There are a number of activities that are offered by summer camps. Many of the activities that camps offer are best led by staff that are properly trained, even certified. Examples include archery, aquatics, horseback riding, team-building, rock-climbing and high ropes. Then there are the activities that...
Author Eoin Colfer at Camp Half-Blood summer camp.
Not All Directors are Created Equal
Camp directors (including assistant directors, program directors and activity directors) come in all shapes and sizes. Some are very good at being administrators and others are creative programming geniuses....
Recently I ran one of my email roundtables. It was on Color Wars – the breaking of them, the challenges, creating teams and much more. In an attempt to gain more submissions I put up a $50 Amazon gift card for my favorite Color War break. In all, over 150 camp professionals submitted ideas – many...
Recently I caught an episode of a program called Oh Sit! which is a game show on the CW based around the classic game of musical chairs (you can see a video of it at the bottom of the page). While the Nickelodeon-ish game for adults was not very entertaining, for a number of reasons (bad commentary, mean...
I’m going to go on a little rant here. In the past week I got 2 separate emails asking me for information. One was for staff training ideas and the other was for programming ideas. I spent the time to answer both of their requests with very detailed information. In return I got NO email saying thank you. I was ignored completely. Really?! Is it that hard to say thank you?!
Then I got to thinking about the kids that come to camp and have no manners at all. “Please” and “Thank You” don’t seem to be in their vocabulary. I tell my staff that it’s part of our job to correct this behavior while these kids are at our camp, and that we should be examples of what it means to show respect to others by using those words ourselves. After all, isn’t that the kind of culture we strive for at camp, one that promotes respect – respect for ourselves, others, nature, animals, equipment, etc?
I know many of you share my views on this. I’m also painfully aware that some camp professionals don’t feel it’s necessary to be polite, civilized. They have a sense of entitlement like many of the kids that come to our camps. Yet these are the same people who feel slighted when they do something for someone else and get no recognition for it. I’m saddened by these two women (men are just as bad) who I went out of my way for. I’m saddened that they are working with our youth. Worse yet, these two aren’t the first. This has happened to me multiple times. Most of my readers are not that way and are very cool and appreciative – but there’s always a few that try to ruin it for everyone else.
Let’s be better than that. Let’s walk the talk, treat others as we want to be treated. Teach your staff, and in turn the campers, that they’ll get further ahead by being polite, respectful and thankful – plus it’s just the right thing to do. Most of you are aware that the campers see everything the adults are doing at camp and emulate it at home. Let’s make sure the actions they mirror are positive ones.
There are a number of activities that are offered by summer camps. Many of the activities that camps offer are best led by staff that are properly trained, even certified. Examples include archery, aquatics, horseback riding, team-building, rock-climbing and high ropes. Then there are the activities that need to be led by staff that have specific experience like mountain biking, martial arts, dance, slack-lining, etc.
It’s great to be able to offer the activities above but it also puts you, the program director, in a position to hire experienced staff and/or train/certify inexperienced staff.
Occasionally, we hire staff with a passion for a specific activity, an activity we might not have offered previously. Examples of this might include juggling, parkour, photography, etc. The problem is that it’s difficult to offer the same program the following summer if that particular staff member doesn’t return.
Here are 10 ideas if you want to add some activities to your current line-up, but you want to make sure they are activities that anyone can lead. While some require clear instructions via a step-by-step notebook and others require some specific equipment, all of the following activities can be run by nearly any one of your staff.
It’s not what you think. And yes, it is appropriate for a kid’s summer camp. Let me tell you a little more about this insane sounding idea!
What the Heck is Cornhole?!
Cornhole, or corn toss, is a fantastic backyard game that is growing in popularity. The beanbag toss game is easy, yet fun, to play. The competition can be a solo endeavor or a team sport.
The equipment is simple; two wooden platforms with a hole in the center and four beanbags. Competitors take turns tossing bags at the platforms (or boards). A bag on the board earns one point while a hole-in earns three. The first team (or individual) to reach 21 points wins.
You can buy boards and bags from a variety of distributors. Or you can very easily make your own. Whether you buy or build, both pieces of equipment can be customized (say, with your camp logo).
Check out the American Cornhole Association (yes, there is an official association!) for even more information. Learn about the specific measurements for boards and bags along with more detailed scoring instructions.
Cornhole is Programming Perfection
As we read in an earlier post (and know from experience), programming is sometimes difficult. A single activity needs to appeal to a variety of people. Therefore, it is important to view programming through different lenses.
Fortunately, cornhole is one of those activities that easily satisfies the masses. Check it out:
Author Eoin Colfer at Camp Half-Blood summer camp.
