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Counselor Training

Why?

Passionate and prepared counselors are crucial for a successful camp session. Never overlook the value of a well-implemented, thought-out, and effective camp counselor training. Camp counselors serve as role models, leaders, guardians, friends, and comrades. This multifaceted and complex role of a camp counselor requires some thoughtful and well-timed training.

When?

The art of ‘training’ is really never a completed task. True training happens before, during, and after camp. To get you started, we recommend hosting a mandatory counselor training at least a week or two prior to your session’s departure. Since every camp session is unique, so should be its camp counselor training.

What to cover during your camp counselor training?

This sample schedule below was created for a group of approximately 30 camp counselors over one Saturday from 9am-2pm.

Time
Topic
Format

9:00 – 9:10

Ice Breakers

What better way to commence a camp meeting than replicating those first-day jitters? Before even sitting down, we like to begin the counselor training by having the group perform a few ice breaker activities. After a few rounds of ice breakers, discuss how the group felt during the activity and why ice breakers are important at camp.

Whole group activity (5 minutes)

Large group discussion (5 minutes)

9:10 – 9:15

Welcome

The official begin to the meeting. Thank everyone for coming and briefly review the agenda for today. Establish group guidelines to abide by today.

Large group discussion (5 minutes)

9:15 – 9:30

What is a community?

Break into small groups and ask the following questions:

  • To what communities do you belong?
  • What does it mean to be a part of this community?

Return to the large group and discuss how camp is our community.

Small group discussion (10 minutes)

Large group discussion (5 minutes)

9:35 – 9:40

Typical day at camp

Review what a common day at camp looks like (especially helpful for new counselors)

Large group discussion (5 minutes)

9:40 – 10:00

The first day

The first day at camp is naturally a nervous day for everyone involved – campers, parents, and counselors! We like to review the following first day topics:

  • Parent-to-counselor hand-off
  • Name games
    • Group name game activity
    • Why are they important?
  • Bus time: tips & tricks
  • Zero down time, all day!

Act out scenarios (5 minutes)

Group activity (5 minutes)

Large group discussion (10 minutes)

10:00 – 10:10

Mandated reporting

A sensitive and crucial training topic: discuss signs of child abuse & protocols for mandated reporting. A 5-minute break after this section is a good idea.

Large group discussion (10 minutes)

10:15 – 10:30

Group Dynamics: Form, Norm, Storm, Perform

Break into four groups to discuss the group dynamic theory of “Form, Norm, Storm, Perform”. Assign each group to one of the categories, and have them brainstorm what that stage looks like. Return to large group to discuss these stages of group development and what an ideal group looks like.

Small groups discussion (10 minutes)

Large group discussion (5 minutes)

10:30 – 10:35

Group Dynamics: Co-Counseling 

Good cop? Bad cop? How about neither! Discuss what makes a good duo, how to build a team together, and the truth behind yelling.

Large group discussion (5 minutes)

10:35 – 11:00

Group Dynamics: Microaggressions

Small comments can land big, especially comments about race, gender, socioeconomic status, or family dynamics. Understanding identity is integral to team building at camp. Lead an identity workshop to help counselors understand how different campers bring different personalities, traits, and identities to the camp experience.

Group activity (10 minutes)

Large group discussion (15 minutes)

11:10 – 11:25

Group Dynamics: Expectations

What do we expect from each other at camp? Break up into three groups. One group will discuss the role of the camper, one the role of the counselor, and one the role of the director. Return to large group to discuss how they all relate to each other.

Small groups discussion (5 minutes)

Large group discussion (10 minutes)

11:25 – 11:50

Common Issues at Camp

What are some of the common problems your camp faces? This activity is an excellent time to review those frequent scenarios and allow your returnee counselors to shed some expertise for new counselors. Have each counselor pick a name out of a hat and share how they might handle that particular issue or scenario.

Large group activity (20 minutes)

11:50 – 12:45

Lunch! 

Take a break for lunch, but still keep an eye out on the room. Do you have any new counselors who don’t know anyone yet? Sit with them. A counselor you haven’t seen since last summer? Catch up! Utilize this time to connect with your staff.

Large group activity (20 minutes)

12:45 – 1:05

What’s the Point? 

Why do we do what we do? At this point in the meeting, it’s a good idea to dive into the purpose of camp. Does your camp have a morning devotional/chapel? A nighttime campfire with the whole camp group? A midday break for counselors? Break into groups, assign each group with a particular part of your camp day. Return to large group to discuss the “why” behind the main aspects of your day.

Small groups discussion (10 minutes)

Large group discussion (10 minutes)

1:05 – 1:15

Outside of Camp

What’s your camp’s policy on counselor-camp interaction outside of camp? Does your camp have a social media policy? Spend some time discussing the importance of professionalism within your counseling staff. Be mindful how you do this – no one likes being “told” what to do! Empower your counseling staff to make the decisions themselves about appropriate conduct.

Large group discussion (10 minutes)

1:15 – 1:30

Special Session Information

Does your camp session have a special theme? Anything you want your counselors to know about themed meals or activities? Spend some time discussing the details of your session and close the training with the excitement of what’s to come.

Large group discussion (15 minutes)

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