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Camp Planning: Overcoming the Rut

This is a guest post by Christine Stuart.

Finding it tough to think about your camp theme while trudging through snow and slush?

Often, the most difficult part of summer planning is finding inspiration to develop new, creative concepts. Many camps run similar programs each year, relying heavily on tweaking past themes or storylines to engage returning campers.

Follow this brainstorming model to beat the rut.

Identify Program Outcomes

What is your goal for the summer? Do you want campers to increase feelings of connection to their peers? Empower them to self-regulate their emotions or resolve their own conflicts? Be as specific as possible with these outcomes and be sure they align with your broader mission.

Take a Look Back

Working backwards will ensure that the actual activities, songs, or themes your staff facilitate will lead to your intended outcomes. Have you seen your campers connect through imaginative, unstructured free-play? Did last summer’s superhero characters create conversations about resiliency and persistence? Use your experiences to guide this portion of the brainstorm and make note of themes in your lists.

Brainstorm Session

After identifying activities that lead to intended outcomes, move to a creative space. A coffee shop, the camp dining hall, or a park – physically move into a space that makes you feel unrestricted and creative. Allow this process to be organic and write down every idea you have. I once wrote down “shoot flaming arrow over the lake” during a brainstorm. Don’t lose the enthusiasm, even if the ideas seem unrealistic! If you’re feeling stuck, use Google images or Pinterest to spark new ideas.

Step Away, Return Later

Why? Research shows that procrastinators are more productive and creative. Work diligently to brainstorm ideas for a few hours, then shut your notebook and walk away. While you’re waiting, listen to Adam Grant’s TedTalk on original thinking.


Christine Stuart is a camp program director, writer, and facilitator with a passion for designing imaginative, inclusive, and impactful camp designs. She currently lives in Connecticut with her springer spaniel, usually in pursuit the world’s best cookie.




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