- Get Involved
- Education & Events
- Publications & Research
- About ACA
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.
- More nature activity books and DVDs.
- Learn about the importance of nature activities and find examples of more games in “Creating Community through Nature,” from the 2011 September/October Camping Magazine.
May 9, 2012
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 www.youthwellnessnetwork.ca, become a fan on Facebook (www.facebook.com/youthwellnessnetwork) 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.
April 10, 2012
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 Prevention Tip Sheet by Dr. Joel Haber
Quick tips about spotting and stopping bullying at camp.
- Bullying Prevention: Are You Up to Speed? by Joel Haber, PhD, and Lisa Daley, JD
In-depth overview of bullying today, who bullies, cyberbullying, and how to prevent bullying. While geared toward upper-level staff, it is important for frontline staff to understand these prevention techniques.
- Eyes on Bullying: What YOU Can Do to Prevent and Stop Bullying at Camp by Kim Storey, EdD
Another in-depth overview offering warning signs and how to contribute to your camp’s bully-free environment.
- Girls at Camp: Overcoming Relational Aggression and Bullying Behavior in Boys . . . And What to Do About It by Bob Ditter
The dynamics of bullying situations specific to boys and girls.
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
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 www.globalcampsafrica.org/camp-goes-global/.
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:
- Go to http://learn.ACAcamps.org/.
- Scroll down to “Certificates of Added Qualification” and select the course that best suits you.
- You’ll be prompted with a login screen. Click the button: Login as a guest (at the bottom left).
- Enter the password ACA2012 (password is case sensitive).
- 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!
February 22, 2012
According to Jeffrey Leiken, MA, after the first day at camp, you'll be able to tell which campers will be your challenging ones and which campers will be everyone's favorites.
The key to being a truly great counselor, though, is to be able to recognize "the masses in the middle."
"[Truly great counselors] are careful to ensure that they focus their attention, time, and energy on these kids too. They do this even though these kids are not necessarily as easy to connect with (you'll often have to do more work to engage them) and even though it is easy to justify not putting the extra 'over and above' time in with them because they seem to be doing fine."
Make sure ALL your campers feel special this summer, and you will be that special counselor for them!
Learn about other smart techniques you can use from day one in Jeffrey's article "Heightened Awareness Camp Counseling: Going Beyond Great."
February 16, 2012
Hanging out with kids all day as a camp counselor can be pretty amazing. But doing your job well means you need to be prepared!
In ACA's Entry-Level Program Staff Certificate of Added Qualification (CAQ) course, you will learn the foundation of being a great counselor. Topics covered include:
- What is youth development?
- How do you develop a program plan?
- Why is evaluation important?
- How do you prevent bullying?
- How can you best handle emergencies?
- What can you do to form strong bonds with coworkers and participants?
- And more
Show your boss that you want to be a great employee! You earn 15 continuing education credits for participation in the course, and it's online, so you can complete it at your own pace BEFORE camp even starts!
February 10, 2012
Lots of us have a great time working at camp as a summer job, and then we go on to become teachers, journalists, nurses . . . you name it!
But what if you realized that you wanted to have camp as a career?
Cass Morgan, an ACA research assistant and current PhD candidate at the University of Utah, explains the path she has taken to get a career in camp. Cass’ early experience was probably a lot like yours — she started out as a camper and then became a counselor.
Watch this video to learn what inspired Cass to pursue a career in camp, what you should expect if you’re interested in being a camp professional, and the opportunities you can take advantage of to help you get there.
Top 5 Tips from Cass
- Stay current on necessary certifications, and take advantage of professional development and networking opportunities.
- In college, take courses that will help you learn administration and marketing skills. Also, take recreation-specific courses that will teach you program planning, leadership, and camp management.
- Get experience at different camps to gain a better understanding of the profession. Work with varying camp models, types of campers, types of staff, and settings.
- Research shows just how important the camp experience is to the development of children and youth, so be proud of the work you are doing.
- If you are passionate about working with kids through a camp experience, you CAN have a career in camp!
February 7, 2012
Guest post contributed by Karen Parson
It may be the middle of winter, but it’s not too early to begin thinking about which summer camp is best for you. There are a lot of camps out there and each has different goals and activities. Choosing which summer camp is right for you is more than a matter of selecting the summer camp closest to you.