Not All Directors are Created Equal
Camp directors (including assistant directors, program directors and activity directors) come in all shapes and sizes. Some are very good at being administrators and others are creative programming geniuses. Some can delegate and supervise like a military general and others are amazing at facility operations and building a better camp space. Some can fundraise and politic their way to a great budget and others are master of psychology focusing on the camper experience. We all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses. We are good at a lot of things but we excel at, have a passion for, one or two areas. My greatest strength (or so I like to think) is programming. That’s what this site is all about, after all. Over the next few months I want to share with you ideas and introduce you to some visionaries of what I call XP (Extreme Programming).
XP (Extreme Programming)
XP is not extreme facilities (jet skis, circus tents, slack-lines, paintball fields and tennis courts), it’s the programming of the camp. There are a lot of GREAT camps that have AMAZING facilities but do not share in the philosophy of XP. I know of one very successful day camp with a multitude of locations that offers film-making, music producing, fashion design, woodworking, cooking, animation, dance, water slides, zip lines, a ton of inflatables, rock-climbing, bumper cars, juggling, slack-lining, animal shows, dance troupe shows and much, much more. It’s more af an amusement park than a summer camp. This is not Extreme Programming, it’s Extreme Facilitating. It works for them, but most camps do not have the funds to do camp like that.
Recently I ran one of my email roundtables. It was on Color Wars – the breaking of them, the challenges, creating teams and much more. In an attempt to gain more submissions I put up a $50 Amazon gift card for my favorite Color War break. In all, over 150 camp professionals submitted ideas – many sent in multiple ideas. While I have never run a Color War myself, I am certainly planning on doing so this summer after reading through these great ideas.
What I found so amazing about this roundtable is that many of those that submitted ideas had never participated (or even heard of) Color Wars. They did research on the internet, used some creativity and added unique challenges they do in their normal camp program.
OKAY, THAT’S GREAT, BUT WHO WON?
The winning submission was an entry that had multiple ideas and introduced to me the idea of “Fake Breaks”. While these are EPIC breaks there is NO WAY most camps would be able to afford or pull off these kinds of breaks, including my camp.
Because of that I decided to award a $25 Amazon gift card to the runner-up…a low cost, yet incredibly well-done break – and at a day camp none the less. I also love that they included a video.
I also added an honorable mention to a submission that I thought was fantastic and seemed doable for any camp to pull off.
The winning submission comes from Colleen M.
COLOR WAR FAKES/BREAKS
This is one of the biggest moments to me, this is what I spend 10 months of the year putting together trying to make it more amazing each summer.
Let’s talk about fakes. This is when I do something crazy where the camps think color war is about the break and then I have a banner that comes out saying fake out. You should see the kids; they are sitting on the edge of their seats each day waiting for it to start. We do some fakes that cost nothing, to cost a little.
If you have spent time as a team-building facilitator or adventure-based educator you probably have heard of Project Adventure. One of the people who was instrumental in the development of Project Adventure in the early 1990′s is Australian adventure-based educator Mark Collard. He is the author of No Props: Great Games with No Equipment and Count Me In: Large Group Activities That Work, both published by Project Adventure Inc. and a consistently popular conference presenter.
Mark has recently gone live with his new fee-based activity resource site called Playmeo.
I took some time looking around on his site. It’s very easy to use and there are a ton of great activities on there.
many of the activities have videos. You’ll watch real groups participate in the activity.
there are st-by-step instructions that can be printed out or downloaded to your mobile device.
different variations so you can tweak the activity to suit your group’s needs.
ready to use lesson plans.
leadership tips and narratives.
While this is a membership site, there are some free activities as well so you can get a feel for it. However, the cost of membership is very low, from $7-$12 per month, depending on the number of activities you want to access per month. However, if you’re interested in the site you might as well pay for the $47 annual plan – the cost of a couple of team-building books.
The way I plan on using this site is by showing some of my favorite videos during staff training and then playing them afterwards.
Here is one of the videos from Playmeo that I can’t wait to try at camp. This could be a very unique attention grabber.
This week’s email roundtable is on Color Wars. In conjunction I thought I would run a little contest. The person who emails me the best idea for a fun, creative and/or outlandish Color War breakout will win a $50 gift card to Amazon. In addition, everyone who emails me a suggestion for “breaking” Color Wars will also receive everyone else’s ideas.
If you would like to participate in future email roundtables sign-up to be on my mailing list by using the form on the right, in the sidebar.
If you do not know what Color Wars are Google it or go on YouTube. For now I will give you a taste with this awesome video…
My name is Curt, but you can call me Moose. I’m a recreation and summer camp professional, and there is no other career I’d rather have (except for maybe Rock Star). Enjoy my ramblings and insights...and please, share your comments, suggestions, and wisdom.