Resource Library

The staff at Kamp Kessa, an adventure education and treatment program utilizing horses and the wilderness for youth who are considered at-risk and who have special needs in Frankfort, Kentucky, are often asked, “Why do you use horses?” and “Why do you emphasize youth being in natural settings?” Often the questioner will consider young people having such access as a privilege that should be either awarded or withdrawn according to the perceived appropriateness of their recent behaviors.

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Can you believe that sexist practices and beliefs remain entrenched in camps, even in this day and age? Although we have made great strides over the last decade to eradicate overtly sexist behaviors (like sexual harassment), remnants of the beliefs that resulted in these past behaviors still emerge in various camps and camp practices. Are they still evident at your camp? You work so hard to provide an inclusive environment and to promote positive youth development for your campers. Are there things you can do that could eliminate gender stereotypes that get in the way of your goals?

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“Better Camping for All.” It’s not just a long-time slogan of members of the American Camp Association; it’s a call to action. As we strive to embody this phrase and create excellence in programming, we are inspired by those who take an innovative approach to bring this phrase to life.

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In my years as a staff trainer/advisor, perhaps one of the most challenging issues I have had to deal with is helping campers, staff members, and families deal with illness and death occurring prior to or during the camp season. Recently, in a community from which our campers come, I was approached by a camper parent who wanted to reiterate how helpful I had been in helping not only his child, but he and his wife navigate the emotionally overwhelming illness and death of a grandparent during the summer.

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Having managed hundreds of camp crises, we have come to realize that the majority of events that cause harm to people and reputations fall into four major categories: waterfront accidents, transportation accidents, communicable illness, and sexual misconduct. Camps, similar to the one you call home, have fallen victim to crises in all four categories.

As a staff member, it is your duty and responsibility to prevent as many injuries, accidents, and crises as possible during the camp season. You may be thinking a few things:

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Next to national, state, and municipal parks, camps manage some of our most important natural resources. Camp settings not only introduce children to natural resources, build their skills to recreate in those resources, but can also act as a model for sustainable practices. In the 2009 and 2011 surveys of camp directors, the American Camp Association (ACA) highlighted sustainability practices as a key emerging issue (ACA, 2012). As an issue on camp directors' minds, we must first start with defining this concept.

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Imagine finding a jar full of old coins buried in the yard, and tossing them out because Italy (Rome) doesn't issue denarii anymore! I bet that you didn't know that you, too, have a treasure. It's probably closer than you think, and you won't have to use a shovel. Remember that avalanche of rolled-up drawings that attacks from the back of the storage closet? There's your irreplaceable treasure, chock full of knowledge and information. If they're not where they can work for you, you just don't know what a treasure they are.

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Shimi Kang, MD, is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, researcher, author, and speaker who specializes in adolescence and addiction. She is the author of The Self-Motivated Kid: How to Raise Happy, Healthy Children Who Know What They Want and Go After It (Without Being Told) (2015) and The Dolphin Parent: A Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Self-Motivated Kids (2014), which is a national best-seller and reflects her drive to promote essential health and wellness information relevant to our daily personal and professional lives in an accessible way.

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Change is often difficult for the thousands of camps and conference centers across the country to embrace, partly because many camps are steeped in tradition, and partly because of fear. The camp food service industry has been serving up hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, chicken nuggets, bug juice, cake mixes, pre-baked breads, and, of course, s'mores for too long. Now is the time for camp directors and food service directors to embrace the movement toward healthier food options.

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Risk Management: A Camp Director’s Wish
Published Date: 2013-05-01

Soon hundreds of children and camp staff from all over the world will be joining me here at my camp. This is the beginning of the much anticipated and long-awaited summer of 2013. My wish is that this will be the best summer ever!

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