It’s that time of year. Yup, it’s May! Cinco de Mayo is behind us. Camp is in front of us. It’s an exciting time for us at iD Tech Camps. We’ve hired over 500 elite staff to extol their knowledge on the teen and tween tech gurus of tomorrow.
We train our summer staff in many ways. Of course you’d expect a robust online training–which happens. But you might not know that we have in-person regional trainings beginning in New Jersey, Illinois and California where our staff come from all over the country to learn from our amazing, experienced team of Regional Managers.
In our staff trainings, we focus on a variety of topics that ensure we run successful programs from coast to coast. As we’ve grown over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor some smaller summer camp programs. Here is a top 10 list of tips you might find helpful when thinking about building your own summer camp training programs.
Top 10 Areas of Focus When Training Summer Camp Staff:
1. Risk Management. We must drill this point home. At iD Tech, we bring in real-world scenarios to create the atmosphere of what camp is like. We role-play these scenarios so our staff can envision how the outcomes should play out. Staff have to participate. This can’t be just a big PowerPoint presentation with one-way communication.
2. Visuals. A training program that lasts multiple days can get boring fast. We can “lose our staff” if the content isn’t relevant, fun, snappy and visual. Camp Videos, Photos, Testimonials…these are a must.
3. The Basics. Any summer camp can go so far into the details at training that the camp staff can get lost quickly. We train our staff on the details–but also the basics: Check-in times. Check-out times. First impressions. Group management. Do’s and Do Not’s. Professionalism…
4. Mission. This ties in with the point above. The entire organization–from trainers to camp staff to the marketing and accounting folks back at home base have to rally around the mission. If the staff at home base are on board, but the overall mission is fuzzy to the summer camp staff–ugh oh! Create simplicity and clarity.
5. Write it Down. In the digital age, note taking is becoming a seemingly dying art. Encourage your staff to write down what they’ve learned. Then circle back with them. Call on them. “What is the top thing you learned from this slide?”
6. Boil it Down. There are a million competing priorities when running a summer camp. How do you ensure your staff will tend to all of the details? In reality, some of the experience can only be gained by actually “doing.” So, you have to create simulations at training. But, you also have to carefully balance your priorities and make sure to boil it down: Learn more by learning less. Cramming everything you know into your training programs will most likely not be effective.
7. Fun. Remember you are running summer camps! Trainings have to be fun. Camps are about the kids–building self confidence, teaching new skills, ensuring the well-being of the students.
8. Start on time. If your trainings are unorganized, a bit sloppy, start a few minutes late…what signal is this sending to your camp staff? In reality, everything we do will be emulated. If your organization truly cares about the details–then you have to walk the walk. Start everything on time.
9. Evolve. Training programs can get stale quickly. The programs should evolve from season to season–this helps address the “been there done that” mentality of your seasoned, returning camp counselors. We must also remember that camp trends change. The world changes. The training programs have to change too. A good place to start is by attending some of the regional training sessions put on by the American Camp Association.
10. Summarize and Verify. How do you ensure that the information being presented is “sinking in?” You must verify! Circle back on the crucial elements of each lesson. Verify the information is indeed sinking in.
Our summer camp trainings for staff are now underway in Illinois, New Jersey and California. We are looking forward to making the best summer camp staff in the business even better. The above are a few ways we will accomplish that important responsibility.