Resource Library

“You’ll shoot your eye out!” Ralphie Parker’s mother, teacher, and even Santa Claus uttered five words of warning in the 1983 classic movie A Christmas Story. All Ralphie wanted for Christmas was “an official Red Ryder carbine-action two-hundred-shot range model air rifle with a special sight and a compass in the stock with a sundial!” The perfect gun for “pranging ducks . . . and getting off spectacular hip shots” (Shepherd, Clark, & Brown, 1982).

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When confronted by newspapermen who had reported incorrectly, humorist Mark Twain replied, "Reports of my death have been exaggerated." In much the same way, the recent furor over a new federal requirement concerning lead paint has been blown out of proportion for most camps and their operations. This month, we're going to look at some of the imperatives of that regulation, and extract the important elements for you to use when you face the next renovation or painting project.

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For 24 years, I have been a camp professional. Most of that time, I have led nonprofit camps that serve the Jewish community. For less than three years in between two camp directing positions, my job shifted to a more global role with the North American Jewish community, but I kept my hands in the camp world. I have in some way — whether directly or indirectly — impacted the experiences of more than 300,000 campers and staff members during the 24 summers that I have been a camp or camping movement leader.

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Don't think that these things just happen — campers don't grow and mature passively; what they get from their camp experiences depends on you.

I'll let you in on a secret. I went to camp as a child, all kinds of camps, and I never really understood what I got out of it until I worked as a counselor one summer when I was in college. It was then that I finally realized what I had learned as a camper — because of what I saw my campers learn.

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A friend of mine is a college placement counselor in an academically competitive high school. She is always amazed by how quickly her phone calls to parents get returned. She feels like she has a red phone at the White House. When one dad returned her call she heard an odd noise in the background.

"What's that noise?" she asked.

The Dad: "Oh, it's nothing. I can talk. I'm just doing a colonoscopy."

The counselor: "I don't feel comfortable continuing the conversation. I'll call you back later."

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The Role of Safety
Published Date: 2006-11-01

Building Camps That Care About Kids — Second in a Series of Four Articles

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Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how great camp activities are, which special events seem fun, or even what new facilities have been added if each camper does not feel understood and appreciated. Given the vast number of different tasks a counselor must perform each day, it seems almost impossible to establish a meaningful connection with each camper. Even experienced counselors can become overwhelmed with the prospect of completing assigned duties before the end of the day.

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For anyone familiar with Camp Danbee for Girls located in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, there is no mistaking its underlying philosophy — here is a place where girls can be themselves. A daily reminder of that greets our campers as they enter the dining hall for each meal in the form of a big, blue sign proclaiming, "Dance like no one is watching."

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E.g., 2019-11-21