Getting away from the classroom and heading to school camp is an exciting opportunity to have fun and learn some life lessons. But as the teacher organising things, it pays to be aware of the pitfalls! Delivering a great camp experience that meets your expectations won’t just happen by accident. It requires the right planning and a good dose of flexibility when things don’t go to plan. Be prepared with our top 5 school camp mistakes and how you can avoid them.
Mistake 1: No clear goals
A school camp without a purpose is just an exhausting (and noisy) holiday for students. Too many school groups fall short at achieving great things during their time away. If only they had thought about their goals early! Firstly you need to determine the specific learning outcomes you want your students to achieve, and any curriculum objectives you are expected to meet. You may want to concentrate on a particular discipline whether it’s sport, art, leadership or a mixture. Outcomes may include improving the students’ skills in communication, teamwork and problem-solving. Avoid over-committing to a long list of objectives. By focusing on your key goals it will make it much easier to design the right experience for your students, and report back on your success!
Mistake 2: A poorly designed program of activities
Arriving at camp without a well thought-out program of activities is a missed opportunity, and an awful waste of time and money! Ensure you select the right mix of daily activities into a well-designed program that will help reach your all-important goals. And make it fun! Find out in advance how much variety and flexibility is offered by different camp programs. Professional camp operators can work with you to suggest camp activities that will meet your learning outcomes and suit the students’ stage of development. Be realistic about the amount of hours you have available, so you also allow the students (and camp-weary teachers) some time to relax and do any housekeeping.
Mistake 3: Choosing the wrong location
If you haven’t checked the camp location is up to the job, you are asking for trouble. Not all school camp centres are created equal so it’s wise to check for industry accreditation, staff qualifications and any references. Closer isn’t always better and many schools accept they need to travel to find a meaningful experience for students. Relying solely on price to compare centres is risky. More expensive isn’t always better quality. Instead look at the value for money offered by taking into account the quality of activities, facilities and staff expertise. Some centres may not have as many staff, requiring you to commit more teacher support. And just because your school has gone to the same camp for years, doesn’t mean you can’t shop around. Centres change, for the better and worse, so keep up-to-date with what they offer. Finally, you will need a centre that also provides those essential risk assessments.
Mistake 4: Not preparing your students
It’s not a good start when you hop off the bus and arrive at camp only to discover students haven’t packed the right equipment. To avoid dealing with unnecessary problems, prepare your students so they can arrive at camp ready, willing and able. Ensure you brief everyone well in advance on what they can expect in terms of transport, accommodation, activities and what to pack! This will help alleviate the anxiety some families will feel. Kids will always be tempted to misbehave and push the boundaries, so establish any rules upfront and remind them so expectations are clear. Spending some time with students discussing your camp schedule will build their excitement and foster a positive attitude to your camp before it even starts!
Mistake 5: Not trusting the professionals
Once you’ve selected a professional centre for your camp, you need to trust them to do their job. Many schools have come before you so heed their advice to help you steer clear of problems. Through experience they have learnt the careful balance of challenging students to achieve, while also providing any guidance and support. Qualified activity organisers have the skills to deal with any tricky situations as they arise so trust them to do so. Having the right people running your camp can turn an ordinary excursion into a magical experience for students and teachers.
For more planning tips and to avoid these classic mistakes, check out our ultimate school camp checklist. For further advice and ideas call Lydia, our Camp Concierge. She can guide you through all the steps and help to make your school camp a success.