Summer Camps - Sharing Ideas
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Sat, 28 Dec 1996 23:53:22 -0500
Camp staff visits to other camps to share ideas and learn "new tricks" is
not new to Scouting or particularly unusual. And BSA has in its own way
institutionalized this process to a degree.
My experience was a bit shorter than Ed's - only 12 years with camp
staffs, but in those years at camps in five Councils scattered across the
country, we regularly visited other camps (BSA and a few girl's camps he
he) to see how folks were doing the same things we were doing and
get ideas. Likewise we had visitors from numerous camps come visit us
for the same purpose, including a couple of Scouters from outside the U.S.
Over this period these visits probably involved a dozen or so different
Councils and frequently resulted in staff members moving from one camp to
another in the following camp season - me among them.
These visits facilitated a lot of idea swapping and not infrequently some
horse-trading over scarce supplies. I remember taking a truckload of
donated left-over civil defense crackers and peanut butter tins and a
second truckload of cool-aid packets to trade for leathercraft supplies
and canned vegetables and soup with the staff of another camp following a
This visits of course were chaotic in terms of planning and regularity,
often depending on the distance between camps and the attitude of the
camp director or program director. BSA as part of its commitment to
quality camps operating in a safe environment for years has regularized
this to an extent with its camp visitation program that we used to refer
to as a "camp inspection." This visits are conducted by experienced
volunteer Scouters and their professional staff advisors and hit every
camp each year. Camp safety, business management, and program are
reviewed and suggestions for improvement are made in each area even at
the "best camps." These visitors also take lots of notes and report back
both the good and the bad about what they have seen.
The visit reports are then used to help the staffs of the National
Camping Schools with program ideas, business ideas, etc. and with areas
that frequently need improvement. As a result the key adult staff
members that must be National Camping School certified (Camp Director,
Program Director, Field Sports Director, Aquatics Director, etc.) are
exposed to ideas and lessons learned from many Scout camps across the
Some folks tend to think of a local camp as operating in isolation
keeping its own way of doing things without growing. Of course that is
up to the people that staff the camp, the Council management, and the
volunteers that work with the camp or lead units in camp. Many camps
have traditions, special programs and more. These lend an individual
flavor to a camp. However, the opportunity to profit by experiences at
other camps is constantly near at hand through the National Camping
School training program and the camp visits. Most camps take advantage
of these opportunities and make improvements each year to the extent they
can within the limits of Council budgets and staffing.
In some cases a camp may fall on some pretty hard times, especially if
the facility is worn down and having trouble complying with safety and
health standards or if the money isn't there for basic maintenance and
staff salaries. This causes the heart-wrenching process of evaluating
the future of a camp to begin and may lead to the difficult choice of
consolidating or opening a newer facility to better serve the Scouts.
Many volunteers who have lived a long time in a community and who maybe
even attended a the same camp as a youth have a lot of trouble dealing
with the prospect of closing a camp - its almost like killing a friend.
But the real issue is whether the camp can put on a quality program that
will further the aims of Scouting. If no longer can do that, then
evaluation is warranted and alternatives have to be carefully
considered. It never is an easy process.
Before it gets that bad, there is a lot of room for volunteers to help
out starting with good, honest camp evaluations at the end of a camp
stay. Volunteering for work crews or helping with Council fundraising
efforts that support camp maintenance, development and program are also
ways to give assistance.
I'd be interested in hearing how volunteers in your Council or Scout
Organization help keep camps operating or help in program development.
Maybe a few good ideas could be shared here. :-)
Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman
Dep.Dist.Commissioner-Training, G.W.Dist., NCAC, BSA (Virginia)
U. S. Scouting Service Project FTP Site Administrator (PC Area)
ftp1 or ftp2.scouter.com/usscouts E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City