When we talk about the power of camp and classes and they're important, we often implicitly or explicitly say that they’re for everyone — that every child deserves the experience and that attending camp or extracurricular classes is beneficial for everyone.
But is that really true? Does every participant who comes through your doors feel like they belong and like it belongs to them? Most likely the answer is no. Making sure everyone belongs and truly feels included takes constant and ever-evolving work. These seven affordable ways will get you started on the way to ensuring your camps and classes are more inclusive to anyone who wishes to participate.
1. Educate Yourself and Your Team
Inclusion starts with education. People at every level of your organization need to understand the basics of inclusion, why it’s important and what it looks like for your specific programs. Year-round leaders need to constantly educate themselves so they can create the best policies, and seasonal leaders need fresh training on inclusion practices as often as possible.
Outside trainers often have options that are more affordable than you’d think. You can also split costs with other nearby camps, organizations or schools, and it’s possible to find sponsors or grants for these types of training.
You can educate yourself and your team by doing things that are as inexpensive as finding organizations that share free information and following their social media and websites. Great places to start are Transplaining, S’More Melanin, OAAARS or any on this list from the Diversity & Inclusion Speakers Agency.
2. Look at Your Language
It costs nothing to change your language, and we can’t stress the importance of it. Take a look at your website, social media, forms — everywhere you communicate — and make sure the language you use aligns with your inclusion policies.
Another affordable language-related idea is to look at the language on your website. There are free plugins for Squarespace and WordPress that make it easy to translate your website, thus making it more inclusive.
3. Provide Camp Supplies
Packing lists can be way more daunting than you may realize, and they can even be a barrier for kids hoping to attend camp. Take a look at your packing list and minimize it as much as possible. For everything that campers have to have, think about creative ways to provide it.
A long-time camp family from YMCA Camp Ernst worked to create Project Campfire as a way to remove these barriers. They collected items and donations to provide essentials, from sleeping bags and pillows to body wash and more.
However, providing supplies doesn’t just matter for sleepaway camps. If your camp, class or program requires any sort of special equipment — whether it’s sports equipment, technology or art supplies — consider alternative ways to provide it to participants in need.
4. Create More Private Spaces
Inclusion and belonging conjure up pictures of togetherness, but in reality, inclusion and belonging can also mean privacy. What spaces do you have at your facilities for participants to change privately? Is it an inconvenience for individuals to access those spaces? What about spaces for participants who just need a minute away from people? Do you have spaces where they can take that time and still fulfill your supervision requirements?
5. Add Restorative Justice Practices
Many organizations use behavior management techniques they’ve used for years, and as our campers (and staff) evolve, more folks are saying these techniques just aren’t working.
A great, more inclusive approach to conflicts at your camps or in your classes is restorative justice. Very briefly, restorative justice is a way to heal harm, mitigate future harm and build community. It aims to give everyone impacted an equal voice, which is why it’s a great tool for inclusion.
6. Conduct a Self-Audit
Sometimes it takes really looking at policies, procedures and everything in between them to get a good read on where you stand with inclusion. There are organizations that can guide you through this with an audit, and many are more affordable than you’d think. If you do research and still find those outside your budget, you can conduct a self-audit. This free one (not specific to camps) can get you started and be on the lookout this fall for self-audit resources from The Summer Camp Society.
7. Be Transparent With Where You Stand
A great step in being inclusive is being transparent. If your organization isn’t ready to handle different dimensions of diversity, it’s important to say that upfront. Think about adding an inclusion page to your website that outlines your policies, your strategies, the work you’re doing and any weaknesses you identify. Additionally, welcoming participants you know you can’t serve fully and inclusively in terms of accessibility does more damage than good, so self-reflect and be transparent.
ACTIVE Network Is Here to Help
At ACTIVE, we help camps and classes across the country stay top of mind among their audiences and grow year after year with seamless, easy-to-use program management software. Once we learn a bit more about your program, we can connect you with a software specialist to find the perfect technology for your unique needs. Whether you need day camp registration software to cut down on processing time or a more focused solution to generate revenue, our experts are here for you.
Get started today to take your camp to the next level — this year and beyond!