Last week some of our staff had the opportunity to attend the ACA National Conference virtually. If you don’t know, ACA stands for the American Camping Association, this association accredits our camp each year. The ACA website says “The main purpose of the ACA Accreditation program is to educate camp owners and directors in the administration of key aspects of camp operation, particularly those related to program quality and the health and safety of campers and staff. The standards establish guidelines for needed policies, procedures, and practices. The camp, then, is responsible for ongoing implementation of these policies. The second purpose of ACA accreditation is to assist the public in selecting camps that meet industry-accepted and government-recognized standards.” Aside from Fleur de Lis Camp being accredited, both our Executive Director and Assistant Director are volunteer Accreditation Visitors with our local ACA New England office, meaning they visit other camps in the region to help them with their accreditation process.
Now back to sharing about The ACA National Conference. This annual conference brings together thousands of camping professionals from across the country and creates the opportunity to learn from one another’s experiences and to hear from experts in fields such as mental health, fundraising, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and so much more. We wanted to share a snapshot of what we learned and discussed during the conference. We are excited to bring some new and interesting ideas back to camp this summer as well as build on existing projects.
Snapshot of sessions attended:
The Joy and Grief of Returning to Camp Presented by: Deborah Gilboa, MD
Dr. G as she is known in her consulting work, discussed the range of stressors on families, children, and young adults in the past year. She described COVID as being the “Same storm but in different boats” that has led to a variety of changes in people’s lives. Dr. G went on to present information about the mental and emotional process people go through when making, or confronted with, a change. This is so timely as we approach a summer that will have changes and as we plan for helping our community adapt to some new and different ways of doing things at camp.
New Learning from Mister Rogers: How Staff Can Help Campers of All Ages Learn, Grow, & Become Their Best Presented by: Michael Brandwein
Michael Brandwein has been working with camps and schools for over 30 years and in this workshop, he featured the writings and teaching of Mister Rogers. One aspect that was particularly compelling was Mister Rogers “Six Basic Necessities of Learning” as described in his book Mister Rogers Talks with Parents (written in 1983 with Barry Head). When asked what children need to grow, this was the response:
A sense of self-worth
A sense of trust
The capacity to look and listen carefully
The capacity to play
Times of solitude
These are all so available to children at camp and we have the capacity to nurture such important growth.
Benchmarking Camp Use of Nonpharmacologic Interventions (NPI): Evidence-Based Support for Application and Effectiveness Presented by: Barry Garst, Tracey Gaslin
The American Camp Association has been on the forefront of research in relation to the operation of camps during the COVID pandemic. The researchers, Barry Garst and Tracy Gaslin presented a wide range of evidence of the most effective NPIs (Nonpharmacologic Interventions) that will support camps reopening safely. These NPIs include screening (pre-camp, upon arrival and ongoing), hand hygiene, face masks, cohorting, ventilation, sanitizing, physical distancing, and ventilation. All of these will be utilized in some way by camps across the country to reopen safely.
Creating Connections While Maintaining Appropriate Physical Distancing Presented by: Jim Cain, Teamwork & Teamplay
After successfully running camp this past summer, Jim shared tips and tricks on how to facilitate games and activities from a safe distance. Looking at not replicating activities exactly but instead, focusing on reaching a similar outcome is what he suggested for activities and games in 2021. He shared a sort of filter for group activities where camp staff can run down a shortlist of prompts checking yes or no on whether they are socially distanced. Questions such as proximity to another person, will there be shouting or yelling involved, will physical contact need to be made, etc. These among other tips and tricks were shared on how to keep campers and staff safe during all aspects of camp this summer.
Racial Privilege at Camp Presented by: Robin Parker, Pamela Smith Chambers, Beyond Diversity Resource Center
Beyond Diversity Resource Center through training and education, strives to make our society free of all forms of oppression (racism, sexism, classism, ableism, antisemitism, ethnocentrism, heterosexism, transphobia, etc.). They explored the nature and impact of racial privilege at camp. This session taught the importance of being mindful about racial privilege as a way to address subtle racism that arises in the camp environment. White people act on their privilege without thinking and People of Color do not talk about the many ways privilege limits relationships with White people.