Resource Library

What can we do to get more campers? How is our camp perceived by youth, parents, and staff? What do we need to do to stay competitive with other camps?

Camp administrators around the country are exam¬ining their facilities and asking themselves questions like these. The resulting list of items that need to be addressed can prove daunting and even overwhelming! Sometimes, this kind of self-analysis will point to the need for major capital improvements, under the notion: “If we build it, they will come.” But this idea can often be misguided.

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From Peg - July 2010
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In today's world, relevance and added value are important to everyone. Being essential in a world that often must eliminate discretionary expenses is of paramount importance. And, the ability to articulate worth is equally imperative.

Over the last three years, the American Camp Association® (ACA) has focused on five outcomes for children and youth as they relate to our mission to enrich the lives of children, youth, and adults through the camp experience.

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Every spring, the American Camp Association® (ACA) takes the pulse on enrollment trends followed by a fall survey that determines how enrollments actually went for that summer. In the spring of 2009, directors were nervous about the impact of the economic downturn in the U.S. on enrollments. Our early snapshot showed a camp community that was braced for a severe decrease in campers (48 percent anticipating lower enrollments).

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Most people can handle — or tolerate — a certain degree of risk. The edginess provided by risk adds verve to being human, and often gives us that gentle kick in the seat of our pants needed to prod us along in life. Risk tolerance, however, exists on a continuum. There are times when a person is more comfortable with risk than at other times. In addition, risk tolerance varies from person to person. Some thrive on the thrill associated with it, while others may be paralyzed.

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For most camp professionals, imagining a camp without trees would be hard to fathom. Especially since for the past century, you and other American Camp Association® (ACA) camp professionals have worked to preserve the camp experience for both children and adults. Unfortunately, there is an insect that threatens the camp experience for all of us.

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The power grid has gone down.
Forest fire is threatening the camp property.
The water supply is contaminated.
There's been an industrial spill, and camp must be evacuated.
Critical computer systems have been hacked into.

These crises — all stemming from sources outside camp — are getting more attention from camp professionals. We used to focus most on incidents that were camp-bound, incidents such as a lost camper, a waterfront emergency, or a building fire. But in today's world, we must also attend to events arising from the external community.

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During the summer, I have many opportunities to see and discuss camper behavior at the several camps I visit during the season. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly even some well-educated, experienced adult leaders resort to tactics that involve shaming children or threatening to take things away from them as methods of managing their behavior. I believe children sometimes need firm guidance. I also believe that guidance can be offered respectfully, without shame or threats. I offer two examples from this past summer.

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A Ditch in Time
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Rainfall and snow melt runoff are sworn enemies of the roads and pathways in camp. Erosion moves your road surface to places you don’t want roads. Spontaneous, unplanned drainage channels cut themselves into your improvements and through areas you’d rather not have them. Snow that melted at noon refreezes at sunset, causing the surface to heave and buckle over and over until it simply falls apart. If you think that fixing this kind of damage is expensive, then you’ll surely agree that fixing it more than once borders on criminal.

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"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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Let me introduce Pat, a thirteen-year-old returning for his second summer at camp. Little distinguished his first year at camp, but this season he has a definite attitude problem. It showed up immediately in the ragged look of his clothes. As introductions were made on opening day and plans began to form for the summer, Pat was distinctly indifferent to all the hype given to the opportunities ahead.

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