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I recently accepted a job at a summer camp that is one of the finest in the state. I joined on as part of the aquatics staff even though im not a BSA life guard. i am going to be taking a course at the YMCA even though i dont have to

since this is my first year as staff, what do you think i should bring, do, and any tips to make my 1st year a great one?

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Congratulations! You won't find another job better than camp staff in your entire life.


These are in no particular order of importance...


First, aggressively pursue BSA Lifeguard certification. That will be a major help, both to you and your bosses. I don't know of any camp that doesn't give that training to its aquatics people during staff week, so you should be in good shape.


Second, chat up some experienced staff members before you go about camp "necessities." It really differs from camp to camp. When I worked on staff at a mid-Atlantic camp, we had electricity in our tents, and everyone brought fans, radios, etc. Other camps put everyone in dormitory-style bunkhouses, so there may be less space to store your stuff. Bring a footlocker and a big duffel bag (Army surplus-style), and you should be set. One caveat: Extra shampoo, soap, deodorant and laundry detergent (even if it's provided) are essentials.


Third, consider that it's not just a job, it's also a home. Yeah, most of your waking hours will be spent at the pool or waterfront, leading songs at meals or tours of camp, etc. - but personal time & space is still a must So brainstorm a list of things you'd like to live with - not XBoxes or TVs, but some simple luxuries. My personal list always included a few favorite books (which I never had time to read) and a journal (which I never had time to write in, despite my best intentions). Consider playing cards, family photos, a Bible or other religious text.


Fourth, don't bring anything hugely expensive. I knew some guys who did bring small TVs, fancy stereo systems, etc., and got upset when stuff happened - people tripped over them, or they were the accidental victims of a huge water war one night.


Fifth, study up on everything you can about your program area. Even if you've already earned all the aquatics badges, read the MB pamphlets again, and again. Practice rescue techniques, paddling strokes, sailing tactics, portaging and all the rest. At camp, learn all the new skills you can.


Sixth, be the best general staff member you can be outside of your program area. If you didn't attend there as a camper, take time to learn the traditions AND the camp rules. Volunteer for special assignments, even if it's just taking a run to the garbage dump or sweeping out the handicrafts lodge.


Seventh, be kind to the cooks and kitchen crews, if you have a dining hall program. Lend them a hand from time to time, and hang out with them when you get a chance. When you're out doing the glamorous stuff like putting up the flags in the morning, they're sequestered inside slaving over eggs-from-a-bag and mixing the umpteenth vat of bug juice for hundreds of (usually ungrateful) campers. Never complain about the food! Thank them for what they're doing, and maybe suggest to your boss that you open up the pool late one night or early one morning just for the support staff. Or, if it's OK with everyone's supervisors, offer to work a shift for someone during your free period so they can sneak off and shoot a round of archery. (In addition to being Scoutlike, this behavior can get you an inside track into the commissary or kitchen for late-night PB&J sandwiches or ice cream sodas - always a bonus.)


Eighth, take care of yourself personally. Camp is exciting, and a wonderful experience. But don't get so wrapped up in the experience and camaraderie that you burn yourself out. Get at least eight hours of sleep each night, even if the other guys are still up playing cards until 2 a.m. Eat all the fresh fruits and veggies you can get your hands on. Stay away from the trading post except maybe once or twice a week.


Ninth, always have a smile, and think and look before you speak. A stray comment about a fellow staff member's embarrassing moment, or a complaint about the director's attitude, might be overheard by a Scout or leader. That's unprofessional, and gives a bad reputation to you and the entire camp. Always be positive, ready to answer even the dumbest question from a camper in a cheerful manner ("Where's the waterfront?" when they're standing three feet away from a sign that says "WATERFRONT --->", for example.)


Tenth, soak in everything you can during staff week. Even the boring classroom-style sessions on injury reporting, evacuations and bloodborne pathogen protection are critically important. If a Scout gashes open his arm and a second later the emergency siren goes off, you've got to know what to do. The standard teambuilding exercises can be goofy and artificial, but grin and play along nonetheless.


Eleventh... have fun.

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The most important advice is ensure you use your best customer service skills. You are in the business of providing a service to every single scout or scouter that comes through the camp. It is really easy too.


For scouts, give them a quality program, this is what they came to camp for. Know the stuff you are supposed to teach them. Ask your Area Director before camp which merit badges/classes you will teach and study the material BEFORE you get to camp. Know the pamphlets inside and out and acquire any other materials you can to give the best possible result.


For scouters, simply treat them with the respect that they deserve as a volunteer helping scouts come to camp. As a young Area Director my program area always had one staff member that was not teaching a class at any one time during the day. I taught this staff member to watch the front gate and whenever a scouter entered the area they were to walk over to them and gree them with a "Good Morning(Afternoon/Evening) Sir (Ma'am) is there anything I can do for you today." And if there is anything they desire which is in your power to do, do it. If it is something you can not do, direct them to your Area Director as soon as possible.


Thats all there is to it.

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Some good advice here already, but I only got 8 hours sleep on the weekend! The thing I used the most at camp when i worked there was a small dorm-style fridge. It was nice to have a cold water, soda, or even chocolate milk without having to go to the camp store each time, or after it was closed. I like cold candy bars too. (Our camp had staff cabins with a limit of four per cabin.) You of course want to find out about the accomodations you will have before showing up. Good luck, have a ball. It will be the hardest and most rewarding job you will ever have.

