Resource Library

Our uncertain economic times serve as a reminder that the business of camp is full of change. When society, environments, and circumstances change, camp directors and owners are challenged to identify how the changes impact the risk in their camp community.
 

Managing Change and Evolving Risk

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This may seem like an unusual subject for an article on camp counseling, but as you read on, I think you'll find it actually is a most relevant topic. Consider this: Anyone can perform well when things are going his or her way and circumstances make it easy. It is a rare person, though, who can continue to perform at his or her best, even when things aren't going their way.

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It was July 2, 1964, and President Lyndon Johnson had just signed the Civil Rights Act. For us, the time had come to finally implement a plan to desegregate our white suburban day camp. We had been discussing how and when for many years, and the signing of the Civil Rights Act was the final impetus we needed to make it happen. At that time we were in our thirties and were social activists who had participated in civil rights activities since undergraduate school. Also, at that time, our eight-week, coed day camp of about 244 children was ten years old.

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As a camper, I distinctly remember the silver cafeteria trays and the colored globs of food that were plopped into the tray’s individual sections. That was then and this is now. The cooking arena in camp kitchens today needs to not only focus on better presentation but a wholesome diet as well.

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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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2012 Article Lineup
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  • "There Is a Reason! Understanding Challenging Behavior," by Scott Arizala
  • "Lights, Camera, Action: Writing Your Own Activity Script," by Kim Aycock, MST
  • "Will I Be Enough to Make a Difference?" by Greg Cronin, CCD
  • "Four Simple Words to Better Communication," by Bob Ditter
  • "Camp Is No Place for Bullying Behaviors!" by Norman Friedman, MEd
  • "What Parents Want to Know that Camp Counselors Should Know," by Karla A. Henderson, PhD; Kelly McFadden; and M. Deborah Bialeschki, PhD
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During the summer, I have many opportunities to see and discuss camper behavior at the several camps I visit during the season. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly even some well-educated, experienced adult leaders resort to tactics that involve shaming children or threatening to take things away from them as methods of managing their behavior. I believe children sometimes need firm guidance. I also believe that guidance can be offered respectfully, without shame or threats. I offer two examples from this past summer.

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"Kick a Ginger Day." Fair to say, the majority of adults reading this article have no idea what this means. A bunch of junior-high-aged kids in Calabasas, California, did, however. On November 20, 2009, at least four girls and two boys were subjected to physical and/or verbal bullying and abuse because of their red hair, freckles, and pale complexions. Ginger. Gilligan's Island. Redheads. It's quite a leap.

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Ways to Make Camp Memorable
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Building a warm rapport with the campers in your group as well as the coworkers you live and work with day to day is the single most important way to positively impact the camp experience for everyone. Counselors who really get to know their campers will find it easier to motivate them. Campers who trust their counselors tend to follow the rules and guidelines more easily. We all need to be heard and appreciate those who listen. As you discover your counseling style and learn to mesh it with other staff, remember to listen to one another and remain open to ideas.

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In Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes, “Water, water everywhere, and all the boards did shrink. Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink . . . .” Though he’s writing about sailors stuck at sea who are surrounded by undrinkable sea water, have you ever asked if your camp water supply is just like that: all around you, but not drinkable? Some time back, this column looked at common issues with camps’ potable water systems.

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E.g., 2020-02-16