Late last week we attended the American Camp Association (ACA) Standards Update Course, a one-day workshop that’s required for each ACA-accredited camp.
This means that at least one person from each camp must attend in the months prior to the next accreditation summer in order to be up-to-date on all that is required for ACA compliance.
Because each camp will be visited by the ACA as part of the accreditation process, the course basically reminds us what to expect when preparing for and then undergoing the visit.
The Standards Update course also gives us any updates or things that have changed since our last accreditation visit three summers ago.
One of the great things about this all day course is that we can explore ideas and interact with ACA peers on various camp issues. This allows us the opportunity to ask questions, clarify any standards that may be confusing, and learn about all the resources available to us as we prepare.
Our turn is coming
This was a very timely course for us as Camp Alleghany is visited by the ACA every three years, and 2015 is our year to get visited — and hopefully re-accredited! (Of course, every year we have been re-accredited and that accreditation is so important to us because the standards imposed by the ACA help impart to our families just how seriously we take our role as camp providers.)
One of my duties as Assistant Director at Camp Alleghany is to be the point person for accreditation, but it’s really a team effort, so I took with me Sam, Taylor, and Garrett this time.
To be frank, the accreditation process is daunting, overwhelming, and detailed, but having a great team makes it easy, a shared process where we can all support each other in meeting the individual pieces.
Fortunately, ACA representatives really emphasize that this is not a scary thing, just a thorough one, and we should never feel nervous or scared. It simply boils down to that we’re getting visited and reviewed by our peers, a helpful outside eye that is coming to help us meet and exceed the top camp industry standards. And we love to do that!
One way they try to ratchet down our nervousness is to simply call the review a “visit” and the reviewers “visitors” rather than “inspection/inspectors” or some other word with fearsome connotations.
I understand their approach, but being the perfectionist I am, I still get a little nervous about it . I want us not just to pass, but pass with flying colors — which we typically do!
Speaking of being a perfectionist (or maybe it’s being a geek), something about the organizational aspect of this appeals to me. As annoying as all the review, studying, checklists, and implementation can be, it’s extremely satisfying to me to get it all organized and ready and go point-by-point to check things off my list. 🙂
This reminds me of when I was a school counselor and I was the test coordinator for the SOLs at one of my schools. It was a very overwhelming job but I got it so organized that it ended up being a very satisfying project and challenge for me.
The nitty gritty
So when you see that we are an accredited ACA camp you should know that it means there’s a set of standards that camps need to adhere to in order to earn accreditation.
Camps must pass 80% in each category, but we don’t know how each standard is weighted, so we really just have to strive to pass (and exceed) every standard.
The process is a combination of paperwork and documentation as well as things that the visitors need to see when they come on site.
For example, when asked, we need to readily show documentation for our arrival and departure procedures, or for certain policies like infirmary protocol or transportation procedures.
But in terms of visibility, things a visitor would need to observe when they come is that we have clearly identified emergency exits out of our buildings, or that we use up-to-date lifeguards, etc.
The ACA visiting team is made up of fellow camp directors who spend most of the day touring, eating a meal, talking to people at camp, and then reviewing paperwork.
So far we’ve passed each year, so we’re not worried, but we do like to have everything in good order!
My turn to visit
I’m also looking forward to getting trained as a visitor in January, so I will hopefully be visiting another camp this summer, and will get to see the other side of accreditation (something my dad has been doing for years, and I finally have the chance to attend the training). I think the training to be a visitor will help me even more with meeting the standards at our camp
I’m sure we’ll blog more about this later, like when we’re getting ready for our visit, or what happened on the actual day this summer when the visit happens. So stay tuned…and wish us luck!
— Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls