Teen Time

By Tamara Brown

Planning a day camp for teenagers during the summer can be challenging. It takes arranging the right pieces of the puzzle to get teens involved and participating during their “out-of-school time.” When they want to be at home sleeping in, your program has to be the one that every adolescent in the community wants to attend. During the summer months, this day camp must provide the right activities to keep teens from being bored and getting into mischief. Following a few simple steps can be rewarding for a day-camp program, as well as for the teenagers participating.

1. Develop a plan and budget. What do you want to accomplish by offering this program? Do you want teens to learn science or math, or do you want a “fun camp?” Create a plan to fit the program you are offering. Ensure that your program is providing age-appropriate activities that hold teens’ interests. In creating the program, make sure that the budget can handle your big ideas. Define whether or not the program will be essentially core, important, or value-based to the community. Programs fall into three categories:

·         Community-based—heavily subsidized through budget funds

·         Break-even—partially subsidized through budget funds

·         Revenue-generating—self-supporting without budget funds.

2. Focus advertising and marketing efforts. Now that you have put the “why” into the planning process, it’s time to know your campers’ worth. The average profit of a camp can be the determining factor in how you market and advertise a day camp. A camp that generates revenue and is self-supporting will make different advertising decisions compared to a camp that is community-based (heavily subsidized). When a program is generating revenue, you can maximize the marketing to the fullest by buying ads, creating commercials, or purchasing mailers. If a program is heavily subsidized and the marketing budget is minimal, you can create banners on a budget, make up a general flyer, and post program information via various social networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. But always remember to market a program to the core group you are trying to capture. Don’t advertise a science day camp to a group of teenagers who enjoys fishing and kayaking.

3. Train staff members and volunteers. The most important step in creating a successful day camp for teens is to hire and train exceptional staff members. Staff—including volunteers—should be provided with valuable resources to meet the expectations of a camp counselor. Give them the knowledge, skills, and attitude to get the job done. Discover what they need to know (knowledge), what they need to be able to do (skills), and what they need to feel (attitudes). Show staff members the difference between what is being done and what is supposed to be done. Maximize the potential for learning and retention. You want staff members to transfer the skills learned to direct on-the-job performance. Keep training fun, engaging, and interactive.

4. Select the right theme. There has to be the right theme for the right activity. You can theme the entire program or theme each individual week. Some themes that have worked for teen day camps include Superheroes Week, Putting on the Hits—Show Your Talent, Career and College Week, Imagination Station, and Olympic Fitness Challenge Week. All of these will work, but the theme has to be the right fit for the audience.

5. Evaluating the program is as important as implementing it. This is the “fun” part of a day camp for teens—providing programs to keep teens engaged and active during their out-of-school time. Implement successfully the awesome activities you have created, and not only will participants have a great camp experience, but staff members will as well. Keeping teens’ interests provides creative opportunities for them to grow and build friendships. Remember that the location, length of the program, and cost will define the camp. At the camp’s conclusion, evaluate the outcome to ensure effectiveness and efficiency for future camps. It is important to understand the needs of the participants and services provided.

Put all of these steps together to create the best experience for teenage day-camp participants. They will enjoy their out-of-school time just as much as the staff. Enjoy your summer!

Tamara Brown, CPRP, is the Recreation Supervisor for the Whaleyville Community Center in Suffolk, Va. Reach her at (757) 514-7101, or tbrown@suffolkva.us.