Other Programming

Sign Language – A Camp Program Anyone Can Run

Last Updated on

A friend of mine used to run a sign language class for the YMCA she worked at, and she didn’t really know sign language. She used sign language learning DVDs for kids.

Then I thought, “Why couldn’t you do the same thing at a camp?”

Side Story…

I took a semester of sign language in college. I really enjoyed it. I decided to take the class after I attended an American Camp Association conference or training (I can’t remember which). There was a camp there that was giving a talk on what it’s like to work at a deaf camp. It was very interesting. They had some great stories.

The camp was out in the woods, as most resident camps are, and on one sunny day all the campers and staff had just come out of the dining hall after a fine camp meal. Located right outside of the dining hall was this large grassy field that ended at the tree line leading into the woods. One of the campers spotted something at the tree line and started running right towards “IT” with a big smile. A few other campers followed after they had seen it too.

“It” was a bear.

Unlike the bears that the campers imagined, like Yogi Bear, this one was wild and probably didn’t want a bunch of young humans to run up to it and start petting it.

Now remember that this was a camp full of hearing impaired kids, so staff couldn’t just yell “Stop!” or “Don’t go near the bear. It’s dangerous!” One of the male campers was the first to act. Unfortunately, the campers got a good start on him. This brave counselor started running as fast as he could right towards the bear, who was stopped and looking at the campers. As the counselor got closer he noticed that there were cubs nearby. He realized that this situation had gone from bad to worse. A mother bear is extremely protective and aggressive. The counselor overtook the campers, turned around and stopped them before they got too close. Crisis averted.

…end of Side Story

Anyway, my friend, Susan, decided that instead of canceling a sign language contract class that the contract instructor decided not to teach, she would take the suggestion of a parent and get DVDs that taught kids sign language from a company called Signing Time.

Susan decided to try it out. She went to the website and found what she needed to run the class. She told me that she got a few Baby Signing Time DVDs for their Mommy and Me program and Series One for the K-2nd grade program. She just puts in the DVD and follows the instructions along with the kids. She has also created a couple of games to play after the DVD lesson. Apparently the kids and parents love it.

The DVDs seem to be for younger kids. I don’t know if they have some for older kids or not, but they can be used as a basis for a signing program for all ages, I’m sure. You could also go to YouTube and save yourself the money of DVDs. There are some channels on YouTube that are nothing but sign language tutorials.



  • This is disgusting! How dare you! This is why Deaf people have been oppressed for as long as they have been because you think teaching a complex nuanced language is about buying DVDs and copying what they do? Hell use Google translate and teach Spanish instead. You disgust me!

    • Hi Sabrina, thank you for your comment. I’m not sure where the hostility is coming from for introducing young kids to ASL via DVDs or YouTube tutorials. People learn all sorts of things all the time from videos. In fact, video allows professional instructors to reach a larger audience instead of having someone teach kids who simply took a few classes, which happens A LOT in youth programming. There is no malice intended. This post wasn’t meant to disgust anyone. Quite the contrary. It was meant to introduce kids to the wonderful language of ASL in communities where there are no professional instructors available. The more kids (and adults) are exposed (even in small ways) to other cultures, the better the world will be. I am guessing that you have experience with ASL. Maybe you are an interpreter and/or teacher. I am absolutely open to posting a guest article by you about the correct way to introduce youth to ASL in a summer camp environment where the kids are there for just a week or two. Just let me know.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.