Counselor Blog

July 31, 2012

As a counselor, you make sure to have a positive attitude, and you encourage campers to see the bright side of life. You realize that camp is more fun when everyone is happy — but did you know that by promoting positivity, you’re also helping campers find success and literally reverse the effects of stress and anxiety?

When you are in a positive state of mind, you are more apt to succeed! According to Christine Carter, PhD, a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, “When our brains are positive and we’re experiencing positive emotions, we’re much more creative, better at problem solving, and our perception is more open — making us more able to learn.” Help your campers learn that staying positive puts them on the fast-track to achieving their goals!

Carter also explains the physiological effects of positive emotions: “Say you are anxious and you’re heart rate goes up. If you have a good laugh, feelings of gratitude, or feelings of hope — any sort of positive emotions — generally speaking, your heart rate will drop. Positive emotions even boost your immune system a little bit.” A positive mindset will literally make campers healthier!

Want to know the best predictor of a person’s happiness, and how you can support positive emotional skills at camp? Read this interview with Carter from the 2012 January/February Camping Magazine.

Tell us what you do to keep a positive atmosphere at camp in the comments below!

Photo courtesy of Happy Hollow Children's Camp in Nashville, Indiana

July 23, 2012

As a licensed clinical social worker, camp consultant, and regular Camping Magazine contributor, Bob Ditter has been helping children, youth, and camp professionals — including counselors! — for many years.

In his Pocket Guide books, Bob lays out a few critical concepts for camp counselors:

  • YOU ARE A ROLE MODEL, which means campers won’t so much listen to what you tell them to do as they will mimic what you do and say. Even when you think they are not watching or listening, they often are. That old saying that “actions speak louder than words” is definitely true at camp.
  • YOU ARE THE ADULT. Surrounded as you are day after day by campers who are known for getting carried away by their feelings, it is easy to slip back into less mature ways of behaving. That is why everyone — campers, their parents, other counselors, and your director — is counting on you to keep things from getting out of hand. Always remember to keep it safe while you are having fun!
  • WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND. Scream a lot, and campers will either tune you out or scream back. Be sarcastic or judgmental, and campers will return the same. Be more concerned about your social life or your time off, and campers will sense that and be less responsive to you. Be respectful, and you can ask the same of your campers and fellow counselors.
  • YOU SHOULD NOT EXPECT TO CHANGE CAMPER BEHAVIOR AS MUCH AS YOU WILL NEED TO LEARN HOW TO INFLUENCE AND MANAGE IT. The roots of any child’s behavior are deep, and your time with them is limited. If you expect to change behavior, you may end up disappointed and frustrated.

Bob’s Pocket Guides are designed to fit in your "back pocket” to help you while you’re at camp. They’re full of quick and easy tips and guidelines for working more effectively and confidently with campers — topics range from homesickness to bullying at camp to useful phrases for challenging situations. For less than $10, add this to your counselor toolbox!

Day Camp Counselors
Boys’ Resident Camp Counselors
Girls’ Resident Camp Counselors
Coed Resident Camp Counselors

July 16, 2012

Whether this is your first and only week at camp, or you’ve already been there for a few weeks, it’s important to make healthy choices to keep you running on all cylinders!

Eat Well
Fuel your body with what it needs to make it through your busy days — which includes lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk, and healthy proteins like lean meats and beans. For more specifics, visit the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute’s Healthy Eating Plan.

Tip: “Most people eat too fast and even when they are not necessarily hungry. Use meal time as an opportunity to 'slow down' from the busy camp pace.” Read more in the Camping Magazine article: “Make a Commitment: Encouraging Wellness and Healthy Living at Camp.”

*Bonus* When you eat healthy, you set a great example for your campers, who look up to you! Lead by example and help campers make wise food choices. (Just be careful to guide — not dictate — what campers eat!)

Stay Active
The CDC recommends that adults get at least 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week and do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week. So get out there and get involved in a fun game of pickleball with your campers!

Tip: Exercise helps your mind, too — and quick! According to Michael Otto, PhD, "Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect." So if you need a pick-me-up, try walking or jogging!

