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  • Summer Camp/ High adventure base suggestions

    I work at a summer camp with a lot to offer. It has plenty of area with a lot of potential. Good facilitys. It always has a good staff. plenty of space to offer a variaty of merit badges. as well as a number of other programs, including cope and mountain biking. the staff that works the camp, is highly motivated and very skilled.

    It is in a location with a lot to offer in the direction of high adventure as well, being next to rivers to rafting. in the mountains for some great hiking. close to the water for boating. It dosnt have a high adventure program, but the potental is there.

    But despite its location and everything it can offer, the attendance numbers arnt there. of course this is from a lack of quality program. there isnt an argument about that.

    So i bring the question to the internet. what features would make for a quality program at a summer camp. everything from variaty of program offered to merit badges.

  • #2
    Hi, I'd like to help but need more info. Is this a BSA council camp? Are you the sole camp or one of several? If you're a council camp, where are the troops from your council going instead and why are they going?

    If as you describe, you have a great facility and a great staff, I'm curious what is not so great? You said lack of QC. Besides the lack of high adventure, do you have some other competitor, lack of scouts, difficult to get to, bad reputation?

    Don't be afraid of giving too much information, saves guessing.


    • #3
      A few general comments

      1) CUSTOMER SERVICE!!!!!!!! You say you got a great staff, but think objectively, you are a staffer after all, and put yourself in the shoes of the Scouts and SMs. Does your staff care?

      2) Does your camp have adequate staff to keep low scout:instructor ratios.

      3)Besides MB classes, what other program opportunities do your offer, i.e. nite time activities, camp wide games, etc?

      4) How the heck are your promoting the camp?


      • #4
        I'll start by echoing Eagle92--customer service is key. Some camps let staff drift into the mindset that "summer camp would be great if it wasn't for these darn scouts...and scouters." Campers can figure out right away if the staff considers them (the campers) to be a bother to their fun/intrigue/gossip/BS sessions/etc. Gotta hire the right folks. Give some special attention to the adult scouters. They are giving up family time and vacation hours to serve. When I was an ASM/SM at camp, the thing that grated my nerves more than anything was the mouthy teenage staff that had no manners and thought he could boss me around like a camper. It was unsat behavior towards campers, for that matter.

        Programming: must admit, I do not like the current trend of camps offering every MB in existence. It's like some buffets--all you can eat for 10 bucks, but all you can stand is 5 bucks worth. Citizenship series at camp--are you kidding me? Better to have a good variety with solid instructors than a huge variety and staff just skimming the surface.

        Offer programs outside of MB earning...the 1st/2d/3d year camper series, with special patches, high adventure (or whatever we call it today) events/programming for older campers.

        Infrastructure: take a close look at your facilities, with the eye of someone brand new. How do they look? Even if you have a bare-bones camp with minimal buildings, everything in the camp should look sharp. The fly-blown curtains in the medical lodge? Broken benches in the mess hall? Trails eroding? Shooting range roof sagging? Get things ship shape. Donations from building contractors, volunteer labor from Army or AF reserve civil engineers, make a big difference in morale of the campers, and if they will come back the next year.

        Tradition is important too. The sense of history that today's campers are sharing with campers from yesteryear.


        • #5
          Don't know how high up the food chain you are in regards to camp, but Desertrat77 reminded me of two things: traditions, and that led me to great Camp Key 3: Camp Director, Program Director, Business Director.

          Long story short, I worked at a camp that had great facilities, but for whatever reason, something was missing, and that was some of the traditions, both staff and camper. Even with long term staffers who were there, 15, 20, 25+ years and knew of them and wanted them reimplemented, the CDs, BDs, and some of the PDs didn't see the value of them for whatever reason.

          Then the first year I worked there, we had a Aquatics director who was back in school for his masters. He was a former pro, and had worked at the camp before being a DE. He was able convince the new CD to restart one of the staff traditions that tied into customer service; staff dominoes. It was funny b/c it was a "Top Secret" project during staff week with only the CD, PD, BD, AD, and camp QM in the know and making the domino lanyards.

          Friday night of staff week, we have a Staff campfire (part of the tradition), and did the Staff Domino Ceremony. And things turned around with the camp.

          As I mentioned having a good Camp Key 3 is VITAL to a camp's success. If you have problems with 1, it will cause MAJOR problems with staff, which in turn affects the camp. And I'll give

          The AD above, when he finished his masters ended up becoming the council's Program Director, responsible for all programing, including being Camp Director at summer camp.
          The 3-4 years he was CD were AWESOME as the camp was revitalized. Staff were the best and brightest, program was excellent, and we had troops coming back to the camp after years of going elsewhere. I returned to the area and was on staff his last year, and saw first hand the changes.

