Author Archives: thecampnerd

Camp Sick

camp sick

Ok, I’ve totally been feeling camp sick.

As you may or may not know, I resigned from my full time camp job in February (actually I resigned in Nov or Dec, but I finished working in February) and while I’m happy with my decision and SO excited about the new adventures I’m embarking on, I can’t help but miss camp at this time of year.

 

I was fine, I was looking forward, excited, not thinking about my former camp a whole lot… then they posted a photo during staff training.

They only posted one photo and it wasn’t anything super special… in fact, here’s the photo. (I’m ‘borrowing’ it from the camp fb page… is that legal? I feel like I get a pass because I created the fb page… and that used to be “my” fire pit… rationalization!)

CT campfire

 

Anyway, like I said, nothing too special about this photo.

But it totally sent me on a spiral of missing camp, it hit me, “oh, they’re at camp right now… having campfire… without me…”

It’s important to note that I knew they would have campfire without me… hahahaha
I wasn’t expecting camp to shut down once I left or anything (see my post the cult of the director for my thoughts on that) but it just hadn’t occurred to me how HARD it would be.

Within the next few days I wore all of my old staff clothes, looked through all of my old camp photos (if you follow me on Instagram, you may remember me posting five years of camp photos… yup, it was a cry for help) and chatted with my former ED a few times (which isn’t super unusual, cause we’re friends, and I sincerely adore her).

And I let myself be sad for a few days. I let myself be nostalgic.

I always liken leaving a camp to breaking up with someone.
It’s a similar emotion I think, you have all these wonderful memories, and had such good times, it was an important part of your life but sometimes you have to move on and it’s ok to mourn that a little bit.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to.

Feeling emotions like a human being.

Then I reminded myself of all the reasons why I decided to move on, texted the new director a “happy day 1” on the first day of camp, wished him luck and spent a little time in nature (which is a funny story and I’ll tell you about it in my next blog post), and now I’m back to feeling like myself again.

Whew. What a rollercoaster!!!
Human emotions are exhausting, friends!! haha

Have any of you experienced campsickness before?
I used to get it every year around February when I was a seasonal staff, but camp sickness due to not returning is a very different experience.

What did you do to help combat your campsickness?
I’m sure it’ll rear it’s head at least once or twice more this summer, so I’d love to hear your words of wisdom in the comment section below.

Categories: Self Care at Camp, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Rules for Behaviour Modification

You guys, I know you know this, but it’s worth saying again… there are some seriously wonderful, brilliant, and generous camp folks out there.

One of them happens to be my “internet friend” Dave Hennessy.
Dave and I were chatting the other day, checking in with each other on how our goals and future plans are going and he mentioned one of his “DaveRules” during that conversation. I, of course, asked for more information and when he shared his set of rules with me I LOVED the concept and asked him to write something that I could share with you good folks in my little corner of the internet.

So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to my friend Dave, and offer him a huge thank you for sharing his rules for behaviour modification with us.

 

daverules

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Categories: Listables | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

International Camp Directors Course 2017

 

group-shot

 

Hey camp friends,

Remember when I shared this post  back in in December?

Well in case you didn’t read it, the Reader’s Digest Version ( for those of you who don’t get the reference, that means the abridged version. Am I dating myself? Do people still read Reader’s Digest? My friends used to tease me mercilessly when I was a teenager because I LOVED that little magazine.) is that I was a huge fan and I think everyone should take the course.

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Categories: New Camp Director Pro Tip | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Women in Camping

WOMEN IN CAMPING

When I first started as a counsellor I knew right away this was something I wanted to do forever. I couldn’t imagine a better gig and I was determined to figure out how to keep working in camping as a real life, grown up job.

Ashley and me

This was my first summer at camp. This my friend Ashley and I dressed up in “fancy clothes” drinking Mocktails that we made with our adult campers for a patio party.

One of the first things I did was to begin actively paying attention to the people around me and the structure that was holding us all together.

Female vs. Male campers/ Counsellors/ Directors

Over the next few years there were a few things I began noticing, we always had lots of female campers, in fact if we didn’t have a cap for cabin assignments, we’d probably end up with way more females than males.

We had an abundance of female counsellors too, and we almost always struggled to get male counsellors. This became especially clear during my first few years as a seasonal director when I was partially responsible for putting together my summer team.

We would have loads of really phenomenal female applicants, and unfortunately we couldn’t hire them all because we didn’t run an all girls camp and needed some male role models too. But it was often a struggle to get male applicants, let alone really great ones.

Often what would happen is that we’d end up having more female staff than male and they would be paired with a male counsellor and work on a boys cabin. It wasn’t ideal, but I always said I’d rather have a really amazing female over a not so great male.

I hate the idea of hiring someone based on the body parts they own, or the gender they identify with – but residential camps have policies about who can work in which cabins.

