PUBLISHED ARTICLES, PODCASTS & BLOG POSTS
Say This, Not That!
Camping Magazine, May/June 2023
This summer, as you enjoy your time on staff, your days will no doubt be filled with plenty of fun and memory-making. And just like in any job, there are bound to be some tougher times when your patience and ability to remain calm and kind will be tested.
When that happens, keep two things in mind: (1) this is a normal part of working in a busy, exciting, fast-paced job with kids, and (2) what you say and do in these moments can have a direct impact on how the situation turns out. When things get intense, remember these tips and strategies for what to say (and maybe more importantly, what to avoid saying) in those high-emotion moments.
Should You Offer Camp Staff a Retention Bonus?
Project Real Job Blog, March 27, 2023
In the camp world, we love to use bonuses. Returning staff bonus. Early hire bonus. And many of us are currently finding the retention bonus an intriguing option.
What is it? A retention bonus is money offered to staff with the goal of giving them incentive to stick around. Literally, it’s offering them extra cash to be retained. In the non-camp world, where employees generally are hired with longer-term work in mind, the goal of the retention bonus is to keep key talent, to encourage folks to stay through a certain date, or to entice staff if there’s been high turnover in a particular job role (“stick it out for six months and we’ll give you an extra month’s salary”).
According to an article published in Harvard Business Review (HBR), the use of retention bonuses has spiked since the pandemic and is at an all-time high, with “almost 60 percent of organizations making the investment” (Barnard-Bahn, 2023). In the camp world, retention bonuses are more frequently used to “stop the bleeding” and make sure camper ratios can be maintained through the heat of the early August staff doldrums.
Considerations for Implementing Mental Health & Behavioral Supports at Camp
Camping Magazine, Nov/Dec 2022
If you've been thinking about adding behavioral or mental health supports to your program, you've also probably realized that the devil is in the details. Supporting mental, emotional, and social health (MESH) needs at camp is a concept we can all get behind. But it's hard to know where to start when addressing concerns that feel big and intangible and encompass everything from a camper having a rough day to a staff member who considers ending their own life.
While MESH and behavioral supports have been a "hot topic" for the better part of a decade now, the pandemic kicked these needs into the stratosphere. When reviewing the camp experience in recent summers, industry professionals lament the seeming explosion of aggressive behaviors, the increase in presentation of anxiety and depression among campers and staff, and the effect these and other MESH issues are having on their experience.
Quiet Quitting Isn't New: It Isn't Even Quiet - Or Quitting
Project Real Job Blog, October 16, 2022
The COVID pandemic made some things — including how quickly life can change — come into stark contrast. Suddenly front and center was the fact that no matter how perfectly planned we believed life was, its machinations were far beyond our actual control. Ruminating on this the other day (and full disclosure, whilst grumbling about staffing shortages and hiring strategies), I found myself wondering how my view of the working world might be different if I, too, had started working at a time where it felt like any day in the future might unknowingly be the last day I recognized as normalcy.
How would my view of the hours I put into a job — by definition, something one does with the purpose of making sure they can pay for their basic needs — be different if I had not been working “for the experience”? What if I had not been truly excited and frankly, honored, to earn the equivalent of about twelve cents an hour just to be able to say I had finally made it . . . I was a camp counselor!
Advocate, Don’t Redecorate! How to Make Your Summer Camp Work a Success
Camping Magazine, May/June 2022
First, I’d like to apologize to the camp directors who had to put up with me as a headstrong and, dare I admit it, know-it-all 18-year-old. To certain directors (you know who you are), please understand that when I painted the side of your arts and crafts building with colorful paint splatter and kids’ handprints, it was because the campers hated the nasty outdoor sink that was covered in spiders and looked like a rusting garbage can. Looking back, I can see that my frustration at their refusal to wash their paintbrushes did not give me the right to redesign your building — but please know that my heart was in the right place.
Fast-forward 25 years...
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Camps for All
It's not a myth - there really is a camp for every child.
NH Parenting & Family, 2022
Are you worried about finding the right camp? While not every camp is a fit for each camper, there's a camp out there for everyone. In the last decade, there has been meteoric growth of programs catering to different interests, types of kiddos, and timelines...It can be daunting to determine which camp to choose. Some good advice - the "best" camp out there is the one that fits best for you, your child, your family, and your needs.
PODCAST: Don't Let Your Staff Hold You Hostage
Day Camp Pod #72
A proactive approach to working with this post-COVID generation of staff...
This past summer was intense, especially in the realm of managing our staff who have been through a lot in the past two years. Managing staff resistance is something that comes with the job, but extreme staff resistance can rattle your cage if you’re not ready for it. Our friend Emily Golinsky offers some insight and solutions to help you quell your inevitable next staff challenge uprising.
Enrollment: A Risky Business?
Camping Magazine, November 2021
Risk comes in many forms, some of which we spend more time considering and mitigating than others. On the “yeah, obviously” side of the ledger: we don’t allow campers on the ropes course without belay, we don’t swim without a lifeguard, and we don’t dismiss campers into the care of an adult without checking that person’s ID against the approved pick-up list.