          Unfortunately, he got offered a promotion, and he left the council. Many of the staffers wanted to go with him to work at one of his new camps he was responsible for, but he knew that the camp needed their experience. He told everyone that he would not hire a single one of them his first year out west, but possibly the second year. All except the Program Director. So the CD and PD went out west. Their replacements left a lot to be desired.

          Basically the new CD took over b/c there was a bonus for working camp. He was horrible. During staff week a tropical storm was going to hit the camp, and he panicked. Other folks had to tell him what to do, b/c he was freaking out. We had other problems, and others had to tell him what to do. He basically stayed in his room and watched satellite TV. Yes he brought his dish from home. No visiting units, no walk arounds, very few staff meetings. As you can guess morale plummeted.

          Heck one of the reasons why I quit my job with supply was disagreements with the CD on some issues, and the lack of support from my boss at supply. It took the boss 3 or 4 months after camp ended to fully understand the severity of the problems encountered at the camp. But by that point, everything was moot.

          Ditto with the PD, which I am sad to say I recommended as he did a great job the previous year. He also didn't do much except watch TV with the CD, play board games with a select few of the directors (cliques is another thing to avoid), and raid the dining hall refrigerators at nite. Again didn't really do his job, and moral plummeted.

          Now the BD was very, very good, and did his best to save the camp. But when 2 of the 3 Key 3 are not doing their job, that's a problem. He did his best, and if memory serves he was CD the following year, and he DID turn things around eventually. But it took a year or two if I remember conversations with friends correctly.


          • #6
            Wow, I forgot the most important thing--food!

            Whatever your messing plan is for camp (dining hall or provide the foodstuffs for patrol cooking in camp), the food quality and prep should be the best it can be. Doesn't have to be fancy, but it should be hearty, healthy, of sufficient quality and quantity, and tasty.

            Nothing will generate a chorus of "we ain't going back to that camp" quicker than a lousy dining hall.


            • #7
              Ditto everything said above.
              Any successful restauranteur will ttell you that he doesn't worry about the first time visitor. He worries about getting them back the SECOND and THIRD time.
              And you do that by giving the first time visitor a memorable first visit.
              I still seek out the little place in West VA I visited four years ago , and seek it out for the next time I travel that area. And I avoid the place that had the filthy toilet room , even tho I told them about it before I left, I hope they get lots of NEW first timers, but not me the second time...

              Look at your camp from the Scout's point, taking in the ideas voiced above. Good food? Interesting activities? Knowledgeable Staff? Clean, well maintained facilities? Does the Staff LOOK like they are glad to be there? Does the Key 3 let them know THEY appreciate them being there?


              • #8
                We keep going back to Woodruff SR in GA. The adults like the facilities but the reason is the older boys felt that the staff teaching the MB's was more engaged. That was why we go back.

                Now we are getting feedback that the Mountain Man (what they call their FCFY program)was pretty dull. But that may be a byproduct of cram school.

                I would like to rotate camps but folks felt like it was a good experience.

                Our Council camp is Flying Eagle but no one really wants to do summer in Florida when you can go to the mountains.


                • #9
                  I prefer a summer camp that has offerings for both younger and older scouts. A well rounded trail to first class program, ample offerings of merit badges, and then high adventure offerings that allow older boys to travel with the troop, but once at camp, they go off for the week and do their thing.

                  Customer service is key, as others have said. Have an open door policy before camp to address issues and questions, so that all is smooth at check in. Have enough supplies on hand to make sure bathrooms are clean, etc. Make sure you have bleach, towels, cleaner, etc.

                  make sure kitchen workers are sanitary, and please put clean water and cleaner out for the meals.

                  Have decent food. The best food I have had was a smaller camp, with less offerings, but they had a marriott head chef volunteer his time, with marriott's approval, for the summer when we were there. The food alone is reason to consider that camp every year.

                  Is there something that you can offer that is different from others. Horses, personal watercraft, etc. that will gain some interest.


                  • #10
                    This is something of a pet peeve for me...

                    Last year, we attended a new (to us) camp, although the troop used to go there many years ago. This is out of council for us, and is a regular advancement-oriented camp (we also returned to the same council's patrol-oriented camp for the second year, and are returning there again this year).

                    It was a challenging week overall. The camp was pretty much at capacity at 500-some Scouts, and with adults and staff, I think was around 650 in their dining hall. I'm normally a kind of "go with the flow" kind of person, but there was enough that happened during the week that I wasn't pleased. I did fill out an evaluation form at the end of the week, but found that the questions couldn't really capture what I was trying to convey. So I sought out the camp director, when I was done, and spoke to him for about an hour.

