Resource Library

ACA’s Impact Study is a multiyear research project designed to identify the lasting impacts of camp from the perspectives of campers, staff, and parents. In the earliest stages of the project, we asked former campers, who are now between the ages of 18 and 25 years old, what they learned at camp and how they are using what they learned in their lives today, specifically at school and in their jobs. The research team identified 18 distinct outcomes from these conversations, each of which transfers to school and work in unique ways.

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It’s Friday afternoon at the Belle Isle Summer Nature Camp, a day camp in Detroit, Michigan. As parents and younger siblings mill around the auditorium, a happy murmur of conversation is heard as campers proudly display the work they’ve done over the week of summer camp. Students show off the ceramic tiles they created earlier that week, now glazed and fired. Student journals, drawings, and other art cover the tables. One group of campers plays a video they created encouraging people to plant milkweed and native flowers for monarch butterflies.

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Over the last 30 years, I have not only been a camp director and owner but have also worked in the role of providing professional risk management education within the camp, youth development, and education fields. My clients have included universities, municipalities, private schools, camps, recreation, and nonprofit organizations. In addition to writing, providing educational workshops, training camp staff, etc., I am often hired to evaluate policies and procedures, as well as advise and provide an expert opinion for insurance and legal professionals when accidents happen at camps.

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Camp taught me about the power of the environment — not just the natural world where we romp and roam, but the broad community support and child-centricity of programming and purpose. As a psychologist, I learned that individual symptoms often bloom in the absence of the very things that make camp experiences so powerful, and so crucial to foster and sustain.

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Most of the time we encourage one another to think outside the box. In the case of major donor relationships in the camp environment, I encourage you to think squarely within it! The box is the period between the beginning of camp and the day your campers leave. It is when the eight months of precamp effort is palpable and alive, and activities best narrate program impact. Seeing, smelling, tasting, and observing campers and staff in action is more powerful than any video or choreographed home/office visit.

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Resource Roundup for Camp Professionals
Published Date: 2019-08-30

Parents traditionally look to teachers, school counselors, and religious leaders for guidance and resources about raising kids. Typically, parents wouldn’t think to seek resources and guidance from summer camp professionals. It’s time to take seriously our important role in partnering with parents by sharing resources about child development, youth trends, and best practices when working with young people.

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Presented by ACA, Illinois and Women in Camping, the Women in Camp Summit is a three-day professional development event of networking, discussion, and learning designed specifically for female-identifying individuals who work in or in support of camp. This year’s Women in Camp Summit takes place November 4–6 in St. Charles, Illinois.


Camping Magazine asked several of the summit organizers to weigh in on the reasons behind the Women in Camp Summit and the opportunities the event represents:

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In the November 2018 issue of Camping Magazine, Lenny Silberman predicted that within the next five years, every summer resident and day camp in the United States would be including esports as part of their programming. Given Silberman’s highly successful career, I wouldn’t bet against him. Esports are indeed a booming industry, with double-digit growth in participants and profits. Silberman lays out, in eye-opening detail, the size of the potential market and the marketing and competitive reasons to embrace esports within summer camp.

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It was 1995. TLC, Alanis Morissette, and Boyz II Men were riding high in the music charts. Apollo 13 and the original Toy Story were in the movie theaters. Michael Jordan made his return to the NBA. Bill Clinton was in the White House. And I was moving up, going from seasonal staff to full time at a camp.

With this new role came new responsibilities — as a supervisor, as a communicator, and as an educator. I no longer had the luxury of having the backup of a camp leadership team. I was now part of that camp leadership team.

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“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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