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The Cycle of Camp
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When I mention to people that I'm a Girl Scout, they give me the "once-over." You know, moving their eyes up and down my body, then adding; "Aren't you a little old to be a Girl Scout?" I'm thirty-three! How is that old? Ah well, I love that I'm still a Girl Scout (lifetime member, thank you) and am proud of being part of an organization that truly helped mold me. I joined because of my sister; I stayed because of camp.

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By the time Charles W. Eliot, former president of Harvard University, reportedly claimed in 1922, “the organized summer camp is the most important step in education that America has given the world,” camping in America already had a long history of embracing the educational value of the camp experience (Sharman, 1938). Now, almost a century later, the camp experience is once again at the precipice of education reform, standing at the crosssection of experiential learning and institutional schools.

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Search the Web for "day camp" and the results are over 100 million hits. Although the descriptions vary greatly, the words "day camp" trigger a feeling of excitement and adventure. Many sites describe a variety of summer experiences as day camp . . . from summer craft classes at a hobby shop or a ballet day camp out of a home to a doggie day camp. This article focuses on the history of day camps as defined by the American Camp Association (ACA).

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Camp professionals know that camp provides the opportunity to teach life-long skills, such as creative thinking, decision making, and getting along with others. By developing goals for your program and anticipated outcomes for your campers, you can ensure that your camp program will give kids a world of good.

The seven life skills that follow have been identified by the 4-H program as being essential for productive and happy lives. Consider how these life skills might have a place in your camp program.

Creative Thinking

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The culture of a camp is essential to evaluate on a regular basis. Is it noticeably and measurably acceptable or does it need help and/or remediation?

Ask yourself the following ten questions:

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Universal precautions refers to infection control measures that all health care workers and child care providers follow with the goal of protecting themselves and the children in their care from disease-producing microorganisms. The concept requires workers to treat all blood and various other bodily fluids as if infected with HIV, hepatitis B virus, and other bloodborne pathogens.

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Dear camp staff,

Welcome to the world of camp! Each of us — no matter what our specific job might be — is in a position that will influence the health and wellbeing of campers. Sometimes this will be straightforward — like the responsibility of lifeguards at the pool or food service staff to provide meals free from contamination. But other influences are subtle; indeed, often so subtle that it’s easy to lose sight of how broad and deep your influence as a camp staff member might be.

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Social skills and self-efficacy are fundamental processes and necessary for individuals in everyday life. Seeking employment, living independently, making friends, and trying new activities
all require social skills and self-efficacy. Empirical studies have found that outdoor residential camps improve these areas of development in children and youth because of the social encounters, new activities, independence, and leadership opportunities provided by enthusiastic and supportive staff (Thurber, Scanlin, Scheuler, and Henderson 2007).

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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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In preparation for the 2010 camp season, the American Camp Association® (ACA) enlisted the expertise of Rachel Simmons and Dr. Michael Thompson, best-selling authors and specialists on the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of childhood. Both professionals offer insight into why camp is so valuable to kids today and how the mentoring nature of the camp counselor-camper relationship can provide the positive role models kids need in building self-awareness and figuring out who they are and who they want to be.

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