Laura has spent the last few months trying to talk with or visit all of our camper families, looking for feedback and hearing awesome stories. We heard so many great stories about friendships made, campers handling conflict more restoratively after camp, incredible memories of wonder and awe, and so many more positive responses. We are currently way ahead of our projected registrations for next summer, and by all measures seem to have had the best summer yet. With that in mind we want to make 2017 even better for all campers.
To that end, we are focusing on three key areas for 2017: transportation to camp, hygiene, and opportunities for skill development and camp lead activities (that of course won’t be mandatory).
We serve a lot of families for whom it is not convenient to travel to the Catskills for summer camp, and would like to serve even more. While we don’t have concrete plans just yet, the most likely scenario will be to have two central pick-up stations - one in Chestnut Hill, PA and one near a New Jersey Transit station just outside of NYC. We would arrive with vans and bring campers up to camp and drop them off again after each session. We are committed to figuring out a better way to make Stomping Ground accessible for our current and future NYC and Philadelphia families and will keep everyone updated as the details are finalized.
At Stomping Ground, we recognize that our campers and families have different goals around campers’ hygiene at camp. Last summer we provided all campers opportunities to shower and brush their teeth everyday, and some did not hold themselves to the same standard of hygiene that their parents had hoped for. Balancing being a culture of consent and trust with the understandable desires of campers’ parents for them to maintain a certain level of cleanliness has been tricky, but we have a new plan for 2017.
This summer we are doing two things to help support kids in making healthier hygiene choices.
We are hiring an extra staff member in each village. The role of these village leaders will be to further ensure that we have an extra, intentional set of eyes on each person that comes to camp. They will being looking out to make sure kids are having a great time, not being left out, and are making healthy hygiene choices. The village leaders will keep an eye out for if certain campers are choosing not to shower, change their clothes, etc and be prepared to have conversations with campers about those situations. They will function more like the village mom or dad while the counselors can be like fun older siblings. They will also be empowered to consult with camp directors and camper families to ensure that hygiene-based decisions are in accordance with each family’s goals.
Simpler Routines and More Direct Conversations
We will have more established routines within each village and more specific support early in each session to help campers realize when good times to shower, brush their teeth, and change clothes are. If campers are choosing not to shower, for instance, we will chat with them about why they are making that choice and then give parents a call if they continue to choose not to. This was the policy last year, but follow-through on this policy could have been much better. With the added support of the village leaders and more focused attention on hygiene we will be able to ensure that all campers maintain levels of hygiene consistent with their and their family’s goals.
We changed the schedule every week last summer to better serve the community. We noticed during the first week that campers seemed to want more free choice options and less waterfront time. We added a fourth option period and shortened waterfront. That seemed to work. During the second week, I talked with a number of campers looking for more opportunities to develop skills and smaller communities. They loved options like fire building, bamboo bow making, and pottery. So for week three we added a number of weeklong options like survival skills, photography, and baking. These turned into many of the campers’ favorite moments of camp. It confirmed our belief that given the right environment, people want to learn and develop new skills.
This summer we are going to double down on this belief. We are working to develop a number of new weeklong options like LARP, backpacking (hopefully capped with a day long hike and camp out), painting, and more.
Camp Lead Options
Along with providing camper more opportunities for more skills development, we are working on a better system for campers to share their passion and lead more activities. Last summer campers would talk with Kate, our Master of Fun and Games, and she would put their camper-led activities on the schedule. For a number of reasons this didn't catch on as we hoped. This year we will help campers on the first day to understand the system, and help and encourage to them provide offerings for other campers. All camper-led and weeklong options will remain optional. We will continue to provide silly and serious one day options every day, and of course, Downtown Stomping Ground isn’t going anywhere.
I can’t wait to make 2017 the best summer yet!
If you have any questions please give me a call or email.