10 Tips for Running a Summer Camp

I have been running camps for four years. I’m no veteran, and four years may not seem a very long time, however, in those four years I have learnt a lot, and my camps have grown a lot.
This list of tips addresses issues big and small, and I hope it helps any individuals out there thinking of running a Summer camp. I can think of a lot more advice, but I thought I’d keep things short and sweet, and 10 seemed like a nice round number. If you want more tips, you’re just going to have to come over and have a cup of tea with me.

  1. Start planning early.
    Trust me on this. If your camp is scheduled for July, you need to start sending out emails and printing up flyers in January. A lot of the big camps start enrollment in March for the Summer (I know, it’s a crazy world out there), so you need to get the word out in advance. Also, the sooner you start planning out lessons the better.
  2. Send out a survey!
    Otherwise, you are basically stabbing in the dark when you plan out dates, times, and content for your camp. For heaven’s sake keep the survey short and relevant, no parent wants to spend ages answering essay questions on ‘your child’s strengths and weaknesses’.
  3. Stick to your strengths.
    Obvious really. If you are an art teacher, teach a Visual Arts camp, not a Math camp (unless you are an ex-Mathlete). I don’t teach kids younger than six years old, because I know that I am not an early childhood educator.
    In the same vein, don’t teach an age group, unless you genuinely like being around them, just don’t. Kids are smart, they can tell what you are thinking, and they will make your life hell if they sniff out that you are faking it.
  4. Quality not quantity
    If you are a one person business, don’t get greedy. Keep your camps small, or hire some help, otherwise chaos will ensue.
  5. Shout your philosophy to the world
    What is it you are passionate about? What makes your camp unique? Be honest and use Social Media to spread the word, and hopefully, like minded people will find you. Also, if you are clear about your philosophies from the beginning, you avoid misunderstandings with non-like minded people down the line.
  6. Ask every question possible
    I am not very business savvy, I’m learning things the hard way. This is something really important that I have learned. When you rent a space, make sure you know everything there is to know about it, no question is too stupid. Where are the restrooms? When will I get my keys? Where do I park? Can we eat in this room? Is it okay to make a lot of noise? Can we run up this hallway?Can we use that playground? Do you have WiFi? Who else will be here? Who are you? Where does that door lead? What is that stain? Ask all the questions, take their number, and then ask more.
  7. Camp is not school
    This is very important. Kids need to decompress too, so be flexible. Let them have long outdoor breaks, let them finish a project the next day if they are looking tired, or change the direction a project is going. Play things by ear,  goof around a little, keep things a little less structured than school, and everybody is happy.
  8. Wear Comfortable Shoes
    If you are teaching elementary school kids, trust me, you WILL end up playing Tag, or Soccer, or Ghosts in the Graveyard. Roll with it, enjoy the opportunity. Younger kids are very forgiving about lack of sport skills, and even the least athletic teacher can come out of this situation feeling good.
  9. Have Boundaries
    Despite all of the above exhortations to get in on the fun and games, you will also need your personal space from time to time. Make this clear when an eight year old asks you to play Boggle while you are eagerly opening up your lunch box. Also, do NOT give them your lunch, no matter how hungry they say they are.
  10. Word of Mouth matters
    If you run your camp well, and teach good lessons, and care about your kids, and believe in your own philosophy, and everybody has a great experience, well that’s really all the marketing you need. Good luck.

4 thoughts on “10 Tips for Running a Summer Camp

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