*Bonus* When you play fun new games with campers, they might just end up taking those activities home with them, continuing their fun and active lifestyle!

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again — getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself this summer! Not only will it put you in the right mindset to eat healthier and stay active, it will help your mood and keep you alert.

Tip: “Power naps” can be really helpful! During your break period, try to grab 10–20 minutes of sleep.

*Bonus* According to the American Psychological Association, 69 percent of children experience one or more sleep problems a few nights or more during a week. Helping your campers learn how to make getting enough sleep a priority can have a great effect on their at-home habits! 

Photo courtesy of Camp Westminster on Higgins Lake.

June 26, 2012

Spider-like movements will be the physical activity of choice this summer now that the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) has released “The Amazing Spider-Man™” lessons and exercise guides. Designed by NASPE for children and youth ages 6-11 and 12-14, the free online lessons are posted on NASPE’s Web site and are perfect for summer camp counselors and recreation program staff who want to help their campers get the nationally recommended 60+ minutes of physical activity every day while having fun. In addition, children and youth will have an opportunity to earn a Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+).  

PALA+ promotes physical activity AND good nutrition, because it takes both to lead a healthy lifestyle. Signing up for the six-week program can help children and adults maintain or improve their health. Anyone age 6 and older can earn their PALA+ — sign up today at The easy to use log sheet makes tracking physical activities effortless.

In conjunction with the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man movie, in theaters July 3, the lessons are intended to provide children and youth with activities that will help them improve in the five components of health-related physical fitness: cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. The eight-legged (just like a spider) circuit training program has a heavy emphasis on spider-like movements. The eight body weight exercises include Spider-Man Push-ups, Spider-Man Stretches, Squatting Spider-Man Jumps and Spider-Man Rolls — all that require little to no equipment. As the children move from station to station, they will crawl like a spider.

“NASPE was thrilled that Sony Pictures asked us to develop the fun, simple and developmentally appropriate physical activity lesson plans,” says NASPE President Mary Jo Sariscsany, associate professor at California State University-Northridge. “Contrary to what most people may think, some children do have a tendency to gain weight over the summer. That is why we want to provide camps, schools, YMCAs, recreation centers, moms and dads with creative ways to get children and youth to be more physically active. While kids love to watch Spider-Man in the movies, The Amazing Spider-Man fitness program offers an opportunity to inspire them to be physically fit and active like Spider-Man.” 


June 18, 2012

You will have tons of fun as a camp counselor this summer — but did you know that you’re also developing critical workplace skills?

Traditionally, the “3 Rs” (reading, writing, and arithmetic) have been the focus of workplace preparation. In other words:

  • Can you write coherently?
  • How’s your reading comprehension?
  • Is your toolbox of math skills pretty full?

But according to the American Management Association’s 2010 Critical Skills Survey:
. . . [T]he new workplace requires more from its employees. Employees need to think critically, solve problems, innovate, collaborate, and communicate more effectively—and at every level within the organization.

In fact, there’s even a new phrase to describe these additional, critical job skills: the “4 Cs” (critical thinking and problem solving; communication; collaboration; and creativity and innovation).

So now you need to ask yourself questions like:

  • How do you work on a team?
  • When was the last time you used limited resources to overcome a problem?
  • What is your communication style?

Learn more about 21st century skills.

This summer, notice all the ways you hone your skills in critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity on a daily basis — and then write them down!

For example, what did you learn about communication and collaboration while teaching a new game to your campers? How did your prioritize your responsibilities at camp? Did you think of a creative and fun way to do cabin chores? Write all these things down in a job skills journal!

Being aware of your budding skills will make you more conscious and intentional in their development. And keeping a record of your critical job skills will make it much easier to list them on your resume this fall.

Have fun this summer and watch yourself grow!

June 13, 2012

Whether you’re a seasoned vet or this is your first summer as a camp counselor, it’s important to get the season started right! Here are some expert tips for your very first days at camp.

