Counselor Blog

October 5, 2011

Did you take some awesome photos at camp this year? Enter them into Camping Magazine's 2012 Golden Lens Contest!

You could win a $150 cash prize and your photo could be on the cover of the next May/June Camping Magazine!

Just send your favorite photos that depict the camp experience (and represent the best practices in the field) to

Before you submit your photos, make sure to fill out the online photo release!

Include your name, camp name, contact address, and phone number in the e-mail.

(Photos must be .tif or .jpeg files and at least 300 dpi.)

The deadline to submit photos is November 30, 2011.

Check out previous Golden Lens winners and honorable mentions.

Submit your photos today!

September 26, 2011
Convergence: Vision, Learning, and Innovation

Hey Student Members! Did you know you can register for the ACA National Conference, "Convergence: Vision, Learning, and Innovation," for free?

This outstanding professional development and networking opportunity takes place February 21-24 in Atlanta, Georgia.

If you're looking for an experience that will help you prime your skills and knowledge in the camp and youth development field, or you want to meet and exchange ideas with peers and seasoned vets alike, this is the place to do it!

Register for free today by downloading the form at

*Make sure you read the fine print below first.

Join ACA!

So you're not a member yet? No worries! With ACA's free membership offer for anyone new to ACA, you can sign up for a year-long membership for FREE! Not only does joining enable you to register for conference for free, but it also gets you:

*Here's the Conference Registration Fine Print:

Free conference registration for ACA Student members.
Must be full-time student, and a copy of your current student I.D. must be submitted with your registration form. The free registration includes educational session and exhibits only. DOES NOT INCLUDE MEALS OR TICKETED EVENTS. Students can attend the keynote sessions after the meals have been served. A ticket is required to attend the Exhibit Hall Reception on Wednesday, but students will have entry to the Exhibit Hall on Thursday. Tickets can be purchased at time of registration or onsite based on availability.

Deeply discounted conference registration for Student Non-members includes:

Ticketed events (Grand Exhibit Hall Reception, Thursday Lunch, & Closing Lunch), general exhibit hall pass, educational workshops, general sessions, and program book. Must be full-time student, and a copy of your current student I.D. must be submitted with your registration form.

***Student registration is not available online. Please use this downloadable form.

September 14, 2011

Did you know?

Of the 15 million children growing up in low-income communities, only 1 in 10 will graduate from college.

You can help change that!

Apply for Teach For America by this Friday, September 16!

Learn more about the program.

August 31, 2011

The transition from your crazy-busy summer to the slow fall season can be tough! It's good to remember these 4 tips:

#1 Stay active — It’s easy to feel burnt out after a long summer, so give yourself time to relax. But don’t hibernate all the way to May! Get outdoors and enjoy the fall weather.

#2 Eat healthy — Remember those pots and pans in your cabinets? It’s time to bust them out! You’ve got to cook for yourself — or at least find your own food — after a summer of being fed in the cafeteria. Try to make some healthy choices.

#3 Embrace the new social scene — At camp, you bond with others at a ridiculous rate. Away from the camp fires, color wars, and camp nicknames, interactions are not as intense. Don’t be discouraged if it takes longer to bond with people outside of camp. Slow down and enjoy the change of pace while you get to know new people and catch up with old friends.

#4 Maintain variety — At camp, you experienced all kinds of activities, people, and places every day. While it’d be hard to keep that up all year, make sure you DO get involved in more things than just school or your new job — it’s all about balance!

August 23, 2011

This summer, you were accountable for conducting classes, special events, and cabin activities. You were not only a leader, but you instilled leadership, participation, and cooperation in campers and other staff. You encouraged campers and co-workers to express their opinions and participate in self-governing activities.

Questions to think about:
How did you help others problem solve, see patterns, and discern meaning?
In what ways did you learn to inspire and present a positive example to others?
How did you enhance a camper’s ability to work with others?
How did you create environments that encourage a camper’s participation and growth?

Think of yourself in these terms:

Conflict manager: Whenever someone is living with a group of children, conflicts are inevitable. Being able to manage campers in a way that maximizes the campers’ strengths and minimizes personality conflicts is one of the art forms of camp counseling.

