Staff Footprints Journey Mural

The Gifts of Our Camp Staff

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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.

Are you using every moment of summer camp staff training?

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Fill Their Arsenals...for a successful summer camp staff training, make sure you use every moment of every day.  Here are a few examples:

#1  Time to Sing, Dance, and Play

  • Plan to have a few moments between sessions to teach a new song or new game.  The change in pace will help your staff to refocus for your next session and will also allow them opportunities to learn new songs and activities they will use throughout the summer

#2  A Programme Fair

  • Allow each staff member to visit each programme area you offer and have the person in charge of that area explain their expectations for the summer and share their creative ideas to make it the best summer ever
  • You may want to do this in a rotation so that smaller groups can travel together and have more opportunities to ask questions or try some of the activities offered
  • One of our most successful programme visitations was an evening we held inside the dining hall - each programme staff member had advance notice to prepare a display for our "Camp Fair" presenting their area, the activities and 'selling' counsellors and other staff members on their merits of their programme:

The Programme Staff members did an outstanding job creating display boards, pamphlets, and fun activities to get the other staff members excited for the summer.

We also asked the kitchen staff, maintenance and other support staff to prepare displays to talk about what they would be offering that summer.

The evening gave the senior staff a real pride in their programmes and the excitement in the air that evening in our dining hall was palpable.

#3  Reading Rainbow:

  • At the beginning of each morning (after breakfast and duties and before the first session), allow 15 minutes of quiet reading time
  • Have Staff assemble in the place where the 1st session will be held, sit in a circle, and read their manuals (this should be review as they would have received them ahead of time)
  • At the end of Reading Rainbow, we allow questions on what they read that morning
  • The peace and quiet is also a nice way to centre yourselves for the day's learning

#4  Roundtables:

  • Make good use of returning staff members (no matter their role) by holding panel discussions during evening snack each night
  • Ask certain members to sit on the panel each evening and allow counsellors to ask questions
  • Some evenings, you can ask the questions if there are things you want to be sure are covered
  • Later in the week, once the majority of your sessions have been covered, hold an Open Space:

Ask counsellors for topics that they feel they still need covered, narrow down the list and ask senior staff members to facilitate each topic. Allow the range of topics to be limitless - from backpocket games to discipline to behavioural concerns, to song harmonies - whatever the needs of your counsellors!  Counsellors may then spend the time going only to the discussions they feel they need to hear or may attend ones in which they feel they have something to contribute (we usually allow 90 minutes for this activity).

What other ways do you make sure that each camp moment is a Teachable one?

10 Things Every Camp Should Do on YouTube

Marketing your summer is a stressful business these days. As we compete with more and more summer activities it is much harder to set ourselves apart.

Families choose camp (and hopefully your camp) by relying on two strong factors to make the decision: a referral from people they respect and an emotional connection to the camp, it's programs, and it's people.

Video is a strong mechanism to reach those families on both factors.  By creating a great camp video (many, preferably) you give your current camp community something that they can pass on to their friends.  Something that they can use to refer your program to them.

By creating great, intentional camp videos you also show families a bit of yourselves.  Families need to feel comfortable leaving their children in your care, and it is hard to hide who you really are in the medium of video.

