Posts Tagged ‘Campers’

Teaching Tolerance at Camp

Posted on May 13, 2017 by Gary Pryzner

My way of dealing with most issues in life is not to create sides, but to listen to both. This works whether it is a fight between two campers, or whether it is a misunderstanding with regard to a First Nations or LGBQT issue. That being said, there is no methodology in place at all by which to categorize any dispute. Nor should there be!

Categorization is the worst enemy of disputes. This is well worth repeating. Nobody wants to be labeled. In fact, most disagreements become issues because someone feels undervalued, and sharply so.

Through years of experience, I have learned several factors to be true in all disputes. Bearing these in mind during the time of an altercation can often serve as a way to bring it to closure well before expected and with better results. Additionally, if I consistently approach others with actions that support these factors, it is much less likely that the issue will occur.

There is intrinsic value in every person. Everyone matters, and everyone has something good to offer a family, community, nation or world. I agree that not everything offered is good. I also agree that some things that are believed are not true. But the right to have beliefs and the right to choose – these are the freedoms that we all should be able to possess. They are of greater importance than any disagreement that can arise between me and another person.

No two people agree on everything. This only means that it is actually possible to further create argument and divide until community is extinguished and self is all that is left. Tragic!

If I listen, I will learn. So listen to their story, to their reasons for believing and valuing what they do. While I may not choose to adapt their belief structure into my own, at the very least I should learn something of what matters to them. Perhaps they want to lobby for a cause that completely misses what I have usually thought. Perhaps their reason is loyalty, or fairness, or something that I also value. If I shut them down because I disagree with the campaign in general, then they are hearing that I disagree with loyalty or fairness.

We are amazing people. We are capable of going to the moon and back, of building space stations, and of inventing cures for diseases that used to obliterate whole communities. Why is it so difficult to believe that we all have something of value for which to give honour?

Always ask questions before offering a defense. “Are we really in disagreement in this matter?” Even a question like that can create enough doubt that the other person will calm a bit. Follow it up with, “Could I please ask you to share your main concern again? And then, “Could you tell me what underlying values you hold onto that cause you to support this concern? Never consider your own response at all while listening. Listening is for learning, hearing and understanding.

Always create space for accepting a different view, while maintaining the value for the person. The way we talk must also model that this space is available. Bears attack when their escape is cut off. If people have the right to choose, then let them choose.

What you feel defines your concerns, not theirs. Sharp feelings such as jealousy, rage, fear or hatred are signs that we have unresolved issues in ourselves. So the next time that feeling arises, it should be another opportunity – not to set someone else straight – but to resolve what we haven’t in ourselves. If it came out of someone’s criticism, or exaggerated disparagement, then quietly ask yourself what part is true, and begin to change that part.

Defense strengthens offense. Karate teaches me that when the opponent senses that I am resisting, they will tighten their grip. But if the opponent senses that I have relaxed, they can’t help but do the same. So in every situation no matter who is upset with you, not only listen, but also explain that understanding them matters to you and that you are thankful for voicing their
concern. Follow that up with actions that support it. What this really amounts to in the face of the heat is that we must relax our grip and show love.

Finally, when mediating, reset the focus with questions. It’s very difficult to get someone else to show appreciation for the other person’s view. So if two boys are brought into my office after a fight, getting them to tell their side of the story will become a never ending nightmare of trying to prove the other person to be wrong. Now deep inside they both know that they could have done something differently… that at some point they made a choice to fight back. Rather than focus on the part that creates division, focus on the part inside each of them that they would rather not admit. The question I often use is, “So tell me what you could have done differently?” or “What did you do that you know you should not have done?” I always begin with the one that I think is more likely to spill first. When he starts with, “Well he…” I stop him and say, “No, what did you do that was wrong? He will have his turn to tell me what he did wrong.” The first admission almost always encourages the second. And by the time the second is done, the boys will often ask each other for forgiveness before I even get that far, and then they leave as friends.

If we embrace our differences, we actually, at the same time, are embracing our similarities.

What Are the Campers Saying?

Posted on May 1, 2017 by Catherine Ross

In the midst of all the work to open and prepare camp for the upcoming season, it is helpful; to remember the reason for all the effort− the campers!

Spring is the season in a camp director’s calendar when suddenly the clock is ticking down.  The time has come to open camp; assess the winter damage and schedule cleaning, repair and/or renovation of buildings.  Back at the city office, there are still a few key staff positions and some camper spots to fill. Lists are created, suppliers have been consulted and the shopping and deliveries have begun.  Another summer season is just around the corner.

In the midst of all the administration and paper pushing, it is revitalizing to recall the reasons behind all the planning and preparations − the campers!

