First Five Minute Skills - The Scott Arizala Show.

Making Kids Comfortable at Summer Camp

We all know about First Impressions.   We work hard to make sure our website has a great, fresh design, that our Welcome letter really shows off WHY we do what we do, and that camp gives off a good impression from the moment families turn on to our lane.

Are we as conscientious as that with the children that come to our camp?  Do we insist our staff make them feel safe and comfortable as soon as they arrive? Do we begin our relationships with them by providing them tools to be more comfortable at camp.  

If you have trouble viewing the video watch it on YouTube: First Five Minute Skills

About Scott Arizala

Scott is one of the leading experts and premier trainers on kids, staff and the experience of summer camp. He earned his B.A. from Ithaca College, with a double major in Psychology and Sociology with a concentration in Gender Studies. He has been involved with camps and youth development for over twenty years as a camper, counselor, administrator, teacher and consultant.

About Travis Allison

Travis is a former Executive Director of 5 summer camps who now works as an online marketing strategy advisor who specializes in the private school and summer camp industries.  

Travis produces the CampHacker podcasts and blog, the Scott Arizala show, and manages the Summer Camp Professionals group on Facebook.

A Big CampHacker Thank You!

We are so grateful to our Scott Arizala Show sponsors.  We hope you'll check them out and consider them for your camps this summer.

3Adventures - international summer camp staff

Things I Wouldn't Know If I Didn't Go To Camp - Part 5

Becoming a role model

I have to say that yes, if I didn’t go to camp, I’m sure I would have found other ways to learn about the various topics in my “If I Didn’t Go To Camp” posts.  However, I will acknowledge that because I did go to camp, it was the first place I learned many of these lessons and my camp experiences helped me accelerate my growth in many areas of leadership.

One area is being a role model.  Becoming a role model doesn’t only happen once you join staff.  Oh no, it happens much before.  When you’re a camper, you influence campers who are younger than you.  Maybe it’s your perfect swish from the foul line on the basketball court that grabs an interested camper’s attention.  Maybe it’s your bulls-eye count on the Bob’s Bullseye tracking sheet at the Trip Hut.  Whatever it might be, you lead before you’re in a leadership role.

On the first night of each camp session after the opening campfire, the campers would be sent to begin their bedtime routine.  The camp director asked the oldest boys and oldest girls cabins to stay back though.  In her three minute speech, the director empowered the oldest cabin groups to be leaders and role models.  She asked these campers to lend a hand to the younger campers, especially when they needed help.  Maybe it was helping to lift a canoe or kayak back onto its rack, maybe it was to walk with them to the dining hall and make conversation, or maybe it was to cheer them up when they could sense a camper was homesick.

When you do join staff, your role modeling continues.  The campers follow your lead.  You are the coolest person they know.  What I thought role modeling was at first, was setting a good example for my campers.  What I learned later on though, was how powerful I was as a leader, and the way I found out was one I never could have predicted.

In an earlier post (Things I Wouldn’t Know If I Didn’t Go To Camp: Part 1) I talked about the role of night nurse at Camp Huronda.  When the camp sessions changed over, the two counsellors who were selected to become the night nurses would need to reverse their daily pattern to become nocturnal.  This included staying up all night during “changeover” (the night between sessions with no campers on site) and going to bed around 8am the next day, or as late as the counsellor could stay awake.

There are three small cabins tucked away behind the trip hut field where area staff and night nurses usually reside.  These were my absolute FAVOURITE cabins.  One afternoon, I was sound asleep after a full night awake when I was awoken by banging on the door to my little cabin.  I heard someone yelling outside “Gilby, Gilby, Gilby!”  I was aware of what was going on and said “come in”.  I had a feeling I knew who it was, even from my subconscious awakening.

It was my previous camper Adam!  As soon as he got to camp, he asked if I had returned and he found out where I was so he could come say hello immediately.  WOW.  I will never forget that moment.  I realized then that I truly had become a role model for Adam.  I too was very happy that he came back to camp.  So, I gave him a hug, and told him we could catch up at dinner because I would sit with his table.

I went back to sleep until my alarm went off at 5:00pm knowing it was going to be a great two weeks.  It was quite a humbling feeling having a camper so excitedly return to camp looking for me.  I learned this lesson many times, but I think this was one of the most memorable ones.  I had the pleasure of working on staff with Adam a couple years later when he joined staff as a counsellor in training and could be the leader to others that I was to him.

Things I Wouldn’t Know If I Didn’t Go To Camp: Part 3

Two Completely Different Bus Rides

Today on Twitter I was part of a very brief but interesting conversation about the bus ride to camp (Follow me: @jay_gilbert).  As a staff member, I would occasionally volunteer to be one of the staff on the camp bus at the beginning or end of a session.  The bus ride to camp and the bus ride from camp couldn’t be any more different.

On the first day of any particular camp session, the bus will wait in the parking lot for (potentially) eager campers to arrive.  In our hideously bright staff t-shirts - it would be impossible to miss us, plus we had giant smiles on our faces - see photo, the group of 3-4 staff would enthusiastically greet everybody who arrived at the meeting spot to head to camp.

