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July 4, 2012
1st Five Minute Skills
I think there are very practical and important things you can do in the 1st five minutes that you have campers this summer that will set you, them and camp up to be successful. Whether you are at a day camp, resident camp, you have 1 eight-week session, or 10 one week sessions, your camp is for typical kids or kids with different needs, or whatever the situation.
Who are you? It starts with you. Be conscious of how you look, sound, and react. Go to the bathroom right now and look in the mirror. Try really hard to keep your face in a totally relaxed position. How do you look? If you think you kind of look pissed off, then you are like 99% of everyone else. Most people don’t relax into an inviting, warm smile. That is something you have to practice. So do it. How do you sound when you are giving kids directions or welcoming them into your group? How do you react when kids ask you a question or say something to you? These are all simple yet very important early indicators to kids about their experience with you.
Who am I? Know and use their names. For some people this comes naturally and is very easy, for others it is really hard to remember all of their names. It is important because it gives kids a clear indication that they are individually important to you, not just a cog in the wheel.
Where does their stuff go? It doesn’t matter what kind of program you run, one-way kids feel grounded is by having a space for their stuff. Just like cubbies in preschool having a space gives kids a feeling of permanence and belonging, not to mention the practical feeling of knowing where to go.
Where do I eat, sleep, and pee? Very few things are as disorienting as not knowing some of the very basics of a new environment. Make sure to point these things out in an explicit way to kids, especially if it is not obvious (like bath houses in the woods behind cabins).
What am I going to do? This is really two-fold, it is about introducing the schedule and the various routines or procedures. At camp, just like a lot of new environments, what you are doing and how you are doing it is not normal or obvious. You don’t have to give away the secret or special parts of the program to help ground kids in the first few minutes by talking about the schedule, how we do meals, what kind of games an activities we do, why we sing more than talk, how to go swimming, or anything else that comes to mind. All of this helps kids feel in control. They know what is coming and are better able to prepare mentally for it.
Scott “Funsize” Arizala
Camp Director for Camp Kesem, Vice President of Summer Programming for Dragonfly Forest, Summer Camp Consultant & Trainer, and award-winning author of S’more Than Camp. For more information please visit www.TheCampCounselor.com
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