ACA camp community. Godin tells us that we can belong to tribes but can’t cut ourselves off from others: “Leadership is the art of giving...

May 8, 2013

ACA and the National Research Center for College & University Admissions™ (NRCCUA®) are collaborating to serve the needs of campers, staff, and their families, especially those interested in college who might otherwise be missed. The NRCCUA is a nonprofit educational research organization that, for forty years, has conducted the largest nationwide survey of high school students and serves as a communications link between college-bound high school students and public and private colleges and universities.

Through this alliance, youth campers and staff who are interested in college planning resources can create their very own online college profiles. This simple two-step process is:

May 6, 2013


  1. A parent tells me they assumed “someone” was monitoring the camp.
  2. The media calls and asks what set of best practices/standards my camp follows.
  3. I am faced with a difficult situation or crisis and feel grateful I already have systems in place due to the standards program.
  4. I have staff turn-over and my camp’s institutional memory is compromised.
  5. I realize my state offers my camp regulatory relief because we are accredited.
  6. I realize I may be eligible for public funding only if I am accredited.
  7. I realize my insurance carrier requires accreditation and/or my insurance rates will decrease because of accreditation.
  8. I realize it is the professional standard of my profession.
  9. I realize it is the right thing to do for kids.


  1. It is said, “But parents never ask if I am accredited....
April 29, 2013

Three Words
Change. Credit. Claim.

Three Thoughts

  1. Lesson learned — Over thirty years ago, science recognized rapid brain development in children from birth to age five. This discovery advanced the field of early childhood development into a recognized and respected profession.
  2. Today — Science has discovered a second period of rapid brain development: “Teen brain development” for those between the ages of thirteen and twenty-five.
  3. Pedagogy — “How” we work with young people complements the rapid growth taking place. We know how to create environments and spaces that encourage that growth. Young people do not “survive” but thrive in our spaces.

Three Actions

  1. Change minds — We must share language that clearly articulates what is happening when we work with young people.
  2. ...
April 23, 2013

Guest post by Mary Rogers

A few years ago, someone asked me how camp could possibly still be relevant for children in the 21st century. As a camp professional, the answers seemed so obvious that I had to really think how to explain why camp experiences are even more important for children today.

To explain why camp is still so important for children I would tell the story of one summer day at Sherwood Forest not so long ago.

It was the day of the Boat Regatta in Boys Camp and there were only two rules: Each boat had to be piloted by one camper, and the boats could be made of any found items except an actual boat or boat part. Groups of boys worked together to build their boats. Duct tape, cardboard, styrofoam, a fifty-five-gallon trash can, bits of old wood, a child’s wading pool, gallon milk jugs, milk crates, and binder’s twine were just some of the items used to make the boats. Creativity and cooperation, along...

April 19, 2013

Guest post by Megan Lawrence, director, Camp Wawayanda

Darkness. The sun has shone in the past couple days . . . but I can’t remember it. Why? Why can’t I remember the warmth of the sun and the music of the spring birds? I swear I remember seeing sunshine on the weather report for this week. How come it is so hard to place my finger on all of the good things that have happened?

Weeks like this make me feel like the sun has forgotten me, that there is very little left in this world to hope for-to believe in. Death and destruction fill our news feeds, prayers and sorrow inundate our lives 140 characters at a time. Pictures and messages are shared and passed at the click of a button. Something about how quickly sorrow spreads and penetrates our lives makes it feel less human.

My mind trails back to another dark week, one in 1995 — I was eight years old, waiting to walk to school, sitting at a neighbor...

April 16, 2013

Visit Career One Stop’s Competency Model to find an outline for your counselors’ resumes.

The camp experience/job helps counselors hone their personal effectiveness competencies. They must demonstrate initiative, integrity, and interpersonal skills if they are to be successful camp counselors.

There are academic competencies that are prerequisites for the job of camp counselor and will be practiced throughout the summer: reading, writing, mathematics, science, communication, critical thinking, active listening . . . oh, yes, and wonderful storytelling skills, not to mention music.

Workplace competencies also reign. The camp community is nothing more than successful teamwork that demands flexibility and adaptability. A counselor must know how to focus on the customer/camper as they guide, manage, and coordinate daily events.

Finally, management...

April 8, 2013

When the science of early childhood development discovered the important, rapid growth that takes place from birth to age eight, babysitting was transformed into a profession: early childhood education.

That said, early adolescence and young adult development continued on as the great mystery that often was explained away as a mental health issue, a judiciary concern, or the result of hormonal eruptions.

Yet today, with the science of teen brain development, we might be at the precipice of discovering the cogent, developmental pathway for those between the ages of thirteen to twenty-five. It is not a mystery to be explained away by some less than attractive causal factor. Instead, these years of in a young person’s life hold an incredible opportunity for growth and development — when nurtured and understood — that results in the emergence of a positive, productive adult!

Those of us who work with this age group should...

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