25 Programming Ideas for 2002

Initiating new programming each year can be as simple as looking and listening. Take copious notes about what campers, parents, staff and peers are saying and you’ve made an important first step.

Then, keep your eyes out for books, magazines and Web sites that provide activity ideas. These two simple steps will offer an amazing range of programs that you can uniquely tailor to your camp and its goals.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the status quo, maintaining the program you have and creating new systems of holding that program together,” says Ben Lower, program director, camps and conferencing, YMCA Camp St. Croix, Hudson, Wis. “Pay attention to what the participants are or are not enjoying, and what the trends are, at least in that region.”

Counselors and staff are also crucial sounding boards and idea-generators (see Counselor’s Corner on page xx). It not only bears programming fruit; it also creates a sense of ownership among those who work first hand in the trenches with the kids.

“As well as listening to the campers and parents, we also listen to the counselors to find out what they’re interested in doing,” says Katie Walker of Mountain Camp in Pollock Pines, Calif. “As with any job, if you have a passion for it you’ll teach and enjoy that job even more.”

Solomon Birenbaum, program director of Camp Robin Hood in Toronto, offers a blueprint for initiating, continuing and reinforcing new programs, particularly team-building exercises. “Team building is not something you can do just at the beginning; it’s something that you must constantly reinforce, remind and re-implement,” says Birenbaum. “It’s important to do orientation at the beginning and then continue the progression of these activities. So you really want to constantly increase the value, difficulty and standard for these activities through the course of however long the session is. You begin by orienting the campers with ground rules, safety, and so on. Then you move into low-risk activities, where you don’t have to do anything that’s very different than what you might normally do.

Then you move into progressively higher-risk activities. For example, I’m able to fall into someone else’s arms, or I’m able to scream at the top of my lungs and cheer on my teammates. If I’m able to constantly develop that progression then I’m able to build a strong team. Over three days that’s our aim. But if a group comes in for a one-day program, then simple exposure to the team-building element is a better goal.”

Birenbaum also recommends two books that offer activity ideas and direction that any camp can tailor to its needs, qualifying his programming expertise with the fact that much of it is based on ideas he’s read or heard about:

Rohnke, K. (1985). Cows, Tails & Cobras: A Guide to Games, Initiatives, Ropes Courses & Adventure Curriculum. Project Adventure Inc., Hamilton, Mass.

Rohnke, K. (1985). Silver Bullets: A Guide to Initiative Problems, Adventure Games and Trust Activities. Project Adventure Inc., Hamilton, Mass.

After scouring the camp landscape for programming ideas, we came up with 25 great ideas (in no particular order) that you can either implement, or will at least help get the creative juices flowing…

1. Dick Bennett, scout executive, Hawk Mountain Council Boy Scouts of America, says they’re interactively teaching kids about basic energy concepts, atomic energy and electricity.

This allows a lot of hands-on building and creative outlet, as scouts make engines and motors with boards, wires and batteries. They build rockets and launch them. They work with Geiger counters. They even drop eggs from extreme heights to see which packing method worked best.

It’s really a way of getting kids excited about the seemingly mundane things we take for granted. Flip a switch and the lights come on…

Hawk Mountain works with East Penn Manufacturing on this program, and Penn State University for its aerospace program, illustrating the partnership opportunities that exist between camps and universities, corporations and other organizations.

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