So, we're off to the races with the 2007 season. Summer camps all over the country are starting to take registrations, getting their marketing materials out the door, attending camp fairs, taking calls from clients, preparing their facilities, addressing their risk management practices...and it is certainly an exciting time for us here at iD Tech Camps.
Because of our size, we have to get out in front of the summer camp trends and make sure we are constantly in tune with what is on the collective mind of our client base. Here's what we see.
1. Social networking sites are a major concern of parents and camps alike. MySpace and YouTube are two examples of sites that seem to be in the news weekly, if not daily. We pulled a committee together this fall and spoke with a team of camp experts and risk management consultants and came up with a responsible policy. Both our staff and students have to agree to the policy before they get to camp, once they are at camp, and after they leave camp. My suggestion for all summer camp operators is to take the issue of sites like MySpace seriously--but to also build in practical measures. Kids and teens at summer camps have grown up with technology and, rest assured, if we clamp down in an excessive manner, our policies will be circumvented and disregarded in nano-seconds.
2. Another trend in the summer camp industry is the upward progression in the sheer volume of medications that a summer camp must handle. Every season we reevaluate our policies because medications change, the amount of students on medications changes, and industry standards change. On July 16, the New York Times released an article stating that, according to the American Camp Association, 25% of camp participants across the country are medicated. This poses a challenge for all summer camps. We have to get it right all the time. There can be serious health consequences for campers if medication is not administered properly. In my view, it is every camp's responsibility to thoughtfully implement policies and practices that will ensure the well-being of each student. It is also the responsibility of the camp to clearly outline what the camp's policies are, so that a parent can make an informed decision. Every season, we invest more and more (in personnel and training) to make sure our camps are keeping up and can manage the evolution of medications. The policies a camp puts in place must be realistic and thoughtful--and the camp has to be completely committed to the execution of those policies. Without such diligence, the downside can be gravely serious.
3. Too connected at camp? OK, we're a technology camp. It's what we do. We teach our students to make video games. We teach them to make movies. And to program. Design websites. Build robots. You get the idea. But are our students too connected? Have we gone off the deep end? You might be surprised to find that we discourage students from bringing cell phones and GameBoy's and iPods to camp. As mom would say...Find the right balance! A lot of summer camps have instituted policies of "No Internet" and "No Cell Phones" and "No Video Games" and "One way email" and those policies have a time and a place, depending on the kind of camp experience you are looking for. But, we are a technology camp, so isn't it fair that we should embrace all technologies all the time? Shouldn't a student be able to text message a friend any time? The short answer: No. There is a time and a place and our camp has adopted an "appropriate use" policy. Electronic devices have to be turned off at certain times--just like when you are flying in an airpline. If a cell phone rings during class time, a warning will be issued. If the problem persists, we'll take the cell phone away. It's that simple. We're not just teaching technology. We're teaching responsibility and life skills and it's pretty amazing to see what can happen when expectations are set clearly. Students have embraced our respectful policies, and the end result is we see well-balanced camps where student aren't just engaged in technology, but also in traditional camp activities like sports and chess and soccer and movie nights. Here are some pictures taken at camp. It looks fun, doesn't it?!
Until next time, iD Nation!