The Gifts of Our Camp Staff
One of the best things we do at summer camp is to help young people slow down and take stock of the gifts and talents they possess. Here is an activity that can be done during pre-camp or early in the group's time together. It encourages staff or leaders in training to share what they do well and to recognize the abilities of others. It can also incorporate the concept of growth throughout the summer.
Footprints Journey Mural
Have everyone trace one of their feet onto construction paper and cut it out. Then have them decorate it with words or symbols telling about several of the things they do well. Have participants sit in a circle with their footprints and ask them to talk to the person next to them and tell that person about the 3 things they have written on their footprint.
Talk with your group about their gifts and talents. Ask if any of them found it hard to talk about a something they do well. While this exercise may not have been hard for some, it will have been difficult for others. We often find it uncomfortable to talk about things we do well. This is a great jumping off point to discuss how campers in their care may also find it hard to recognize their own gifts and talents and what the role of the staff will be this coming summer in building self-esteem.
Throughout the summer, you can have them add to their footprints new skills they have learned. During this initial activity, create a road of paper onto which the footprints can be placed. Throughout the week of pre-camp or during your summer, move the footprints along the road to signify your journey together. As the summer progresses, have the staff place markers along the road to signify special events in your months together.
You can get more summer camp campers in your bunks this summer at the cost of… an email and some time.
In Ontario the first week of the camp season has passed and I think there is a great opportunity for you to fill up some more beds this summer. Assuming that you have 1 week sessions (more likely most of you have 2 week sessions - send this email next week) I think you could tap into the excitement that the first session generated to get you more campers. What I propose is this…
Send all campers that have just returned home this email (using Mail Merge so it says “Hi Clarisse, ….” or whatever his/her name is):
We hope you had a great week at camp last week (if not please email or call me [give # and email])
To say thank you for a great week we would like to offer you 15% off another week at camp this summer. If you have any friends who heard all of your great stories and now want to come to Camp _________ they can have the 15% off as well.
Your coupon code is 2010-asdfasfw. Make sure your friends that sign up use the same code.
We hope to see you back at camp this summer!
What have you done at your camp to fill the extra spots left in the summer?
A Great Activity to Open Camp Staff Training
Koinonia (it means fellowship in Greek) - Put your staff members into small groups of 4-8 and explain that they are going to create a town. Ahead of time, gather together whatever materials you wish (ex. cardboard boxes, construction paper, glue, paint, recyclables, stickers, paint, toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes, scissors, markers, masking tape, duct tape, etc.). You will want to allow at least 30 minutes for them to create their buildings. Encourage
Give each group the responsibility to create one of the town buildings or outdoor spaces. Explain that they will making their creations 3D and give them an approximate size. Buildings of 1' to 2' seem to work well and still allow space for people in the room!
Frontload with them that, as they create the structure, they must also discuss how it will be used metaphorically in their community. The following are some examples you may want to use:
LIBRARY – the place to get resources, exchange ideas
SCHOOL - the place to learn new things, (what and how, why would they learn?)
PARK - a place to get away from it all a serene place to take care of one's self)
REC CENTRE - a place of fun and play and stress relief
CHURCH - a place for spiritual development, a healing place
CEMETERY - a place to put issues to rest (what should 'die' at your camp - ex. gossip)
HOMES - places of their own privacy, property - places where they feel safe
STORES - when they run out of steam, these are places where they replenish energy, inspiration, creativity
HOSPITAL - for healthy, safety - a healing place
OFFICE BUILDINGS - for the camp's administration, archives
CITY HALL - the place for settling disputes (dealing with conflict/mediation room)
These are some of the questions each staf group should ask itself:
1) how does this area of camp facilitate growth/willingness to risk?
2) how does it make you feel welcomed or loved?
3) how does it make you better able to look after children?
4) how does it develop our community?
5) what are the risk management tools (emotional risk, mental risk, risk to community)?
6) how does this keep our focus on our job this summer?
After each group is finished, put the town together on the floor. Give each group an opportunity to show off its work and to explain how they would like to see these issues dealt with in your community. Next, place a road of paper through the town. On the road, have staff members write words that complete the following sentence: “we believe in……..”(these possibilities are endless - ex. treating each other with respect, not participating in gossip). These are the statements (or guiding principles) that connect all of the structures in the community.
It is helpful to keep as many of the buildings as possible and bring one or two out each week to discuss how you as a community are doing.
Another summer, we did this same type of exercise by making a huge 3D map of camp on the floor of the dining hall instead of a Town. It also served as a tour of the site for new people.
I am currently sitting on a train travelling from Montreal to Toronto following several days of training we were privileged to run for Camp Ouareau, an all-girls residential camp in the breathtaking Laurentian Mountains of Quebec.
As all camping professionals know, the issues facing children and teens today are staggering. The stress and pressures our young people confront every day combined with cultural changes that have left so many of them in a 'virtual' haze have stolen their childhoods and made them grow up all too soon. As the two of us spent time preparing for our training sessions, the enormity of the task we all face once again took front and centre stage in my mind. My thoughts were clouded with concerns, wondering where our future generations are headed, hoping against hope that is not too late.
And then I met the The Leadership Team of Ouareau. For two very intense and long days, we chewed over issues such as body image, media stereotypes, nature deficit disorder, and dozens more. The level of their knowledge on the topics - astounding. The heart with which they approached their training - remarkable.
This group of women, university students or recent graduates, seasoned travellers and camp veterans are working from sunrise past sunset, day in and day out to prepare for the hundreds of girls who will be in their care this summer. They are developing lessons, activities, programmes, even menus with sensitivity and creative zeal. This connected supportive team with decades of combined camp experience is eager to begin another summer, another season where they will provide their campers with a safe, exciting, experiential learning adventure focused on making each person feel valued and important and building the self-esteem of every child and staff member. And they are doing it with great joy.
The more time I spent with them, the more I began to relax. The clouds began to lift and the worries to disappear. For not only did they fill me with confidence, they helped me to remember they are only one of thousands of leadership teams across the country and around the world who are currently focusing their energy on preparation for the arrival of their own campers.
This summer, the women of Ouareau celebrate their 90th year. We congratulate the Raill Family - Jacqui, Don, Gabrielle, Morgan and Chad - and all their staff and alumni on their 'almost-century' long dedication to providing the best in camping. We thank them for creating a phenomenally beautiful place where people of all ages feel welcomed, loved and cherished.
And we thank you too -- all of you -- for your endless work and tireless efforts to quite literallychange the world. Our children are indeed in very good hands.