Feature Article - April 2008
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Come Camping!

14 Tips to Ensure Happy After-School and Day Campers

By Jessica Royer Ocken


The Summit taps into the medical professionals in their building to enhance their programming. "One of the best partnerships we have is with our registered dietician who presents healthy eating lessons during our camp programs," Newman said. "We also have wellness mentors who have talked with our older age groups about tobacco use and other lifestyle choices."

Stone draws on the skills and interests of his counselors to staff the YMCA's specialty camps. One older counselor who likes to skateboard is heading up the skate camp this year. And the Y also partners with other organizations in the community. They use a neighboring city's skatepark and join forces with a local stable for their horse camp.

"For cooking camp last year we partnered with a youth center in the city of San Rafael that has a state-of-the-art kitchen and full-time chef," Stone said.

And don't forget to look for potential leaders among your current staff or volunteers. Is there someone who could offer an arts and crafts lesson? A storytelling session? Yoga classes or swim lessons?


Getting out to see something new is another excellent way to enhance your day camp or after-school program. But plan ahead to ensure a safe and smooth experience.

"We spend six months budgeting and reviewing trips," said Asphalt Green's Knapp. "We go over the trips in detail in pre-camp training, and every morning there's a pre-trip meeting with all the groups that are going. Like anything else a camp would do, the more planning, the better the product."

Asphalt Green is also careful to choose trips that will be interesting and exciting for the various age groups—and that are different from the field trips students take with their schools. Younger kids may visit the Bronx Zoo on a non-crowded day, while older kids may go whitewater rafting or take a tour of Madison Square Garden.

ACA Accreditation

The American Camp Association is a 100-year-old community of camp professionals who accredit more than 2,400 camps based on up to 300 standards in the areas of safety, health and programming. Regulated areas include camper security, camper-to-staff ratios, lifeguard training, equipment maintenance, camper health history information, coordination with local officials, transportation and traffic control, and staff skills verification.

Accreditation gives camp directors and staff access to ongoing tutorials in best practices, a 24-hour summertime crisis hotline, a regular independent audit of the camp's health and safety, and the ability to demonstrate proficiency and competence to the surrounding community.

For more information, contact the ACA at www.acacamps.org.