“Why does anyone like you? How do you have any friends?”
My eyes shot open. I’d tried to take a quick nap during rest period, and I was awoken by these awful words from a group of girls to one specific girl in our cabin. Yikes. I jumped out of bed to deal with it. Rest period had not gone as planned.
In the last few weeks (after reading a lot of Basic Camp Management – if you haven’t, please read!), I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can be intentional in our programming. I want to think about every part of the day in-depth nstand make it the absolute best it can be. I’ll go into that in more detail in the next blog, so stay tuned!
But combining this intentionality with some recent youth development books I’ve read, I found myself first focused on rest period – a time of day I believe is important in a schedule, but a time of day I have some not-so-fond memories of from my years as a counselor (like the one mentioned above). At one camp, each day when I would announce rest period, the staff would follow by yelling “best period!” Their fake enthusiasm helped make light of what many of them considered their least favorite part of the day. So how do we make rest period really be the best period? I’ve got some ideas.
Help campers transition.
Put yourself back in the shoes of a 10-year-old first-time camper, and think of how you’d feel. You’ve had an action-packed morning, you’ve just come from lunch, where everyone was singing and screaming, and you return to your cabin, where your counselor says “Everyone get in your own bed. You can whisper, but don’t be loud.” You and your friends start with whispers, but it gets louder and louder. A few minutes later, the same counselor probably says, “BE QUIET,” and this cycle likely repeats over and over. Or at least that’s how it worked in most of my cabins.
By this point in their lives (especially if it’s Week 3 or 4), staff and their bodies have learned how to rest when they need it – despite the crazy things going on around them. Most campers haven’t. So when we tell them to get in their own beds or be quiet right after they’ve spent all day getting wound up, it just doesn’t work. It’s important that all staff understand this because once they do, they have options!
Instead of coming right in to rest, have your counselors plan a transition that they’ll use each day. They could do highs and lows right after lunch, they could grab their guitar and play slow songs, they could do a short craft – they could do just about anything low-energy! The options are endless. Low-energy activities help transition campers out of GO, GO, GO, into rest. Sure, it might take 10 minutes out of the time staff could be resting, but if it works, they’re likely to get more quality rest.
If you’re reading this as a director, you have options your staff probably doesn’t. You control the schedule. You can move things around. Previously, our devotions have taken place at night. I really thought about this, and I realized that with showers on everyone’s brain, devotion at night probably wasn’t extremely effective anyway. So I changed our schedule and put devotion between lunch and rest period. I added 30 minutes of devotion to ensure that counselors didn’t rush through it to get to sleep. My hope (fingers crossed) is that devotion will help wind everyone down and allow them to get some actual rest.
Even with switching the schedule around or planning low-energy activities, it’s unlikely that everyone in the cabin will actually rest. Sure, we can tell them to get in their own beds and keep it to a whisper, but I’m betting there will still be at least a few who gradually get louder and louder, making it an unpleasant experience for staff and other campers.
So how do we fix it? We don’t make them do something they don’t want to do. Instead of sending all the campers to bed, we can come up with other quiet options to occupy their time – things like write a letter, work on a random act of kindness for someone, play a board game, read a book, sit on the porch and talk, or something else! These options not only help guide campers into activities that are acceptable to the counselors, but they also give campers a sense of independence.
Again, directors have more options. I’ve decided to open our hammock cove for rest period and provide that option to our campers. Of course, we’ll have to place staff to cover it, but at least it gives campers another option and (hopefully) gets some of the rest period disrupters out of the cabin. I’m brainstorming some other low-energy activities that will still allow campers to physically rest while not confining them to their bunks. Right now, I’m thinking open up our gym for people to do arts and crafts or read and keeping our new downtown-like area open. If you’ve got more ideas, PLEASE shoot them over to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave them in the comments!
Important Note: Obviously, opening up activities could backfire. Before you write me off as crazy and roll your eyes thinking, “Our counselors would just send everyone out of the cabin,” keep reading. I firmly believe that if we have the right people as counselors and we’ve done a good job training them on the intentions behind this, they won’t do that. And if they do, pull them aside the first day it happens. Problems (hopefully!) solved.
I’ve got a few more ideas on the subject (like a supervision rotation schedule), and I’ve made a handout you can give your staff. You can find those here on Patchwork Marketplace.
I’m incredibly excited about these changes, and I hope you are, too! Leave ideas or thoughts in the comments.
Shoutout: If you’re not already on Patchwork Marketplace, you should be! It’s Teachers Pay Teachers for camp. Get tons of ready-to-use resources that easily fit in your budget!