Dear Camp Staff Members - Moving Forward Together

Tom Rosenberg, President/CEO
May 2019

Thank you for your deep devotion to engaging children, teens, and young adults in fun, high-quality camp experiences. You have a vital role in youth development and the American Camp Association is pleased to offer this issue of Camping Magazine to you as a staff training resource to help you create lasting impacts on the lives of those you serve.

Camp has never been a more essential educational vehicle than it is today. The field of camp is an important partner in the growing national movement in education dedicated to the social, emotional, and cognitive well-being of children. The increasing awareness among researchers and camp professionals around the lasting educational impacts of camp on young people’s lives is reshaping camp experiences.

This important trend underscores the importance of you and your camp colleagues making the most of your staff training experiences this season to teach and learn growth mindset, adaptive skills, and positive attitudes toward learning. When children, teens, and young adults possess a full toolkit of these skills and values, they are better able to prosper in school, in their future workplaces, and throughout their lives as contributing members of society. Your camp can and should deliver these essential advantages to everyone in your camp community.

To accomplish this, help each person in your camp have a deep sense of belonging to the community and respect for each other as individuals. By doing so, you will strengthen your camp as a learning community and encourage positive risk-taking around collaboration, communication, and creative thinking. Challenge your camp’s leadership team to prioritize creating a physically and emotionally safe environment that fosters strong, trusting bonds between campers and staff. Help build and lead a staff culture that encourages camper and staff voices and choices through collaborative decision-making.

As camp staff members, model for your campers and colleagues how to practice inclusion, emotional safety, and empathy, so young people feel they can talk openly and share ideas without negative consequences. Prioritize building relationship skills and being in community. Cultivate a staff culture that models support for trying new things, taking initiatives, and embracing mistakes as learning opportunities. In this way, everyone will develop more confidence around their ability to learn anything they set their mind to with effort.

Reinforcing a growth mindset in camp helps campers develop important skill sets such as learning how to think critically, listening and other communication skills, problem-solving, collaboration and relationship skills, self-awareness, appreciation of differences, creative expression, advocacy, personal voice, and more. Developing these practical, everyday skills will serve them well in school, work, and life.

Camp is where I became inspired by a community in nature, and there I mastered a host of positive characteristics and attitudes toward education that helped me develop greater capacity and confidence to engage in lifelong learning. These attitudes include perseverance, curiosity, playfulness, resilience, adaptability, initiative, and a sense of purpose. Alongside these attitudes, I was taught to practice and embody values such as collective and personal responsibility, honesty, integrity, and servant leadership. Camp is a place where you can model and celebrate this kind of everyday learning throughout the season. Thanks to you and your colleagues, your campers will grow up to be a generation of inventors, innovators, designers, and imaginative creators. Have a wonder-filled summer!