Welcome to the Summer Camp Leadership blog. For those of us who lead summer camps, making a positive difference in the lives of young people is our passion. Turning that passion into a reality, however, takes more than the ability to lead songs, teach archery or plan craft projects. Creating camp experiences that truly transform lives takes leadership. Leadership that creates a vision for the future, leadership that inspires and engages others, leadership that remains focused and stays the course. My hope is through this blog you'll find ideas, inspiration and tools to help you be a great summer camp leader.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Stop Talking and Teach

That's right, if we'd stop talking so much in our staff training we'd teach more. Unfortunately, the model of teaching we've all grown up with in elementary school, high school and college just doesn't work well. In it, the teacher (the repository of all worthwhile knowledge) doles out wisdom as we learners sit (incredibly attentive of course) taking it all in like sponges (quietly and passively in our assigned seats.)

How can we be more effective? The key is engagement. If we can engage our staff in their learning we can increase how much they learn and how well they learn it. Here are three strategies camp directors can use to effectively engage staff in training.

Group Discussion - I regularly divide staff into groups, have them brainstorm/discuss a topic and report back to the entire group. For instance I assign groups to be campers, staff and church members (we're a religiously affiliated camp.) I ask each group to discuss what their respective group wants from camp. I give them ten minutes to develop a list on a piece of flip chart paper. I then have all the groups share their lists with the entire staff. The end result is our staff understand these differing perspectives far better than had I talked about them in a lecture style presentation.

Discovery Learning - We take our leadership team to a local amusement park for the day. We break the day into segments. For each segment we give staff members a guiding questions and send them to explore a portion of the park.  At the end of each segment we reconvene, share what they observed and discuss how to apply some of the park's best practices to our camp. Our staff learn important lessons about topics such as creating a positive impression, providing great service, using themes to create excitement and making waiting time fun.

Role Playing - Yes, role playing often gets out of control and is of little value. Properly done, however, it can be a valuable training tool. Start with a pre-prepared written scenario that is realistic. Break the staff into groups of three. One person practices the skills you're teaching, the second plays the part in the scenario and the third observes. Upon completion the group debriefs, switches roles and begins again. When teaching a specific skill made up of fairly concrete steps, you can't beat role playing as a teaching tool.