Feature Article - April 2008
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Come Camping!

14 Tips to Ensure Happy After-School and Day Campers

By Jessica Royer Ocken


Staff Suggestions

3. DON'T SKIMP ON STAFF.

"Passionate front-line staff are essential for any program to be successful," Newman said.

Asphalt Green's Bailey agreed. "I can't give enough credit to what [Camp Director David Knapp] does in hiring and educating staff," he said. "David treats these kids like they're his own."

Stone said that when he thinks back over the good and not-so-good summers the Y's day camps have had, it's the staff that makes the difference. So these days, rather than just seeing what sorts of applications come in for the counselor jobs, Stone gets out and recruits people he feels would be good with the kids.

If you're planning to offer both after-school and summer programs, you can aim to hire year-round rather than seasonal staff, which increases your opportunities for training and continuity in your programs.

"The only real difference in staff is during the summer camp season we need a lot more," Newman said. "During a typical after-school week, we offer 15 hours of programming, and during the summer we have 50 hours of programming we need to cover."

4. PROMOTE FROM WITHIN.

Another great way to find devoted staff who are sure to understand the inner workings of your programs is to recruit previous campers and after-school participants.

"I currently have two S.P.A.R.K. assistants that attended the after-school program in their earlier years," Newman said.

Stone likes to start previous campers as junior counselors when they're 16 to 18 years old. "I have them grow up with the curriculum, and then when they're 18 they're ready to go with little supervision from me," he said.

5. PAY ATTENTION.

Once you have this fantastic workforce in place, be sure you listen to what they have to say.

"Staff are in the trenches and know what is working and what doesn't work," Newman said. "I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to encourage feedback from your staff and really listen to what they are saying. The same goes for feedback from parents, but I think you have to know where the parent is coming from and carefully balance their input with the other knowledge you have before rushing in to making changes."