Our hardworking Pre-Camp Staff has continued their great work. Each day, Laurel South looks better and better!! Last night, we all headed to Windham for a well- deserved night out for pizza and a movie. In just a few days, we will welcome our Adventure and Equestrian Staff for their training sessions. As we see camp shaping up, it only heightens our anticipation for the start of the 2011 season, when the entire Laurel South family will be reunited on the beautiful shores of Crescent Lake! We can’t wait to see everyone soon.
Every summer you pack your children up and entrust them to the care of others for the summer. Have you ever wondered what sort of training is provided for your child’s summer camp staff? For summer camp staff members, the season begins at least one week before the campers arrive with Orientation.
What is Camp Counselor Orientation? Orientation is a week for camp counselors and other staff members to…
Become familiar with the camp’s expectations. Summer camp staff members participate in workshops relating to teamwork, camp policies, and child development. During this time, counselors are also familiarized with ACA standards and the importance of maintaining and exceeding these standards. It’s during this training that counselors are able to grasp that their new summer job, though fun, carries a lot of responsibility and 24/7 focus.
Familiarize themselves with their surroundings. Your camp wants counselors to understand the campus prior to your camper arriving. During Orientation, staff members are given every opportunity to familiarize themselves with their new surroundings, as well as which areas require special supervision.
Make new friends. Why is this important to you? Happy counselors make better counselors. As you well know as parents, having a proper support system in place is essential to the success of any parent. Those looking after your children this summer are no exception. Orientation is a time for summer camp staff members to become comfortable with their new co-workers and begin to get to know each other.
Attain necessary certification. Those staff members working in areas such as waterfront and outdoor adventure must have training and certification prior to supervising your children. For some staff members, this entails arriving at camp well before the camper arrival date in order to be fully prepared from the day the first camper sets foot on campus. Outside experts such as the Red Cross are often brought in to conduct lifeguard training. Outdoor Adventure and Waterfront areas also frequently utilize external professionals to train their staff.
Understand what it’s like to be a camper. Many camp orientation programs follow mock daily camp schedules and encourage staff members to participate in many of the same activities that their campers will throughout the summer. Most staff members live and function as members of groups during this period. The role play isn’t merely designed to give staff members an idea of what’s in store. It gives them the opportunity to embrace the camp’s traditions so that they can share in the enthusiasm with campers.
Receive very valuable and essential education to understanding and working with children. Summer camps take the well being of their campers very seriously and spare no expense in this area of Orientation. Big name speakers are brought in for lectures and workshops that educate staff members with the latest, most up-to-date childcare information and relevant laws. Counselors and other camp staff are left with no doubt or misunderstanding that the campers and their safety are the reason that they are there and, as such, come first.
Mentally prepare themselves for the arrival of campers. Even the most seasoned childcare professionals and educators can feel a bit overwhelmed when suddenly surrounded by hundreds of enthusiastic children who’ve waited ten months to see their camp friends again. By taking place on campus before the campers arrive, Orientation serves as a sort of segue from the camp counselors’ lives back home into their new summer lives by giving them some time to adjust to their new home and surroundings before the chaos that is summer camp ensues.
Finally, Orientation is an opportunity for Camp Directors and Senior Staff to assess how their staff interacts and identify individual strengths and weaknesses. This helps them assign camp counselors to cabins and bunks and age groups in which they’re likely to provide the best leadership.
So when you put your campers on the bus in June, you can bet that a very excited and well trained camp staff is waiting on the other end to meet your children and give them the best summer ever.
Finally, we close our trilogy of camp counselor tips with one last blog dedicated to you, future camp counselors…
Get ready to build your resume! Working as a camp counselor at a summer camp will provide you with some invaluable experience that will serve you well far beyond this summer. Many HR Managers in lots of different fields find summer camp experience very impressive because of the level of dedication and commitment required. Summer Camp also demonstrates that you can adapt well to new cultures, which is essential for success in many corporate environments. In fact, many corporate executives were once campers and/or camp counselors themselves. If you’re an education major, it goes without saying that experience working directly with children is a huge plus on a new teacher’s resume.
One final warning: As a summer camp counselor, you will act goofy, dress funny, and find yourself doing all sorts of crazy things you’d probably never ordinarily do…and you’ll have a blast while doing them. It’s what summer camp is all about. But what other job can you get where being an expert in painting faces, making signs, inventing outrageous costumes, and acting silly are all just part of your typical workday?
So there you have it! A few suggestions for preparing yourself for a great and successful summer. Have fun!
The first thing you should know about the orientation is don’t sweat it. Yes, it’s intense. Yes, it’s a VERY busy week and there is a lot to get done. We know that, by the time months of anticipation for your new summer camp job to start come and you travel (sometimes for hours or even days) to get to the camp and find yourself actually there, even the most staunch start to feel the butterflies. Remember that everyone with whom you come into contact those first few days is probably feeling the same butterflies—even returners who’ve done all of it before. But relax. Orientation is also full of opportunities. Opportunities to learn more about your new surroundings, opportunities to learn more about your summer camp and embrace its traditions, opportunities to learn more about your summer job as a camp counselor, opportunities to change your mindset and grasp expectations, and opportunities to make friends.