Here’s the strangest thing I noticed though. There were lots of female campers, and lots of female counsellors but not all that many female directors. Huh.

I don’t just mean at my camp(s) but camping within my province in general.
Weird, right?

What is happening between all of those female campers & counsellors and directors

Here’s a really poorly drawn diagram of what my perceived experience was.

*Please note, there is exactly zero scientific evidence to back this up, I haven’t done any studies, and don’t have access to what the camper/ staff numbers were back in the early to mid 2000’s. This is simply a representation of what I was seeing.

Female to Male

Why yes, I did draw this diagram on a piece of scrap paper with some markers I had lying around. Thank you for noticing.

 

With that said, there were a lot of women in leadership positions at the International Camp Directors Course I attended last November, and there are lots of women in many of the online camping communities I participate in – although I don’t have any data on those numbers either. So maybe it’s a regional phenomena?

 

Women as Role Models

I have been so fortunate to work with some really fantastic humans in my career so far. Some of them have been women and some of those women have been supervisors and others have been colleagues or employees.

I’ve actively sought out women I admire, to say hello, chat with them, learn from them, or work with them.

I make an effort to encourage the women I interact with at camp to pursue a career in camping if that’s what they want, to take big chances, speak up for themselves when they feel like they’re being dismissed, and to support each other.

I also make an effort to encourage the men I work with to pursue a career in camping if that’s what they want, to take big chances, and to be aware of some of the challenges their colleagues face and of times they’re being dismissed simply because of the weird social roles society had attached to body parts and/ or identity.

 

Strong and Independent 

One of the questions I always ask on the Head Counsellor application is “Why are you a strong role model for new staff?” and my returning staff always try to give serious answers  in the funniest way. So one of my returnees answered “I am a strong and independent women…” and it has become a catch phrase for the entire camp (with permission of course, although we still tease her about it a little bit.)

But I love that!

Camp DOES breed (and attract) strong and independent women and men.

And it’s our job to create environments that foster that type of confidence and strength and to be those strong role models for our young staff. I’ve been so fortunate to work in some really incredible cultures, but I’ve also had some bizarre encounters too.

 

My Experience as a Female Director

I have had some really amazing, incredible, phenomenal, – other adjectives to describe “good” – experiences in my directing career. And I’ve had some super challenging ones too. But the only experiences that truly frustrate me are the ones that are directly related to me being a woman.

One memory that really stands out to me (though it wasn’t the first or last time this type of thing has happened) happened during my first year as a seasonal res camp director, which would have made me around 23 or 24. (Although I still looked like I was 12.)

I was waiting for some repair person to fix the fridge, or washer, or something that couldn’t be fixed with duct tape – I don’t remember what exactly. I saw the van coming up the drive so started making my way out to meet them.

One of the counsellors wanted to run something by me so we chatted while walking to meet the repair person. The counsellor was an 18-year-old guy who was on staff for his second summer (he also looked 12), we chatted about whatever it was he wanted to ask me and I excused myself when the repairman got out of his van, the counsellor waited around because he had a follow-up question.

I introduced myself as the camp director and the person who had called him about the fridge/ washer/ whatever, he shook my hand, introduced himself and proceeded to look over my shoulder and ask the counsellor standing behind me what the problem was with the equipment.

The counsellor, who had nothing to do with the equipment and who only knew there was a problem because I had told him about it 5 minutes before, answered, “uhh, yeah, we’re not sure what’s wrong with it, but it just stopped working early this morning.”

The repairman said, “ok why don’t you show me where it is and we’ll have a look at it”. And he and the counsellor started walking toward the main building while the repairman started asking some follow-up questions.

That’s when I came out of my shocked stupor and said “actually Jim*, why don’t you head back with the campers and I’ll show Mr. MacNeil* where the equipment is, then I’ll come check in with you and answer any other questions you have, ok.”

The counsellor made his way back to his campers and I showed the repairman where the equipment was, and answered the rest of his questions.

fridge

Ok, so to some of you reading this, it may not sound like a big deal, and in the scheme of things it’s not earth shattering, but it is an excellent example of what women sometimes come up against.

Not only did the repairman look to the closest male for information and verification, but the counsellor went along with it rather than saying, “actually she’s the one you should talk to” – he jumped in and answered questions even though he had almost no information. Not because he’s a bad guy (he wasn’t, he was a great guy and an awesome counsellor), but that was the norm of the society we are a product of – the “man” or 18-year-old kid, as the case may be, is expected to have all of the answers ESPECIALLY if it has something to do with repairs/ trades/ hands-on things.

So that was a super weird experience that left me feeling … icky, for lack of a better word.  It’s not even the most frustrating or uncomfortable situation I’ve been in, just the one that stands out most in my memory.

