By Sarah Kurtz McKinnon
Before it Starts
First off, you need to apply online here. We just want to learn a bit more about you and learn about why you want to join The Society. The application should take you around 15-20 minutes to complete.
Once your application is received, either Jack or I will email you to set up a phone interview. We want to get to know you a little better but also answer your questions about the program. Plus, this is really fun for us (you’ll notice fun for us is a recurring theme here. It’s fun for you, too!).
If we determine that you’re a great fit for the program, we will send you an acceptance packet. It will have all of the information you need, including conference information and a syllabus.
To reserve your spot, you’ll need to fill out an online enrollment form and submit your tuition payment. You can submit your preferences for meeting time on the enrollment form. (We also also have a scholarship form if the tuition is a barrier for you).
That’s it! You’re ready to go!
You will have a weekly assigned meetingtime with your cohort group of 6-8 other participants. For the fall, we had cohorts that met on Tuesday at noon EST, Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. EST, and Thursday at noon EST. (Jack and I are in all of the cohorts!)
Each week there is an assigned topic which will be shown on your syllabus. Some of our topics include values setting, youth development theories, facilities and marketing.
Before your cohort meets, you will need to do a little prework. Prework usually consists of about 15-20 minutes of readings or short videos to watch around the week’s topic. Jack and I will typically give you some discussion questions to think about while doing the prework.
Then, it’s time for the cohort meeting! We use Zoom as the platform, so you are logging into a meeting room where you can see and hear all of the other folks in your cohort. We also use a chat window and share lots of links (and lots of side comments) there. The meetings are always fun, sometimes serious, and always different. Plus, sometimes my mom and/or my uncle and/or my dogs makes guest appearances, which the crowd really likes (long story).
After the meeting, you will have a project to do around that week’s topic. The projects are designed to either improve you as a camp professional or contribute to your camp. You get out of them what you put into them. We have loved seeing the results of our participants’ project work!
About 8 weeks into your program, all of the cohort members will convene for the conference. This is (IMHO) the pinnacle event of TSCS. It is really crazy arriving to the conference because we already know all of the people and the people know the people in their cohort groups. It takes minimal time to get warmed up to people, and the learning, laughter and community that happens there is incredible. No spoilers! I’ll just leave this final description from 2017 fall cohort member Anna Hopkins, who is the director of Friends Camp:
“The Summer Camp Society was easily the best camp conference I have been to. The opportunity to connect in a true summer camp setting allowed us to build community, learn from one another, and dive more deeply into the "big" camp questions than at a traditional conference. It is unique to take away from a conference both concrete strategies to implement immediately and also hope and creativity about camp in general. Kurtz and Jack are awesome facilitators because of their attention to detail, good humor, and authentic and recent camping experience.”
And, after the conference, we still have a few weeks of online meetings! So the fun is not done.
Other Cool Stuff
We also have a private message board for all of our members. This is what we use to communicate (no emails!). Some boards will just be for members of your cohort or class. Other boards are for all members of The Summer Camp Society, regardless of of when they joined.
Finally, each member will get to do a one-on-one with either myself or Jack (your choice!). This is a one-hour phone or video call where we can work on any topic of your choice—whether that is something to improve your camp or further your professional career. We’ve done mock interviews with folks, worked on staff hiring problems, talked through re-branding, and worked to find solutions for problematic boards of directors.
When It’s Over
It’s not over. When you join The Summer Camp Society, you are always a member of The Summer Camp Society. You will be invited back to TSCS conferences, will join us for meetups at big events like ACA Tri State, and will maintain access to our private message board. When we need facilitators and folks to help us grow this program, you will be the first people on our list.
But perhaps most importantly, we believe that we are helping people grow not just lifelong professional connections but lifelong friendships. At the end of the day, that’s why I am doing this work—when we have a camp community of friends who believe in us and support us, that’s when we can make the best possible programs for our kids. And that’s an amazing thing!