Speaking of making friends, be ready to make LOTS of them from all over the world! Sure your summer camp job will only last for a couple of months. But a couple of months are plenty of time to make lifelong friends when you spend everyday together. You may even find that you don’t need the whole summer to bond. You’ll probably be planning vacations to visit some of your new friends during the winter before orientation is even over.
Don’t over- or under-pack. Yes, we know that you’re going to want to cram your entire bedroom into your suitcase or duffel.. But the fact is that camp housing isn’t exactly spacious. Most summer camps provide their camp counselors with packing lists. Of course you’re going to want to bring a few personal items, but don’t stray too far from what’s recommended and definitely avoid packing the “DO NOT BRING” items. In other words, make sure your camp permits camp counselors to bring outside food onto the campus before you pack a stash of Doritos and energy drinks. It’s also a good idea to make sure you read the camps guidelines about permissible items, particularly those related to swimsuits and shoes. Once you’re packed, inspect your suitcase one more time to make sure you remembered things that are often easily overlooked or forgotten by new summer camp counselors, like rain gear or bedding (if your summer camp requires you to bring your own).
Chances are that you’re going to get a very important email or envelope from your summer camp very soon, if you haven’t already. It’ll have some pretty important paperwork for you to complete. Be sure to pay attention to the specified deadlines for each form. For one thing, you’re not going to want to be bothered with it after you get to camp. For another, not filling it out on time may cause pesky delays in important things…like being paid!
Well that about covers the orientation. We’ve still got enough tips left for you that we’re going to make this one a trilogy. Be sure to come back in a few days for the final part of this series!
First things first. You found this blog, so we’re assuming you want to know as much as you can before you leave. You’ve come to the right place! We’ve got a few suggestions for you…Actually, a lot. In fact, since we understand that you’ve come to this site to read a blog, not War and Peace, we’re going to have to divide this into a few different parts. But we figure that’s okay because they do it with movies all of the time, right? So without any further delay…
Check out the camp’s website, if you haven’t about a thousand times already. Even if you visit the website everyday and spend hours staring dreamily at the photos as you imagine images of you having the perfect summer showing up on the site this time next year, dig a little deeper. A camp’s website can also tell you a lot about the very special world that you will be part of this summer. Many camps have FAQ pages for staff members or special staff areas. They give you ideas about what to bring and what to leave at home. Some post sample daily schedules, which are a great way to familiarize yourself with how you will be spending your days. If there are videos on the site (or if the camp sent you one), watch them. Not only will you be ready to leave the same day, but it’s a great way to get to know the camp.
If the camp has Facebook or Twitter pages, join them. They’re another way to keep up to date on what’s happening and, as summer inches closer, the anticipation that builds is infectious. Many camps also post helpful information or instructions for staff members as summer nears. Facebook and Twitter are great ways to connect with other staff members before you get to camp. Not to worry, though. You’ll make PLENTY of new friends during your Orientation, even if you show up knowing no one!
Prepare to work hard. We won’t lie. Camp is one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever have. It’s also one that you’ll probably love the most. Every second of every day, SOMETHING is happening at camp. It’s all a lot to take in at first, but the chances of you making it through the last day at camp without shedding a single tear and hugging hundreds of people are pretty much nil-to-none. And you’ll probably be making plans to come back next summer before this one’s even over.
Well, like we said, we’re well aware that if you were looking for a novel, you’d be downloading the latest best seller for you Kindle right now. So we’ll call it a day for this blog. Be sure to tune in next time for advice about what to pack (and not) and some tips for orientation.
According to American Camp Association (ACA) CEO Peg Smith, approximately 1.2 million camp staff make summer camp happen each year. Camp counselors are a large group in that staggering number and many are also college students who not only earn money for school but also professional experience, resume-building skills and learn a lot about themselves!
Smith says that summer camp provides a unique learning experience for college students since “a camp job offers real life experiences and a hands-on education that simply cannot be found in a classroom.” If you’re looking for a way to earn money and also develop and grow as a person, summer camp is a place where children and adults come together to form a unique community. It’s a job that you can take seriously and share what you know—but also learn—from staff and campers.
Here are some benefits you can expect from the job:
- No research then writing arguments here! You’ll have to master real-life, problem-solving skills in the moment, like how to get your campers to clean up and go to activities on time.
- You’ll be a role model and surrogate parent for children who grow to love and respect you while you have a significant and positive influence in their lives.
- As you care for and encourage others, you’ll develop greater self-understanding. You’re moving into adulthood and it shows in the way you treat others and make choices for yourself!
- Professional development and training are required—no taking a back seat here. Hone your leadership and people skills.
- You’ve heard about “networking,” and this is where it starts—you’ll develop and expand a network of peer relations that can last a lifetime.