These are risks we must manage once campers are participating in our programs. But what about the risk we assume when we accept campers into our programs? As one of the critical decision points that provides direction to the summer ahead, the enrollment process is fraught with hidden risks that must be properly evaluated to ensure they can be safely addressed.
Developing a Certification Program as a Staff Recruitment/Retention Tool
Project Real Job Blog, December 2021
I’ll start by being blatantly transparent: we created our certification program with a specific goal: To recruit and retain more qualified and dedicated staff. OK, honestly, just more staff in general. There. I’ve said it. It was selfish in its creation, perhaps, but it has great benefits for our staff as well as for us as a camp. Let me tell you more.
Why We Did It
It came down to asking ourselves what we could offer that potential staff may find valuable and could put us on a more even playing field in the hiring game. As we all know, the current generation of staff has a different — and certainly valid — outlook about work time and what value they are getting for their efforts.
PODCAST: Restorative Circles & Awkward Tacos
Day Camp Pod #55
Using circles (…and tacos?) to help our campers be their best this summer. Welcome, Emily Golinsky!
Most Day Camps fancy themselves masters in the art of Circle Time, but we doubt that most look at it as an act of restorative justice. To quote a golden Bob Ditter metaphor, camp is about making change, and Emily Golinsky is going to walk us through a framework that you are going to want to use with your team this summer, when we start seeing challenging behaviors.
She also has a phenomenal metaphorical take on our lovable, less typical kids involving Tacos that we can’t wait for you to hear.
Supporting the Socially Awkward Camper
Camping Magazine, May/June 2021
Singer Jimmy Buffett famously said, “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.” Working with children in challenging situations can be difficult, stressful, frustrating, and yes, extremely rewarding. But we have to (camp song alert!) “stay on the sunny side” of it or we risk burning out, and that’s no help to anyone at all. We have to strike the right balance of honesty, compassion, and humor for ourselves and our campers. So keep a few things in mind:
It’s OK to acknowledge that some campers have a harder time fitting in than others.
All campers are valued and valuable people who deserve our care and support.
Sometimes the hardest situations create the best memories — or, to quote the movie Mulan, “The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rarest and beautiful of all” (Cook & Bancroft, 1998).
Yes, Summer Camp Is Safe.
Yes, You Should Sign Up Now.
NH Parenting & Family, 2021
While some people may find it hard to picture summer camp being a safe, fully feasible option for children this summer, rest assured it can be.
As any parent who has turned their dining room table into a school desk over this past year knows, just getting kids out of the house and away from the screen (not to mention maintaining family sanity) is critical. With fewer opportunities for the social and emotional growth that comes from spending time with peers, kids are seeking connections, friendships and adventure.
Read full article (PDF)
Camp Fun + New Social Skills = an A+ Summer
Five social skills (and more) your camper can work on away from home
ParentingNH Magazine, 2020
As schools turn more attention to test preparation and meeting complex curriculum goals, teachers have limited time to work on character and social-skill development. Recess, social time and interactions that do not directly relate to curriculum standards take a back seat to reading, writing, math and STEM.
This focus on academics means that parents should emphasize different goals for summer out-of-school time — from simply keeping kids engaged with backyard games or beach trips to creating meaningful opportunities for social development. Summer camps present the opportunity for children to be immersed in a social-skills-rich environment and actively develop their own social growth.
Read full article (PDF)
The Amazing 'Secret Menu' Camps Don't Advertise
The unexpected benefits of camp are some of the best reasons to attend.
ParentingNH Magazine, 2018
Camp directors work hard to portray the benefits their camp can provide to children. Camp offers the opportunity to make friends, to experience the outdoors, to “just be a kid” for a little while, to learn a hobby or sport…the list goes on and on. It’s printed on the brochure, posted on the website, talked about during introductory visits.
But what stretches the list even further is the intangible and often unanticipated “gifts of learning” that attending summer camp can give your child and your family. These might not be boldly splashed across a flyer, but they’re just as real.
6 Reasons Why You Can Put Your Trust in Your Child's Camp Counselors
ParentingNH Magazine, 2017
Today’s camp staff might accentuate their uniform with unusual hairstyles or prefer to spend their free time on Snapchat rather than talking face-to-face over a cup of coffee. But you can feel confident that the young adults who will take care of your child at camp this summer can handle the responsibility with which you are entrusting them.
How can you be sure? Well, for starters, they have...
How to Find a Summer Camp for Your Child with Special Needs
ParentingNH Magazine, 2015
If your child has special needs or unique circumstances, you might think that the process of finding the right summer camp falls anywhere on a scale from mildly terrifying to completely overwhelming to absolutely impossible. You might even think that, at best, you are looking for a camp that will “let” your camper come, or one that will expect your child to do all the trying when it comes to fitting in with the world around them. But relax, because it doesn’t have to be that way at all.
Today, there are camps out there for all kinds of kiddos, so don’t get discouraged. If you know what you’re looking for, and you know what to ask, your search is going to lead you to the right place for your child and before you know it, a fabulous summer will be waiting.
There are plenty of things on the basic list of questions to ask when selecting a camp, but when you have a unique camper, you’ll want to add a few things, including...