Set Goals for Yourself

From “Will I Be Enough to Make a Difference?” by Greg Cronin, CCD

Start this summer by setting realistic goals you can work toward. It’s important to verbalize your goals to your supervisors, so they can help keep you on task during challenging situations. Remember, they are going to hold you accountable for your decision making, so be pragmatic when you develop your ideas. (For a sample “Top Ten” list of goals, see the rest of Greg’s article.)

Help Campers Make Friends

From “Configure the Ideal Smartphone: ‘Apps’ for Camp Staff to Download and Install,” by Kim Aycock, MST

Most of you probably already have and use Facebook on your own smartphone. The camp version of this app is to facilitate the formation of friendships within your camper group. Campers will have immediate opportunities to "friend" others, and may need your help to know what to "post on their wall" or put out there for fellow campers to see . . . . It will be your job to assist campers during the introduction process — having several name games or icebreakers in mind is a great way for a newly-formed group to get to know one another. One idea is to have campers introduce themselves as their favorite superhero. They can include their character's name, costume preference, special powers, battle cry, and their sidekick, if it is desirable to have one. This activity is a safe way for campers to exchange surface information and begin to know the other members of their camp group.

Manage Behavior

From “Patience,” by Stephen Maguire

. . . Start with strong expectations of your kids. Start by introducing yourselves in a fun and positive way. Start by building your cabin group by setting the behavior expectations of the entire group together . . . . Spend that first day with your kids talking about how important it is that everyone treats each other well, including their counselors. Write it down and put it up in your cabin or in your bunk. Make sure you, your kids, and your co-counselors all sign it.

June 1, 2012

According to author and psychologist Michael Thompson, PhD, 97 percent of children experience at least some occasional homesick feelings at camp. Considering that statistic, you’ll probably have at least a few campers who experience some level of homesickness this summer. As their counselor — their first line of communication and comfort — do you know what to say and do?

Selected Tips for Handling Campers’ Homesickness

1. Early on, introduce campers to older campers who were once in their shoes.

“One thing that helped me was bringing me to visit older campers in their bunks,” said David. The older campers welcomed David and shared personal memories of their first days many years ago. In their unpacking, they also showed a glimpse of a teenage world to which most ten-year-old boys aspire. When companies market products to children, they often will show children and teens several years older than the actual target audience. These older campers then recognized and said hello to David (at the waterfront, walking to meals, etc.) during the first crucial days of camp — building his self-confidence and feelings of importance.

From “Opening Day Blues” by David Fleischner

2. Ask campers how they’re doing, and really listen to their answer. Let them know it’s okay to miss home.

A quick check-in helps most campers with mild homesickness, and sometimes a group discussion can do the trick: a group conversation at bedtime, for example. One counselor said that when her whole group of girls was showing signs of homesickness, she had them all describe their bedrooms to each other and to her, in minute detail. She also described her own room at home. The girls felt enormously comforted by the extended opportunity to share these details of home. Other counselors, usually young men, tell me that they had the whole group describe their favorite meals.

From “What Camp Staff Can Do to Help Children: An Excerpt from Homesick and Happy” by Michael G. Thompson, PhD

3. Distract campers with all the fun activities at camp.

Remember the special things that only happen at CAMP — Distract. Distract. Distract. Find ways to keep campers busy with activities to take their minds off what is bothering them.

From “Top Ten Ways to Prevent/Treat Homesickness” by Paul Denowski, Rob Grierson, and Tony Oyenarte

"Camp is like life," my counselor told me the summer I was homesick. "The more you get involved, the more you'll get out of it."

So what did I do? I got involved.

. . . And eventually, you realize that the saddest part isn't being homesick at the beginning, but not wanting to leave at the end.

From “A Place to Share: Life at Camp” by Neal Levin

Photo courtesy of Camp Foster YMCA of the Okobojis in Spirit Lake, Iowa.

May 18, 2012

Sometimes having the right activity at the right moment can make the difference between a good day and a great day at camp! Here are some no-planning, no-equipment-necessary games that you can play with your campers. (Find these and 98 other nature activities in 101 Nature Activities for Kids, by Jane Sanborn and Elizabeth Rundle.)

