Resource Library

Essential Staff Training Activities
Published Date: 2009-03-01

You expect your staff to think on their feet — so why not train them on their feet?

For more than three decades, I've been assisting camps, outdoor education centers, youth development agencies, and park and recreation organizations with their summer camp staff trainings. Over the years, I've created, collected, and shared hundreds of activities that I think make a significant difference in the unity, community, connection, and culture of a camp.

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The Boston Nature Center (BNC), an urban Mass Audubon sanctuary, offers public programs year-round. Located in the Boston neighborhood of Mattapan, two miles of trails and boardwalks traverse meadows and wetlands where wildlife abounds, including coyotes and many species of migratory birds. The sanctuary’s George Robert White Environmental Conservation Center is one of the “greenest” buildings in Boston, teaching environmentally sustainable design by example.

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Foundations for Brighter Tomorrows
Published Date: 2015-07-01

Each year, ACA’s Eleanor P. Eells Award for Program Excellence recognizes camps that embody the award’s namesake by creating exceptional programming and developing effective, creative responses to the needs of people and society through the camp experience. We celebrate the 2014 winners, as well as the first Eleanor Eells Award-winner for Excellence in Research in Practice.

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"Smile"
Published Date: 2018-07-01

Dear Bob:

I am a camp director at a sleepaway camp in the Midwest. We have multiple sessions of two weeks each throughout the summer. At the start of each session I notice that our staff almost seem like the proverbial deer in the headlights when the new campers arrive. After all we cover during staff training they almost don’t know how to connect comfortably with their new crop of campers. Do you have any ideas that might help?

Muddled in Michigan

Dear Muddled,

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In the November/December 2015 issue of Camping Magazine, I wrote about a phenomenon I called Noticing Deficit Disorder (NDD), a culturally induced form of vision loss and nature blindness, which I believe camp can help cure. Those with NDD will frequently walk down a street and completely fail to notice, much less appreciate, the beauty of the natural world around them. Invariably, they are too distracted by their hand-held digital devices.

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As a camp professional, I, like you, have literally thousands of affirming anecdotal stories — the camp experience is not discretionary. And, if anyone needs more evidence, ACA's outcomes research confirms what each of us already knows. Our CEO, Peg Smith*, has been telling the world that opportunities for growth and development exist in natural settings that promote experiential learning, improve social skills and physical fitness, teach children to take calculated risks in a safe environment, and expand the creative mind.

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Why I Love Summer Camp
Published Date: 2016-11-01

Although I am only 14 years old, I can honestly say that some of the experiences I've had at summer camp I will remember for the rest of my life. Some of the things that I've had the opportunity to do at camp most people will never do in their entire lives. In my opinion, summer camp is one of the best experiences a child can, will, or could have.

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Conservation Generation: Doing Good Work
Published Date: 2015-03-01

At Blue Star, as at many camps, we care passionately about healing the planet. As third generation owners/directors, we are humbled and honored to continue and deepen the long tradition of social justice that breathes at the core of our good work at camp.

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Conflict, Camp, and World Peace
Published Date: 2015-09-01

Saving Civilization by Filling in the Gaps in Traditional Education

Conversations online and off have focused recently on stopping violence and conflict. From Ferguson to France, from Baltimore to Burundi, people have discussed, debated, and demonstrated more passionately than ever. When human rights are in question, we speak of "ridding," "routing," "crushing," and "eliminating" the scourges of terrorism, extremism, and racism.

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Recruiting, interviewing, and hiring staff is the most important part of your job as a camp director. It is the single most time-consuming and, at times, tedious task you will undertake. However, investing the time and being truly present in the process will help you to avoid some future mistakes. Your staff are the people that families are trusting to take care of their children. They are the people that you will trust to keep your campers safe and to do the right thing both when you are present and when you are not present.

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