Some campers were returning campers, and they knew the drill.  Drop the bags under the bus, say goodbye to their parents, get on the bus, and find a seat for the next couple hours.

Some of the campers were new.  Not only were they new, they were also afraid.  Some of these little boys and girls were leaving home for the first time and weren’t sure if they were ready to be away from home for two weeks.

We did our best to get the campers excited to be en route to South Waseosa Lake Road.  We would work the aisle - go up and down the bus talking to campers, making sure everybody was comfortable, answer questions from the returning campers such as “Did Seeley come back to camp this year?  Who’s my counsellor?  What cabin am I in?  Who’s the craft lady?”

Despite all the positive energy of the staff, the bus ride to camp is very quiet.  The energy that so magically comes out at camp hasn’t hit yet, and the first time campers often feel overwhelmed, nervous, and scared.

Fast forward two weeks.

It’s tough to get the campers on the bus to go home.  Nobody wants to leave.  A dozen pair of best friends reluctantly board the bus.  At least they have seat mates for the ride home!  The volume of conversation on the bus ride home is noticeably louder and the air is filled with laughter, chatter, and some sniffles.  Not long after the bus rolls away from camp everybody starts singing.  This bus ride is completely different from the one two weeks prior.

Having had these two opposite bus experiences did teach me that it only takes two weeks to change a kid’s life.  That first-time-away-from-home ten year old who arrived at camp shy and quiet, jumps off the bus with more stories to tell his parents than there are minutes in the car for the drive home.

Taking the bus to camp is absolutely a great idea.  It’s the first chance you have to make a new friend

The Campers are Coming!


Are your summer campers already here?

We've decided to share with you a few activity ideas to make everyone feel welcome and a part of something bigger. These can be done in cabin groups, with Leaders in Trainings, with your staff, or your whole camp.  Enjoy building community!

A Bridge of Hands: create a large 2-dimensional bridge out of cardboard or newsprint and put it up in a prominent place at camp.  Have each person put their hand in paint and leave their handprint in some place on the bridge.  The size of the bridge will depend on the number of people.  You will want to have most of the bridge filled in with handprints.  Once it is completed, this leads well into a discussion on breaking down barriers and building bridges in your community.

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.  Throughout the summer, have them add the new skills they have learned to their footprints.  You may also wish to create a road of paper onto which the footprints can be placed.  You may even want to move the footprints along the road throughout the summer to signify your journey together.

CampHacker Podcast at the TriState Camping Conference

speak directly to your summer camp clients is planning to go to TriState 2011 and we’d like to invite you to be a sponsor of this awesome summer camp recording roadtrip.

The Plan:

  • Travel to the TriState Camping conference in Atlantic City, NJ, March 15-18, 2011
  • Produce 3-5 shot audio or video shows per day featuring the camping professionals and vendors at the conference (the largest camping conference in the world).  Picture something like the TWIT coverage of CES (if that’s some crazy-moon-man language... click the link to see).
  • Interview as many of the keynote speakers as we can
  • Release the shows on, YouTube and Vimeo over the three weeks following the show.

We Are Looking For:

  • A company who sells products to summer camps and cares about building up the camp community
  • A visionary decision maker to say “Heck, yes! Our Awesome Company can be a part of the CampHacker program and partner to make great video and audio podcasts.  It’s a GREAT way to use social media to reach potential clients!”
  • You.

What’s the Catch?

Nothing weird, we promise.  There are two levels of sponsorship available:

  • Title Sponsor ($3000 Canadian) - Exclusive! You own us. For the duration of TriState, the show will be called “The Your Company CampHacker Show”.
  • Advertising Sponsor ($900 CA) - only 4 spots available.  Your Company will get a “commercial” in each audio and video piece produced at TriState - read by our host, Travis Allison.  Plus... (yes, there’s more!) an in-depth interview/commercial that will play on speaking about your very own amazing products.

Who Are These Awesome People Making This Weird Request?  We’ve Never Heard of Anything Like It In The Camping Industry and the CampHacker Podcast are the brain-childs of Walking Maverick Consulting.

CampHacker is the only regularly produced podcast and video show for the camp industry in North America (maybe even the world!).

Walking Maverick Consulting is run by Beth and Travis Allison, Summer Camp Experts with 15 years of running camps in Ontario, Canada.

Stop With the Silly - Give Me The Numbers

Although we have been around and blogging on for a few years, in the past eight months we have concentrated on building our audience of summer camp professionals from around the world (and you know how hard they can be to get a hold of).

In the past 8 months we have had:

  • 1200 views on each blog posting
  • The average time on 2:17 minutes
  • 695% growth in unique visits/month
  • 334% growth in Pageviews
  • 110% determination to make this a great TriState conference for you, our sponsors.

Thank you very much for considering this.  Travis will be in touch with you to find out your answer.  With the number of businesses considering this opportunity, you don’t want to take too long to think it over!