A successful summer camp is a safe summer camp. Of course, summer camps should be fun and exciting for children but the number one priority should always be safety. Parents and caregivers trust you and your staff with the wellbeing of their children.
Effectively training, frequently evaluating, and constructively correcting your camp counselors is one of the best ways to ensure your camp will be as safe as possible. In this guide, we will outline how to train your counselors as well as staff evaluation best practices. We also provide a downloadable summer camp staff evaluation template that you can adapt for your own use.
- Camp counselor training
- Camp counselor and staff evaluation best practices
- Summer camp staff evaluation template
Camp counselor training
Effectively training your camp counselors is the first step towards providing a safe experience for your campers. We recommend checking out expert advice and opinions from the American Camp Association (ACA) as you plan your camp counselor training program.
The ACA compiled a manual of evidence-based guidance of summer camp training. In this document, they review research on camp counselor training, including competencies that staff should learn, the ways that certain characteristics of the staff affect effectiveness, and even summer camp staff training agenda and structure.
When you develop your camp counselor training program, follow these tips to make sure the information sticks with your staff.
- Focus on safety as the number one priority. Camp counselors are often young adults who might be working their first job or taking care of children for the first time. They probably see how fun camp is and want to join in. However, you really need to hammer in that safety is what matters. Their job is to keep the campers safe.
- Make your training interactive. People learn more when they interact with the materials. Just like you would in a classroom with children, build activities and games into your lessons so that your staff stays engaged.
- Repeat training often. Obviously a lot of camp counselor training needs to happen before the campers arrive. However, as the summer goes on, counselors might start feeling more relaxed and comfortable, which can open up holes for unsafe behavior. Keep your counselors on their toes by having repeat training sessions every 2 weeks throughout the summer.
- Encourage open communication. When counselors and staff feel comfortable coming to you and other administrators, you open the door for important conversations. Establish a feedback loop so counselors know how to share concerns and address issues with you and other higher ups.
Looking for support developing your summer camp safety procedures? Our guide has everything you need!
Camp counselor and staff evaluation best practices
Camp counselor and staff evaluations help keep your counselors on track with their training. They are also important for you to know how each counselor is doing and where you can provide support, if needed. Here are some counselor and staff evaluation best practices.
- Evaluate often. Like training, running camp counselor and staff evaluations multiple times throughout the summer is a good way to remind counselors that their job is to keep their campers safe.
- Provide constructive feedback. Evaluations should be useful for your counselors. Feedback should be constructive. The goal is to help the counselors grow and improve in their roles.
- Celebrate good work. While constructive feedback is obviously important, evaluations need to be a mix of positive and negative comments. You don’t want demoralized counselors. Instead, make sure staff members are celebrated for their good work so that they feel ready to take on the improvements.
- Go somewhere private and take your time. Staff evaluations are serious and should be treated that way. Make sure counselors are given plenty of time to read and talk through their evaluations. Perform them in a private space without campers around when there is plenty of time to go through each point.
- Open up a dialogue. Allow for back-and-forth during the evaluation. Counselors should feel comfortable asking questions and getting clarity on certain scores and comments. They should feel encouraged to push back and offer their opinions on certain situations (respectfully and appropriately).
Summer camp staff evaluation template
Now that you know how to train your counselors as well as evaluation best practices, it’s time to prepare your summer camp staff evaluation forms! Use our downloadable summer camp staff evaluation template as a jumping off point for your evaluations this summer.
Download our staff evaluation template
Ensuring the safety of your campers requires work and preparation, but with the right support and research, you can make this summer fun and safe for everyone. If you are looking to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time on the fun side of running a camp, Sawyer is the best camp registration and management software for both in-person and online camps.
With our suite of tools, like custom forms to record allergies and t-shirt sizes, flexible payment options like gift cards and installment plans, and seamless registration on any device, Sawyer saves camp owners 28 hours per month. If you are ready to spend less time on admin and more time doing what you love, see how Sawyer can help with a free trial or demo. Interested but not sure how to start a summer camp? Check out our ultimate camp guide!