5 things I learned working at summer camp

By February 19, 2023Uncategorized
A staff member named Lune is posing smiling alongside her six campers in a field at summer camp.

My experiences working at summer camp gave me the tools and knowledge I needed to experience some of my favorite and most fulfilling jobs outside of Kintail! Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned on my journey from LIT to full time staff:

1. How to work with children

I’ve always loved working with youth, and I knew that I would want to pursue a career in it. Through camp, I was not only able to learn the dynamic and behaviour of each age group of campers, but I got to see it in action. I was able to use the lessons I learned during training to help my campers have a great time, and be able to problem solve very well.

These experiences allowed me to venture down new career paths, after my first summer at Kintail I worked as a children’s programer for the city of Guelph! Anyone who wants to pursue a career working with children, whether it’s as a teacher, programmer, education assistant, can gain so much from just one summer working at summer camp!

2. Catering/Hospitality 

Before camp, I didn’t really have any hospitality experience. It wasn’t until I worked my first wedding that I was able to see a new side of working at Kintail. Outside of providing great experiences for our campers, we also do another beautiful thing. We provide a site for others to gather and experience one of the best days of their lives. It’s nice to think that the same path a junior camper ran down, screaming with excitement for the beach is the same path a bride slowly walks down to their awaiting betrothed.

After realizing my passion for both sides, I started working more weddings, and was able to learn some valuable skills. These include (but are not limited to) setting up tables and dinnerware, working in a fast paced kitchen, flipping rooms, and how to be an accommodating staff member to guests. This helped me get some great jobs  working in hotels and restaurants while I was a student and the tips and tricks come in handy in my personal life to this day!

3. Planning skills 

Learning to plan for a session is probably the skill I use most. As a counselor and programmer, I would have to plan my sessions according to age and number of campers, have all the prep done, and have a backup plan if they finished the task too early. I’ve had to face the challenges of not being prepared enough to realize that it’s just better to sit down and have a plan. I got to use my planning skills while working at the Guelph Public Library, where I would organize and plan events for their summer reading club!

4. Facilitation

This skill is a step-up from planning skills. Okay, You’ve organized and prepared your session- Great! Though, how do you plan to execute it effectively for your audience? How are you going to explain your activity so that they understand their goal, and are able to take something away from it? It’s a skill that takes a while to get the hang of, and if you do it enough, you’ll be able to figure out your own rhythm and style of facilitation.

It was Kintail that helped me get started. I began by watching how my senior co-workers facilitate, and then gradually was able to apply it to my own leadership style. It’s a great skill to have in any situation. I especially used it when in school while I was studying Outdoor Education, but you’ll find that it is handy in most situations when communication comes into play.

Staff member named Thallium squats down between two male campers to match their height. All fo them sand smiling holding a marshmallow roasting stick.5. Using nature to teach myself and others

Camp has helped me realize my love for creation and nature. Love for nature isn’t a skill, but using it as a tool to educate others definitely is. Watching  campers play and experience nature was an eye opening experience for me. It made me realize that the great outdoors is a powerful place, where we can provide core experiences for campers and students who may not get to appreciate this at home. Kids can come to camp and learn some really cool outdoor living skills, skills that they may remember for the rest of their lives. I still remember the first time I learned how to build a fire with “Birch” when I was a young camper. That lesson has stayed with me until today, and I am excited and blessed to get to provide that to campers who were just like me.

Thanks for reading, and I truly hope that the staff for years to come look back at their time working at summer camp and see how valuable it is. The friendships, memories, and skills gained are so unique to this industry and I hope many more people experience even just one summer of it before they settle into their chosen career. Who knows? Maybe summer camp will be the career your never expected after all.
See you soon!
Julia “Lune” McIsaac

About Lune

Julia “Lune” McIssac joined the year-round staff as the Summer Camp Director in 2022. Julia has been a camper, LIT, summer staff, and fall staff at Camp Kintail. She recently completed an Outdoor Education program at Sir Sanford Fleming College. Her home congregation is St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Guelph. Julia is creative and loves spending time in arts and crafts as well as leading hikes and teaching about nature.