Resource Library

"Smile"
Published Date: 2018-07-01

Dear Bob:

I am a camp director at a sleepaway camp in the Midwest. We have multiple sessions of two weeks each throughout the summer. At the start of each session I notice that our staff almost seem like the proverbial deer in the headlights when the new campers arrive. After all we cover during staff training they almost don’t know how to connect comfortably with their new crop of campers. Do you have any ideas that might help?

Muddled in Michigan

Dear Muddled,

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In the November/December 2015 issue of Camping Magazine, I wrote about a phenomenon I called Noticing Deficit Disorder (NDD), a culturally induced form of vision loss and nature blindness, which I believe camp can help cure. Those with NDD will frequently walk down a street and completely fail to notice, much less appreciate, the beauty of the natural world around them. Invariably, they are too distracted by their hand-held digital devices.

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In the 2009 November/December issue of Camping Magazine, we discussed sales and marketing tips to help run a better camp business. But, like any well-run business, camps need to be concerned about more than just sales and marketing. Serious consideration should also be given to the following tips on operations, maintenance, capital expenditures, purchasing, and leadership. Not all tips apply to every camp; however, the principles behind them are helpful and worth considering.

Operations

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Why I Love Summer Camp
Published Date: 2016-11-01

Although I am only 14 years old, I can honestly say that some of the experiences I've had at summer camp I will remember for the rest of my life. Some of the things that I've had the opportunity to do at camp most people will never do in their entire lives. In my opinion, summer camp is one of the best experiences a child can, will, or could have.

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Conservation Generation: Doing Good Work
Published Date: 2015-03-01

At Blue Star, as at many camps, we care passionately about healing the planet. As third generation owners/directors, we are humbled and honored to continue and deepen the long tradition of social justice that breathes at the core of our good work at camp.

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Conflict, Camp, and World Peace
Published Date: 2015-09-01

Saving Civilization by Filling in the Gaps in Traditional Education

Conversations online and off have focused recently on stopping violence and conflict. From Ferguson to France, from Baltimore to Burundi, people have discussed, debated, and demonstrated more passionately than ever. When human rights are in question, we speak of "ridding," "routing," "crushing," and "eliminating" the scourges of terrorism, extremism, and racism.

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It was three years ago when I first wrote about the increasing levels of anxiety that camp directors were seeing in their staff (Ditter, 2016). At the time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta had been reporting that anxiety in children ages 13–18 was at a 40-year high (CDC, 2011). In a survey conducted by the American Camp Association’s Healthy Camps Committee after the summer of 2015, camp directors indicated that anxiety was their number one concern when it came to staff (Gaston, 2015).

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Recruiting, interviewing, and hiring staff is the most important part of your job as a camp director. It is the single most time-consuming and, at times, tedious task you will undertake. However, investing the time and being truly present in the process will help you to avoid some future mistakes. Your staff are the people that families are trusting to take care of their children. They are the people that you will trust to keep your campers safe and to do the right thing both when you are present and when you are not present.

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Miles is a first-time counselor at a sleepaway camp in the eastern United States. He had seen an online ad for the camp at which I met him and decided that a summer away from his Midwest town working with children would do him a lot of good. It would give him both a change of scenery and a sense of purpose — and would add to his résumé as an aspiring Recreation Education major at Kansas State University. The orientation at camp had really inspired him. The camp leaders kept talking about making a difference in the lives of the children.

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Tell your campers stories. Give them the rich gift they are missing when they stare at a screen. The stories do not need to be great — just tell them.

By the time your campers arrive, you will be oriented to how camp works, what is expected of you, and how to manage some of the camper challenges that you will inevitably face — like homesickness and bullying. If you want to be a really good counselor, listen carefully to what they tell you, really learn what they teach, and put all of it into practice.

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