As always in the “off-season” from camp, I’m totally thrilled for the many professional development opportunities in the camp conference season.
Even though there’s plenty of work and details to nail down happening in our winter camp office in preparation for our summer season ahead, it’s still the time when, through several conferences, I can dig in deeply to the pedagogy of camp education, camp business principles, new camp ideas for campers and staff, and general camp industry innovations. I love all of this, as well as new connections and networking with camp professionals. And I definitely love keeping up with my friends in the industry.
If you haven’t seen so before, I have a slew of — almost a book of — blogs I’ve written on the various camp conferences I go to throughout the off season. In fact I tag them all under “Off-Season Series” so that when parents ask about what we do when camp isn’t in session, or they want to know what kind of experiences help inform our growth as an organization, that convenient off-season blog tag can take them to those posts.
The Latest in Camp Conferences
#MACC2020 was teeming with other camp professionals with whom we could mingle and share ideas, and the conference itself offered compelling informational sessions with valuable, up-to-the-minute camp industry content. I was so glad we were there!
I started off the first day with an American Camp Association (ACA) Accreditation Workshop, a mandatory meeting for anyone whose camp is up for an accreditation visit this summer, which we are! (As I did in 2015, I’ll write more on current accreditation in a future blog; in short, every five years we get visited by another 2-3 camp professionals, trained ACA “Visitors” — which I’m one of for other camps — to ensure we’re up to par on all the ACA standards.)
Meanwhile, Casey went to the Local Council of Leaders (LCOL) meeting, as he is a Membership Co-Chair for the Virginias (VA and WV) area of the ACA. A lot of acronyms, huh? The reason is because ‘Ghany is closely involved with the ACA and we take accreditation very seriously — we truly value the important learning and engagement opportunities we get from being closely allied with the ACA.
Later Sam joined us for a rousing keynote from a fellow local, West Virginian Kat Shreve, Associate Executive Director of Camp Kudzu.
Then came the digging in part — lots of informative sessions to choose from a really well thought out program of offerings. Here’s where it’s great to have a team at these conferences so we can split up and try to get as much information as possible out of the conference.
Casey attended several camp programming sessions, along with new ideas in staff training, and games sessions for bonding and growing the camp community — whether for campers, different age cohorts, or staff.
A Time to Learn
At MACC I leaned more toward the risk management side of things, which believe it or not, can be very interesting.
We mixed it up a bit of course, and as always, I walked away with some major takeaways, ideas to implement, and a few tweaks to make so that Alleghany is even better than ever! For example, I went to the following sessions:
1. Level Up Yourself – Level Up Your Staff. This was essentially why you have to improve your own leadership if you want to see leadership and increased performance results in your staff.
2. 10 Things Every Camp Should Start Doing Now, a session that took a tough look at some major management things camps must be aware of such as making risk management an on-going, front line staff activity. We also learned that there’s no such thing as “best practices” – we should always be striving for better practices.
3. From the Trenches. This session shared examples of sticky situations that camps have been in, and asked us to consider how would we handle them at our camp. This is what I mean by risk management being interesting — to think through in advance unexpected or unimagined scenarios really helps grow a well-prepared leadership mindset.
4. Staff Training Tips for Creating Less Sexist Camps. I enjoyed how this session helped us to grow our consciousness even more about how girls are already leaders, and how we want to remain aware of not limiting girls to a box of girly adjectives and expectations.
Trade Show and After Hours
We’re never ones to miss the exhibit hall of camp-related vendors. We checked out tee shirt makers and graphic design companies, purveyors of tents, camp insurance companies, food service firms, outdoor adventure programs, farm-to-table offerings (who knew?), a company that sells patches, sticker makers, and more! I’m gonna confess — it’s so much fun to immerse ourselves in ALL aspects of the camp world!
Attendees and our own team joined in a community dinner, and many people stayed to socialize after hours. It was great catching up with others but I called it a night earlier than my colleagues to enjoy the peace and quiet of my solo hotel room, something I don’t get often at home with three energetic young boys to warm my heart and fill my calendar! 😉 Fortunately I saw my industry friends and colleagues the next morning, and had lunch together, before this mini-conference wrapped up.
My biggest takeaways this year were from the risk management sessions, probably because it’s an accreditation year for us, and also I’m always looking out for the safety of our campers.
Thank goodness we have Casey to really focus in on program-related sessions. Not that I don’t do the educational and fun stuff, too. I LOVE a good staff training session, workshops on camper and counselor communication, and topics in child development and programming to meet the camper at different ages and stages. I try to mix it up a lot, and with a few bigger conferences on the horizon, there are ample opportunities for our whole team to approach many different issues and angles in the camp world, and then share them with each other.
Next up, members of our team will be at the ACA National Conference in San Diego, California. After that, in March, our new Leadership Program Director, Teresa Padgett, will join us at the Tri-State Camp Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to add to the pedagogical and staff training focus.
And in between all of it, there’s plenty to do to get ready for camp this summer.
So here’s to a new year and a new decade of conferencing and to a promising #Summer2020 camp season!
— Elizabeth Shreckhise, Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls
*If you want to learn more about the merits of sleepaway summer camp, download my FREE e-book, 3 Reasons to Begin Your Child’s Sleepaway Summer Camp Experience Early. It’s a great resource to share with friends, or if you are a first-time camp family and you wonder what sleepaway camp would be like for your child.