Scenario #1: You’ve got five minutes before lunch starts and you need a quick game that won’t get your campers too riled up.
Activity: Cloud Races
Have campers lie down, look up in the sky, and pick a cloud to watch race by. Choose a point as a finish line and see whose cloud crosses it first.

Scenario #2: Your campers are feeling extra energized this afternoon and you want to let them blow off some steam.
Activity: Balance of Nature
This predator-prey game demonstrates the concept that nature is said to be in a state of balance when the populations of animals and plants are in such proportions that everyone has food without damaging the well-being of another species. Divide the group into three equal groups, with one group representing grass, one representing mice, and one representing bobcats. Each group should have a specific physical sign that distinguishes it from the others. For example, the players in the grass group might wave their arms above their heads to look like blades of grass blowing in the wind. In designating these groups, be sure to play up the importance of the grass and the mice or everyone will want to be a bobcat.

When the game begins, the bobcats try to catch the mice, the mice try to catch the grass, and the blades of grass try to catch the bobcats. The reasoning behind the grass chasing the bobcats is that when bobcats die, their bodies decompose, fertilize the soil, and provide nourishment for the grass. If a chaser/predator succeeds in tagging his prey, the prey then changes species and becomes whatever tagged him and they both continue trying to tag other players. It is wise to set boundaries. After a few minutes of play, call all the players back and count the number of each species that is left, and then let the tagging start again.

After a few more minutes, call them back and count them off again. Often, the previously dying species will have made a remarkable recovery. The students can see that population is important and that it establishes a balance. If only a few mice are left, plenty of grass will be available for them to eat, and their predators (the bobcats) will have a harder time finding them. Therefore, it is likely that the mice will make a comeback. This exercise can be repeated as many times as you like, and different scenarios will play out each time. It can also bring about a great discussion if you introduce one predator who can tag anyone in the game. How does this addition impact the balance of nature?

Scenario #3: You’re on a hike and want to take a moment for the group to get creative.
Activity: The Stick Game
While hiking, have each camper pick up a stick that he thinks resembles an object. He must then use his stick as though it were that object. For example, a camper may find a stick that looks like a big spoon, so he would pretend like he was eating from it, or a camper may find a stick that looks like a broom, so he would pretend like he was sweeping with it. Campers can either explain what their sticks are supposed to be or have others guess.

Additional Resources


May 9, 2012
Michael Eisen

Guest post by Michael Eisen

When I was nine years old I spent my first summer at camp. It was a huge step for me to be away from home for that long. I remember being very homesick that summer, but one of the things that made it easier for me was having a really kind, caring, and compassionate camp counselor. It’s unfortunate, but when I went to camp, having a really good counselor was by no means a guarantee. Over the next eight summers spent as a camper and one summer spent as a counselor myself, I learned a lot about what it took to be considered a campers favorite counselor, and I want to share some tips on how you can show up in that way for ALL your campers this summer!

Kindness and Compassion

Reflecting back on the handful of favorite counselors that I had throughout my summers as a camper, the most important factor that jumps out at me was their ability to show genuine kindness and compassion no matter what I was experiencing. There wasn’t that harshness when I did something they didn’t approve of, or the teasing that I got enough of from my fellow campers. Instead they always responded with a softness that made me feel safe and comfortable. I was a very sensitive kid, so being away from home and dealing with campers picking on me was a big challenge. But feeling like I always had someone who had my back was my saving grace. It did not require a huge amount of extra energy; simple things like having a one-on-one conversation every so often, encouraging me with positive feedback, and even giving me a hug when I needed some love went a long way in making my summer more enjoyable.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Growing up in a household that had a lot of talk and very little action, I was able to recognize quite easily when someone was just saying something but not following through. I believe youth emulate and respond more to our actions rather than our words. So the days of “do as I say, not as I do” are over . . . if you want to be considered someone’s favorite counselor. What makes a good leader and a good counselor is leading by example and LIVING by the same guidelines that you set out for your campers. If you want them to act a certain way, follow certain rules, take part in certain activities, be kind to each other, etc. then you as a counselor need to show up in that exact same way. My favorite counselors always walked their talk. If you want to get your campers to do what you say, YOU need to do what you say first!

