Communication Strategies to Create a Positive and Safe Camp Environment

Researchers have postulated that counselors express lowest perceived competency in their ability to develop camper relationships, handle conflict between campers, and feel limited in their ability to provide a safe camp environment (Wahl-Alexander, Howell & Donahue, 2016). These perceived limitations could directly impact not only camper attitudes, but the entire camp community. Fortunately, there are some simple communication strategies to assist counselors in their ability to create a positive experience for campers and promote a safe camp environment.

Play Ball: An Innovative Staff Training Helps Campers Acclimate

“They threw you a curveball,” suggests a brave staff member, after thinking it over for a moment.

“Be sure you cover all your bases,” offers another.

Thanking them for getting the ball rolling, I record their responses on poster board. They have just replied to my initial question asking the group to come up with commonly used phrases that are derived from baseball.

“What else?” I ask, prompting the group to continue brainstorming.

Soon the conversation really starts to flow, with contributions from other participants now coming more quickly:

15 Questions about Search Engine Marketing for Camps on the Web

In November 2012, my article, “Search Marketing on the Web — Drive New Camper Enrollment and Alternative Businesses,” appeared in Camping Magazine. Now, five-and-a-half years later, we revisit this topic for the first time. The 2012 article was a primer with basic strategies and some examples for camps. Based on my involvement with many camps from coast to coast over the past several years, following is a selection of updates that need addressing.

Reaching Out: Building Relationships and Engaging Underserved Populations in the Camp Experience

Cathy’s story: “He looks like me but he sure don’t talk like me” was the comment I heard from an 11-year-old camper as he described his counselor who was black but from South Africa. In my early and admittedly failed attempts to mirror my staff to reflect my camper population, I did not understand what was most important to my campers and their parents — their identity — whether they were African American, Hmong, or Latino.

Yes Only Means Yes Until Something Better Comes Along: Making Camp the Best Offer for Gen Z Staff

Staff sign a contract, then inform you the week before camp begins that they won’t be coming after all. Or staff commit to working the entire season only to tell (not ask!) you they are leaving for six days to attend a family reunion. Does this sound painfully familiar? Unfortunately, in today’s world, signing on the dotted line for this generation of camp staff often means only a temporary commitment until something better comes along.

Indigenous Instructional Programming for Camp Professionals

Camp professionals are taking a greater interest in the concept of allyship, a process of unlearning and re-evaluating whereby those in positions of privilege attempt to adopt a stance of solidarity with marginalized groups of people (The Anti-Oppression Network, 2017). 

I Respect That: Consent Education and Assault Prevention

“The number-one reason I found that parents don’t send their children to summer camp is that parents fear their child will be sexually abused while at camp,” said writer Allison Slater Tate. The gasp was audible as she finished her sentence. A room full of camp directors at the Tristate Camp Conference in 2015 shook their heads and began to murmur. Tate quieted the room and continued to explain how she conducted an informal poll among her friends and acquaintances and shared direct quotes of their responses of fear to her questions about camp.

Courageous Honesty: Critical Camp Conversations

I had made an early morning appointment with my chiropractor to help with some chronic lower back problems. Given my usual busy schedule, I made it for 8 a.m. — the first available appointment he offers in the morning — so I would have plenty of time to make it back to my office for a 9:30 a.m. appointment with a client of my own.

When I arrived at my chiropractor’s office at 7:59, I was greeted by his secretary. She asked me to have a seat and told me that “Dr. Jim” would be with me soon. At 8:15 I asked her calmly, “Is Jim here?”

Money Wise: An Interview with Ron Lieber

"We may not realize it, but children are hyperaware of money,” wrote Ron Lieber in his New York Times bestseller The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart about Money. That means money should be an important discussion point in every household, and Lieber, who also writes the “Your Money” column for the New York Times, can tell you that talking to kids about money goes beyond ensuring they understand basic financial behaviors.

2018 January/February Camping Magazine

Preview the 2018 ACA National Conference with interviews and articles by keynote speakers and presenters at this premier educational event.