Recently I had the opportunity to read the 2016 reports from the hundreds of campers who were assisted in attending camp last summer by the Kids in Camp Charity.  We all know how important camp is in the lives of children, but sometimes it helps to be reminded in the campers’ own words, why we do what we do.

Let’s hear from the campers:

Camp is “amazing”, “great”, “awesome” and “unforgettable.” “I wouldn’t trade camp for anything.” “I wish I could stay at camp forever.”  “Camp is my favourite place in the world.”

They acquired hard skills – “I got to paddle on white water”, “I learned how to start a fire…flip a kayak…climb thin trees.”  But more importantly, they acquired life skills.  “I learned how to be a better sport.”  “Sometimes even if you miss your parents you can still have fun.”  “I really stepped out of my comfort zone in a way that helped my confidence.” I learned how to conquer fears.” ” I learned that it’s OK to be yourself no matter your differences and imperfections.”  “I learned never to try to be someone you are not.”

Campers with physical, learning or emotional challenges say, “At camp I can be myself and be accepted for who I am.”   “At camp I could be free and not worry about my differences.”  A camper with autism says “I had a few meltdowns but in a non-judgemental place with others who get it.”

These amazing outcomes happen because camp is a community where kids feel that they are welcome, they belong and they are accepted unconditionally. “Camp is a safe place.”  “I’ve never felt more welcomed.”  “Camp is my home away from home.” “I love camp because of the sense of community.”  “At camp they treat you like family right away.” “I feel good at camp.”

Thanks to Isabella, Randeonna, Mandy, Nika, Jude, Morgan, Angela, Taylor, Adam, Cameron, Samantha, Ethan, Logan, Hailey, Annabel, Kira, Parker and Desana for sharing their thoughts about camp.

Thanks to all the camp staff across the country who will be providing amazing experiences for thousands more children in summer 2017.

Camp Counselors Are Awesome!

Posted on May 2, 2016 by Catherine Ross

At the request of Ottawa Parenting Times, Catherine Ross, Communications officer for CCA, wrote this article to describe for parents the qualities of a camp counselor. Share this with your staff to motivate them to be the best they can be!

Camper and Counsellor boysAcross the country, thousands of eager, former campers are counting the days until summer camp begins. Some new campers may be more anxious than excited as day one draws near. Once camp begins, the one person who will influence the experience of each camper the most is the camp counselor.

The director is essential; the maintenance staff is useful; the nurse is important (should you need her) and nobody would stick around for long without the cook. But the camp counselor is the one with the closest, most consistent contact with the campers. As one renowned camp director, Elizabeth Raymer, described it, “This group of leaders determines the success or failure of the entire enterprise…The most beautiful site with elegant buildings and a superabundance of up-to-date equipment is useless in the hands of an inept staff.” Her expectations were clear: if you aspire to be a camp counselor, you have to be good. Your campers deserve your very best.

Camp directors diligently read resumes, identify candidates worthy of an interview then check references. With care and thoroughness, they select a group of young people whom they believe to be worthy of emulation by impressionable young campers. Once on site, they continue to train, supervise and evaluate. One camp staff alumna who assisted the director with interviewing prospective camp counselors for the 2015 season marveled at the qualifications, personalities, experiences and volunteer service of the candidates. My own experience concurs with her conclusions – young people who choose to be camp counselors are anything but average.

Canadian Camping Association Counsellors Are AwesomeThe summer my eighteen-year-old son joined our staff as a canoe trip leader, I had a rude awakening. For years, without a second thought, I had sent other people’s young adults into the wilderness to care for our campers. Sending my own son forced me to think more carefully about the huge burden I was placing on these young leaders’ shoulders. I expected them to travel for days on the assigned route, feed, shelter and care for a group of campers relying on the bare necessities, their experience, judgment and skills. They accepted the challenge without hesitation. And they never disappointed me! Despite the rattlesnake sunning on the portage path, a group of drunken fishermen wanting to share their site or a young camper with abdominal pain who required evacuation in the night, they always made the right decision and brought everyone home safe and sound. With one exception , they always arrived on time. Once when the lake was too rough to cross, they patiently remained on shore until the wind died down thus forcing them to arrive home late – but with good reason. Again, they made the right decision.

That summer I started a new tradition. At the end of the season, I wrote to my camp staff parents to share with them my renewed admiration of their offspring based on their achievements that summer.

The campers get the last word. As a Board Member for the Kids in Camp Charity, I recently received a summary of comments from the campers that the charity had financially assisted in 2014. Their remarks confirmed that counselors continue to do an awesome job. Payton tells us, “I learned how to do tricks on a wake board…my counselors were amazing and so chill.” Veronica, a special needs camper reports, “If something is too hard or too much, I can tell my counselors and it doesn’t mean I’m lazy.” Emily confirms, “My counselors were really nice, sweet and kind and very funny.” Tal loved his counselors, “Cameron and Shimon are very cool and they helped us with problems if we got into fights. I am so lucky I came to this camp.”