It’s All about Perspective

In my opinion, this principle, if practiced consistently, would abolish most conflict in our relationships. The challenge is we don’t practice it nearly enough. Everybody wants to feel like they are understood and heard — campers and counselors alike. Is it fair to expect to be understood, respected, and listened to without practicing understanding, respecting, and listening to others first? I didn’t think so! It’s a two way street, and perspective allows each party to meet in the middle. My favorite counselors always took the time to listen to what I had to say and understand where I was coming from. If there was an argument or a conflict, my desire to assert myself and be right significantly decreased once I felt understood. Give your campers the understanding and respect that they deserve, and you will find that they will follow suit and do the same back to you.

Take Time for Self-Care

It can be very challenging having to be at your best and providing care for other people, especially kids. It is even more difficult to do so if you are not caring for YOURSELF first. Caring for yourself is not selfish, it is self-full. The more that you care for yourself, the more you will be able to care for others. You cannot expect to be at your best all summer long without taking the time to refill your own tank. My favorite counselors always made me feel like I was important, and it was clear that they treated themselves with just as much kindness and care as they did me. You need to make yourself the most important person in YOUR world, so you can make your campers the most important people in THE world, this summer.

Practice Good Sleep Habits: Getting a good night’s sleep is SO important. Operating on four or five hours of sleep every night is not ideal if you want to show up as your best for your campers every day.

Make Time for FUN: Make sure you are having fun too. Do more with your time off! Engage your creativity, move your body, play, dance, and sing like you are still a camper. When you are having fun, it is contagious. It is clear to your campers when you are not enjoying yourself and it can wear off on them.

Reduce Your Stress: If you find yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take five minutes off and find yourself a quiet place. Practice breathing deeply in through your nose and letting out a big sigh through your mouth as you exhale. Do this ten times with your eyes closed and your stress will melt away. Most of the time, when you are stressed out, you are not breathing enough — and without enough oxygen moving through your body, everything tenses up!

The most important thing to remember is just to BE YOU! The more real and genuine you are, the fewer barriers will exist when you are interacting with your campers, and the more fun you will all have!

Michael Eisen is an inspirational speaker, author, and the founder of the Youth Wellness Network, an organization dedicated to inspiring and empowering youth across the globe to live happier and more positive lives. After positively transforming his own life at the age of nineteen, he is now on a life-long crusade to share with other young people the principles, strategies, and practices that gave him the strength to start living a more joyful and healthier life. He contributes a fresh, young, authentic voice to the field of wellness, and is rapidly becoming a youth-wellness expert. Michael's first book, Empowered YOUth: A Father and Son's Journey to Conscious Living, co-authored with his father Jeffrey Eisen, will be released fall of 2012 with Hay House. To learn more about Michael and the Youth Wellness Network, visit, become a fan on Facebook ( and follow him on Twitter: @youthwellnet.

May 4, 2012

What do young people need most from YOU, their mentor?

Find out the answer to that and more in "Mentoring 101: Building Your Summer Skill Set" — a webinar taking place Thursday, May 10 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. ET.

Make an impact in the lives of your campers this summer and be the best mentor you can be!

Photo courtesy of Camp John Marc in Bosque County, Texas.

April 26, 2012

“A well-spent day brings happy sleep.” — Leonardo da Vinci

It sounds easy, but in reality, it can be so difficult: getting enough sleep! And you might not have thought about it much, but being well-rested is SO important to your job this summer.

First, being well-rested is critical to the health and safety of your campers. You’re expected to have the energy and clear head to be 100% present at every moment with them. Don’t let sleep-deprivation cloud your judgment! 

Not to mention — have you ever met anyone who is an absolute joy to be around when they haven’t had enough sleep? Be your charming, witty, positive self this summer — don’t let snarky comments or a bad attitude creep out around your co-counselors because you’re tired.


