Creating a Year-Round Camper Board

Creating a Year-Round Camper Board

Kids learn how to make decisions by making them.

I had the chance to attend The Summer Camp Society retreat this past November and I loved it. One night after a day full of brainstorming, networking, and building community with some truly incredible camp professionals, I could not fall asleep. I was tossing and turning, reflecting on everything we had learned. We had spent the day talking about partnership, power, and choice; I knew Stomping Ground was already implementing these concepts but I started wondering how we could push ourselves even further. Then an idea popped into my head:

What if Stomping Ground had a camper board? 

At Stomping Ground we are very used to making space for kids to feel powerful and to have an abundance of choice during the summer, but what about the rest of the year? I brought the idea of a year-round camper board to the rest of the team and everyone was excited about the potential. Here are some of the reasons I think it’s important and some possibilities of what it could look like.

The Why of Camper Boards

Because we trust kids to exercise their inherent power. Organizations serving youth often talk about all the things they do for the kids, but rarely involve those kids in actual decision-making. Adults in our society hold most of the decision-making power over young people and are often scared of relinquishing it. We can talk about trusting kids all we want, but if we aren’t giving them any actual capacity to make change then we don’t fully trust them. 


Stomping Ground is based on the idea that campers have choice and freedom to spend their time at camp however they want; we do this through things like Downtown Stomping Ground, mixed-age play, and a myriad of different activity options. What if we involved kids in creating the structure, or the sandbox, that holds all of those choices? The year-round camper board is an opportunity to collaborate with kids to design the sandbox. It's a space for campers to be involved all year round in the bigger-picture decision-making of camp. 

The What of Camper Boards

Camper Board Announcement-Aug-30-2023-09-48-24-1652-PMThe main job of the camper board is to think critically and creatively about camp and how we can be better; and to hold the year-round team accountable for making sure our work aligns with campers’ values. 

Having actual decision-making power is very important; without that, the whole thing just feels like it’s for show. The board could be involved in things like hiring, facilities plans, event planning, menu options, budget management, visioning, or so much more. 

We decided that the best way to choose what decisions they are a part of is to let them design the structure. What are they interested in having influence over? What is most important to them? Are decisions made democratically or through consensus? Are they more interested in advising or having power to decide? What parts of camp excite them? Where do they want to see growth?

The founding members are going to shape the capacities and potential of the camper board. The goal is to create the space and inspire them to practice making radically empathetic decisions. 

Initial Challenges Creating a Camper Board

One challenge upfront is that we are forming the initial board composition during winter. Ideally, there would be some sort of democratic process to elect campers to the board where all campers have a vote; but because we didn’t want to wait until the summer to get this up and running, the founding members will be chosen by the current year-round team. Just as we intentionally create the Stomping Ground community to be diverse in a variety of ways, we should make sure the board reflects that. The goal of the board is to represent camper values, so the problem with founding members being chosen by staff and not campers is that those values may be skewed toward what we (the adults) think is best. As folks age out or decide to leave new members will hopefully be chosen through a democratic process where all campers have a vote. 

Next Steps for a Camper Board

Set up a Zoom visioning meeting with founding members. Give them space to develop a structure. Offer suggestions and help them build a proposal to bring to the board of directors. 


I’m beyond excited to see what the campers think of this and what kind of sandbox they want to create for this camper board. I knew I didn’t want it to be fully developed before bringing it to them, because the point is for it to be a space that is as camper-directed as possible. This is all an experiment. I have no idea what direction it will take us or how interested the campers will be, but it feels very important to try. At Stomping Ground we’re always striving to create a community that feels like we want the rest of the world to feel. For me that means trusting kids' capability to make real and important decisions.

Camper Board Community-Aug-30-2023-09-48-20-6739-PMKids learn how to make decisions by making them. Without actual power to change or redirect systems and processes of camp the camper board becomes for display only. It all centers around trust. Creating space for kids to make decisions that could have a large impact shows them that we trust them and it strengthens our community through shared power. Summer camp is about fun but it’s also about learning how to live in a community, figuring out how to remain curious and thoughtful, and examining how your actions impact others.  

When power is shared this lens of community-oriented thinking becomes even more important; how do we make decisions that uplift and celebrate everyone in our space? When do we compromise? How do we navigate having opposite viewpoints? These are all things that I am sure the camper board is going to have to navigate around, but as Spider Man says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

How can you reimagine and restructure who holds power at your camp? How much do you trust kids to make big decisions? Who has a say in the future direction of your camp? What happens when people disagree? Is giving campers decision-making power important to you? Why? The camper board is just one possible answer to these questions, but there are many other ways to inspire our campers to be powerful and empathetic decision-makers. What sort of systems or structures can you dream up that entrust campers with more leadership and decision-making power?

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Maddie LinderMaddy Linder
Blog Contributor

Camp Director
Stomping Ground

Maddy can be reached at

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