10 Reasons to Give Kids 10 Seconds

Posted on March 30, 2015 by Dr. Christopher Thurber

In a recent faculty meeting, our Director of Information Technology explained some upgrades to the school’s hardware and software. “One of the benefits of this series of upgrades,” she said, “will be faster load times on the pages you use most, such as the page for entering grades and comments.” One of my colleagues shot her hand up and shared how eagerly she was anticipating these technological enhancements “because some of the load times on these pages are devastatingly slow.” My curiosity piqued as she continued: “I’m sometimes having to wait 3 or 4 seconds. That’s unacceptable.” Wow. If 4 seconds is “devastatingly slow,” I shudder to think how this colleague might tolerate, for example, baking a batch of cookies.

Canadian summer camperI like fast Internet speeds just as much as the next person. And yes, baking is different from online surfing. Heck, 4 seconds is Bugatti-quality if we’re talking about acceleration from 0 to 60mph. Time is a constant, until you approach the speed of light, but the perception of speed is a function of the task. So the question is: How impatient have we become when we find a few seconds of waiting unacceptable?

Cultivating patience is something we all need to do, especially if we work with children. Here are 10 different reasons to give kids 10 seconds. (None involves the Internet. Patient or not, I think we can all agree that faster is better when it comes to page load times. Just don’t take it too hard when your browser takes a deep breath.)

  1. So you can better understand. Kids don’t always say what they mean. (“I’m bored.” “Math is stupid.” “The ref was an idiot.”) When you give yourself 10 seconds to consider how the words that come out of a child’s mouth may differ from their underlying meaning (“I’m sad.” “I don’t understand.” “I’m disappointed we lost.”) then you’ll be in a better position to provide empathy.
  2. So you don’t say something you regret. When you wait before you open your mouth—even if you’re not actually counting to ten—then you are less likely to yell, swear or exaggerate.
  3. So young people feel listened to. Even when you’re feeling calm and confident that you understand what a youngster is thinking and feeling, it can feel good to them when you occasionally pause before responding. It demonstrates you care without your having to say so.
  4. So others have a chance to respond. It’s easy to start believing that you have the best advice until you give other people—both children and adults—a chance to say something. Not only is that behavior deferential, it can also be enlightening.
  5. So that kids have time to process. All young people need time to think about what you’ve said or asked, especially those with a developmental disability such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Whenever any child is marching to the beat of a different drummer, it’s your job to slow down. Rather than repeat the question or decide for others, wait for them to formulate a response.
  6. So that you sound smarter. The first thing that comes to your mind may have merit, but the second and third things may be even better. It’s fine to say, “Hmm. Let me think about that for a second” and actually give yourself ten. Words of wisdom or more likely after you let a little time tick by.
  7. So that you’re sure the young person is done talking. Adults have a pesky habit of believing they know what a youngster is about to say. By occasionally waiting after one sentence concludes, we may be rewarded by a fresh sentence or a whole new idea. And we can be certain that we haven’t interrupted.
  8. So that play becomes more creative. Outside the confines of a conversation (the focus of reasons 1-7 above), we have other opportunities to give kids space. Play is one domain where adults are constantly interrupting young people. We give directions, advice and scripts when what we should be doing—in a free play situation—is playing along. Try asking a question, such as, “What happens next?” rather than being prescriptive, such as, “That should go here.”
  9. So that youngsters don’t feel “multitasked.” When adults slow down the pace of a verbal or nonverbal interaction with a child or adolescent, it usually means setting aside the mobile devices, the paperwork and the TV remote. Do what you can to provide your full attention, rather than dividing your attention. Quality suffers the more tasks you perform simultaneously.
  10. So that you develop a little more tolerance for waiting. Young people’s brains are still developing. Expect them to be impulsive, reckless, selfish, preoccupied, distractible and, sometimes, downright slow. Give them time to grow and learn without interrupting and rushing them.

Now it’s time to share a surprising piece of data: You don’t have an accurate perception of what 10 seconds feels like in an interaction with a young person. So count it out now, for practice. Stand in front of the mirror and ask yourself a complicated question. Now wait a full 10 seconds for the reply. One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four one thousand, five one thousand, six one thousand, seven one thousand, eight one thousand, nine one thousand, ten one thousand. Now you’ll be able to do it better in a real-life situation.

It may seem counterintuitive, but an upgrade to your interpersonal interactions entails slowing down, not speeding things up.