  • According to the National Sleep Foundation, you need 7–9 hours of sleep each night. 
  • It matters what you do when you’re awake! Avoid caffeine, finish eating two to three hours before bed, and exercise during the day — these things can help you get a restful sleep at night.
  • Get into a routine with what time you wake up and go to bed. Stick to it on the weekends, too.
  • Make sleep a priority!

Find these tips and more on the National Sleep Foundation’s Web site.

For more self-care strategies this summer, check out these articles: Top 10 Summer Survival Tips; Be at Your Best to Do Your Best.

April 10, 2012
Prevent Bullying This Summer

You’ve probably heard about the movie Bully, which is now playing in select theaters and opens nationwide this Friday. The movie follows five stories of bullying from across the country, putting the spotlight on this all-too-common problem — according to the movie’s Web site, 13 million kids will be bullied in the US this year.

Unfortunately, bullying can happen anywhere — including camp — so be prepared to help prevent and stop bullying this summer with ACA’s Bullying Prevention resources. Here are some resources designed specifically for you, frontline camp staff:

Bullying is a serious problem that must be addressed if it is happening at camp. Set the expectation for your campers, from the very beginning, that camp is a community of respect — and model this behavior every day.

More bullying prevention resources are available in ACA’s Knowledge Center.

How do you create a respectful environment at camp?

March 16, 2012
Camp Goes Global

This summer, you can give your campers the opportunity to make a meaningful connection with campers at Camp Sizanani — which provides education, HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, crucial life skills, and the fun of a camp experience to children affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa.

It only costs $500 to sponsor a camper in South Africa for a camp session and a year of after-camp follow-up programming. Through the Camp Goes Global campaign, your campers participate in providing funds (raising money) to sponsor one child . . . or more!

How do I participate?

The Camp Goes Global campaign can be easily implemented into any camp environment — programming is flexible and can be carried out in whatever way works best for the camp. Resources for introducing the program to parents and campers are available online. 

For example, last summer, campers at Teton Valley Ranch Camp (TVRC) were given the opportunity to opt out of their daily snack (their “Guzzle”) for one day. They were told that the $1.50 each camper would have spent on their snack would instead go toward sponsoring a Camp Sizanani camper. Participation in the “Day of No Guzzle” was not mandatory — but Teton Valley still had a 100% participation rate. Even just one day, one moment of giving up a snack, was enough to make a difference in the life of a South African camper — and the lives of the TVRC campers.

Benefits for American Campers

Forming Global Awareness

Just like everything else in camp, through Camp Goes Global, campers are not being taught about the world through books and tests — rather, they’re learning through experience and real-life integration. Forming a connection with a camper in South Africa invests American campers in the idea of other countries, cultures, and people. Opportunities abound for those who see a world beyond our borders, and Camp Goes Global can be the first spark (or the reinforcement) of global curiosity and awareness in campers. 

Discovering the Spirit of Giving

Camp Goes Global guides campers in what might be one of their first opportunities to choose to give — to view themselves as “givers.” What an empowering realization for a camper — that he or she can choose to give and choose to do something positive. Camp Goes Global makes a lasting impact on the character and goals of participating campers.

Learn more about Camp Goes Global, Camp Sizanani, and other programs offered by Global Camps Africa. To register for your free Camp Goes Global Resource Kit, visit

Camp staff, if you’re interested in the Camp Goes Global campaign, share this opportunity with your supervisor!

March 8, 2012

Guest post contributed by Gary Woodhurst.

I vividly remember my very first day at Camp Kanuga.

I remember riding up US 25 with my mom and brother past Jones Gap State Park in awe at the vastness of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I remember the smell of the crisp mountain air (you know, how camp is supposed to smell?) as my mom’s truck winded its way down Little River Road. I also remember driving through the gates to camp for the very first time and seeing the first person I met at Camp Kanuga, Ellen. She was the head female counselor and I was bouncing with excitement as she told me that I would be in cabin 7 and my brother in cabin 8.

