Making Friends at Camp

In a world where it’s easy to feel like a number, we think it’s important for kids to experience being part of a small, nurturing summer camp community.  At Maine Arts Camp we make it a priority to get to know all of our campers, starting with learning their names. Think of how powerful it can be when someone knows your name.  Ever walk into a restaurant or a store where the owner says, “Nice to see you again, Mr. Smith?”  You feel pretty special, don’t you?

As many people know, it can be difficult to remember names, especially shortly after you meet someone. For some people it comes naturally; for others it takes work.  I have to admit, I fall into the latter group.  However, I am willing to put in the effort, and it’s always gratifying when I learn new ways to do this.  One tool that has always worked for me at camp, is the one we use to help campers and staff learn each other’s names the first night. We play name games! There are so many versions of these games, and there’s a good reason they’re used at all kinds of team building events worldwide: they work! Usually you’re in a circle, and you take turns individually saying your name along with a word and maybe an action or object that people can associate with you.  As silly and corny as it may seem, the next time you see those people, you’re more likely to remember their names.

The problem for me at camp is that I can usually only get to one group’s name game. We’re a small camp, but we do divide up into dorm groups the first night to do ice breaker games. So, I might get a group of names under my belt the first night, but then what do I do? Well, there are always the name tags our campers wear around their necks on a lanyard so I can discreetly try to look at that when I’m talking to a camper, or when I see them from a short distance away. Another good method I’ve learned is to take the class rosters with me the first few days of camp as I check in on the activities. That way if I go into an art class or a dance, theatre or cooking class, I can connect the names with the faces in small groups, which is always easier to digest than when everyone is together.

As camp director, Rick, and I both proceed with our methods of learning campers’ names in the early days of each camp session, we try to have fun with it, too. When we’re in those larger group situations, such as in the dining hall or at free time, we start to quiz each other to see who knows which name.  Sometimes we can even share some great hints to associate a camper with their name.  Other staff who we eat meals with can be very helpful to us during these times since they see the campers in their activities every day and learn those groups of kids’ names quickly.

A great reinforcement for learning and remembering camper names happens on the days when all our campers have to hand in a letter they’ve written to their parents as their ticket to get into dinner. Rick and I sit outside the dining hall with a complete list of camper names, and we check them off as they hand in their letters.  We try to remember their names without peaking at their nametag or the address on the envelope they’re handing us.  It’s very satisfying when we can successfully do this!

Of course, learning the campers’ names is just the tip of the iceburg.  Truly getting to know each child and teen as a person is what counts, and that happens on so many levels at Maine Arts Camp.  Our staff get to know our campers very well, especially if they live in their dorm or teach them in activities.  Parents can attest to this by the very personal letters they receive from a counselor, telling all about their child’s experience at camp.  Getting to know everyone is an intentional part of the culture at Maine Arts Camp.  Because we limit our enrollment to a maximum of 115 campers per session, each one receives a lot of personal attention.  This might mean improved skills in painting, pottery or dance class, or it might mean success in working through an issue with making friends.  Regardless, it means improved self-esteem and a successful summer camp experience.

To see our 2012 rates and dates, please visit our website: www.maineartscamp.com. To find out if we might be a good fit for your child or teen, please give us a call! (561) 865-4330.

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