Notes from summer camp

Each year, summer camp brings with it new scouts, new challenges, and new things to remember. This year was no exception. You would think that after going to summer camp for many years, we’d have everything all figured out, but there’s always a way to improve.

So, without further ado (whatever ado is), here’s my short list of things to add to our list for next year, based on our camp experience last week:

  • Having a schedule of which Scout is taking which merit badge is helpful. Most boys won’t remember what they signed up for, so a chart by time period is a good reminder.
  • Having a central place where information is posted is also a good idea. We put a corkboard on the inside of the trailer door, and posted the merit badge schedule, camp map, menu, general schedule, trading post hours, and duty roster on it.
  • If I had a nickel for every time a Scout asked me the time, I’d have enough money to buy an inexpensive clock to mount above the aforementioned corkboard. A crutch, yes, but another way to reduce their dependence on adults who happen to be wearing a watch.
  • We brought our weather radio with automatic alerting, tuned it to the nearest weather station, and set the alert for the county we are in. We check the weather daily and activate the standby feature if there is a threat of severe weather. Even though the camp sounds the alarm if severe weather approaches, we would still have advance notice.
  • A roll of toilet paper can come in handy when the paper in the latrine runs out in the middle of the night and the camp ranger is off duty. Bring lots of hand soap and sanitizer too.
  • Set up your phone with a way to post updates and photos to Twitter, Facebook or similar services. (We use Twitter.) Then, when the moment presents itself, take a picture of the Scouts having fun and post it for the folks back home.
  • Make sure your Scouts recognize their favorite staff members or counselors with a troop trinket of some sort. Our troop has t-shirts, flashlight carabiners, and patches. We gave a t-shirt to the camp commissioner and our camp staff troop guide. It was the boys’ decision – I handed the shirts to the SPL and they took it from there.
  • Go out on the last day and get flowers for the head of the kitchen staff, especially if they provide for any of your Scouts’ or adults’ dietary needs (kosher, vegetarian, etc). Or have flowers delivered after you return home.
  • Be grateful for the parents of first-year scouts, particularly the moms, who camp with you during the week, but take the time to remind them that one of the things that Boy Scouting does is to foster self-reliance. They may not be ready to let go, just yet, but first-year parents need to know that they should not do for their sons what they can do for themselves. This includes straightening their bunks, cleaning up the table in the dining hall, hanging up their towel, even walking them to the shower house. It should be emphasized in a pre-camp meeting, but needs to be mentioned during the week as well.
  • I think next year I’m going to get one of those t-shirts that says “Go ask your Patrol Leader” on one side, and “I am not your Patrol Leader” on the other.

If you think of any others, please feel free to leave a comment!


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2 Replies to “Notes from summer camp”

  1. “If I had a nickel for every time a scout asked me the time, I’d have enough money to buy an inexpensive clock to mount above the aforementioned corkboard. A crutch, yes, but another way to reduce their dependence on adults who happen to be wearing a watch.”

    Only person in camp with a watch or clock should be the SPL and or the Patrol Leaders. When I’m camping (weekend or summer camp) I leave my watch at home.

    “Having a central place where information is posted is also a good idea. We put a corkboard on the inside of the trailer door, and posted the merit badge schedule, camp map, menu, general schedule, trading post hours, and duty roster on it.” The camps that we go to all have a kiosk at each campsite. The fire chart gets posted there along with the daily inspections from the commissioner’s staff. The SPL put the troop roster with each Scout’s schedule there.

    Good ideas about recognizing camp staff!

  2. Larry,

    Thanks for the comment! I agree that the SPL should be running the show with the coordinated efforts of the patrol leaders. At least for our troop, though, summer camp is a lot more like school in that there is a tight schedule and the scouts (and adults) need to be aware of the time much more so than on a weekend campout. That’s why I though having a clock that everyone can refer to might be a good idea. I suppose the best response to a Scout asking me for the time is just like for every other question: “Go ask your patrol leader!” After all, we’ve gotten along for nearly 30 years of summer camp without a troop clock, and come to think of it, the camp doesn’t have a clock anywhere, other than the bugler sounding Reveille at 0700.

    In our campsite, the corkboard holds the fireguard chart, duty roster for troop duties in the camp, and the Commissioner’s checklist, and there isn’t much room for any more. That’s why we went with the corkboard on the trailer door.

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