Do you want to know more? Find out about camp counselor opportunities at Laurel South and how you can combine earning money for college, professional and personal development and yes, a little camp fun!
In an earlier post, we discussed one of the primary concerns parents have about summer camp – will my child be safe? This week, we wanted to talk about the people who care for our kids at camp and keep them safe; how they are chosen and trained to do their jobs. When you’re putting the care of your children into other people’s hands, it’s important to have confidence in their caretakers. At Laurel South, not only does every person who works at camp have to love working with kids, they all also have to be good at it and have the skills to be a success.
Building a good staff begins with selecting the right personnel. We focus year round on finding, recruiting, and selecting the best qualified counselors to live and work with the children. Most of our head counselors, group leaders, campus leaders and department heads have been with their camps at least five years, and some have returned every summer for 20 years! All are professionally-trained educators and coaches who have proven their ability to instruct a particular activity. The counselors, who have the most direct contact with your camper, have all completed at least their first year of college (with many further on), and go through a rigorous interview and selection process, and reference and background checks. We recruit counselors from over 100 different colleges around the country and many fine universities throughout the world. Just over half of the counselors return from year to year, with many only ending their counseling careers when they graduate college and move on to real-world schedules (no more free summers!)
Of course, selecting the right people is only the beginning of the process of creating a successful staff. The counselors must also be trained and oriented to the camp’s particular processes, schedules and procedures. To do so, all staff must complete a week-long Orientation. We are especially lucky to have large groups of former campers who return to be counselors. They know the camp traditions and songs, and, more importantly, they remember what camp looks like from the point of view of the campers. At Orientation, they can share their experiences with new staff members and serve as ambassadors for our particular mission and traditions.
The seven-day day Orientation is filled with training in individual responsibilities, working with the campers, and of course, health, safety, and emergency procedures. Such intensive training ensures that counselors aren’t just up to speed with the programs but also child development and the best techniques for working with kids in the cabins. We bring in outside speakers to provide info on contemporary issues for schools and homes as well as advanced skills for working with other people’s children and those responsibilities.We also meet with counselors and go over each individual child’s information and specific issues that might arise over the course of the summer. By the time the campers arrive, the counselors have a great understanding of every child in their care, gleaned from information from the director’s meetings with parents, the camper’s profile information forms, and past years’ knowledge of returning campers. Even the group and campus leaders know the children well, since they are mostly veterans who watch the children grow over time. Orientation is fun, and the trainers work hard to create a feeling of unity and team amongst the staff.
Beyond the formal week long Orientation, over half of the individual activity instructors (waterfront, rock climbing, mountain biking, etc.) come to camp early, with key staff and counselors often training three weeks prior to Orientation. Counselors who are responsible for specific program areas are also trained to write lesson plans and taught how to execute a fun and instructional activity period. Each attends an entire training day devoted to teaching kids their particular activities and making it fun. Finally, every camp staff member is well-trained in general safety procedures and first aid, with additional courses and certifications dependent on counselor responsibilities.
All this training and teamwork that begins in Orientation quickly spills over into a great summer for the kids. But the seven days of Orientation before camp starts is just the beginning. Camp staff attend weekly meetings and trainings, and everyone receives ongoing support from their supervisors on a daily basis. Without a well-trained staff, no camp can have a successful season. The right people – people who love children and are good at working with them – create the foundation for a terrific summer of experiences and memories for the most important people on campus, your children.
Thanks for the image JacobEnos.
Many returning campers will tell you that the best thing about camp was the people, and they don’t just mean their cabin mates and fellow campers. Campers also develop strong bonds and relationships with their counselors and camp coaches. At Camp Laurel South, the camp director works year-round to find the highest-caliber professional staff, and these dedicated adults devote their summers to your kids and their development.
In addition to many of the staff being former campers themselves, they are also graduate students, teachers, coaches, and even some professional athletes, all of whom want to mentor and teach kids in the amazing environment of summer camp. Being a teacher isn’t enough, nor is being an experienced coach. The camp staff have to connect with camp-age kids and form the bonds that make the weeks at camp so special and productive.
We all know that kids learn better from coaches and teachers they like and respect and will retain the skills and lessons much longer. How many of us can still remember our favorite mentor and something specific they told us all those (many!) years ago?
While camp isn’t school, as we all know, your child’s camp program is specially designed to make the most out of the experiential/informal education nature of a summer in the woods. Many of the coaches at camp have spent five-to-ten years working for the same camp, perfecting their programs and curricula. They know what works in a camp setting (and what doesn’t) and have shaped their programs so your kids get the maximum benefit.
Camp coaches also go above and beyond the normal expectations of parents. Many of the coaches, for example, will communicate with the kids’ coaches back home so the transition and skill-building is seamless. The kids don’t miss a beat.
At Camp Laurel South the coaches are dedicated to developing skills in many areas, including soccer, lacrosse, tennis, basketball, swimming and even equestrian. Shorter season programs allow kids to always try out something new and develop more broadly. Please visit the Camp Laurel South website (www.camplaurelsouth.com) to find out more about our summer leadership team.