                    The conversation, for me, was kind of unsatisfactory. No matter what complaint I had, he could turn it around to why I was wrong, or why my expectations were off. He finally told me that since there were 500-some Scouts in camp, they must be doing things right. I just shrugged knowing that I wasn't going to return.

                    Customer service. Customer focus. Customer perception of a quality camp.

                    I had a similar message for one of my old DEs, when he asked why we go out of council. I told him "because the camp we're going to is patrol-oriented"...he said, "but we have patrol cooking". I said, "there's a difference, have you seen the camp?" and he said, "no."

                    Why wouldn't you visit other camps? Or at least check them out online? Why wouldn't you strive to make improvements each and every year? (so the council camp that we aren't going to? they pretty much have the same program they had when my older son first went there, some five summers ago -- while the one we do go to tries to find some new twist to offer every single year).

                    I work in a customer-oriented field. If we didn't pay attention to our customers, and work continuously on product quality improvement, we wouldn't exist any more. It is so ingrained in the way we do things that I don't really know any other way.

                    That's why I don't understand that when I was gracious enough to offer an hour of my (volunteer) time to offer feedback to a "vendor", then at least he could be gracious enough to listen with an open mind and not shut down each and every piece of feedback.



                    • #11
                      If you have good facilities and a great staff then why do you have a weak program? Does your staff lack creative, thoughtful leadership?

                      When you say you have "great staff," what does that mean to you? Are the staff highly skilled and enthusiastic about being with the campers? Are they willing to be goofy in a way that includes the scouts, for example, skits and singing in the dining hall? Do they have a passion for sharing what they know with a bunch of younger kids? Are they doing exciting hands-on things with the scouts, or are they simply lecturing in their MB programs? If you have young staffers, are they well trained, not only in content, but also in how to present material and how to do crowd control? These aren't natural skills for most folks, and most young people only have "school" as their model. If you don't want it to be like school, you'll have to show them how to do it differently.

                      What sort of non-merit badge options are there? One pet peeve I have with how most BSA camps work, is that if a boy isn't doing MBs all day long, then there are few other options open.

                      Are you trying to be all things to all people? Pick a focus that your camp can specialize in, that complements the resources & facilities & staff talents that you have available. Sometimes, less is more.

                      On the MB front, I'll echo others' comments - don't feel like you must provide all possible MBs, and don't feel like the ones better done at home (family life, personal management, citizenships, communication, personal fitness - to name a few) need to be offered at camp.

                      If you want to beef up your "Eagle required" badge offerings, my advice would be to go deeper, not broader. Get creative about HOW you teach, not just WHAT you teach.

                      Example: E-Prep. Think of all the cool/fun/hands on scenarios you could develop to teach the required material in an active way.

                      Do scenarios, not lectures.

                      Take some of the "make a list/chart/write a plan" requirements and have them talk through these AFTER they attempt to respond to at least one mock disaster scenario (what went wrong here...what would you have needed...what worked...what could you have done...).

                      Bring in the local fire/police/first responders/emergency management director (or an explorer post near your camp attached to one of these) one day of the week to talk with scouts about how they prepare for and respond to emergency scenarios. Have them bring hands-on stuff (gear, etc) if they can. Even 16 year olds still think fire engines are cool. I'd like to see what's in a fireman's emergency first aid kit, as opposed to the pathetic "kit" my scout son came home from camp with when he did this badge (heaven help us if we needed more than 2 band aids and some neosporin).

                      Have a camp-wide Zombie invasion one afternoon that builds on several elements of the badge and let the E-Prep teams handle it. Make it a surprise for the scouts - don't let them know that "On Thursday we'll be testing your E-Prep skills..." Make it a game with objectives to be met. Break them into small teams so that everybody participates.

                      That's one example - and maybe you're already doing this sort of thing? It takes a LOT more preparation (and knowledge) than just lecturing, and your younger staff will need more guidance to get it planned and executed, but it also has more value and is more interesting.

                      Bottom line: have a great program and kids will want to come back even if you have lousy facilities and few resources. Have a lousy program, and the best facilities and most resources in the world won't matter.


                      • #12
                        First, I would suggest forget offering merit badges - that's the domain of a base camp. High Adventure should always be merit badge free (mho).

                        Second, consider at first no more than two pilot programs to test the water. Suggestion here would be a canoe trek covering 50 miles, and a basic backpacking program with several staffed outpost. Maybe something simple like a SAR outpost, a mountain boarding outpost, and a Forestry outpost for an introduction to the area's ecology...

                        Down the road, other program can be added. But, it's always best to start small to prove to the money guys that your programs can attract customers, and return a profit...