Experienced problem solver: Camp counselors are the authorities in all situations with their kids and must determine solutions to problems as they arise. Whether the problem is opening a metal can of tomato sauce on a camping trip without a can opener or seeking shelter from a storm that appears suddenly, counselors must be able to think on their feet and handle a range of issues quickly and decisively.

Team player with a sense of fairness: Living in a cabin, teaching activities, or working with a co-counselor gives all camp counselors experience as a team member. They understand that a team is only as strong as its weakest link and can work to raise the team's level of performance. Additionally, no one is a better judge of what is fair than a child. Working with children enhances a counselor's sense of fairness and makes him or her more aware of the needs of all team members.

Community builder: Building a sense of community is one of the principal tasks of counselors. The counselors in residential camps are charged with the responsibility of creating an open, safe environment where their campers feel valued and important. You learned to accept people different from yourself. Living in close proximity with those from diverse backgounds revealed that we all have commonalities as people.

Future teachers, think about this! Counselors are teachers who have the responsibility for expanding the minds of young people and explaining tasks in a clear, easily comprehensible manner. They participate in, and often lead, training sessions and understand what it takes to present a group with new information.

You Inspire People to Be Successful.


August 17, 2011

When you’re a camp counselor, you walk the fine line of doing the job you were hired to do — keep kids safe, healthy, and having fun — and doing it your way. It takes a lot of initiative and self-direction to make it through a camp day. Think about these questions before you start writing your resume:

How did I manage my goals and my time?
How did I explore and discover learning opportunities?
What did I do to hone my program planning, supervision, and evaluation skills?

Being on duty 140 hours per week or more is not for the faint at heart. Kids are demanding, and when you live on-site, you cannot simply leave the office when the clock strikes five. Camp counselors are on duty when mosquito bites get itchy, someone falls and cuts his knee, or homesickness strikes in the middle of the night. To be a camp counselor, you’ve got to take the initiative to solve problems and have a good work ethic to do what needs to be done, no matter when you need to do it.


August 15, 2011

At camp, do you realize that you’re learning flexibility and adaptability, while also practicing your creativity? Ask yourself these questions before adding to your camp job description on your resume:

How did I adapt to new roles and responsibilities?
How did I find ways to balance diverse opinions and values?
How did I work to solve conflicts?
How did I adapt to the needs of various campers?
What were some of my most creative moments?

A camp counselor's flexibility, adaptability, and creativity are constantly being tested. Between developing fun cabin night activities, helping campers think of a skit to present to the camp, designing an idea for an activity booth on "Disney Day," or figuring out how to take a three-day camping trip in the pouring rain from a nightmare to an adventure, counselors must use the resources available to them — often on a tight time schedule — to actively engage groups of a variety of ages.

Think about this . . . Just walking campers from activities each day, you are solving conflicts, adapting to the needs of various campers, and enhancing your ability to work with others.


August 10, 2011

Everyone has skills and abilities. Some are your unique aptitudes and talents that come to you naturally and easily. Other skills and abilities will be added or improved upon through education, training, and experience.

You will need many skills in the 21st century job market.

The experience gained from working a camp is a stepping-stone on your long-term career path. You have the opportunity to acquire and practice critical 21st century job skills at camp that will be transferable to all of your future environments — professional and personal.

Translating these might be as difficult as getting campers to bed each night, but if you can identify the skills you have developed, then you will have those important items that fill a resume and carry you through interviews.

Many human resources managers in lots of different fields find summer camp experience very impressive because of the level of dedication and commitment required. Summer camp also demonstrates that you can adapt well to new cultures, which is essential for success in many corporate environments. In fact, many corporate executives were once campers and/or camp counselors themselves.

If you’re an education major, it goes without saying that experience working directly with children is a huge plus on a new teacher’s resume.


The camp experience is unique. Participants eat, sleep, work, and play 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Since it's a small community, counselors must work collaboratively with the administration, camp nurse, maintenance department, waterfront director, other staff, and kitchen help. This experience can't be duplicated in a normal 9–5 summer job.

What you’re doing is important!
Check back to the blog as we discuss several 21st century skills YOU are learning at camp and should be putting on your resume.

