Training Days

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The excitement has officially exploded now that we’ve welcomed our full staff to Birch Trail. Roughly one hundred skilled and eager women and a dozen or so very brave men have arrived and jumped into what we fondly refer to as the organized chaos of staff orientation week. This past Sunday marked the beginning of our intense, comprehensive staff training session. There are about 80 of these college-aged women who are now at camp because this summer they will be cabin counselors, another 15 men and women who will serve as our trusty wilderness trippers, 12 administrators, and a handful of sports coaches. Add to that several nurses, the entire kitchen crew, and maintenance staff, and you can imagine the buzz of activity suddenly energizing the entire camp.

 

In addition to the directors and the staff members, we’re hearing from campers too, many of the girls who are bursting with glee to finally get to camp. And with the start of first session just a few days away, we know the feeling! But before the buses arrive, there’s still some very important work to be done up here. You see, we take start training pretty darn seriously around these parts. After all, providing your daughters with the highest quality care is our utmost priority, and we’ve learned that taking a multi-faceted approach to that care yields the most profound rewards.

 

As you know, we strive to teach our campers the value of slowing down a little, reconnecting to the natural world and to the people around us. We believe that “unplugging,” taking a break from the flicker of television, phone, and computer screens, really helps girls get more out of camp. This can be a little difficult at first, especially it seems for the teenagers (I once saw a camper actually kiss her iPhone as she said “goodbye” to it on opening day) but it only takes a day or two of camp life, of experiencing the satisfying feeling of it, to realize that fully engaging the world is so much better than the virtual abstractions technology offers. The same lesson applies to our staff members, who learn over the course of staff orientation to part with their beloved gadgets and instead put the needs and happiness of their young campers at the very forefront of their hearts and minds.

 

From there, we make sure that each staff member has a solid understanding of what goes on during BT’s day-to day activities, of course, but also of the larger scope BT philosophy. Of course, every TM counselor, Maple village director, and waterski instructor needs to know how to bandage a scraped knee as well as call for help in case of an emergency. But they also need to be very clear about how we handle things like homesickness and environmental stewardship, BT’s non-competitive spirit and our camp-wide policy of having “no mean girls.” Sometimes, these things can be equally as important as that scraped knee.

 

Collectively, we have over a hundred combined years of camp experience and more than a few good ideas for which orientation resources and activities really do bring out the best in a summer camp staff. Seven days might seem like  plenty of time to teach a group of college-age folks how to teach soccer and put a few kids to bed at night, but we try to squeeze in an awful lot of information—and fun—into the time we have before the kids arrive.

 

Our staff training sessions cover a wide range of topics from icebreakers and bonding activities, energizers and just-for-fun games, to a very unique closing activity that is sure to unite the crew together as one large family. Best of all, once we’ve acquainted our staff with these activities, they can in turn use them with campers to continue the process of building a truly connected camp.

 

The excitement is building day by day…can you feel it?

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