By Curt Jackson
Ten years ago, if someone wanted to get ideas for a camp program, staff training or marketing plan, one would need to attend training sessions, read some books, or contact other camp directors.
While all of these are still great ways to attain knowledge and information, there’s a group of camp professionals that is using the Internet to share knowledge, experience and creativity with the camp community.
There are a number of websites, blogs, Facebook pages and YouTube channels geared towards the camp community. Here are five of the most significant ones:
I started my own site, SummerCampProgramDirector.com , because I couldn’t find a good resource for camp programming. My aim was to provide a site/blog with ideas for weekly themes, themed activities, evening activities, etc. While other sites were focusing on either counselors or camp directors, my focus was on program directors. However, I’m not the only camp professional (or former camp professional) sharing ideas. A handful of dedicated people are doing the same thing and, more importantly, they are maintaining their sites with updated information.
Take Chris Pallato and Ron DeFazio, for example. They run UltimateCampResource.com --a comprehensive online resource for summer-camp staff to learn, watch, and download camp games, songs, skits, ice breakers and countless other summer-camp related activities. The duo started the site in 2005 because they didn’t have a central location for resources for their own summer-camp staff. They had a solid collection of activities and staff-training manuals of their own, but were always looking for new ideas and activities to improve their program.
Then there’s Mike D’Avria and Dave Bell, who run CampLeadership.org . The site hosts videos of camp games and songs, a blog and a series of podcasts. At the time they started the site, there were no others that had videos of games and songs for camp. Other sites just listed text of how to run the games and/or song lyrics. They thought, “How can you learn a song without hearing the tune or seeing the hand motions?” Now counselors can learn songs and games quickly, and directors can spend more time on other training.
According to Travis Jon Allison, CampHacker exists to build great communities so that camps are inspired to change the world. Since camp completely changed Travis’ life, it’s a passion that he wants to share with others. Originally built to support the CampHacker podcast so that he and his co-hosts could link to the tools they talk about on the show, it has evolved into a much larger source of knowledge with a free newsletter and multiple weekly articles on how to run a great camp.
YouthWork-Practice.com is one of the world’s biggest sites for games and ideas for youth work. Hans Hirling lives in Germany, and started his site in 2002 after working with young people and collecting ideas for more than 30 years. In 2006, the site was translated into English. This site is not on many people’s radar. That’s too bad--it’s a wonderful resource.
Why We Do It
So, why do we take the time to create these sites and continuously add more information and ideas?
It’s not for the money. The minimal number of ads barely covers the cost of running a site. In fact, CampHacker and CampLeadership don’t even have ads on their sites.
And while most of us are available for training sessions or speaking engagements, nobody’s quitting their day job.
The reason we do it is to share our passion for the camping industry, to give up-and-coming professionals the tools we wish we had five or 10 years ago. We’re juiced when we get an e-mail or a shout-out at a conference from a reader. We love all things camp, and enjoy conversations with others who share that love.
A Call to Action
Websites are not the only Internet resources for camp professionals. The truth is all camp professionals--including you--have unique experiences, ideas and knowledge that can benefit others in this industry.
There are a number of ways to contribute to this community:
• Start a website/blog
• Leave comments on blog posts
• Write articles for publications like Camp Business
• Share ideas on forums like the ACA message board
• Create and post videos on YouTube
• Share in the conversation on Facebook pages like Summer Camp Professionals
• Lead workshops at conferences and other training events
• Submit your favorite games and activities to sites like Ultimate Camp Resource
• Write a book
• Start a podcast or videocast
Curt “Moose” Jackson is in the public-recreation and summer-camp industries. He lives in Northern California with his dog Max. He is a speaker and author, as well as a camp director and recreation coordinator. He shares his programming ideas on his blogs SummerCampProgramDirector.com and RecreationGuy.com .