Archive for September, 2013

Camp Souvenirs

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

It happens while you’re unpacking.  You happen on an oddity or two—or ten—in your child’s bag or maybe shorts pockets. Crazy little circular chains of rubber bands (dozens of them!) seem to be tucked into every crevice of clothing your child could find; a water bottle filled with what appears to be sand and lake water, or; a pocket full of leaves.  These are but a few of the little treasures that made their way home with your camper.  You ponder over your child’s spoils from camp for a few minutes and try to figure out what it’s about.  Then you finally decide to ask about ‘a Ziploc baggie full of sand?’

‘From the waterfront!’ Your child proudly declares.  ‘I wanted something to remember the fun I had there this summer.’  You sit the bag (that you were considering throwing out a few seconds before your child walked into the room) down on the nightstand and make a mental note to pick up a container that will do it a little bit more justice than a Ziploc baggie.

‘And what about what about those rubber band things?’

‘Bracelets’.

‘Ahhhh…Of course.’

The souvenirs that find their way home from camp are always one of your favorite parts of unpacking.  It’s become a game for you, trying to guess the chain of events that led to you finding that random piece of burnt wood alongside your child’s socks and putting it together with the years prior to this summer that he and his camp friends spent plotting their rope burn strategy.

‘campfire?’

‘The Burning of the W.  I snuck it on my way back to the bunk’

‘Yes!’ You guessed one.  You’re starting to get good at this.  What you begin to realize is that the random discoveries you’ve been fishing out of your child’s luggage like an archeologist at a dig site aren’t random at all.  They’re memories.  More importantly, they’re the summer’s best memories in the form of rubber bands, lake-water filled water bottles, sand filled Ziploc baggies, and, yes, even burnt pieces of rope.  The candles and ceramic animals are obvious.  You like them, too.  But it’s these special little surprise finds that tell the more complex story of your child’s summer–the reason you’ve come to like, actually anticipate, unpacking after your child returns home from camp.  You’re not exactly sure what you’re going to find or what it will mean, but you can’t wait to find out.

10 Reasons Working as a Camp Counselor This Past Summer Was the Most Awesome Job Decision You Ever Made…

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

1.) Being able to put “Provided excellent care and fun for several hundred children” or “helped children improve athletic skills” on your resume is a pretty sweet bonus.

2.) Saying, “My friend who lives in Australia…” or “My friend who lives in Arizona…” sounds a lot cooler (and more worldly) than, “My friend who works two cubicles down from me…”  Not to mention, you’ll save a whole lot of money on accommodations the next time you travel!

3.) You’d take tutus over “business casual” as dress code any day.  Shorts and staff shirts meant you got some extra Zs in the morning, too, because you didn’t need an extra half hour to stand in front of your closet wondering what you should wear.

4.) Fetching snacks for your campers was so much more fun than fetching coffee for a boss–and your campers were more appreciative, too.

5.) You got paid to do lots of fun outdoor activities everyday.  Your friends had to request a day off to do fun outdoor activities.

6.) Your “office” had a much better view than your friends’ cubicles. Summer camp provided plenty of breathing room in the form of roomy campuses as workplaces.

7.) Every day brought new opportunities and challenges that, by the sounds of it, were much more gratifying than spending an entire summer filing and creating mail merges.

8.) Letting loose and acting silly was not only acceptable, it was encouraged.  Your friends got verbal warnings for laughing too loudly in their offices.

9.) The amount of friends and connections you have through social media outlets multiplied exponentially.  Who knew summer camp would be such a great place to network?

10.) Tribals and Olympics are EPIC fun!

Explore Summer Camps in the off Season

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

We can hear the echoes of parents the world over now…’Start thinking about what?  Now?  We just finished filling out school paperwork!’  True.  Next summer is ten months away.  Trust us; we keep a countdown.  Newsflash:  summer camp enrollment is right around the corner.  In fact, for many camps, new camper enrollment is already underway.

