Posts by James Davis

“I’m a dude,” he said. Lessons from a Transgender Summer Camper. 0

“I’m a dude,” he said. Lessons from a Transgender Summer Camper.

Posted by on Aug 21, 2014 in featured, Summer Camp Culture Ideas

What I learned about kids, camp, and myself from a camper who “came out” as transgender. All names changed to ensure privacy. This summer we had the pleasure of working with a young man who has spent his whole life being called a girl. You can’t blame people, I suppose. After all, he was born with female anatomy. But that inner voice inside his head? It had been telling him something else. His birth certificate says, “Christine,” but he prefers Chris. He preferred Chris last summer, too, but never told us why. You see, until this summer, only a few people knew that Chris identifies as a male. When he came to camp this summer, he told his counselor on the first day that he was a male, but asked that counselor not to share. On the second day of camp, the counselors in Chris’ lodge had all the campers seated, and were asking the campers if there was anything they thought the group should know about them to help everyone have the best time possible. You know – pet peeves, stuff that grosses them out, or to warn other people that they snore. That’s when Chris piped up. “I’m a dude,” he began, “And I don’t care if...

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Helping Kids Realize They’re Good 0

Helping Kids Realize They’re Good

Posted by on Jun 6, 2014 in featured, Summer Camp Culture Ideas

The 5 Silver Bullets to Ending Bullying Part 3: Growth Mindset Acknowledgement When we talk about bullying, we so frequently get bogged down in dealing with it once it’s already happened. And even a lot of the preventative measures that are suggested seem to be “band-aid” measures. Let me explain what I mean. I recently spoke with Dr. Randall Grayson (the director of the magical Camp Augusta) regarding different counseling techniques, and he emailed me the following: “There is nothing wrong with one’s self-expression of beliefs, as long as it is not offered OR heard with the idea that following such a belief is to be done BECAUSE of who I am, or someone else is, or some power structure. A change in behavior due to respect and rapport is quite different than one due to desiring/contingent relationship or favor, or blind obedience.” In other words: We don’t want kids to behave because they’re worried about what we think of them. A powerful statement, and contrary to a lot of what I’ve read (and taught!). But as I worked the idea over in my mind, I realized it was very much in line with a lot of what I already believed. A person’s behaviors are only modified in the...

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How do summer camps avoid becoming stagnant? 0

How do summer camps avoid becoming stagnant?

Posted by on May 18, 2014 in featured, Summer Camp Culture Ideas

The real keys to a dynamic summer camp culture If you’ve been a part of any camp for long enough, you’ve inevitably seen someone bristle at the idea of changing something about that camp. Sometimes it’s a big thing (should we do small group camping, or large group camping?). Sometimes, it’s a smaller thing (should we hold swim checks on Sunday, or Monday?). Either way, change at camp is hard. We love our camps, and we don’t want to lose who we are, and what has made our camp something special. But how do we keep being “us” while not growing stagnant? The answer may just be found in developmental psychology. Changing our mindsets In 2006, Carol Dweck wrote a book called Mindset, which has fueled no shortage of discussions at camps and other institutions across the country. If you haven’t read the book, a great summary can be found here. Essentially, she puts forth that there are two ways of conceiving of ourselves – via the lens of having a “fixed mindset” or a “growth mindset.” Fixed mindset folks tend to view human beings as static. In other words, they believe that people are born with a certain amount of intelligence, or creativity, or work ethic, and that...

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Demystifying the Secrets of Paid Advertising Online for Summer Camps 2

Demystifying the Secrets of Paid Advertising Online for Summer Camps

Posted by on Apr 25, 2014 in featured, Summer Camp Marketing Ideas

Bring more kids to summer camp, but only if you don’t screw it up the way I have! The world of online advertising is downright scary. Purchasing nebulous “clicks” and “views” was enough to give this traditional marketer fits when I first threw my hat into the ring of online advertising. While we had some nice successes along the way, we had some fairly epic failures as well. I’m here to share with you the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m going to break down the three ways we’ve attempted to pay for advertising online, and our various successes and failures with each. I’m here to take the mystery away from online paid advertising – this stuff really works if you know which choppy waters to avoid, and which low hanging fruit to pick. Luckily I’ve gotten chopped up quite a bit on my way to picking some delicious advertising fruit, and I’ll share the details of my experiences with you for free 🙂 The 3 ways we’ve paid for advertising online are Facebook advertisements, Google Adwords, and standard banner ads with a local newspaper’s website (syracuse dot com). If you want to skip ahead to either of those sections, go for it. No? Let’s start with some...

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Five Silver Bullets to Stopping Bullying: Step 2 – Allow for Mixed-Age Interactions 0

Five Silver Bullets to Stopping Bullying: Step 2 – Allow for Mixed-Age Interactions

Posted by on Apr 18, 2014 in featured, Summer Camp Culture Ideas

A lesson learned from our ancestors on the benefits of mixing ages at summer camp If you missed Step 1 – Transcending Supervision, Check it. The segregation of children into age-specific groups has become so ubiquitous in our society that we hardly even notice it anymore. From the time children are born, they are placed into care with other children of a similar age. Whether it happens in school, or sports, or camp – the message that association with others of the same age is normal is reinforced again and again. Thus, when I first encountered an article about mixed-age play, I was dubious. Why, if there were so many benefits to mixing kids of different ages, was society so rigidly structured for age segregation? I had the usual list of objections, as well. Wouldn’t the older kids be bad influences on the younger kids? Mightn’t they bully them? Would it even be fun for anyone involved to have all those young or old kids around, at completely different developmental stages? Well, I was pretty set in my ways until I encountered this now famous video by Ken Robinson and the folks behind RSA animate. It shined a light on how crude it was to force children to move...

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