If I encountered the situation today, I’d have used it as a teaching moment and (nicely) pointed out to both men what was happening. I’ve done it a few times over the years; I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable standing up for myself as I got older and I’ve tried to work hard to create camp cultures where everyone feels respected and heard.

 

Moving Forward

We have such a cool opportunity at camp to empower kids to embrace who they are and feel powerful.

There’s so much scary, weird, stuff happening in the world right now that it’s more important than ever that camp is one of the safe places for young people to learn how to speak up for themselves, and not only feel powerful, but learn how to empower their peers too.

So let’s make a promise that we won’t shy away from those teachable moments (even if they’re uncomfortable), that we’ll constantly evaluate our culture and our biases, and that we’ll encourage young women to speak up, speak out, and step up as leaders.

What do you do in your camp to encourage “strong and independent” and supportive campers? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.

 

*Names have been changed.

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Camp Counsellor Hiring Season

Woah, what a whirlwind couple of weeks. I finished up my full-time camp director job, officially got started working with the faith-based camp I mentioned in this post and launched Patchwork Marketplace. It’s been chaotic and SO MUCH FUN!!

But once again, my little blog took a hit when it came to managing my time, so I apologize for that – especially to Dan who asked a pretty great question about staff hiring and balancing that with camp prep and the million other things you need to do this time of year.

So, even though it’s later than I had planned… here’s some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way, although I’m so far from an expert in any of this, I hope my experiences will help at least a little.

hiring-staff

Fitting it all in

Ok, so I realize this is probably not very helpful at this time of year but it’s worth saying anyway, usually in September or early October I create my work plan and map out when and how I’m going to accomplish all of my big tasks throughout the year.
I try to get the bulk of my program planning, pre summer prep completed in the fall because I know from January to May is going to be straight out madness. (That made sense for my schedule, each camp program is so unique that you will likely need to adapt that to your specific schedule.)

I was the only person solely dedicated to camp in my organization, so that meant I did everything from staff recruiting & hiring, to program development, and even camper registration – we had a development team so I got a small reprieve from grant writing and marketing, but worked quite a bit with the team to help in those areas too… so I totally get that overwhelming feeling of needing to do everything and never having enough time. I feel your pain!

What I started doing the last few years was carving out certain parts of my day for specific tasks – for instance I had a little checklist of things I needed to do for registration and I would go through that first thing in the morning and right after lunch (simply because the mail arrived after lunch and since it was a pretty recent transition to an online registration system we still had quite a few mail applications, and I always worked on it first thing in the morning so I would have answers if someone asked me how registration was going later in the day). Continue reading

Categories: New Camp Director Pro Tip | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Patchwork Marketplace

Patchwork pattern of rainbow colors.

Hi camp friends,

If you follow me on social media you would have seen me post about this already, but I thought I’d share a little more info about it here. I am just so proud and excited about this project. And if you don’t follow me on social media, this will be brand new information! Exciting! Also, let’s be friends, all of my social media links are on the sidebar. –>

How Patchwork Marketplace Came To Be

Ok, so if you’ve been around these parts before you may have seen this post by Curt Jackson in my “Path” series. And also this post about how exciting it is to work with new people in blog land and in camping. Well, once Curt and I chatted a bit, wrote for each other’s blogs we decided that we wanted to work on another project together. We brainstormed a little bit, designed some (awesome) t-shirts, wrote a few fun quizzes and other posts but we were still looking for a bigger project to work on.

Then he mentioned that he always thought it would be neat to have a site similar to the ones available for teachers but for camp and recreation professionals.

Cue record scratch.

turntable-1328823_1920

Hold the presses.

old-time-950445_1920

That’s freakin’ brilliant!

I said, “umm, YEAH!” so we put all of our resources into creating Patchwork Marketplace.

And I’m super excited about it.

Then we came up with the name Patchwork because it sort of encompassed all of the things we were trying to accomplish with the marketplace. There’s an explanation on the site, click here to read it.
(If you join our beta test, you can have access now. More about that at the bottom)

Collaboration friends, it’s where it’s at!

Sooo… What Is It We’re Doing?

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Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Serendipity and Summer Camp

mis-adventures

Let me tell you a neat little story…

 

In September I saw a Facebook post that a local camp was having an open house/ ecumenical service. I’d never been to the camp before and it was only about 40 minutes away PLUS they’re not a member of my Provincial camping association (which I’m involved with) so I thought I’d check it out and chat with some board members to try to convince them to join.

 

I rounded up my husband, my mom and dad (cause they love that type of thing – my parents, not my husband… it’s not his thing, but being supportive is 🙂 ) and off we went.

 

We got to the camp and it was lovely! The buildings were looking good, there were some great fields and wooded areas and a waterfront with a lot of potential.

