Resource Library

Camp can be an ideal setting to help children cope with the death of a loved one. Since 1991, Camp ReLeaf, a weekend camp hosted by Triangle Hospice of Durham, North Carolina, has been helping children develop positive coping skills for dealing with the recent death of a family member. Camp ReLeaf offers all the fun of a traditional residential camp, while creating a safe place for youth to express and deal with their grief. Over the years, therapeutic recreation has become one of the cornerstones of this camp’s program.

The Role of Therapeutic Recreation

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Imagine a camp program with the power to improve the academic and social behavior of participants and to positively impact participants’ readiness for work, social development, and lifelong learning. All camp administrators herald this program vision for campers, but what about for staff? Camp can positively impact young staff as well. It happens through a program otherwise known as a seasonal job.

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Camp is a special environment that can benefit children and adults of all backgrounds and abilities, including children with disabilities or special needs; gay, lesbian, or bisexual youth or families; at-risk youth; or minorities. By working to create an accepting and tolerant camp environment, campers from all walks of life can learn to better appreciate the differences and similarities they bring to camp.

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Each camper will be different. They will come from different backgrounds, different family structures, and different socio-economic classes. However, just as they are different, they are the same. All children develop in basically the same way and share certain developmental traits with other children their age. If you understand the typical behavior for an age group, you may be able to determine what is appropriate behavior and then chart your best course of interaction with them.

The Elementary Years

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As a camp counselor, your job is among the most important responsibilities anywhere - parents have entrusted their children to you. You have the charge of not only making sure they are safe, but of nurturing their development.

Nurturing campers' development includes having clear ideas of the kinds of behaviors you want to encourage. Some positive behaviors that can be taught at camp are:

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Rain doesn't have to be an unwelcome guest at your camp. It can be an inspiration for camp activities. Rainy days offer an opportunity to teach campers more about weather and for them to see firsthand how rain affects plants, animals, and the environment.

Though you may be undaunted, you should not be oblivious to the weather conditions. Staff training should include sessions on recognizing storm conditions, reviewing emergency plans, and planning all-camp program alternatives. Remember never to go outdoors during a severe thunderstorm or when there is lightning.

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Homesickness is something that every counselor, activity instructor, nurse, administrative staff, and director will deal with at camp. It’s an inevitable phenomenon. What are the best ways to deal with homesickness or, more importantly, to prevent the onset?

Prevention Is the Best Medicine

Planning activities that help campers get to know other campers and showing them around the camp grounds helps campers get familiar with the facility and the people and makes them feel more at home. Often such activities can help prevent homesickness.

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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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Camp can offer a child more than mere fun. Camp is also the ideal environment to help campers develop their problem-solving skills.

Children learn problem solving through trial-and-error and modeling (watching how adults solve problems). Camp, with its community living focus, presents a constant source of potential conflicts and, thus, incidents in which to practice problem-solving skills. Camp also offers endless observation of how others (especially counselors) solve daily problems.

Successful Problem Solving

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Preparing camp counselors for their role as staff members, community leaders, and knowledgeable caregivers is a daunting task. Many staff members are themselves students or adolescents unsure of the aspects of camp wellness, and they bring different beliefs and varied backgrounds to camp. As a camp director or administrator, you must teach them the importance of proper procedures when it comes to safety, OSHA, and dealing with daily camp health issues.

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E.g., 2018-06-22