Many of us look forward to summer, especially in Wisconsin. It means longer days, warmer weather, and for some, summer camp! Whatever summer camp means to you - day or overnight camp, wilderness trips, school-based programs, etc., camp can be a positive and life-changing experience for campers and staff when designed and implemented with intentionality. 

Now you might be thinking, life-changing for staff? Aren’t they the ones in charge of making it life changing for children? While the answer is yes, many of our staff are often new or have limited experience in this space. Staff rarely come to us fully trained and well-versed in their job. To complicate matters even more, recent studies and polling suggest that “soft skills” (interpersonal skills, communication, relationship building, critical thinking, etc.) are more important now than ever in the workforce but employers are seeing large gaps in these skills in employees. Relationship building is just one core element to success when working with children. Knowing how to lead a craft activity is important, but getting your campers to listen, manage their behavior, and understand their needs are all a part of making that activity work. If staff had been coming in with a deficit in that area, imagine how the last few years have exacerbated that issue. The changing landscape of more opportunities for work/school from home, zoom calls, and limited daily interaction with actual humans, it’s no wonder our “soft skills” have taken a step back. Remember the first time you interacted with someone in a social setting after Covid restrictions started loosening? Woof. It was a little awkward and strange at best. So now consider how our campers and staff may have continued to be limited in their in-person interactions because, at times, it is easier, costs less, and is more convenient. In addition, I have been hearing that along with having a hard time interacting with others and building relationships, staff often do not have “basic” skills like how to clean, follow a schedule, or maintain healthy sleeping habits. That is a lot to think about.