The other day, in my capacity as a standards visitor for the American Camp Association (ACA), I visited the day camp that I attended when I was a child. I love being a part of the accreditation process for local day camps. This is my 7th year as a visitor and I hope to stay involved for years to come. For me, there aren’t many feelings that are better than stepping into a camp, especially on a beautiful spring day like it happened to be last week. This time it was even more meaningful, having spent summers at this day camp at an early age. Even with all of the updated amenities and facilities it was very recognizable. Walking through certain parts of the camp gave me the chills.
The first thing we (myself, an associate visitor and a camp director) do is sit down at this time of year and review…wait for it…paperwork. It doesn’t sound exciting, but It is very interesting to see how so many successful accredited camps and summer programs meet the standards set forth by the ACA in their own unique ways. Handbooks, charts, forms, digital documents, orientation outlines, etc., etc. How, when, what and to whom we communicate has become one of the most important parts of running any program that involves children. We looked at all sorts of certifications and written policies.
We took a quick walk around camp which was interesting because there were several projects in progress that we will get to observe the children enjoying in just a few weeks. During the summer we visit the camp up for accreditation while it is in action. We observe arrival, instructional swim, lunch procedures and many of the activities as they take place while we tour around camp checking for standard compliance. We review any paperwork not seen in the previous visit or timely items like current health forms and nurse logs. We document it all and if the timing works out, we eat lunch with the campers before we part.
In essence we have the opportunity to experience a few hours of another camp which means we watch children participating in valuable activities with interest and excitement. And in case you didn’t know, creating a camp program where children feel this way for 39 days straight is my passion. The goal of the ACA accreditation process is EDUCATION, EDUCATION & ECUATION. If we do it right, the camp being accredited, and the visitors should each walk away with ideas on how to make their respective camps even safer. I am so excited for this summer’s visit, I’m sure I will follow this up with some details when it’s complete.
If anyone out there is a camp professional and looking for a way to volunteer, I recommend becoming a standards visitor! You can share your camp knowledge and experience, keep children at all camps and summer programs safe and improve your own camp by learning from others! I can point you in the right direction- firstname.lastname@example.org.