Sending out parent surveys is an important part of what we do at the end of a camp season. The surveys serve several functions at once. They:
- Help us to address any particular issues of a given camp season.
- See if any patterns of concern or perception — whether positive or negative — are out there.
- Give parents a chance to respond in depth on various subjects.
- Provide the directors with solid data to discuss together, helping us to learn and grow.
In the next several blog entries I’m going to be covering some of the key topical areas of the surveys. This will help us go into more detail about various areas, hopefully helping you to understand more about why we make the decisions we do.
As you read, as always, feel free to make comments in the field below the blog, or to email me with any feedback.
Today, I’m writing about the structure of our activities and some of the feedback we’ve gotten about them.
Four square activities
In the survey comments many parents asked (and have asked us before) why we have the campers stay with the same four activities the whole term, rather than switch? It’s a good question and one we love talking about! Our decision is based on both tradition and the particular aims of our program.
We set up our programming intentionally so that the campers are able to master the skills in four activities, rather than just try their hands in many more activities.
Each of our activities has either a level to pass or a performance/show of sorts at the end of the term. It takes the full three weeks (sometimes we wish we had even more time!) to pass those levels or prepare for the performance/show.
We know other camps out there where the campers switch activities each week, or even every day, and we understand the reasoning behind that. But we’re set up differently and take a different approach.
Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat!
Part of our mission is to instill a sense of confidence in our campers, and much of that comes from success. We focus on that feeling of success and accomplishment that comes from working hard to pass a level or show off the skills you have learned in a performance.
We also see the value in the struggle at times — even the frustration — in dealing with an activity that might be challenging, and then the sense of accomplishment (and confidence) that occurs when the camper moves past the struggle and achieves something that felt out of reach. Because the skills and goals in our program are proven to be attainable, and we’ve seen generations of campers achieve them, we think this is more valuable than having many more fun but perhaps less purposeful activities.
Many of our activities are also unique — such as Rifle, Canoeing, Ropes — and the girls develop their determination, persistence, and enjoyment of such activities by sticking with them for three weeks.
That said, a couple of parents have suggested in the past (prior to this survey) utilizing maybe just a day or two where the campers may try a different activity.
So this past summer, for the first time, we created an evening activity called “Try Something New.” The idea was that each camper could sign up for one activity that she was not currently taking during the day. Every camper was awarded her first choice, and the feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive! Many campers have said that it was their favorite evening activity so far.
We’re going to take this idea even further going forward because it was so popular. Next summer we’re going to expand it by having campers can sign up for two (rather than one) activity they aren’t currently taking.
What’s also great about this evening event is that campers gain more insight into what other campers are experiencing, helping them to identify with others’ stories about daytime activities. It also might help light a passion for an activity that a camper was reluctant to try, but now that she has more of an understanding about that activity, she may come back for more next year!
I hope this helps to explain why we are set up the way we are. Believe me, it is very purposeful and intentional, and we are confident in our decision and feel that this makes Alleghany who we are. But if you have any further questions or would like to any more clarification, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Tune in on Friday, when I’ll be writing more about activities, this time on what happens when a camper doesn’t get her first choice for an activity.
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls