Autumn: A Time for Reflection

Now that the days are growing shorter, another camping season is drawing to a close. Whether your camping sessions are finished, slowing down or on a hiatus until the winter or spring, autumn is a prime opportunity to slow down, reflect and refocus while memories and evaluations are somewhat fresh in your mind. Here are 21 contemplative questions to consider when your schedule allows a moment’s pause to go over where you’ve been in anticipation of where you’ll be going come the start of another camping season.

General Camping Season/Session Questions

  1. In a word, categorize the camping season/session just completed. What examples serve as evidence in defense of your word choice?
  2. What gave you cause to celebrate this season/session? Can this be replicated or amplified in the future?
  3. What was the biggest failure? What single elements could be tweaked to avoid this again?
  4. What was the biggest challenge? Did you overcome that challenge? In what ways? If not, what did you learn from the experience?
  5. Did you (as director, manager or administrator) get to spend as much time with campers and staff members as you hoped to prior to the start of the camp session? If not, how can you begin preparing now to meet that goal next season?
  6. What do you consider your biggest personal success? What lesson did it teach you about yourself?
  7. How well did communication flow between groups (counselors, staff, medical, dietary, maintenence, administration, etc.) this year? What can be improved for next season?

Programming Questions

  1. What new programming ideas did you implement this year? What was their success/failure rate? WIll you incorporate them in the future? Will they need tweaking?
  2. Which traditional programming event was the least well-received/least participatory? Is there a way to change a single element of this event to improve engagement?
  3. Which traditional programming event was the most well-received? Why do you think it was so popular?
  4. Is there a way to transfer an element from the most successful programming event to the least successful in order to improve engagement?
  5. What programming option(s) would you like to add to next year’s offerings? What can you do today to put that into motion?
  6. Is there a way to incorporate current events/pop culture into your programming options for next year? What ideas do you have now?
  7. Is there a programming option you wanted to try this year that didn't work out because of funding, time or another glitch? Is there a way to start now to get it into the programming lineup?

Staffing Questions

  1. Which new hires impressed you? What memorable qualities did they exhibit?
  2. Which seasoned staff member surprised you with a positive behavior you weren’t expecting?
  3. Which new hires fell flat? What was the difference between the qualities you believed they possessed vs. their actual performance?
  4. Which seasoned staff members were a disappointment in performance? What factors influenced their less-than-expected performance?
  5. Which staff members were most popular with campers? Why? How well do these mirror the positive staff above?
  6. Which staff members went above and beyond their duties and expectations to either impress you or make a difference in a camper’s experience? Were they recognized for their contribution? Is there a way they could be?
  7. Are there any staff members you feel are ready to move up the administrative ladder? What steps do you need to put that into motion?

Fall is a prime time to slow down and take stock. Spend a little time in reflection while the details of your last camping session are still fresh to help guide your actions toward the future.

Beth Morrow is an educator, freelancer and program director at Camp Hamwi, a residential camp for teens with diabetes. Reach her on Twitter: @BethFMorrow.