This article originally appeared in the Week-Ender blog, a product of Camp Business magazine. To subscribe to this content, visit

Supporting Gender Variant Youth at Camp

Posted on March 24, 2014 by Claire Bodkin

Courtesy Claire Bodkin

“Camp is a place where I can truly be myself!” As a camp director, there’s nothing better than hearing those words. But for gender variant children and youth, summer camp can be a place where rigid gender roles and gender-segregated spaces make it incredibly difficult to “be yourself”. It’s time to start the conversation about how to support gender variant children and youth in our summer camps.

Let’s start with some basic terms. Sex refers to a person’s anatomy, and can be male, female, or intersex. Gender refers to the social and cultural roles of men and women; it can be helpful to think of gender as a spectrum ranging from masculine to feminine, with lots of space in between. Many people with male sex characteristics think of themselves as men, and many people with female sex characteristics think of themselves as women. However for some people, including children and youth, their gender is different than what we usually associate with their sex. For children, this is often described as gender variant or gender creative. For youth and adults, this is often described as transgender. The key here is that every child or youth is the expert on their own gender, and has the right to express their gender on their own terms.

Before a gender variant child or youth arrives at camp, we need to do some thinking and preparing to make our spaces and programs safer for them. Do we have a policy in writing to support gender variant children and youth? Have we trained our staff to understand and support gender variant children and youth? Do we employ transgender people on our staff team? What are our legal obligations under relevant human rights code legislation? If a parent or young person approaches us and discloses that the young person identifies as gender variant or transgender, how can we work with them to live as their self-identified gender while attending our summer camp? It is respectful (and, in many places, the law) to fully recognize people as the gender they identify for themselves. This means always using the names and pronouns they prefer, ensuring they have safe access to washrooms appropriate for their gender, placing them with a camper or cabin group that reflects their gender, and much more.

Once campers arrive, we can help all children and youth by challenging gender stereotypes and encouraging them to discover their unique skills, talents, and interests. We can make sure not to have different expectations of people based on their gender. We can provide role models – from the physically strong women who lead our backcountry canoe trips, to the emotionally secure men who cry on the last day of camp. We can validate them by knowing them the way they want to be known, and reminding them that they, too, are part of what makes our camp special. And hopefully, gender variant children and youth will feel that camp is a place where they can truly be themselves.

Good Work Tree Planters!

Posted on November 4, 2013 by Catherine Ross

RKY Camp Canadian Camping Association

Courtesy RKY Camp

In summer 2013, campers from over 75 camps across Canada planted close to 20,000 trees. Regrettably, many of the Alberta seedlings were lost in the floods, which indicates the need and importance of this program. Sincere thanks to all the camp leaders who contributed to a successful planting season and Andrea Koehle Jones of the Charitree Foundation who generously supplied the seedlings.

“I never realized how much the kids would enjoy it!

“The campers loved the activity – they even named the trees: Jack, Sky, Barky and Sparkle – because it is supposed to be a Christmas tree when it grows up!

“The trees replaced a large number that we lost in a storm last year.

“The campers feel they have left their own legacy at the camp they love.”

Arlington Beach Camp Canadian Camping Association

Tree planting, courtesy Arlington Beach Camp

YWCA Tapawingo Canadian Camping Association

Courtesy YWCA Camp Tapawingo

Award Winning Camp Nurses’ Book Available

Posted on May 15, 2013 by Mike Stewart


Historica-Dominion Institute Offers Free Program Resources for Camps

Posted on April 9, 2013 by CCA Communications Committee

Historica Dominion Institute - Canadian Camping AssociationLooking for some free programming resources for your campers? Explore the Canada’s natural and cultural history with free programs for youth offered by The Historica-Dominion Institute.

Take your grade 8 campers on an adventure in any of Parks Canada’s national parks, national historic sites or national marine conservation areas – for free! The My Parks Pass program provides all grade eight/secondary II- aged students free entry to all of Parks Canada’s national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas for an entire year – including the summer! Check out for more information and to download the Parks Pass activity guide.

How much do you know about Canada? Put your campers’ Canadian knowledge to the test, and take the Canadian Citizenship Challenge for the chance to win great prizes, including a trip to Ottawa! Find out more about the Challenge at!

Explore the richness and diversity of Canada’s history and culture by booking a free speaker to visit your camp! Bring your community’s diversity to life by booking a visit from a Passages to Canada speaker to share their inspiring story of immigration and diversity, in person or via Skype. Visit for more info!

Book a speaker from the Memory Project Speakers Bureau, and invite a World War II veteran or active serviceman or woman to share their diverse military experiences with your campers:

The Historica-Dominion Institute is the largest independent organization dedicated to history and citizenship in Canada. Its mandate is to build active and informed citizens through a greater knowledge and appreciation of the history, heritage and stories of Canada. For more information on the above programs (and many more!) visit