Resource Library

"Dear Mom and Dad, I’m having a great time at camp," writes twelve-year-old Michael. "Today, I rode a horse for the first time. I thought it would be scary, but it was loads of fun. Tonight I’m going to the camp dance and in the morning we’ll be fishing at the lake. The food is good here, too . . . ."

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Remember your parents always reminding you to write thank you notes after birthdays and other holidays when you were on the receiving end of a gift? My guess is that it probably was not your favorite thing to do, but you did it anyway. So, it may take you by surprise if you are asked to write similar notes to the parents/guardians* of the campers in your care this summer. You see, the campers you will get to know over the course of the upcoming weeks are on loan from their parents (you have to give them back!), and they are the most important and special gifts you can ever receive.

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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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"Go placidly amid the noise and haste" marks the beginning of a 1927 prose poem, "Desiderata," by American writer Max Ehrmann. A copy of this well-known piece, the Latin translation of which is "things wanted or needed," hangs in the reception area at Cape Cod Sea Camps and amplifies not only the sometimes-tumultuous nature of summer camp, but also, most likely, the process of getting there in the first place.

Why might that be the case?

Simply because of the sheer number of programmatic options for teens and young adults: potential campers and counselors, one and all.

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Among the many challenges camp directors face at staff training time is effectively addressing the personal conduct of those charged with caring for the campers—a task made increasingly difficult by high rates of underage drinking, other drug use, and early intimate sexual behavior among high school and college students. Tackling this challenge strictly from a command-and-control, behavior "management" perspective bypasses important opportunities to both protect children and teach valuable, lifelong lessons to new generations of leaders and role models.

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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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My mother never told me there’d be days like these. Challenging? Yes. Difficult? For sure. But nearly impossible? Not so much.

The last full day of camp is always one filled with emotion. But on this day — a day made especially gloomy by unrelenting rain and wind — the emotions went beyond those typically attached to packing up and saying goodbye. They also accompanied the rare, and unlikely, suspension of five outstanding teen leaders just hours shy of our closing ceremonies — and their graduation.

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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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From the very beginning, the camp experience has been unique — teaching lessons and creating community in a way that reaches almost everyone, and touches a camper's soul. Camp memories last a lifetime, and often grow stronger with time.

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E.g., 2019-10-23