Resource Library

Let's start with a riddle. As a camp counselor, you carry a powerful reward for campers with you wherever you go. Whether your realize it or not, you will distribute this reward to campers throughout the day. You'll tend to give this reward most often when campers are acting out, which could lead them to misbehave more. While all children crave this reward, they develop different strategies to acquire it: some have learned to be helpful and respectful, while others have learned to whine, complain, and stir up trouble. What is this mysterious and potent reward?

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Me First? Keys to Self-Care
Published Date: 2019-05-01

We've all been there! You're excited about your new job and all goes well for the first few days (maybe weeks). Everything is new and exciting. Adrenaline helps smooth any fears or irritations. But now it's getting real. Your coworkers are starting to get on your nerves. Your campers are driving you crazy; sure, some are adorable, but others are simply annoying and needy. "What am I going to do?" you wonder. You know you need to be relaxed and confident to help others. If you're really honest with yourself, you know it boils down to the fact that you're tired.

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“The time is always right to do right.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

My group of 14- and 15-year-old campers were walking back to the cabin after the afternoon activity. They were spread out along the path, with a couple of girls in front, a larger group ten feet behind, and the counselors bringing up the rear. The group in the middle started talking about one of the girls in the front group, who couldn’t hear what was being said behind her.

“I wonder when she’s going to come out.”

“Yeah, she should just come out already!”

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Thank you for your deep devotion to engaging children, teens, and young adults in fun, high-quality camp experiences. You have a vital role in youth development and the American Camp Association is pleased to offer this issue of Camping Magazine to you as a staff training resource to help you create lasting impacts on the lives of those you serve.

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Helping the Homesick Camper
Published Date: 2019-05-01

For campers of any age, attending an overnight camp for the first time can be cause for a case of homesickness — a normal and reasonable reaction to separation from home and coping with unfamiliar surroundings. From my observations, it is best understood as a temporary state of anxiety caused by missing family, pets, and rituals that bring comfort and stability to a child’s life. A second component to homesickness, however, is equally important. This is the strange newness of residential camp life that can cause anxiety in a camper who perceives they do not fit in.

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Anxiety is climbing steadily in the United States. It’s been tracked for years in adults, but researchers also report similar increases in children and teens. To give you an idea of how anxiety has climbed, consider this: A typical school-age child today (your camper) is as anxious as a child psychiatric patient during the 1950s (Twenge, 2000). Yes, it’s increased that much. And camps are seeing the fallout. Separating from parents seems more difficult. Campers seem more resistant to taking healthy risks and trying new things. There are phobias, eating issues, and sleep issues.

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Most drownings are preventable. However, the cold-hard reality is that 19 percent of drowning deaths in the US involving children occur in swimming pools with certified lifeguards present — including in camps and camp-like programs (USA Management, 2018). Further, many drownings that occur at guarded facilities go unrecognized by the lifeguards, and the incidents are brought to their attention by facility patrons. The bottom line is that drowning can happen anywhere there is water.

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Following the lead of educators in school communities, recreation professionals across the United States are opening their doors to increasingly diverse participants. There has been a particular focus on the inclusion of participants with disabilities to provide opportunities for these children and youth to attend day and resident camp programs alongside their peers without disabilities (Jaha-Echols, 2017).

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Imagine that today is your pre-camp leadership meeting, and you are sitting for the first time with your team in preparation for the upcoming camp season. Although your recruitment efforts have helped you choose competent staff, directing them won’t be without challenges.

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Whether you are a first-time counselor or veteran staff member at a summer camp, it can be difficult to nail down the step-by-step process of how to grow professionally within the field. You may be all the way at the top as director, but if you are not open-minded about constant growth, are you really living your life to the fullest? Offered here are a director’s and a counselor’s perspective on how to be a competitive and competent individual, no matter what your position in the camp field.

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