Building A Camp Community - The 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 the 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 camp craft 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 packet!
Source: Ultimate Camp Resource