Create Your Own Community


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.

Why Camp Marketing Isn't Seasonal


Summer is here and the campers are on their way! You're busy making last-minute preparations, training staff members, and getting ready for a summer filled with memories. You can put your marketing plans aside until the fall, right?

Think again. Marketing your camp is a year-round effort and summer is the best time to kick off your campaign for next season. Keeping positive memories alive in campers' minds throughout the year is essential to generating repeat business. It can also help you attract new campers in the future.

So stay focused on your marketing efforts during camp this summer. Here are some tips for using the summer season to prepare for next year.

  1. Prepare to shoot a new camp video. Parents love seeing video when searching for camps, so plan your video shoot before campers arrive to ensure you have everything you need when it comes time to edit. Check out our blog post for steps to shooting a video that showcases your camp effectively.
  2. Gather materials for your site redesign. You may have plans to redesign your Web site in the winter, but now is the time to capture the creative assets you'll need. Think about the areas you'll want to highlight and take the photographs you'll need on each page.
  3. Create and launch a new social media plan. Challenge yourself to keep up with a weekly schedule of Tweets and Facebook posts throughout the year. Accumulating photos and anecdotes now that you can post later will help you stay on track.
  4. Collect feedback from campers. Gather testimonials from campers before they go home, when the thoughts and ideas are still fresh. You can use quotes in your future marketing materials and help refocus your advertising efforts for next season. Also, gather stories you can use in your email newsletters or blog posts throughout the year.
  5. Consider an early early bird special. Offer a deep discount to campers who register for next season on the spot. You may be surprised by how many parents take you up on the offer!

Guest author Phillip Gilbreth is the Camps Sales Manager for and, the leading online camp directories for connecting parents with kids and teen summer camps in the United States, Canada and worldwide.  Contact Phillip at

Advertising on camp directories like and is one of the best ways to market your camp all year-round. Thousands of parents visit our camp directories throughout the year to research and plan for next summer. If you're not listed on our sites, you're missing out on tons of potential campers!

There is Great Hope for the Future


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.

We wish you all the most meaningful of leadership trainings and the most joyous of summers. We cannot wait to hear your stories!

Communicating with Camp Parents by Email


Successful Camp/Parent Relationships Make Your Summer Smooth

I think that camps can get some great mileage out of maintaining great email communication with parents over the summer.   Here’s what I would recommend for a camp with week-long sessions - you can adjust it to suit the length of your camps.

  1. June 15 - Welcome Letter from the Director. Something very personal with a photo of the director (or section head if your camp is that large) saying that “I’m excited to have you at camp this summer” and here are some important dates to remember.  Include the picture - it’s easier to trust a person if you know what they look like.
  2. Thursday before a Saturday or Sunday drop-off - Only Two More Sleeps! Send a short email note that tells parents the specifics of their child’s stay at camp.  I would include a reminder of registration times (give them a beginning and end time - we gave families a one hour window for registration knowing that that would mean that they would come 1/2 hour early and we’d be close to done at the end of an hour), and a link to your online driving directions.  Take a look at the weather for next week and include a packing reminder - “Bring a raincoat, we’re going to get some rain on Tuesday”, “Check to make sure that you have a water bottle packed it’s supposed to be 34 degrees for most of the week (close to 100 deg. F.), etc.
  3. Friday before a Saturday Pick-up - We’ll See You Tomorrow.  Email parents 24 hours before they are to pickup their child at camp or at the bus stop. Make sure you are specific about the time you expect them.   We told parents that we would see them 9:30 on Saturday morning (we didn’t give them a window).   You can also offer parents a little emotional incentive to arrive on time - “Come see your son or daughter preform at our closing campfire tomorrow at 9:30).   This email is also a great place to tell parents that you need to know who is picking up their child if it is not them - you need to be instructed in writing to release a camperto someone who is not their parent/guardian.

A Note on Packing Lists

Creating one is essential and you should link to it AND include the .pdf in every communication with campers from the beginning of April until Email #2 (Thursday before the weekend arrival).

  • make sure that it is easy to read (large print) with actual checkboxes - make it as simple to utilize as possible
  • visually separate the MUST brings (sleeping bag, toothbrush, raincoat) from the suggestions (a book toread, a cuddly friend)
  • if you want to feel the best confidence that parents or guardians have looked over your packing list make it required that they sign it and physically hand it over with their child.  You don’t need to keep the sheet for anything (unless you are running a high-risk program that requires special equipment - then keep it for liability purposes) but the act of putting a signature on a piece of paper will make parents take better notice
  • create a “call out box” on the form to highlight important dates and times - the latest a child can arrive, latest time a parent can come for pick up.

What messages do you send to parents before camp?

Being welcoming at summer camp: set the tone

Every summer I take professional pictures for summer camps so that they have a set of pictures that they can use for their brochures, newsletters and websites.  Some camps bring me back for different sessions every summer so that their "stock" images cover all age groups and all of the activities.

When I was at Camp Kintail last summer I recorded this message with my thoughts on the amazing way that Kintail welcomes guests.

I think it's something that we can all work to improve at our camps.