Top Programming Ideas 2003

Good ideas don’t come easily. After all, inspiration is 99 percent perspiration. Ask any camp director and they’ll tell you that a good portion of that perspiration comes from trial-and-error.

That’s why we’ve assembled this list of programming ideas — to help alleviate some of that perspiration so that it can be more fully utilized.

Some are new programs that our contributors have recently added, while others are improved versions, based on trial-and-error perspiration.

Other perspectives relate to general best practices that can help any program.

We asked camp and program directors and experts from all over, representing just about every camp experience, for their input on camp programming.

Our contributors graciously accepted the challenge and have provided what we hope is smorgasbord of great ideas that will help your programming, and ultimately your campers.

If you have any great ideas, or you’re looking for more information and inspiration, please let us know. E-mail us at, call (330) 721-9126 or fax (330) 723-6598.

(Al, each idea follows, and is broken up by a space. You could probably mark each one by doing something with the first letter in each section — like in the following, you could make the “C” bigger and a different font and color… whatever, you make the call)

Camp-wide games are a very common part of many youth camp programs. However, we have some specific purposes that we desire to accomplish that govern how we set up the games as well as what we play.

The main purpose of our team game times is to make opportunities for the youth to develop relationships with adults other than their cabin counselor. We also want to put our campers in situations in which they meet and interact with young people with whom they would normally not spend any time.

In addition to these purposes, we desire to teach sportsmanship and cooperation, as well as model these behaviors for the youth.

In order to accomplish these tasks intentionally, we give our staff specific training in how to be a team leader, acceptable involvement in games (we expect our counselors to play in the games), and how to respond to referees in addition to simply providing general rules and such.

We also choose our games carefully and make sure that they are each unfamiliar (unique to camp), require teamwork (cannot rely on one person for scoring), and have the whole team playing at once (no relays).

As we have implemented these aspects into our game times, we have been able to actively accomplish our mission with this activity. Without these items in place, team games had become a time filler in which important lessons were learned only by accident.

– Chris Radloff is the Director of Youth Ministries for Timber-lee Christian Center, East Troy, Wis.

A year ago here at YMCA Storer Camps we had one climbing tower on each of our centers. The South center tower was 35 feet with one eight-foot face that was finished for climbing.

The North tower was a 50-foot tower with two 10-foot faces outfitted for climbing. The climbing faces had wood block holds permanently mounted and the ability to set-up one climbing rope per face.

We operated with a staff belayer, who would check the student, belay them to the top, lower them, and then send up the next climber. This setup presented a few difficulties.

One of our normal travel groups in the outdoor education season is 20-24 students who go to the tower in a two-hour block. So, a climber would go trough the safety brief and harness instructions then wait for their turn to climb.

All in all it was about 20 minutes of activity for a two-hour block. Needless to say, group control was always an issue.

It was also difficult for the student to be as excited for the last climber as they were for the first. Most of the students enjoyed their climbing experience, but there was not a lot of desire to do it again.

Our summer program faced the same problems, with a cabin trying to get everyone climbing in an hour block, and returning campers saw little need to try again since they did it last year.

We billed the tower as a team building exercise, but really the climber had an individual challenge (which is positive for their individual growth). They also built a little trust with the staff member who was belaying them.

The only real team building aspects were the encouragement and the group sharing a common experience.

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