Resource Library

In May 1971, the Five Man Electrical Band's "Signs" peaked at number eighteen on the rock and pop charts. For the unfamiliar, it's about excluding others through signs like job descriptions that refer to applicants' appearance or prohibiting trespassing. And while laws have changed with the times, signs still set the tone for the impressions that people build. In this column, we're going to look at how signs to, at, and around camp can improve the experience of your neighbors, visitors, camp families, and staff.

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The camp experience is a part of America's heritage and culture. Today, 10 million children and youth go to camp annually, yet, the American Camp Association (ACA) only directly impacts 5 million of those experiences. By 2020, ACA wants no fewer than 20 million children attending camp annually with the ACA camp community directly impacting the lives of those 20 million children.

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Fred Miller has more than three decades of experience as a senior executive and consultant working in the areas of governance, strategy, and organizational effectiveness. With a long camp history that includes attending camp as a child; working at camps as a counselor, program director, and assistant camp director; and serving as chair of the American Camping Foundation and on the American Camp Association (ACA) National Board, he is a strong advocate of the camp experience and a long-time valued friend of ACA.

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Even in today’s globalized world, many camps and youth-serving organizations still value local connections. While embracing technology to keep in touch with camp alumni or reach a broader audience, the leg work of many youth-serving organizations still gets done the “old fashioned” way — on a person-to-person, mentor-to-child basis.

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"Emily" is a six-year-old camper in the "Jellyfish" group at an East Coast day camp. She is a new camper this year, coming into a group where about 70 percent of the campers are returning. She comes from an upwardly mobile, well-off family who values education and personal achievement. As a consequence, during the school year, Emily is heavily "programmed." As highly successful professionals, both of her parents have demanding work schedules.

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I am standing in the middle of the woodshop of a sailing camp for boys on Cape Cod examining the hunk of wood that is on its way to becoming a fully functional model sailboat when I hear the ruckus outside. I hand the hull over to the boy who owns it and quickly step onto the shop porch just in time to see Jake, one of my ten-year-old campers, with his back to me about to chuck a rock at some kid only a few feet away. "Jake!" I shout at the top of my lungs. Jake, startled by my exclamation, whips around and throws the rock at me.

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Soon after we assumed the ownership of Camp Mont Shenandoah in 1996, my husband, Jay, and I were interested in establishing a scholarship program for our campers. We were clueless, however, as to how to go about it; especially since we wanted to fundraise to create an endowment in perpetuity. This, we knew, could pose potential problems as owners of a for-profit business.

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Camp is a special environment that can benefit children and adults of all backgrounds and abilities, including children with disabilities or special needs; gay, lesbian, or bisexual youth or families; at-risk youth; or minorities. By working to create an accepting and tolerant camp environment, campers from all walks of life can learn to better appreciate the differences and similarities they bring to camp.

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You are reading this article because you are working with adolescents at camp this summer and are probably a little bit worried about doing so. Given the ways in which adolescents are portrayed in the media, I am not surprised that you might be a little bit nervous. Adolescents are almost always portrayed as extreme versions of reality or as clumsy, one-dimensional stereotypes. Are all teens oversexed or prudish, jocks or nerds, burnouts or perfectionists? Of course not, but you wouldn’t guess that from watching TV or going to the movies.

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There are opportunities to teach every child better self-control. Of course, being spontaneous — even a little out of control — is fun. It’s just that learning to listen, concentrate, and sustain attention are also important life skills. Camp is an ideal setting for cultivating self-control and controlled chaos. It offers both energetic, physical activities — such as water basketball or capture the flag — as well as restrained, contemplative activities — such as listening quietly to a story during rest hour.

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E.g., 2020-07-01