Part of the purpose of school camp is to help young people gain confidence. Activities that take students outside their comfort zone usually come with inherent risks.
While it makes sense to expose students to a certain amount of risk to enable them to grow, it is the responsibility of the school to minimise the risk of serious harm. That responsibility can be a great weight on the shoulders of the school camp coordinators. So to lighten the load a bit, we share some of our top tips for running a fun but safe school camp.
Safety Tip #6: Assess Risks against Learning Outcomes
It’s important to be clear about your learning objectives for the camp before you start to plan activities. You can then balance risks against learning outcomes. No matter how fun and exciting an activity may be, there is no sense exposing students to risk if the activity is not going to deliver valuable learning outcomes.
Safety Tip #5: Audit student skill levels and plan accordingly
When planning camp activities with an element of risk, ensure you are clear about relevant student skill levels. For example, if you intend to go canoeing, check the swimming competence of all students well before camp. This allows you time to either reconsider the activity or help students to up-skill prior to camp. The Camp Concierge at your chosen school camp facility will be able to help you assess appropriate skills for each activity.
Safety Tip #4: Ensure all allergies are known and well communicated
Most teachers won’t need to be reminded that many foods, insect stings and medications can trigger anaphylaxis. Make sure all students provide a medical form listing any special dietary, health or medical requirements. For those with severe allergies ensure you have copies of asthma and anaphylaxis management plans. Perhaps most important, ensure that the school camp venue and staff are fully briefed on any allergy concerns.
Safety Tip #3: Make sure students are appropriately attired
It’s important that students and parents are clear about required attire before they set off for school camp. Provide a suggested packing list and highlight those items that are critical for safety, such as closed toe shoes.
Once at camp, coordinators should ensure students are correctly attired for each activity. On adventure equipment such as the Skywire or Giant Swing it’s important to avoid entanglement. So make sure students remove all jewelry, tie back long hair and tuck in clothes.
Safety Tip #2: Ensure an appropriate level of supervision
As part of the planning process consider the staff-to-student ratio appropriate for each aspect of the camp. If the student group is mixed gender you should also consider the appropriate proportion of male and female staff.
If you will be staying at a school camp facility, the Camp Concierge should be able to provide guidance on appropriate ratios. Even if a professional facilitator is managing activities, it may be necessary to have school staff on hand to ensure a safe level of supervision.
Safety Tip #1: Check qualifications and accreditations
Not all school camp centres or activities coordinators are created equal. The best way to minimise school camp risks is to make sure you choose providers carefully. Check industry accreditations and staff qualifications. Double check that all equipment is up to standard and regularly inspected and maintained. If you are relying on a camp centre, ask for references and review their safety policies.
At Coffs Coast Adventure Centre we take safety very seriously. Our equipment is regularly maintained and inspected. We can provide you with risk assessments and safety policies, as well as guiding you on ways to minimise risk. Contact our Camp Concierge for further advice and ideas to ensure a safe and happy school camp experience.