 

We attended the service, then afterword they announced that you could head over to the bbq, tour the facility, etc. Mum and dad headed to the bbq and hubby said “great, we can wander around like they said and you can check the place out” to which I replied “no way, I want a guided tour, let’s find a board member!” because I had questions, and I wanted to see EVERYTHING!

 

So we wandered down to the waterfront and back because there were people going that way (it was hard to tell who board members were) and on the way back this gentleman was walking with two other people and explaining something to them about the outdoor chapel.

 

So of course I made my way over and said “Excuse me, sorry for interrupting,  I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, are you a member of the board?” He was very kind and told me he was and that they were just heading over to see the outdoor chapel so of course I said “Oh that sounds wonderful, do you mind if we tag along?”.
He was thrilled that we were so interested (generally, people love talking about their camp) and off we went.

 

After that he offered to give us the full tour of camp so I obviously jumped at the chance, my husband was both in awe and a little embarrassed (I think) at my enthusiasm and the number of questions I asked about their program, facilities, camper numbers, everything.
But the board member was delightful, I gave him my business card and then he introduced me to some other board members and I gave them my cards as well.

 

It’s a small faith-based camp that was closed during 2016 because they needed to do renovations, prior to that, campership had been declining to the point where they only ran one session in 2015. This fall open house was their launch of a new era, one where they’re rebuilding and re-imagining their program. So I asked them what their plans were, if they were thinking about hiring an ED and they said that they just didn’t have the resources for that right now, so everything would have to be done on a volunteer basis.

 

After the visit…

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Categories: Opening My Own Camp | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Starting a New Camp

 

 

Raise your hand if you’ve ever daydreamed about starting your own camp…

MEEE TOO!!!!

(High five!)

xuliyvibyic-jonas-vincent

 

So, since I’m a such big proponent of doing things that scare you, I resigned at my current camp and am setting out on a new adventure! (A new “path”, if you will…)

 

I’m going to start my own camp. I’m still in the early stages now, but I’ll be sure to post updates about where the journey takes me.

I’m terrified, I feel like I’ve jumped without a parachute… but I’m also exhilarated and excited. (And did I mention terrified?)

 

skydiving-678168_1280

 

Are any of you camp owners? I’d love to hear from you, I’ve been connecting with people who’ve been down this road before and asking for advice – so reach out to me if you have some wisdom you’d like to impart.

 

AND

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Categories: Opening My Own Camp, The Path We Take... | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

International Camp Director Course

 

From November 8th – 12th, 2016 I participated in the International Camp Director Course run by the International Camping Fellowship and It. Was. AWESOME!

The information we covered was pretty standard stuff you’d expect at a course like this, and I had at least one “ah-ha” moment in each workshop.

By far the best part was learning from the AMAZING facilitators and the sharing and discussion that happened organically around the room.

 

The Facilitators

The course was facilitated by Connie Coutellier, who is from the USA and is the ICDC coordinator, Jen Dundas, and Donna Wilkinson who are both Canadian camp professionals and all three of these women are an AMAZING wealth of knowledge!!!

I absolutely loved learning from them during our workshops, but I also really loved just chatting with them and “picking their brains” when we weren’t in workshops.

I’m gushing, I know. But they were just really wonderful, and I’m just so grateful that I got to know them.

facilitators

 

The Facility

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Categories: Administration, New Camp Director Pro Tip | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

30 Themed Meeting Ideas

Ok, so a while ago I mentioned having theme meetings at camp in this post and another camp pro Dan Laubach pointed out to me that I’m a big weiner who never followed up with the list of themes I promised (ahem, ok maybe I’m paraphrasing *a little*, Dan was actually much more polite and kind in his request for a list of themes.)

Thanks Dan, for putting this back on my radar, it’s something I wanted to share.

Most of these are pretty ridiculous and came about out of weird things my staff were doing that summer or just sort of happened organically.

Before we get into the list, here are some tips.

1. If you’re going to do a silly or stupid theme meeting, make sure you don’t have to discuss anything too serious.

2. Be aware that if you do a theme, it might take a little longer to get through the meeting, because people are likely to burst into giggles every so often.

3. Most of my meetings used to be in the evening, so a lot of these themes make a lot more sense to do at night.

30-themes

Masks

This one came about because a staff member really wanted to see someone wearing a funny mask, so we demanded that everyone put on a mask as they came in for meeting. No one asked any questions, they just went with it, it was silly and hilarious.

Things TKD would like

Sometimes we like to make it all about us… (TKD is the nickname for the assistant camp director and I) We left it open-ended, staff showed up dressed in a lot of plaid, toques, tie dye, and drinking coffee. All of these things were accurate.

Let’s be honest, there’s nothing funnier than impersonating your boss so the staff got a kick out of it. (Ok, if I’m being reaaaally honest, we were hoping they’d bring us food we liked… maybe next time we need to be more specific hahaha)

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