Evaluating Summer Camps

Staff and campers can help you evaluate the success of your summer camp.

Camper Input

Although parents may make most of the decisions in selecting a day-camp or sport-camp experience, kids do influence those decisions based on their experiences in a program. Participants, if asked even basic questions, can provide a wealth of information to camp directors:

• Are you having fun?

• What is your favorite part of camp?

• If you were planning camp, what would you add or change?

Staff Evaluations

An effective camp director seeks input from all staff members, and provides them with a safe, open, and accepting environment to contribute their ideas. Directors and administrators are often removed from the day-to-day operations of a camp, but a wise director will rely on counselors, bus drivers, and maintenance staff to supply input on everything from the challenges counselors face managing campers on the hottest summer days, to the types of equipment the staff could benefit from having available, to the questions staff members receive most from parents.

Modify On The Fly

Don’t wait until the summer is over to ask for feedback. To obtain quality information on a 10-week day camp, start asking questions after the second week. You might discover, for example, that campers appreciate having extended swim time when it’s hot; armed with this information in June, staff members will have plenty of time to incorporate more swimming into additional camp weeks, even if plans must be adjusted. Additionally, evaluating camps throughout the summer gives people an opportunity to provide information while it is fresh in their memory.

How To Use The Information

After listening to the most frequent participants, campers, staff members, and even the occasional individual who calls to complain, compile a journal, record book, or database of all the comments. Keep an itemized list of information:

• The comment

• The date received

• The specific camp or facility referred to

• Staff members mentioned by name

• Any other pertinent information.

This list allows those reviewing the comments to identify patterns or similarities.

Reflect honestly on the comments, and look at each one as an opportunity for improvement. Although staff members cannot control the temperature affecting an outdoor basketball camp in July, they can work to incorporate fun ways for kids to cool down, such as off-court squirt-gun games or extended rest breaks. After all, we are all human and, on occasion, we miss elements that others can see clearly.

The feedback received through evaluation is also an opportunity to educate and mentor staff in understanding how best to do the job. A camper once reported to his parent that no one called him by his name. It was difficult to pronounce, so instead of learning to say the name correctly, staff avoided using it. The information the parent provided during a brief conversation with the camp director was a great tool to illustrate to staff members the importance of knowing and using a child’s name to help him or her feel welcome and engaged in camp.

Finally, share the information with everyone involved in delivering the service, from camp counselors to front-desk staff, to programmers and administrators. It’s useless if you keep the information to yourself, so pass it around, and ask staff to contribute ideas to remedy identified issues.

The camp evaluation process can yield a tremendous amount of information when agencies take the time to ask questions, reflect on the answers, and then create a plan for improvement.

Jill Dray Korsok, CPRP, is the Recreation Program Manager for the city of Mentor Parks, Recreation & Public Facilities Department. She manages more than 125 discovery, sport, and traditional summer camps, serving more than 2,500 children each summer. She can be reached at korsok@cityofmentor.com.

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