Designing camp programming with CAMP in mind.
Effective camp programming demands Creativity, appropriate Application (teaching methodology), Material that is relevant, and careful Planning.
All of these characteristics must be considered, in conjunction with an understanding of the audience (group level) expected to experience the content.
Use Your Sources
Ideas for programming come from many sources: Current events; recurring local, regional, national and international events; various media; and life experiences. These and other topical subjects make for a wealth of resources when incorporated.
The key is to have the awareness to gather ideas and the innovative juices to make them work within a camp program.
Current events that reflect positive educational trends (outcomes) can be effective in the development of programming. One example of an international event that occurs periodically but can be applied to a variety of camp programs is the Olympics.
Athletic camps and academic camps can use components associated with the Olympic event. Multiple activities can be bundled to produce an Olympic-type setting or activity.
Olympic sport-specific skill contests, and special cultural ceremonies, like dancing, can work well in athletics. Academic activities like challenging reading contests can be associated with an Olympic event like a marathon.
Television programs sometimes spark interest. For example, game shows like The Price Is Right or Survivor could provide templates for programming in a variety of camp settings.
Using your imagination you might think of a game that would require great tenacity and teamwork, which could relate to Survivor. Your topic would relate directly to the type of camp you operate. Can you think of an activity in your camp that might relate to some aspect of the program Survivor?
Teaching values at a specialty camp (like a church-related camp) could be tied to The Price Is Right.
The presenters could assemble a set of examples for an audience to consider that center on values -- not the money kind, but the life kind.
Asking questions of participants that deal with friendship or trust, for example, might be answered for points. If a person on a panel answers the value-oriented questions correctly and most often they can be awarded additional points and ultimately become a winner.
As a winner they could then choose what is behind door number one, door number two or door number three. Selecting the correct door the contestant might witness the good that comes from making correct value judgments (like life-long friendships). After seeing their selection they are then shown what might have been the result if they had made a different decision.
In our soccer camps we use exercises during warm-up to set the stage for the rest of the day. It is here where we use our imagination and creativity to plan programming material that is relevant to our audience.
Make it Relate
The largest group level we work with at our day camp is children between the ages of 5 and 12 (boys and girls attend camp from 9 a.m. until noon daily for one week at a time). Each day of the week is devoted to another soccer skill -- day one is ball control, day two is dribbling and so on.
Most little ones can relate to automobiles. Selecting dribbling as the topic, it becomes a starting point to design dribbling exercises tied to the subject of automobiles.
The first step is to create our stage. We do this by creating a square on the field using cones. The size of the square depends on the number of children and their ages. If we have 20 children, for example, we would mark our playing area about 30 x 30 yards.
Immediately we would ask the children to begin driving (dribbling) their vehicle (the ball). After a minute or two we begin incorporating the imagination and creativity part of the plan.
We stop the children from dribbling the soccer ball briefly (30 seconds), which is just enough time to explain the importance of their driving (dribbling) within the rules of the road.
We remind them that when they are driving (dribbling) it is important to remember to look left and right before turning (this improves their vision).
The children dribble for a minute or two, and we keep reminding them to look before turning. Once again we stop the children. The stops never last more than one minute.
Each time the children stop dribbling we add in a piece to the exercise. At the first stop we remind the children to look before turning (vision).
Now we ask the children to check their brakes when they stop their car (ball). We ask the children to put their foot on the ball (brake) when they stop. We remind them of the importance of coming to a complete stop when they apply their brakes and to apply their brakes softly so that they don't make sudden stops.
Once again, after a couple of minutes we pause the dribbling. Each time the exercise is paused we use our voice commands to accomplish the stoppage.
At the next stop we ask the children to be sure and drive their vehicle (dribble their ball) like a sports car rather than a truck, emphasizing tight turns (now we are working on turning to get away from defenders). The children are training to the technique under the guise of driving a car.
We stop them again, asking them to apply their brakes (stop the ball under their foot). Next, they need to learn to change speed, so we let them know that their car has several gears -- first through fifth and that first is slow and fifth is fast.
We begin the dribbling again and now we incorporate all the elements in their driving (dribbling) using verbal commands. For example, when we ask the children to accelerate from first to third gear, we see them speed up.
When we ask them to stop, they stop on a dime. When we ask them to turn, they're getting their heads up and looking before making the turns. And when we ask them to turn like a sports car instead of a truck, they are making tight turns.
All of these elements are important while dribbling a soccer ball (driving their car). The children are training to the plan of the coach but they are motivated through the impulse of automobiles and imagination.
When designing programming for your camp it is important to remember the key elements of construction. Begin with the impulse and be creative.
Then think of ways to apply your idea within the skill set or knowledge base desired. Apply the appropriate teaching method to your audience or group level.
Carefully consider your material and be sure it is appropriate and positive. Plan carefully and take the time to think through all stages of your program.
Anything that may be considered or interpreted as derogatory or disrespectful should not be used in camp programming. Staff members must be sensitive to all aspects of a program that may be offensive.
Keeping a keen eye toward a positive learning environment and appropriate methodology goes a long way in making programming for camp fun, effective and worthwhile. Quality and innovative programming translates into repeat camp business.
Dan Kuntz is the head men's and women's soccer coach at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Dan and his brother, George, own and operate Team Soccer Direct, a residential and day soccer camp.