By Jeff Turner, Director of Co-Curricular Programs at Summit School
As a Summit School summer camp director, my highest priority is to provide an experience that inspires every child. I’m confident this is true of camp leaders across the globe. We spend countless hours designing, scheduling, hiring, and preparing for young minds and hearts to be on our campus. Once campers arrive, we welcome, observe, motivate, solve, and enjoy! It’s a lot of work and so much fun.
I’ve worked with summer camps for over 30 years. Our program at Summit is large, with over 1,200 registrations each season. How do I know I’m meeting the goal to inspire campers? One way is to pay attention to the “vibe” during the camp season. Are campers eager to start each day as they hop out of their cars in the morning? Is there a happy current of energy in each camp? Do I hear laughter and see hugs? Are kids overcoming challenges and taking pride in their accomplishments?
Another way to assess the success of a summer camp is through parent surveys. The results uncover what worked and didn’t work on a basic, procedural level. Themes also emerge from the parent comments. One particular word kept showing up in our Summit Summer 2019 survey results:
~ My daughter participated in stimulating activities that were fun, age-appropriate, and kept her engaged with children her age.
~ My children were engaged in things they are passionate about while being taken care of.
~ Thank you for a curriculum that is quite engaging.
What does engagement look like at summer camp? The Great Schools Partnership, a school-support and educational leadership organization, defines engagement as:
In education, student engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.
How does a camp ensure a high level of camper engagement? What should parents look for when they survey camp options? In my observation, these four factors lead to a powerful camp experience:
Passionate, well-trained leaders
~ Hire teachers that spend the school year in classrooms, leading children through inspiring instruction.
~ Allow teachers to teach what they are passionate about. Teachers tell me they want to work in the summer because they get to explore their unique interests.
~ One parent surveyed said that engagement for their child came from “the rich experience of the camp instructors and their genuine delight in sharing that with the students.”
Small Camp Size
~ Limiting enrollment allows teachers to develop connections with each camper. “It’s all about relationships” is a common refrain at Summit.
~ Add assistant teachers and counselors to keep the leader:camper ratio low.
~ The correct balance between campers and teachers leads to more learning and fewer behavior problems.
~ Develop a sense of community within the camp group. This is so important at Summit because 60% of our summer campers don’t attend Summit during the school year.
~ Many camps begin and end their days with guided community time. Summit teachers are trained in Responsive Classroom: an approach that “focuses on the strong relationship between academic success and social-emotional learning… to create safe, joyful, and engaging learning communities.”
~ Some programs are focused on art or sports or drama. Camps with a wide variety of offerings are more likely to provide ‘something for everyone’ in the family.
~ Individualization increases motivation. Motivation increases engagement.
~ This means offering new camps each summer. This year we have several new camps covering Star Wars, puppet design, career exploration, and world languages.
Summit Summer offers over 100 engaging, challenging and FUN day camps for three-year-olds to rising 10th graders. Learn more and register at www.summitschool.com/summer. Register soon because all camps have enrollment limits. Triad Moms on Main readers receive a 10% discount on camp tuition by using the coupon code TMOM10 before March 22. Visit Summit School on Facebook for updates here.
*Sponsored by Summit School