Resource Library

The Psychology of Camper Success
Published Date: 2018-01-01

James, an adorably awkward first-summer camper, sits on a bench outside Campcraft preparing to take his knife safety test. You tell him to begin, and — biting his lip in concentration — he flips open the large blade.

You try to adopt an encouraging tone, and say: “James, what’s the step before you open the knife?” He stares at you for a moment, and then quotes from memory: “Step number one: Always scan the area around yourself for potential dangers.”

Quietly crestfallen, he mutters to himself: “I’ll never get this right.”

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The summer's tales are not all in yet, but I am sure that if this summer is like any other, the economic downturn notwithstanding, there will be plenty of stories about over concerned, hovering parents who were challenging to work with for camp professionals. There is, for example, the parent of a five-year-old day camper in the San Francisco area who was sure her child would be too traumatized by having to change for swim in front of other children unless she came in every day and held a towel up to give her daughter privacy!

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Counselors, other camp staff, volunteers, parents, guardians, and friends of camps join camp directors as partners in the responsibility of caring for other people’s children. How many times have we heard camp directors complain, “I’m always the last one to hear about it?” Given the 21st century’s arsenal of personal electronics providing instant communication capabilities to many at camp, the communication responsibilities of “partners” have increased dramatically.

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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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Political unrest in Kenya, a railway strike in Europe, the Zika virus in Central America, visa applications for Tanzania, international terrorism levels in Paris, the value of the baht in Thailand — these are topics you might expect to be on the agenda for the next meeting of the US State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. They are also topics we at Wilderness Adventures discussed at a recent planning meeting, as a significant portion of our summer camp program offers camping experiences on all the continents of the world except Antarctica.

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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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Realizing Unprecedented Success — Third in a Series of Articles

Leadership has always been a contact sport. It's not a collision sport but more like dancing. To dance, you have to have a partner and together you move in harmony. Your leadership capacity is measured, in large part, by the partners you dance with every day of your life. You are either blessed or cursed by the challenges of your partners.

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The Beginnings of Youth Development

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“What am I supposed to do,” one camp director asked me, “with a mom who calls the camp every day of the session?” While such a wildly anxious mother may be rare (why did she send her child to camp if she can hardly bear his or her absence?), there is no question that, in general, camp parents are more anxious than in the past.

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Being a counselor to teenagers is one of the most important jobs you will ever have. During this summer, you will learn more about life than you can possibly imagine.

And as is often the case with meaningful learning situations, counseling teenagers will surely test every fiber of your being. Returning staff who are reading this article probably can't help but smile because they already know how much energy it takes to be successful.

So here is the key question: If you are in charge of a group of teens, how can you create lasting memories in your campers?

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