Towering Pines Blog

A Peek Into Pre-Camp Staff Training

Around 30 TP staff have arrived safely to County D Road, and now the huge task of getting everybody ready for the 76th summer at Towering Pines begins. It goes without saying that some things just happen almost by themselves – the sun comes out, the sky turns blue and the cabins seem to gleam against the backdrop of pine and hardwood trees – but that’s just a small part of summer. Camp just wouldn’t be the same without the amazing people, both campers and counselors alike, who become our friends and surrogate family for just a few weeks.

Our staff this year comes from 8 states and Mexico – that’s a lot of air and road miles clocked up just getting here! Our staff are some of the best in their field, and it is a testament to Towering Pines’ reputation that they want to spend the summer sharing these skills with others. The passion, the drive and commitment of all our staff is evident and unquestionable, but how do we get everybody to come together and create a unique summer experience for the youth heading our way in a few days?  That is what pre-camp orientation is all about!

Firstly, it’s a time to make new friends and to form community and working relationships that will provide the support, guidance and instruction for our campers. Co-counselors are spending time getting cabins squeaky clean while at the same time talking about living habits and preferences.  At TP the leadership team finds that working together and playing together creates community just as it does for the campers.  So as staff work setting up the waterfront and activity areas, as well as doing general maintenance and clean-up around camp, they are learning  leadership styles and professionalism/work ethic. In addition, as activity area directors meet, they are working hard to pull all of the great ideas into a structured program, and you can be assured that this summer is looking awesome!

Secondly, it’s about acquiring or building on the skills that make for a safer, healthier and (most importantly) happier summer for us all. For new staff, this means such simple things as learning the structure of the camp day, camp expectations, and how meals work in the dining hall. There’s a range of talks from youth development professionals (we have a strong bench of educators on our team!) on issues such as camper concerns, behavior, child protection and mental health. Several TP staff members are parents themselves and this offers our college age counselors a wealth of experience they can fall back on. It’s not only about learning what to do, but also who to turn to when back-up is needed.

Finally, being perfectly honest, pre-camp orientation is also about having fun. On Friday night the large majority of staff met each other the first time. The few nervous faces quickly disappeared once we ate dinner together and were playing games to get to know each other. On Saturday evening, the Woodland staff joined us for an official welcome from the leadership team, insight into the history of both camps, and a burger/hot dog/brat cookout. After dinner we had our annual “Everybody Plays Everybody Wins” skill session with big and small group games followed by s’mores at the Counselor Cabin.

All this fun has a purpose though, whether a returner or new staff member, we all have something to learn which can make this summer absolutely AMAZING. Our intent is to be the best version of ourselves so that collectively we make camp the BEST it can possibly be. We do this by focusing on clarifying our personal values which then, in turn, helps us in upholding Towering Pines’s 5 core values. Anticipation is rising for the arrival of the campers – we wish the next few days would just hurry up as we can’t wait to meet you all!