Resource Library

A camp director is stumped by negative changes observed in a veteran camper. Juan first came to camp as an energetic and enthusiastic eight-year-old. This year, at age fifteen, he walks away from opening campfire, telling his counselors that his mother made him come to camp. He would have preferred hanging out with his friends and wants to go home. Juan is furious when his cell phone is taken away from him according to camp policy. For the next few days he mopes around camp, disengaged and unenthusiastic.

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Having spent the better part of the last thirteen years in summer camps and school classrooms, I have observed the benefits of year-round learning, although not necessarily in the form of year-round school. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan put school vacations on notice with talk about "fighting the status quo," and calling summer "an inexplicable, counterproductive anachronism that takes youths out of an educational setting for two to three months every year" (Duncan 3/5/2009).

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In today's tough, competitive environment, it seems the only thing a camp director can be certain of is uncertainty. Everywhere around us, change is occurring — changes that have forced many camp professionals to rethink the way we look at our business in an effort to ensure our own camps remain a viable and relevant experience for children in the year 2020 and beyond.

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Every spring, the American Camp Association® (ACA) takes the pulse on enrollment trends followed by a fall survey that determines how enrollments actually went for that summer. In the spring of 2009, directors were nervous about the impact of the economic downturn in the U.S. on enrollments. Our early snapshot showed a camp community that was braced for a severe decrease in campers (48 percent anticipating lower enrollments).

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Sam gushed about the fun he had at camp, but his mother (Mrs. Jones) was distressed about his chapped lips. In fact, it upset her so much that she marked "needs improvement" on the "Health & Hygiene" section of her parent evaluation and included the comment listed above. What kind of follow-up would most camp directors do with Mrs. Jones? For many camp directors, the answer is none. We read her parent evaluation, and dismiss her negative comments as a minor complaint.

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As a camp professional, I, like you, have literally thousands of affirming anecdotal stories — the camp experience is not discretionary. And, if anyone needs more evidence, ACA's outcomes research confirms what each of us already knows. Our CEO, Peg Smith*, has been telling the world that opportunities for growth and development exist in natural settings that promote experiential learning, improve social skills and physical fitness, teach children to take calculated risks in a safe environment, and expand the creative mind.

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Family camps have become increasingly prevalent over the past several years. The number of camps offering family programs has exploded since the early 90s; reports of increases in family camps range from 215 percent (Sweet 2007) to 500 percent (Tevis 2005) in the last sixteen years. More families are seeking opportunities to spend time together (Shaw and Dawson 2001), and camp providers are responding to this desire by providing more family programs.

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Dear Bob,

We are a coed resident camp operating in the mountains. It seems that every summer we have campers who aren’t really ready for the demands of group living in what is the intense social and physical environment that is our camp. We have found that some parents want to send their children because they believe we can help them make the friends they’ve never been able to make at home.

Without being too confrontational and scaring away what might otherwise be great campers, how do we determine whether a child is truly ready for the community living that is our camp?

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Imagine finding a jar full of old coins buried in the yard, and tossing them out because Italy (Rome) doesn't issue denarii anymore! I bet that you didn't know that you, too, have a treasure. It's probably closer than you think, and you won't have to use a shovel. Remember that avalanche of rolled-up drawings that attacks from the back of the storage closet? There's your irreplaceable treasure, chock full of knowledge and information. If they're not where they can work for you, you just don't know what a treasure they are.

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Speaking or writing about risk management without mentioning insurance is difficult. The two disciplines are independent in theory, but "glued together" in thought and practice.

Insurance is one of the first tools camp risk managers can deploy in their arsenal of weapons to combat risk. Insurance is the weapon of choice for camp risk managers when the risks are too unpredictable, or the stakes are so high with such significant financial impacts their organizations simply couldn't win the battle on their own without some help.

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E.g., 2020-08-04