10 Key Questions to Ask a Summer Camp Director
A List of Questions to Help Families Evaluate Their Summer Camp Options
Updated Sept. 16, 2009, 5:18 p.m.
Help your child have a healthy and happy experience at summer camp by asking some of these questions when evaluating camp programs.
1. What is the camp's philosophy and programming structure?
When choosing a summer camp, it's important to consider your child's ideal learning style and environment, and decide if the camp's philosophy and structure is a good match for them. Some camps offer structured programming that is pre-scheduled by the camp, while others offer entirely free-choice programs where campers choose their own activities. Ask the director what their philosophy is on programming, competition, and rules/boundaries. Their philosophy should not only be congruent with your parenting style, but with your child's personality and learning style as well.
2. How is staff hired, screened and trained?
Confidence in those who will be taking care of your camper is extremely important. Some questions to ask: Who interviews the staff? How involved is the process? What are the criteria for staff members? How are they screened? Are there background checks in place? Does the camp utilize best practices in these areas? What is the return rate of counselors? What are their ages? Are staff trained in safety regulations, emergency procedures and communications, behavior management techniques, child abuse prevention, appropriate staff and camper behavior, and specific procedures for supervision? Do they receive additional training from child development professionals? Knowing who will be working with your camper on a day-to-day basis will not only assure safety and happiness, but allow you to rest easy knowing that your child is in well-qualified hands.
3. What measures does the camp take to ensure the safety of the campers?
Safety should be of paramount importance at any camp. The directors answer to this question should provide you with confidence that the camp is well equipped (on-site) or has a strategy in place to ensure quick and competent emergency response and everyday wellness treatment. You should also inquire about the camp's safety procedures, risk-management standards (buddy systems, cabin checks, curfews), and the guidelines set for campers (boundaries, water safety, etc.).
4. What type of settings and accommodations are available?
Ask for information regarding where your camper will be living. What is the dining hall like? What food options are provided? How many campers will be sleeping in each cabin? What types of bunks are provided? Where is the bathhouse? Knowing what to expect before getting to camp will help your child adjust smoothly.
5. What is the camps return rate?
A high percentage of return indicates happy campers. Campers that return to a camp summer after summer are a reflection of the personnel, administration, overall ambiance, experience and sense of community the camp provides.
6. What type of child would succeed at this camp?
You know your child the best, so you are in the best position to judge what type of camp would best suit him or her. Be sure to know what type of camp you are looking for in order to direct your question properly. Are you seeking a traditional and varied camp program, or a camp where campers hone a particular set of skills or talents? Does your child want a summer filled with sports and physical activity, or one filled with arts and creative activity? What is the competitive nature of the camp? Some camps promote competitiveness while others focus on cooperative learning. A description of a typical day at camp can be a good tool to help you decide. Be sure to then match your child's personality to the appropriate camp's program.
7. What is the camps staff-to-camper ratio?
This ratio indicates the overall level of supervision your camper will receive on a daily basis while at camp. It is important to find out if the camp meets or exceeds the American Camp Association (ACA) standards. At resident camps, the ACA expects one staff member for every 6 campers ages 7 and 8; one staff for every 8 campers ages 9-14; and one for every 10 campers ages 15-17.
8. Is the camp accredited?
The American Camp Association (ACA) is a national association that evaluates camps based on 300 different health, safety, and program criteria. The ACA examines the living accommodations, food service, emergency preparedness, program practices, health care, personnel, transportation, and administrative procedures of each camp that seeks accreditation. If the camp is not accredited, be sure to ask whythough unaccredited camps are not necessarily bad camps.
9. How are disciplinary actions handled?
If penalties are involved for behavior problems, what are they? What boundaries does the camp set for campers? Positive reinforcement and fair treatment are qualities parents should look for when choosing a summer camp.
10. What does the Camp Director want the campers to take away with them at the end of their camping experience?
The Camp Director's answer to this question will reveal the overall values and philosophies of the camp. The Camp Director should be able to talk freely and avidly about such things with vivid detail, thus enabling you to gain a true understanding of the experience your camper will have during the summer.
Reporting by Ali Caleca - Choice Camps Staff.