Top Programming Ideas 2006

We did use some outside help, hiring a professional magician for the event. He gave the experience immediate credibility, but the true stars of the show were our campers and staff. They were magnificent and really put on a magnificent display, creating a buzz that lasted for many days following the event.

–Jeff Krieger is the director of Camp Or Hashemesh, Clearwater, Fla.

Survivor Weekend

By combining Amazing Race and Survivor, Camp Woodmont developed a new weekend activity that quickly became a hit among campers. It involved dividing the camp into four teams with different ages on each team. To keep the teams fair, we ensured each team had an equal number of older campers and younger campers.

Counselors were also assigned a team to manage; however, they were not allowed to participate in the competition.

First, each team was charged with developing an official name, a team chant/cheer and a team flag. The camp director assigned each team a color (green, orange, blue and red) to be used in all their competitions. Then, the director gave each team banner making supplies (markers, old sheets, scrap material, glue and string). After the teams developed their identity, the game was ready to begin.

Each team was given a competition at a different location in camp. For example, at the pool, the team had to complete a clothes relay race to get the clue for their next location. At the lake, they had to get to three floating bottles in the water without using paddles to get the next clue. Of course, a certified lifeguard must be on site for any events held near water. At the field, each team had various relay races to complete. The teams that successfully completed each competition received points.

At the end of all the competitions, a tribal counsel was held whereby each team was given one last opportunity to plead for votes from counselors. Counselors were instructed to vote for the team that demonstrated the most spirit and cooperation among the campers. The teams were encouraged to cheer, wave their flags and dress in their colors to impress the counselors. Many campers painted their faces and bodies in their colors and they really enjoyed the spirit of the pep rally/tribal council.

To ensure fairness, counselors were not allowed to vote for their own teams. The votes were tallied and added to the points from the competition and the team with the highest number of points at the end of the weekend won an ice cream sundae party.

This activity was extremely successful and encouraged a great deal of leadership and cooperation among campers. The challenging part was developing the individual competitions and overseeing them to ensure fairness. We used three impartial staff members to help supervise the events and give out clues.

–Alyson Gondek has more than 25 years experience in camping. She is a co-director at Camp Woodmont, located in Cloudland, Ga., on Lookout Mountain. She also owns a public relations/marketing firm. Alyson lives in Cleveland, Tenn., with her husband, Mike, and two children, Chelsea, 14, and Savannah, 9.

Teamwork, Teamwork, Teamwork

River Way Ranch Camp has been in business for 40 years. Our enrollment fills at 340 children per session with a strong waiting list of campers who are hoping to attend. In all these years of experience, I have learned that the activities are only a tool which makes the objective of creating friendships and memories and increasing each child’s self-confidence easily attainable.

Beginning long before the campers arrive, the staff is encouraged to participate in pre-training courses, which serve two purposes. One, we train our own lifeguards and ropes course facilitators, and two, the counselors, especially those coming to camp for the first time, experience the same anxiety, personal barriers and ultimately the success that our campers will experience.

Once the counselors have felt the butterflies from having to push themselves to participate in a course, where they themselves may feel a bit inadequate, they can more easily relate to what our campers feel when they attend camp activity classes. The fear of showing a lack of ability is what causes many campers and counselors to opt out of participating in new activities.

Some of the most successful programs we have used to help our counselors and campers break through their personal barriers includes our ropes course.

Most camps have a ropes course of some sort. If not, low ropes or ground activities work wonders. With no more than 15-20 people in a group, dividing friends into different groups, have the campers form a line, shoulder to shoulder. The line can be taped on the ground, or in our case, we line them up on a horizontal telephone pole.

Without any verbal communication and without losing their balance and falling off the log, the participants must align themselves by ascending birthdates.

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