Resource Library

"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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As the busyness of summer gives way to a more laidback autumn, many camp professionals find themselves considering changes and adaptations to make the next camp season even better. Part of that consideration is an assessment of your camp's health services.

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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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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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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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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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My first ACA national conference was in 2007, in Austin, Texas. What an incredible experience! Around 1,000 camp professionals congregated in the same place to talk about what we love. There were interesting keynote speakers, energizing education sessions, and so much more. I walked away with new friends, new ideas, and renewed energy and excitement. Here’s just a sample of things that the 2012 ACA National Conference in Atlanta will have to offer . . .

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