Feature Article - April 2008
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Come Camping!

14 Tips to Ensure Happy After-School and Day Campers

By Jessica Royer Ocken


Safety Essentials

10. CREATE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT.

"Safety, safety, safety always has to be your first priority," Newman said. "You cannot teach healthy habits, exercise, and having fun if children or staff are getting injured."

Safety is also a major factor parents evaluate when considering your program, noted Asphalt Green's Knapp: "Especially in New York City, we have to have a good plan and the trust of the parents. They need to know we're prepared to deal with emergencies."

11. TRAIN STAFF TO BE PREPARED.

Each of the camps consulted for this story has taken special pains to ensure their staff members are educated and ready to react. Asphalt Green takes extra precautions in following the Board of Health's guidelines for field trip travel and keeps their student-to-counselor ratio lower than required.

"Our trip coordinator was an EMT last year," Bailey said. "So if there are any accidents we have coverage there. We do our homework when we do the trip schedule: What are the facilities like? What medical issues could arise? How close is a medical facility?"

The YMCA uses the American Camp Association guidelines (see sidebar for details) to keep their programs on track. "We're accredited by them to run day camps, and there are a ton of regulations to follow," Stone said. All Y camp counselors have first aid and CPR training, as well as risk management training, he noted. And everyone goes through training at the beginning of the season—even those who have worked before.

The Summit's camp staff also has CPR/AED certification, and they're offered a free first aid class. When in The Summit building, nurses and doctors from onsite employee health services can be called in the event of an emergency.

"Children are unpredictable, so I think that always raises the potential for safety issues," Newman said. "Staff are trained to think about four principles: Am I in the right place? At the right time? With the right people? And the right equipment? If they answer no to any of these questions, they need to consider how the activity can be adapted to make the situation safe, or they need to choose something altogether different."