Summer camp jobs - a place to grow!

Welcome everyone to my blog. Running a residential camp (Maine Arts Camp), as well as MySummers (a staffing site) and Camp Finders (a summer camp referral service), I have gained a unique perspective about sleepaway camps. I first attended camp in 1970 in Maine; I'm still at camp and love it!

Rick Mades

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gaining independence

I was just on the phone with a parent who is looking for a camp for her children, as well as other relatives. It will be a group of 5 kids. There are always interesting conversations with parents who are sending their child with a friend, sibling or relatives. Often the campers are not so nervous attending overnight camp if they have a friend or sibling. But, as a camp director, we have found that campers often do better coming to camp on their own. That way, there are no expectations among friends and campers can find their own place at camp. We always talk about camp being a place where kids can gain independence and grow. I'm more than comfortable having frank conversations with parents about why we recommend that campers take most of their activities separately so that they can integrate better into the camp community. Chris Thurber talks about camps that can help their campers grow are ones that stick to their mission and have an intentionality so that camp policies fit the underlying mission. Also quoting Chris from the Summer Camp Handbook (a must for parents), is a statement from a camper who clearly went to camp on his own:

One of the best parts about my camp experience was the opportunity to establish myself among peers with a clean slate. None of the kids who knew me from school were there, and the authority figures had no history with me. I felt very free to be myself, and not to be part of an ingrained social order.

I feel that talking with parents, expressing the goals of the camp, and trying to come up with a game plan for multiple campers, can work. On the other hand, we have had parents (and their children) more interested in being with a friend than taking the steps to get to know other campers. Sometimes those families choose another camp and that is ok - they have made an informed decision.

Good camping!

Rick Mades
owner of Camp Finders & MySummers
owner/director of Maine Arts Camp