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Yeah, sleep can be the most difficult part of the whole deal. There's a lot going on, you're working late (evening programs might go until 8 p.m., then there's cleanup, packup, policing the program area, chilling out, a friendly game of Risk, etc.), folks around you are staying up late...


But I also found that I was best when I had a full 8 hours (OK, maybe 6), and others were, too. It isn't very confidence-inspiring for a Scoutmaster watching a group of bleary-eyed CITs stumble up to the dining hall from the staff lodge five minutes late for breakfast.

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Thats another thing. Always be on time! And by on time that means at least a couple of minutes early.


When I was an Area Director I made all my instructors wear a watch and they were supposed to start all their classes/activities exactly on time. If there were special conditions, such as the first day with many scouts coming in late, there were, at the start time supposed to notify everyone there that they will be starting a few minutes late and give the reason.

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Sewing Kit

w/extra safety pins ,needles, thread, etc...

2 or 3 flashlights

w/extra bulbs and batteries


w/extra memory cards and batteries

Extra bug spray (non aerosol)

Mosquito netting (if you dont use bug spray) Get a good nights sleep

Sun Block is a must at the waterfront.

Poncho or rainsuit

Fishing gear if you like for free time

Good Luck and have fun

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A platform tent, I hope. With cots?

Beside the usual camping stuff, (and consider what has been suggested previous):


Folding chair. Two, if you like company.

Writing tablets, pens, pencils, envelopes, stamps, addresses.

Duct Tape.

1/4" cord, 200'

Money for the camp store, for the stuff you forget.

Extra Scout (and other kind) Tshirts for trading. Patches, too, if you like.

Cool, unique, hat. Sun glasses for waterfront.

Skit props.


Have fun!

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Both of my sons work at summer camp - older son doing his 7th year this year, younger doing his 3rd. Both would tell you it's the best thing they've ever done. Older son is acquatics director this year, younger working again in Ecology. You've received a lot of good advice so far on what to bring. I don't think I can add anything. I will reiterate sun block for the waterfront. Also, if your waterfront area is a lake rather than a pool and you do things that get you in the water, bring extra towels. Be sure to wash them frequently as well as your bathing suit.


As far as class B shirts: check out your council office. Many times they have Tshirts from past camporees, cuborees, summer camp, etc. that they sell for a reduced priced. Maybe you know someone who has worked staff before and isn't working this year that could lend you some shirts. The first summer my older son worked, he needed a few extra shirts and took plain red Hanes Tshirts. Worked out OK for him.


Take your program area and your job there seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously. Have fun. Get goofy when appropriate. If the staff is singing songs at assembly, join in. Talk to the campers. Say hi when one passes by. Our camp has a dining hall and the staff members prepare a small totem. The table waiters pick a totem to put on their table and that staff member sits with them for the meal. Sit with the campers and, most importantly, talk to them. Our boys pick a few of the favorite staff members and present them with our Troop T-shirt on the last day of camp. I know my sons have received a lot of other Troop's shirts over the years. Great way to build up your activity shirts.



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Lots of great advice here.


Absolutely concur with a good footlocker.


If you're living in a tent, is it a tentmate situation or do you have a tent to yourself?


Look at the tent the instant you get there. If it's going to leak, arrange with your folks to make a rainfly.


As far as daily Class B uniform, ask if your contract includes a discount at the Scout Shop for shorts/socks/belts. Our Council offers 25% off. 1st year staffers are issued 5 staff T-shirts, and buy 5 more for their part of camp at $10 apiece, then can buy older staff shirts at $5 apiece.


Have fun, and remember to get that sleep at night!

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  • 2 months later...

A footlocker is certainly a must, it is a really nice and secure way to store you stuff. Plus it easily slides under most cots.


Remember to bring a few changes of "civilian" clothes. Most camps give about 24 hours leave on the weekend (noon or 1 on Saturday to noon on Sunday) and often they give a night off (the two camps I worked at were 6:00pm - midnight).


My first summer I brought quite a bit of stuff because I was excited about having electricity. As a first or second year staffer you may actually have some time to use this stuff.


As you work your way up camp leadership you will have less and less time for yourself. During my final two summers I was up at 5:30am and usually not in bed until 1:00am. During those two summers I did not bring any of the extra stuff.


The three things that I found to be of greatest use are the following. First off, a fan. You will certainly enjoy being able to switch that fan on when you sleep. Second of all, both the camps I worked at have large platform tents shared by two staff members. I nice addition to the tent is some thin carpet. You can go to Lowes and get some of that outdoor patio carpet. It is nice to put down between the two cots to give you a little nicer surface to walk and stand on. Finally, a large tarp. Again, those platform tents are known for having some trouble in rain, particularly with age. We covered our entire tent in a tarp, and then we would stake out the front of the tarp in front of the tent with polls providing a covered porch type area.


I have seen some crazy things, so you can certainly go way out of this world. I have seen people put 8 tents together and live as 8 with coaches, TVs, video game systems, etc... I always thought that kind of distracted from your job though.


Anyways, you will have a blast!

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The most important thing to have on camp staff is a good attitude. Camp staff can make or break a Scout's summer camp, or Scouting life in general. Be sure to bring plenty of uniform socks, and a few pairs of extra shoes. Your shoes will get wet. I worked at Treasure Island and we were housed in quads, each bunk had drawers under it and a closet between them, so two guys shared a closet. Don't take anything that you can't replace. Have fun, you will not regret it. I haven't worked at camp in 20 years and wish I still could.

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