In the meantime, tell us the most significant thing you learned from this camp season in the comments below:


August 3, 2011

Summer sessions are winding down. You've played every game, walked every trail, seen every type of discipline problem, and down time is still the hardest time to keep campers engaged and safe. Down time inevitably means more discipline issues and a higher risk for accidents and injuries. Whether it's a deck of cards, a quick clean up game, a magic trick, or a perfect phrase that stops campers from arguing, every counselor has a a go-to "bag of tricks" to help manage a typical day at camp.

Tell us: What's in your bag of tricks?

July 27, 2011

Camp is an action-packed adventure — so it’s no wonder that campers can become a little tired, moody, or grumpy at the thought of the camp season ending and having to say goodbye to their friends.

Use these 4 tips to help campers beat the “end of camp blues”:

  1. Remind campers that they’ll miss camp because they had fun — and that feeling is normal.
  2. Encourage campers to reconnect with friends at home and let them know the importance of sharing camp experiences and stories with those friends.
  3. Tell them to watch for or plan local reunions and get-togethers where they can connect with friends from camp.
  4. Explain that they can stay in touch with camp friends. Have them exchange addresses, e-mails, or phone numbers.

Before using these tips, make sure you know the rules about connecting with your campers after camp.

  • If your camp’s policy does not allow you to communicate with campers after the season is over, make sure you do not give out your contact information.
  • If your camp has social media policies, make sure you and your campers are following those rules, too.

Now go out and enjoy these last few weeks of camp!


July 21, 2011

Check out this video from the counselors at Tim Horton Camp Kentahten. Tell us why YOU work at camp by posting a comment below. Better yet, make your own video and share it with us!  

July 20, 2011

Again this week, we look at “apps” you don’t need a cell phone to access at camp! Kim Aycock, MST, shows you how to be flexible this summer with a “Gumby App” — for those times when bad weather, technical difficulties, or longer-than-expected activities threaten “regularly scheduled programming.”

Kim writes:
“It may be impossible to teach someone to be flexible, but rather, it may be helpful if you are aware of times when you will be called on to 'be Gumby' as a counselor and adapt to any changes that come your way. Veteran staff can verify that you may need to use 'plan B' because the weather is bad; a technical difficulty with equipment arises; a planned activity takes ten minutes to complete and you thought it would last for an hour . . .”

Try this game with campers to practice “a change of plans”:
“‘Change That Tune’ is an activity where small groups pick a short song that everyone knows and then challenge each other to sing the old song to a new tune and rhythm . . .”

Check out more ideas from Kim Aycock.

July 12, 2011

Ever lost your cell phone? Then you know the uneasy feeling of losing all those numbers, reminders, apps, and connections.

At camp, you are probably told to put the phone away when you’re with campers — or maybe you don’t even get reception! While on the job, does being without your phone — and all its many resources — make you feel uneasy?

Never fear! In “Configure the Ideal Smartphone: ‘Apps’ for Camp Staff to Download and Install,” Kim Aycock, MST, shows you that you don’t need a cell phone to have a successful summer.

This week, we’ll look at what Kim has to say about the “camp version” of Facebook, and how you can help campers get friended early in the camp experience.

“The camp version of [Facebook] 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 . . . Having several name games or icebreakers in mind is a great way for a newly-formed group to get to know one another. 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."

Read the article in full.

July 6, 2011

Sandy Cameron, former editor-in-chief of Camping Magazine, offers advice on how to pace yourself for the summer season.

In the heat of the summer, it's easy to lose focus and begin to feel burnout. Read these ten summer survival tips to cool the burnout and maintain your energy and enthusiasm at camp.

June 29, 2011

Ethan Schafer, Ph.D., a licensed child clinical psychologist, shares tips and practical advice for keeping you on your game this summer.

Being a camp counselor won't be as easy as some summer jobs, but it has the potential to be much more rewarding. Even before the season starts, you will be inundated with information about everything from camp policy guidelines to camper behavior management strategies. It might seem overwhelming, and it probably will be at times. While you read this article, however, forget about all of it. Not because it isn't important — it is — but because my job is to help you take care of yourself so that you, your colleagues, and your campers have the best summer possible..

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