The Regional Review

Volume II - No. 3

March, 1939


By Stanley M. Hawkins,
Associate Recreational Specialist,
Richmond, Virginia.

Again the mid-way mark between summer camping seasons has been passed and camping agencies are laying their plans for the 1939 program. Region One of the National Park Service will have about 45 organized camps ready for use by June and some 45 organizations will provide leadership for the hundreds of children who will occupy these model outdoor centers. Many of the agencies which used the camps in past seasons will return; others will take advantage of them for the first time. Yet, whether the agency is new or old in the use of Recreational Demonstration Area camps, many members of the camp staff will be unacquainted with the areas. Each year in most groups there are new individuals and new personalities on the counselor staff, and therein is presented a problem for the camp director. The new members must be introduced, worked into the camp picture and made familiar with the objective, tradition and program of the sponsoring organization.

That knowledge, upon which the success of the entire summer camp depends, can not be passed on adequately to a new staff in the main offices of the agency in the city. It can be imparted best if the new-comers are taken for a few days, or better yet for an entire week, before camp opens, to the environment in which they must work during the summer. Many agencies have carried forward pre-camp training for years and have found it to be of great value. Yet many groups, particularly new ones, feel they cannot afford it. This, on the face of it, appears unsound for business reasons if for no others. Much time and effort go into planning for the campers. Adults want a program that will help to prepare the child better to meet the problems of life, but the youngster himself goes to camp for fun and a new adventure. The staff must be prepared therefore to disguise the first and utilize the second so that both are satisfied.

When new agencies are urged to hold pre-camp training courses for their counselors their first question is how they can do it alone, who will lead the course, or how three or four nationally known leaders can be induced to speak at their courses. Obviously there are not enough to go around. Anyone of the right kind would be good enough, perhaps, to sound the keynote and start the course in motion. But this difficulty, in any case, should not bar the way to a pre-camp session with the counselors.

First, each agency that expects to operate a good camp must have an experienced camp director. He must be on the job (or available for consultation) far enough in advance to help select the staff and make plans for camp. With the help of the officials of the organization he also can plan and lead the training course. He must lead the course if he is to lead the staff all summer. But where is he to get assistance in many specialized subjects?

After the principal objectives of the camp have been determined, the community may be surveyed for specialized leadership. Many men and women will be found who, either by profession or hobby, can be useful in presenting the fundamentals of specialized program material. Such leaders are busy people and may not have thought of their knowledge in terms of a camping program, but when it is shown how they can serve and how many times their hour-or-so spent at a course will be multiplied during the summer they will give their time gladly. Then the camp director, having interviewed the staff members, knows of their several abilities and can use the more experienced of them as leaders to pass on to the other counselors those things which have proved helpful in an organized program for children.

It may be supposed that this is aiming at a staff of specialists. That is not the case. It is simply that a staff having a broad knowledge of many specialized subjects and, in addition, an insight into the nature of the child camper, is more competent to carry on when events do not move according to plan. The presence of specialists on individual subjects tends to favor a condition whereby the campers must be separated from their unit leaders several times, and possibly for extended periods, during the daily routine.

In a unit-type program the campers are separated into groups (units) of like abilities, both mental and physical. Their unit leaders should be chosen on the basis of good character, training, and ability to lead a particular age group. They are expected not only to provide programs, but also to set a good example in friendship, cooperation, sportsmanship, and manhood or womanhood. Thus is provided the best tool in character and citizenship training. With that in mind the undesirability of changing leaders several times a day becomes apparent. In short, the objective is not to produce specialists among the campers but rather to open new gateways to life through the use of those fine implements already cited: fun and adventure.

Obviously it is not possible to outline here a training course which would meet all problems of each camping agency expecting to use a camp on one of the 22 Federal Recreational Demonstration Areas this summer, but the following may be suggestive:

Training, it is believed, is fundamental to the success of any enterprise involving the concerted action of any large number of individuals. It involves at least two factors: the creation within the individuals of the ability and the inclination to work together for the achievement of the desired objectives. Ability, in this sense is not innate but acquired, and is dependent on 1) knowledge, and, 2) skill. The problem of training is therefore, in some manner, to bring about in the members of a group engaged in an enterprise the possession of the knowledge, the skill, the enthusiasm, the attitude or spirit, necessary to make that enterprise a success.

The objectives in the camping enterprise should be determined carefully and the training course planned to be specific rather than general, as a program broad enough to suit all the needs cannot be specific enough to be of great benefit to any. Isolate the problems with respect to the program, and with the best staff that can be obtained, "go to it". The training course should be held at camp so the counselors will become familiar with the physical facilities and natural resources of the area and, incidentally, build up their own physique.

The camp director should lead the course, and the counselors should live as the campers will live during the summer and follow the same camp routine that will be expected of the children. They will see and improve many of the rough spots before the campers arrive and will have a smooth-running organization the first day of camp.

The course outline probably will look about like this:

I. Knowledge:

  1. Aims and objective of Camp _________.
  2. Health and safety.
    (Sanitation in Camp and on hikes).
  3. Physical make-up and mental ability of age-groups expected.
  4. Principles of the Programs, Why we use: Swimming, games, crafts, songs, stories, campfire programs, - physical and mental activities.
  5. Fundamentals of leadership.

II. Skills:

  1. Camp routine and living.
  2. Waterfront programs and Safety.
  3. Campcraft-pioneering, cooking, over-night hikes, camp improvement.
  4. Handicraft
  5. Games
  6. Singing and story-telling.
  7. Campfire programs, etc.

sketch of water skier

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Date: 04-Jul-2002