Last Month’s BIG Question:
What things do you do to build your camp “community” that make
it meaningful for both campers and staff?
For many people, camp was one of the best experiences of their lives. They
can tell you stories about campouts, sing some campfire songs, and recall the
time the camp director fell into the lake. But possibly he most common recollection
about camp whether it be from 30 years or 6 months ago has to do with how camp
made them feel when they were there. As camp staff, we do a tremendous job of
making our campers feel at ease and at home when they are at our camps. It is
this sense of community that forms the foundations for all of those great memories.
Here are some of the answers to last months BIG question about the things we
do to help build that foundation.
– During our first night of camp we focus on teambuilding with the entire group
and then we break into cabin groups and do further group activities.
– We have “One-on-One Time” where one counselor has about 45 minutes
with just one camper and they can do whatever they want. The camper is allowed
to miss whatever activity is going on at that scheduled time and usually they
get a snack (provided for this) and a drink and find a secluded place. Usually
they end up talking, praying, reading their bibles, playing cards, making a
craft, playing a game of basketball, wading in the creek, making bracelettes,
etc. It gives them each an opportunity to really connect on a deeper level than
what a group setting does. We have had lots of positive feedback from both parties
– Starting during the off season of last year, our Program Director decided
that our Center would host teen training weekends for teens that would be attending
our summer camps. He also requested that Summer Staff attend at least one of
the trainings. This gives the opportunity for the teens to become accustomed
to the staff they will be seeing over the summer. This also gives the staff
the opportunity to meet each other before the summer starts. Also, it allows
for everyone to be on a very similar page for when the camping season starts.
It gives us an opportunity to get to know some of the teens on a more friendly
basis. Another program that our Program Director has devised is a “Spring
Camp” (a weekend for campers during the off season). I see this as an excellent
idea because it gives some newer campers the opportunity to experience camp
on a 2 day basis as opposed to a 5 days basis. It gives the staff another opportunity
to bond with each other before the summer starts and it gives our teens and
adults who are new some hands on experience before the summer. It also gives
the kids who cannot afford an entire week of camp the opportunity to experience
camp for a weekend.
– In order to build a strong community, we placed our staff in positions we
felt they best fit in. We placed children in their age group so they were surrounded
by their own peers. An essential part of the summer was planning. Staff and
children worked together to plan fun activities. Although a majority was done
by staff before the summer program began, we allowed children to dictate some
of their activities. For instance our 9 to 11 year old group wanted to go bowling
one week. So we let them decide when, where, and the time! They really enjoyed
it because they felt they created it. Our main goal in building a community
is being positive, having activities that are fun for everyone, making sure
everyone both staff and students feel comfortable, and creating an atmosphere
of excitement for the program. We make sure our staff is ready for the day,
prepared for the activities, and happy for be there!
Thanks to all who sent in their thoughts about this topic. Enjoy the games