10 July 2017

The responsibilities and the work of a specialist at summer camp goes beyond the engagement and management of campers. Counselors at the camp, need a little guidance and excitement to help you facilitate your specialty area with efficiency and ease.

You are a professional in your field and come with a level of experience that will give counselors the impression that you have, ‘everything under control.’ You are able to focus and entertain a large group of campers, manage their behavior and transition them from one activity to another. This, understandably, can leave the counselors little to do. Not every counselor will step up and volunteer to participate or ask how they can help.

To set yourself up, and your camp’s counselors, for success during your activities, consider the following tips:

Set expectations

Campers aren’t the only ones that need to know the boundaries and expectations. Share with staff what will be happening in your sessions and that you expect they engage and participate. Let counselors know that they should model excitement and curiosity about the activities that are happening in your specialty area. Finally, ask them to disconnect (with their cell-phones). Most camps have a strict “no cell-phone” policy, but when you have ‘everything under control’, it is luring to counselor to want to check-in with friends back home.

Assign roles

Everyone wants to be included. When counselors don’t offer to help, assign recurring responsibilities they are expected to take on when coming to your sessions. These tasks or roles can be handing out material at the beginning of your session or taking charge of behavioral management when a camper or campers become disruptive. Remember not to leave them out of the fun. Make them team captains when work requires groups and mix counselor/camper volunteers when playing activities or working on projects.

Engage them

Learning about people’s interest can create a sense of community and mutual understanding for meeting goals. Find out what interests and excites the counselors that you work with. Integrate some of those things into your lessons and activities just as you would for campers. Teach them some of the activities or projects you will be working on. Their familiarity will stimulate them in your sessions, as well as offer opportunities for them to play the activities on their own time, or even be able to lead them during your sessions.

Be assured that it is not your responsibility to manage the counselors when they are resistant or non-cooperative. Be direct and speak to the staff about the challenges that you are experiencing, but do not call out counselors in front of the campers. When all else fails, bring issues to a Supervisor like a Group leader or Division Head. Ask a Supervisor to attend a session to see the challenges you might be facing. However, if you facilitate these tips successfully you will get more done, enjoy a smoother process overall and have more fun at camp. After all, FUN is what camp is all about!