Here are ten steps to follow to make sure that you find the right summer camp:
- Decide what your expectations are. You likely have some expectations for what you expect the camp experience to be like. Does the camp focus on outdoor skills? Making friends? Having fun? Consider if you’d like to work at a camp with a certain philosophy or world view. If you are a past summer camper yourself, think about the aspects of camp that you enjoyed and what you didn’t like.
- Talk with your family and friends about what they want. While your ideas are generally the most accurate, it’s good to talk with others as well. This will help you focus on what’s most important, and additional concerns or ideas might surface as you talk with other people.
- Make a list of potential camps. Once you have a good idea about where you want to work, go out and scour the Web for a list of camps and application materials. At this point, don’t rule anything out, just make a list of all the possibilities. For example just because you live on the West Coast of the United States doesn’t mean you can’t consider a summer camp in Texas or a summer camp in New York. After you make a list, try and categorize the camps into areas of interest. For example, outdoor camps or camps that focus on art, science, or music. If you have a particular interest or a certain skill, place those types of camps at the top of your list in those categories.
- Compare the activities that each camp offers. Will there be crafts? Horseback riding? Interpretive dance? What steps does the camp take to ensure that you and the kids you counsel will be able to participate in activities? Look at what each camp offers carefully.
- Research other camp features. Activities are not the only thing that can make or break a camp experience, however. You should also look at each camp’s size, location, ratio of counselors to campers, safety features, average age of campers and counselors, and accommodations. At this point, you can start narrowing down your options to the camps that suit you best.
- Ask for reviews from past counselors. If you know other counselors who attended the camp recently, that’s great. Ask a lot of questions, and make sure that they tell you about what they liked and didn’t like about the camp. If you don’t know anyone who personally attended the camp, ask for references directly from the camp itself and read online reviews to get a full picture about what you can expect.
- Take a tour of the camp. If possible, arrange to take a tour of the camp before you commit to work for them. The winter months are great for planning trips like this.
- Look at wages. Wages do, of course, matter, but keep in mind that wage is not always an indication of which camp is best. Consider the price in context of what the camp actually offers — activities, number of days, meals, benefits, and working atmosphere.
- Make a decision with loved ones about which camp is best. With all of these considerations in mind, and in consultation with your friends, mentors, and family, decide which camp is right for you.
- Apply to the camps you like most. Many camps have open application periods for most of the year. Now that you have decided on the perfect camp, don’t lose your opportunity by waiting too long to apply. Go ahead and sign up through the camp’s Web site or by calling them directly.
If you follow all these steps, you can feel good knowing that you have carefully weighed all the options and that your decision is a good one when applying to work as a summer camp counselor.
February 3, 2012
Here are the top 5 reasons why you should attend the *free* webinar, “Developing Your Personal Brand,” next Wednesday, 2/8 at 7:30 p.m. EST:
5. You will learn the secrets behind what makes companies like Google and Apple so strong.
4. You will learn how to inspire potential employers by crafting a compelling story of your past experiences and interests.
3. You will create a unique brand identity that sets you apart from other job candidates.
2. You will understand how to be your authentic self while tailoring your personal “pitch” and brand to specific career opportunities.
1. You could be the next Oprah or Bill Gates!
January 23, 2012
Resumes, cover letters, and interviews . . . oh my!
Just like Dorothy and Toto, you too can find out more about the “man behind the curtain” — your hiring manager, the Wizard of Jobs!
On Wednesday, January 25th, from 7:30-9:00 p.m. ET, join us for an insider’s look into the mind of a hiring manager.
Lauren Moxey, a director on Teach For America’s admissions team, will share from her extensive firsthand experience reviewing and interviewing thousands of applicants to Teach For America over the past few years (in fact, Teach For America had more than 48,000 applicants to their program last year alone!). Specifically, she will discuss best practices for excellent resumes, cover letters, and interviews.
Join us on Wednesday and, like the scarecrow, you too can become the wisest of them all in the land of Jobs!
View the other upcoming free career development webinars in this series.
Guest post contributed by Teach for America's Molly Ellenberg
January 19, 2012
Take the time this month to thank your mentors from school, sports, and camp!
While the spirit of mentoring is being celebrated all month long, January 26 has been officially designated "Thank Your Mentor Day."
Find out how to honor your mentors in creative ways.
Finally, ACA would like to offer a BIG THANK YOU to you, for the difference you make in the lives of your campers! Because of Camp…® stories, favorite summer memories, and a liftetime of skills learned at camp would not be possible without CAMP COUNSELORS!