Camper Clubs

Camper Clubs

I was born in the spring, but I am no spring chicken. I have Tik Tok and I know how to use the word “slay” as a compliment thanks to some teens in my life. But there comes a moment with every program and camp I plan where I have this dread— what. do. campers. actually. think. is. fun?

For years I have consulted younger siblings of mine and tried to pick the brains of younger staff, but I never felt confident in what we decide and at the end of the day, they’re unique people with their own unique interests. TikTok trends are fleeting and Pinterest ideas are for people with copious amounts of toilet paper rolls and like two kids. Sure, you could say it’s about the energy and excitement your staff builds about programs and activities, but then they have to captain a ship they might not be bought into because it was assigned to them. (To my team; Sorry, I’m working on it.)

Turns out, even with all my grumbling and indecisiveness, I don’t have to fill up the schedule with a dozen ideas. I just need to create a structure for choice, leadership, and campers’ voices. I need Camper Clubs.

Note: Camper Clubs already existed when I got to Project Kindred. I take no credit, but I love sharing this EPIC program we organize.

You may be familiar with having your staff run an activity or a program they really enjoy. They get to own a program and facilitate it for the group of campers that opt into it during breakout sessions. This is the same thing. Your campers sign up to run programs, they have a staff supervise and the campers ultimately pick what they do for that hour.

Here’s how this breaks down for us:

  • Let campers know ahead of time that we’re doing Camper Clubs. These can be ANYTHING a camper has interest in and wants to lead. (Examples below). We keep a ratio of 8:1 for 8 campers to 1 club. (64 campers = 8 clubs)

  • They ask a counselor on duty to be their advisor for their club. Note: Advisors advise, they don’t plan it for the campers.

  • Once a camper has their club and their advisor, their info goes on the Camper Club Sign Up list. Columns read: club name, camper name, advisor name, location and max participants for others to see.

  • At Camper Club time, we list off the programs like any other choice time and the campers go to the one they want to. Advisors do a head count and then the camper leads the way for their club!

A few notes:

  • We do Camper Clubs after dinner. This way everyone has most of the day to prepare and make arrangements. We do our best to get them the supplies they need or ask their advisor to workshop plans with the materials that we do have.

  • There is always an “opt-out” area for campers who don’t want to do any of the clubs. This is typically a quieter spot with crafts, books, card games, etc.

This is my first year doing this, but I am already blown away by this program. I am amazed not only by what these campers come up with, but the enthusiasm and support they receive from fellow campers who join their clubs. During my first Camper Club at a retreat, we saw a shy camper lead a Dungeons & Dragons 101: Character Development Club and it had over 15 campers AND staff who were there during their off time. People then thanked them at our closing campfire for their club, and spent downtime doing more character building and chatting. Not once was anything DnD related on my program plans.

What are other Camper Clubs I’ve seen or heard about?

  • Friendship bracelet making

  • Snowball fight (yup, they just went outside and had a snowball fight)

  • Indoor soccer league

  • Financial Literacy (yes, there was a showing for this!)

  • Bookclub

Allison Note: I have seen a backward sports club.

Camper Clubs is one of the coolest things I have seen and been able to experience. At TSCS we talk so much about giving campers choice and how to make sure this is their program. When Kelly’s wildcard on the podcast mentioned giving campers more say, I immediately knew I wanted to share this. It gives your campers a voice, it gives them a choice— and selfishly? It make me not have to guess “what’s cool” for one hour out of the busy day.

How did this blog come to be?

Easy. From this podcast. Check it out.

EmJ FormalEmJ Juszczyk

TSCS Podcast Producer

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