10 Things Every Camp Should Do on YouTube

  1. Educate.  Don't use video as a bullhorn to just tell people how great you are.  Teach parents how to choose a good camp, show them how to prepare their child so he/she does not miss home, explain your No-Cell-Phone policy.
  2. Appeal to kids.  You can't go wrong by imagining you're Sesame Street.  Keep the videos short, engaging, full of song and kid-focussed.
  3. Tour a sleeping area.  Parents will feel more comfortable sending their kids to you if they know what it is like inside your cabin/tents (also see #6).
  4. Keep it short.  Video watchers will give you 60 - 90 seconds of uninterrupted viewing before they start to get bored.   If you want them to make to the end of your 3 minute video you better be really letting your awesome out.  Anymore than 3 minutes and they're gone.
  5. Show us your WHY.  You want camp clients who feel passionate about the thing that makes your camp different than the other 15 000 camps in North America. Make sure they know what your WHY is. HINT: it's not your new speedboat.
  6. Show off your food.  Parents want to know where their kids will sleep and what they will eat.   Show off your food and you are farther ahead than 99% of the other camps on YouTube.
  7. Interview your counsellors. Kids who have been to camp will want to see people they know ("Hey! Watch this video of my counsellor from last year!") and new parents want to see who will be looking after their children.
  8. Plan ahead.   I have been using this awesome YouTube video from Camp Ouareau to illustrate this point.   You have 2, maybe 3, months to capture all of the video (and photos) that you will need for next year. Make a list of the shots you want and make it someone's job to complete that list.
  9. Know your keywords. Keywords are those words that people use to search Youtube.   By including good keywords in your description and video tags you will draw in more parents who are looking to make a summer camp purchase.  Check out the YouTube Keyword Tool.
  10. Support your community.  Interview staff or families who are doing stuff outside of camp.   Think of it as karma.

Stay tuned to CampHacker for more information in the coming months about using YouTube for effective summer camp marketing.   I'll spend some time and go into detail about these 10 ideas .

5 NEW Tips for Social Media Marketing Your Summer Camp - Part 4

How do I use social media to market my camp?

On January 29th, 2010, Travis presented his 5 NEW Tips for Social Media Marketing Your Summer Camp to a packed room at the Ontario Camps Association conference.   The presentation is full of practical tips for camps who are looking for immediate actions that they can take to improve their online marketing campaigns.

5 Tips

The five tips include (click here to watch the AWESOME! introduction):

  1. Tell visual stories
  2. Love your alumni
  3. Be a better blogger
  4. Remember your "call to action"
  5. Make the most of your Facebook Fan Page

**Please note: some of these posts are password protected but will become open to anyone to read in the next week or so.  If you would like early access to CampHacker.org content then sign up for our newsletter (it's free).

Tip 3 - Be A Better Blogger (part 4 of this series)

Coming next week: Tip 3 - Remember Your Call To Action (part 5)

If you are interested in ways that your camp can improve your social media marketing strategy please fill in the form (click here) for a free 15 minute consultation.  You can also call (519.532.7366) or email Travis (travis@walkingmaverick.com).

5 NEW Tips for Social Media Marketing Your Summer Camp - Part 5

How do I use social media to market my camp?

On January 29th, 2010, Travis presented his 5 NEW Tips for Social Media Marketing Your Summer Camp to a packed room at the Ontario Camps Association conference.   The presentation is full of practical tips for camps who are looking for immediate actions that they can take to improve their online marketing campaigns.

5 Tips

The five tips include (click here to watch the AWESOME! introduction):

  1. Tell visual stories
  2. Love your alumni
  3. Be a better blogger
  4. Remember your "call to action"
  5. Make the most of your Facebook Fan Page

**Please note: some of these posts are password protected but will become open to anyone to read in the next week or so.  If you would like early access to CampHacker.org content then sign up for our newsletter (it's free).

Tip 4 - Remember Your Call To Action (part 5 of this series)

Coming next week: Tip 3 - Make The Most Of Your Facebook Fan Page (part 6)

If you are interested in ways that your camp can improve your social media marketing strategy please fill in the form (click here) for a free 15 minute consultation.  You can also call (519.532.7366) or email Travis (travis@walkingmaverick.com).

Tool of the Week - Ultimate Camp Resource - CampHacker #8

Ultimate Camp Resource is the wikipedia for summer camp before the end of the summer.

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I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Pallatto, one of the creators of the Ultimate Camp Resource at the Northeast YMCA Camp Conference.  Chris spoke on the innovation that is happening in the camp field.

Chris and his co-creator Ron have had created literally the ultimate camp resource for professionals.  Camp songs, games, skits - it's all there.

Dan Weir
Director of Camp Services at Frost Valley YMCA

camp: http://www.FrostValley.org
blog: http://danlovescamp.com/
twitter: http://www.twitter.com/danlovescamp