Make Your Camp Staff FEEL Part of the Family

Part of something much bigger than themselves.


Here are a few ideas to get you motivated to begin planning your camp staff training:

From Morning ‘til Night

  • Take time now to go through your leadership training schedule from last summer
  • What worked well?  What did not?  How did you feel during it and when it was over?
  • What changes can you make to make it an extraordinary experience this year?
  • "Put on the EYES of a new person" to make sure that everything you do in a camp day will make sense and will make them feel welcome  (this is a tough exercise if you have been doing this job for a while so ask someone not involved in your camp to take a look at your schedule and ask you questions)

Intentional Group Dynamics

  • Intentionally Mix and Match – in every activity, come up with a way to encourage them to get to know more people (ex. have them sit at meals according to certain categories - the last digit of their phone numbers, the length of their thumbs, the number of pets they've had, etc.)
  • During serious sessions that require small group work, choose thegroups for them ahead of time so you know you have a good mix of experience and personalities
  • Consider all the smaller groups you will have on staff this summer and allow them opportunities to spend time in those groups throughout the week to build cohesive teams (ex. counselors, senior staff, programme staff, maintenance, kitchen, all staff mixes)

The Importance of Circles

  • Run as many meetings, sessions, game explanations, etc., as possible in a circle
  • Begin your formal staff training opening in a circle and end your meetings in a circle holding hands (if you have a large staff, you may want to do this in concentric circles so you all fit in your space -- have the most inner circle sit, the next circle out kneel or squat, and the outer circle stand -- the point, of course, is for all of you to be able to see one another and feel the power of the circle)
  • Run Women’s and Men’s Circles with your staff one evening during Training (Allow the women to have their own time and men to have theirs - Use this time not only to play but to also discuss issues that affect their gender (a lot more to follow on Women's and Men's Circles in future newsletters)

Make Time for Work and Play

  • Work play time into your schedule after a heavy session (even 15 minutes is great) but use it to teach new games or how to play games (ex. showing good sportsmanship)
  • Have evening programmes every night but again use them to teach what behaviour you expect to see with your campers during the summer and what you hope the children will get out of their experiences
  • Have “Work Big Work” – reserve a work project for staff members to do during training (ex., wash all the windows at camp, move boats to the water from storage, rake the beach) – this builds ownership of the site
  • And then, of course, have “Fun Big Fun” – at some time during training, surprise the staff with something really fun (ex. have a carnival and rent a cotton candy and a popcorn machine or hire square dance callers to come to camp)

Hearing from the Staff:

  • Put up signs around the dining hall that say:  “I Can Teach This ___” and allow staff to fill in their names and what they know how to do (this is a great way to get to know people and can be very beneficial throughout the summer when you want to know who can run specific activities outside their actual job descriptions)
  • Each evening during training, at the end of campfire, have a Director’s “Fireside Chat” (ask your staff how their day went and have a question ready for each night (ex. Who did you see take a risk today?  Who did you learn something from today?  What have you learned about yourself today?  Who would you like to thank today?) - our staff members really enjoyed this time together every evening!

Wellness Matters

  • Create Wellness Partners – pair together every staff member with someone else of appropriate age and interests
  • Make them Wellness Partners (or "Wellies" as we like to call them) for the summer
  • Have the partners take care of and watch out for one another
  • Have each partner agree to allow this person to tell them when they need sleep or to take better care of themselves if this is necessary
  • Religious camps will want to encourage them to pray together and for each other
  • Allow time in staff meetings every so often for them to get together and catch up

It's important for everyone to know that they have someone special who is looking out for them. We have staff members who still call each another "Wellies" whenever they see one another or correspond and they haven't been on staff for years!

What ideas do you have to share with the camp community that really build family and a strong, confident staff team? We'd love to hear from you.