Residential camp attendance is on the rise.  In fact, the American Camp Association reports a 21% increase in sleepaway camp enrollment over the past decade.  One would think this has summer camp directors all over the country jumping for joy—and it does.  But there is also a downside to the rising interest in summer camp.  As much as camp directors would like to offer an infinite amount of campers a place at their camps, facilities and programs have capacities, which means there are limitations to how many campers each camp can accommodate and still provide the best possible experience.  The solution for some camps is a waiting list.  Other camps simply stop taking inquiries after their open spots are filled.  For a lot of very popular premiere level summer camps, it means longer waiting lists for an already existing shortage of openings.  In other words, admission is competitive, and if you wait until the weather starts warming up to start thinking about registering for summer camp, you might find yourself in the cold.

Ideally, if you’re hoping to have a first time camper next summer, you’ve already short listed several camps that you think are the best fit for your child.  Maybe you’ve been avoiding making the final call because you prefer one camp while your child prefers another.  Maybe you’re just not sure your child is ready for sleepaway camp.  Maybe you still have a few questions before making it official.  Whatever the reason, now’s the time to pull out that short list and start narrowing down the candidates. Even if your child is looking forward to another summer of day camp, now is still a good time to start browsing the web and assembling a list of prospective camps.  Thanks to social media, you can follow camps throughout the year and get a feel for the camp’s community.  After all, you and your children are going to be a part of whichever one you choose for the next several years.  So it’s important to pick the one of which you think your family could feel most a part.

While reviewing social media outlets and the camp’s website, ask yourself:  How invested does the camp seem in its programs, facilities and families?  Who is the staff and how are they selected?  What is the camp’s policy about communication between campers and staff during the winter months?  These are very important questions that delve beyond the sparkling lake and impeccably manicured grounds shown on websites or camp videos.

Summer camps are more than the sum total of their promotional videos as well.  Use the opportunity to let social media help you get a better picture. You can easily determine parents’ as well campers’ attitudes toward a camp.  A strong online community that shows enthusiasm for camp throughout the year is a sure sign of happy camp families.

Once you start to consider the details of what will make you feel comfortable about sending your child off for several weeks or most of the summer, the easier it is to select a camp, and  the less likely you are to find yourselves on a waiting list because you quite literally missed your window of opportunity.

Mentors Everywhere You Turn

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

There aren’t many places children can go to be surrounded by positive role models that provide them the opportunity to develop relationships on multiple levels.  For most kids, adult mentors consist of parents, coaches and teachers.  There’s one place, however, where children are surrounded by mentors on multiple levels 24/7: summer camp.  Most summer camps have very high staff to camper ratios, which means there is never a shortage of grownups from whom campers can seek guidance and leadership.  Of course, everyone knows that role models are important in the lives of children, but we often simply forget to take the time to consider that having different role models is equally crucial until we’re reminded of this by the campers themselves.

A senior camper at one of America’s Finest Summer Camps recentlyobserved there are so many leaders at camp that you never feel like there’s no one to go to when the need arises.  This is very true.  There are coaches to help children improve their skills and reach athletic goals.  There are counselors to provide guidance through daily activities.  There are Head Counselors and Division Heads to help out with the bigger, more complicated aspects of camp.  And there are Directors who make it their business to make sure everyone has fun and stays safe.  Then there is also the myriad of other staff who work in camp offices, kitchens and health centers.  Regardless of which role any of these people fulfill, they’re all working at summer camp for one reason: they have opted to dedicate their summers to having a positive impact on the lives of children.  And, the campers’ best interests are their first priority.  There aren’t many institutions that can make a similar claim.

As leaders and mentors, camp staff bring a passion to their jobs that anyone who makes a decision to dedicate themselves 24/7 to a job must have in order to be successful.  They voluntarily give up sleep, time with family and free-time in order to be a part of summer camp and their dedication shows through their interaction with their campers.  The relationship is symbiotic.  Campers understand that staff find as much value in the summer camp experience as they do, which develops into a mutual confidence and trust.

Social learning is the psychological concept that places value on the necessity of good role models in the lives of children, which is perhaps why camp is an ideal place for campers to get the most out of being surrounded by so many role models.  Summer camp is somewhat of a microcosm of an ideal society.  It’s a self-contained arena in which people live  alongside one another in an environment that is most harmonious when everyone supports the successes of those around them.