‘I’m Only as Good as my Staff:’ Camp Directors Say Training is Key

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Approximately 12 million children and teens attend summer camp every year, but whether camps serve any larger purpose beyond filling long, hot days — from academic enrichment to personal development — depends on how well they’re designed and managed, according to a joint report by researchers from the American Camp Association and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University.

“The goals, program activities, staff attention and physical and emotional safety of camps are what make outcome achievement possible,” notes the report, called “Camp Experiences and Developmental Outcomes for Youth” and published by Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America. “Camps may be an underrecognized developmental setting in which young people find the desired supports and opportunities that contribute to positive development.”

Key to all this is carefully orchestrated hiring and training of the thousands of older teens and young adults who serve as staff, of whom approximately 65 percent return to work for multiple summers, according to the American Camp Association. “Leaders must be trained to know what the intended outcomes of the camp experience are and how to implement those outcomes,” the report asserts.

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