In the lobby of the Hyatt Regency at the 2012 ACA National Conference in Atlanta, I saw Ellen again for the first time in 16 years.

Now I’m not here to tell you about my first experience at Camp Kanuga. Your own first memories of camp are probably far more compelling than my swim test mishap that afternoon, so I won’t bore you with the details. No, I’m simply confirming what you already know: From the very moment you go to camp, you begin to develop memories that you will recall for the rest of your life. In several ways, the conference reaffirmed the importance and value in the camp experience for me. 

This was my very first ACA National Conference, and I went with the enthusiasm and the desire to make the most of the week in Atlanta. That is what I learned at camp: There are a lot of opportunities for you. It is your choice to make the most of the experience.

I have spent the last year and a half determined to make the most of my continuous camp experience as a young director. The conference served as yet another impactful moment in my continuing development as a lifelong camper. In fact, I left Atlanta with the same sense of wonder and excitement and stories to share as I did when I left Camp Kanuga!

I also remember my first day back at school after my first summer at camp.

All I wanted to do was to tell everyone how I had the best summer ever, that we could play the same games and sing the same songs from camp . . . but you know just as I do that the other children in my class really didn’t understand.

I went through a positively transformational educational experience that was possible through the unique setting of a residential summer camp.

Most of my classmates, though, spent their summer facing a daunting schedule of play dates, pool parties, and family vacations at the beach. Not that you should turn up your nose at a classic American summer, but as Tim Huchton said in his session at the conference, debriefing the activities we do at camp is the difference between education and recreation.

Articulating the value of camp is difficult enough as a young director, and I certainly could not do my experience justice by trying to explain it to my classmates as we swapped tater tots for pudding in the cafeteria.

My experience at the national conference this year is similar. You will not really know how impactful the conference is unless you attended. I took away a lot of great ideas that have instantly made their way into my program, networking that has already turned into action plans to improve my camp, and moments of professional development that will carry me to, through, and beyond this coming summer.

People who attended this year and others who attended in the past can surely relate. If you have not yet attended, I will tell you that it is absolutely essential to your professional development.

I returned from my first summer at Camp Kanuga with a renewed optimism to face the day-to-day, and that optimism was refreshed in each successive session year after year. I returned from my first ACA National Conference not only with an overflowing inbox and a long to-do list, but also better connected to a strong network of quality professionals and better equipped to develop youth through positive camp experiences year after year.

Gary Woodhurst is the director of Camp Bob, a program of Kanuga Conferences Inc. in Hendersonville, North Carolina., chair of ACA Southeastern’s EPIC Western North Carolina, secretary of the Legislative Affairs and Alliances Committee for the North Carolina Youth Camp Association, as well as co-chair of the Leadership Experience and Development Committee, weekend camp director, and advisory committee member for the Henderson County Young Leaders Program.

March 1, 2012

Would you buy an online course without seeing what it takes to complete it, or if you’re really that interested in the course matter? Maybe you would, but you don’t have to!

Get a free preview of any Certificate of Added Qualification (CAQ) course now!

Just follow these steps:

  1. Go to
  2. Scroll down to “Certificates of Added Qualification” and select the course that best suits you.
  3. You’ll be prompted with a login screen. Click the button: Login as a guest (at the bottom left).
  4. Enter the password ACA2012 (password is case sensitive).
  5. Start exploring! Check out the articles and videos you would be using to learn, click on a random lesson to see what it’s all about, or take a look at the questions you'd be completing in your learning journal!

CAQs by the Numbers

  • Members pay only $15 per certificate course. (And if you’ve never been a member, you can join ACA now for FREE!)
  • You can earn 15 CECs (continuing education credits) for each certificate — count it toward your professional development (they will appear on your ACA Professional Development Transcript) or even as an independent study!
  • CAQs are based on the 13 core competencies of youth development — giving you a thorough education on a range of important topics.
  • Choose from 3 certificates: Entry-Level Program Staff, Experienced Program Staff, or Middle Managers.

Find out what it’s all about! Get your free preview of any CAQ now!

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