Congratulations–you completed your summer at camp! After you’ve taken at least a little time to sleep (and shower!), one of the most productive and insightful things you can do is examine all the data from your summer. Of course, your end-of-summer survey (hopefully you have one for families and one for staff) is a great resource, but it’s just the beginning of all the things you can learn as you conclude your summer season.
Once you have the basic data covered, it’s time to take a deeper dive. With the following three data sets, you will learn a lot about what went well at your camp–and what you definitely need to change in the future.
Take out that stack of incident reports and start studying! With these, you want to look for patterns. Sometimes your incident reports reflect completely isolated incidents (like that one time that one kid needed the Heimlich Maneuver after choking on a dry bagel), and sometimes they reflect patterns (there are at least five sprained ankles every time we play Capture the Flag).
This is a great opportunity to code your data, too. Create a simple spreadsheet and capture key information from each report. For example, you could record:
- Type of incident/injury
- Name of camper(s) involved
- Time of day
- Name of supervising staff
From this, you might be able to discern some patterns. For example, perhaps incidents at your day camp occur between 4 to 5 p.m., which corresponds with pick-up time. You might realize that you need more supervision during that time of day. Digging into safety data gives you the clues you need to make important decisions—and the evidence you need to convince others to get on board.
Your Personal Narrative
This type of data might surprise you, but your point of view and reflections from the summer is some crucial qualitative data that need to be captured. Often as camp director- we are too wrapped up in the day-to-day to really take a moment to reflect. There aren’t any “rules” about how to do this—whatever works the best for you is how to get it done! For some, this may look like opening up a Google Doc and rapidly journaling about your experience for each session, writing down things to remember, things to change, and things that were hard, as well as happy memories. For someone else, this might mean opening up a voice dictation app and narrating their experience. This document or recording will become an essential asset for next summer. You can refer to it when you’re planning, and if someone else is in your role in the future, it’s something they can learn from. If you’re able, share your personal narrative with a fellow camp director at a different yet similar camp—and read theirs. Meet and provide each other with observations and feedback!
There’s a story from Zingerman’s Roadhouse, a restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The owners of the Roadhouse know that getting feedback from staff at all levels will help them run the best restaurant possible. So, they deliberately spend time getting input from all of the different folks at the restaurant. When the Roadhouse opened, many meals were served with heaps of French fries.
However, the dishwashing staff noticed that they were throwing away tons of fries each day and let the owners know. Turns out, they were serving too many fries to customers—more than the customers could eat! With this information, Zingerman’s changed its system. It starts with a smaller portion of fries and servers tell customers they will bring out more if requested. This reduced food waste and saved Zingerman’s some serious money.
At camp, you can learn from this story—and not just when it comes to food. The more information you can gather about food, handouts, or other various activities from the summer, the better you can be next year.
Start by asking your staff about what they noticed. See if you have the camp equivalent of the Zingerman’s French fry. Make sure you get information from campers and staff, too. Then, jump into the data. How much did each meal, snack, or activity cost per person? Was there a difference between different options? What special needs were represented, and how many people had certain needs? Having a full breakdown (qualitatively and quantitatively) of this summer's foodservice or activities is essential data.