When you’re looking for a camp, every item you can think to ask about is important. Before you talk with a director, make a list of questions. If possible, try to visit the camp when it is in operation before you make your final selection. This will give you and your child the opportunity to see the programs and philosophy of the camp in action. Here are important items to consider when you meet with the camp staff. Some of these questions come from the American Camping Association’s Guide to ACA-Accredited Camps. Many of the answers are based on the American Camping Association’s standards program.
What is the background of the director? The camp’s director should possess a bachelor’s degree, have completed in-service training within the past three years and have at least 16 weeks of camp administrative experience before assuming the responsibilities of director.
What is the camp’s philosophy? Many camps promote competition and healthy rivalry among camp teams, as reflected in team sports. For many this is pure fun. Some parents feel learning to be competitive at an early age teaches essential survival skills. However, other parents and educators are in favor of cooperative learning. Noncompetitive methods have been shown to encourage young people to learn more, retain it longer, and develop greater self-esteem and appreciation for others. Knowing your child’s personality and learning style is valuable in selecting the right approach.
What is the ratio of counselors to campers? The ratio should be based on the ages of the children and must take into account the special needs of the campers. For severely mentally disabled campers, a ratio of one staff to one camper is required. For non-disabled resident campers, ratios can range from one staff for every six campers ages 6 to 8; one staff for every eight campers ages 9 to 14; and one staff for every ten campers ages 15 to 18. For day camps the ratios are: one staff for every eight campers ages 6 to 8; one staff for every 10 campers ages 9 to 14; and one staff for every 12 campers ages 15 to 18.
What is the transportation system? Campers are usually transported by vans or buses. Find out what type of vehicles are used and how often they are inspected by qualified mechanics. Ask the director to describe the camp’s driver training and ongoing safety awareness programs.
What are the ages of the counselors? Among the counseling/program staff, 80 percent or more should be 18 years or older. Any counselor under 18 must be at least two years older than the camper they are supervising.
What percentage of the staff return each year? Some staff turnover is natural due to college graduation, etc. Most camps have between 40 and 60 percent of staff return each year. If the rate is lower, find out why.
What percentage of the campers return each year? While every camp is clearly not right for every person, a large number of returning campers usually indicates a high level of satisfaction with the camp’s programming and operation.
How are special needs handled? If your child has special requirements, ask about provisions and facilities. Is there a nurse? A designated place to store insulin or allergy medicine?
Are references available? Generally, this is one of the best techniques of checking on a camp’s reputation and service record. Directors of ACA-Accredited Camps are happy to provide references.
Is the camp accredited by the American Camping Association? Many of the questions above, plus some 300 more, are answered before a camp can become accredited by the American Camping Association. Every camp which displays the ACA-Accredited Camp logo is committed to the highest operating standards for the industry. These standards were first established in the late 1930s and are continually updated to reflect the current consensus of camp professionals on practices and procedures considered basic to a quality camp experience. ACA-Accredited Camps are visited at least once every three years by a team of two or more trained camp professionals. These professionals compare the camp’s operation, while it is in session, with the industry’s standards.
By selecting an ACA-Accredited Camp, you can be assured that many important questions have been asked and answered appropriately.
You can find a complete list of ACA-Accredited Camps in the Guide to ACA-Accredited Camps. This helpful publication can be delivered to your home for $10.95, plus shipping and handling, by calling the ACA Bookstore at 1-800-428-CAMP. For more information, visit the American Camping Association, online at www.ACAcamps.org.