KOOL Staff Orientation

Preparation Points

Quick Reference… Some great ideas explained in this article:

• Create staff orientation classes called Camp Counseling 101 and 202

• Focus on what you absolutely want staff to know by the end of the session

• Plan a What If? session to introduce staff to a number of contingencies

• Role play for great practice

K = Knowledge –- You need to know what your staff must know and be able to do by the end of orientation and before the campers arrive.

O = Organization –- Organization is your program. Make efficient use of time and talents that you and your staff bring to camp.

O = Organization –- You can never be too organized. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

L = Leadership -– How you lead can be as important as what you teach. Be a good model for your staff, open to ideas, positive and accessible!

The alarm is ringing. It’s six in the morning and the first day of a week-long camp staff orientation for a month-long overnight camp. That was 1968. It’s now 2003. What have we learned in the last 35 years about preparing staff for a successful camp experience?

Have things changed that much from 1968, or have some things remained the same? Yes and yes! Whether 1968 or 2003, you must be knowledgeable, organized and a leader for your staff.

We will look at general issues concerning staff orientations and give insight into some specifics about day camps and overnight camps. A checklist for staff orientations is also included.

First, and most important, organization and planning are keys to a successful and fun staff orientation and camp season. What is your camp’s mission or focus? You and your staff should know and understand what your camp is all about.

Planning, rules and regulations and program activities should focus around your mission. Whether it’s learning sports skills, religious ideals, or having fun, your mission will guide your planning and programming.

Second, your staff must be knowledgeable about daily schedules, rules and routines, program content, communication skills and safety issues. What do you do in case of emergencies? What is the daily schedule? What are the important rules and regulations that provide a safe and fun environment for campers and staff?

Don’t forget, rules, regulations and schedules should be developed by all involved, providing ownership by staff and campers. You can’t plan for everything, but, an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”! Organization is your program.

As a teacher of teachers, you must be a leader and model for your staff. Would you be willing to do the things you are asking your staff members to do? Prepare yourself before you prepare your staff.

What are the latest regulations and recommendations from the governing body your camp takes its cues from? What are the local regulations? The better prepared you are, the better prepared your staff will be. How can you make staff orientation useful, yet fun and exciting?

Also remember, once camp starts training staff does not end. You must continue open communication, information sharing meetings and a visible positive and open leadership.

These general guidelines provide for a very KOOL (Knowledge, Organization, Organization, Leadership) staff orientation and camp season.

Specifically, let’s take a look at day camps and overnight/resident camps separately and some of the differences or similarities between the two.

Day to Day

Team building among staff is an essential component of the orientation process for day camps. Quick icebreakers, team building games, and communication skills activities early in the orientation schedule keep the counselors moving, talking and learning about one another.

Consider selecting simple activities so that the counselors can introduce the games to their campers on the first day of new sessions.

One realization of the day camp orientation program is that there is never enough time to cover all the information that you would like your staff to know.

Maximizing the time that you have with your staff is the ultimate goal. What does your staff really need to know and be able to do by the end of orientation or before campers arrive?

The camp’s philosophy and mission is content that you certainly want your staff to know. Using returning staff (especially staff members who were former campers) to help present the philosophy and mission message is powerful.

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