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Camp Session Themes

When you’re thinking about camp skits and camp songs, or icebreakers and training material, how do you know what to choose? How do all these pieces of a camp session fit together to form the whole session? Camp is made up of a million little parts – from the people (campers, counselors, directors, staff, etc.) to the activities (rock climbing, hiking, swimming, etc.), each part is integral to the whole. So, what ties everything together? How do you make a camp feel whole? Having a theme for the camp session can help tie everything together. A camp theme can help narrow down all the individual decisions you make in building your camp session. Knowing your whole camp theme can help you narrow down a decision such as, should we sing “yeah toast” or “boom chicka boom“? Or a decision such as having chicken stir fry or spaghetti for dinner on Tuesday night. Once you have your camp theme, a good question to ask yourself while building your camp session is, “how does this activity or this meal theme fit into our overall theme?”.

The exciting part of leading a camp session is the creativity that comes with building it. To make things easy, we characterize “camp themes” into three different types of themes: the “themey” camp session theme, the “half-themey” camp session theme, and the “no-theme” camp session theme. Below is a breakdown of each.

The extra "Themey" Camp session Theme

The extra “themey” camp session theme leaves little room for flexibility but can be fun if done correctly. These themes might be based on a movie, or something that the campers are intimately familiar with. For example, a “Star Wars” themed camp session would fall under this category. Each day can be based on a different movie, for example, one of the days can be titled “Return of the Jedi.” Your first camp activity for that day (say, morning chapel or devotionals) can be titled “The Way of the Jedi” touching on elements of heroism, selflessness, and fighting for the greater good. A meal theme can be “Dinner with Jabba the Hut” and a large group game can be called “Bounty Hunter” (i.e., Capture the Flag).

Pros
  • “Themey” camp themes can be fun for campers, especially for ones that are fans of the theme.
  • It is easier to market these themes because campers are already bought in to the concept.
  • These themes can be easier to plan for novice directors since the topic can provide a roadmap to planning, and lots of content that has already been established by movies, books, or ideas.
Cons
  • “Themey” themes like “Star Wars” typically require substantial planning and prep in order to incorporate the thematic elements that already exist.
  • These types of themes can be costly, due to the amount of props that need to be purchased or made.
The Half "Themey" Camp Session Theme

These camp themes are best for camp directors who are more experienced or creative. Essentially these camp themes have some sort of umbrella element that dictates the thematic components of the session but leave more flexibility for how they are planned. For example, a half themey camp session theme can be “A week in the woods” with the chapel sessions revolving around the connection between humans and nature. You might read a poem by Robert Frost during campfire, have an outdoor lunch, and play a “wilderness survival” game, such as fort building, during the session at some point.

Pros
  • These themes can leave more room for flexibility and creativity.
  • These themes can be less costly than the “Themey Camp Session Theme” since less props and decor is needed.
Cons
  • “Themey” themes like “Star Wars” typically require substantial planning and prep in order to incorporate the thematic elements that already exist.
  • These types of themes can be costly, due to the amount of props that need to be purchased or made.
The No Theme Camp Theme

The name says it all in this type of theme. These themes are reserved for the purists, the camp directors who want to reminisce of “the way things used to be”, and sometimes, the camp directors who are burned out on themes. Having no camp theme can allow for ultimate flexibility but can also be a bore for some campers.

Pros
  • These themes can leave more room for flexibility and creativity.
  • These themes can be less costly than the “Themey Camp Session Theme” and the “Half Theme Camp Theme” since less props and decor is needed.
Cons
  • These themes can be more difficult to market, since campers are not sure what to look forward to.
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