7 Staff Orientation Topics for Day Camps & After-School Programs

Putting together a staff orientation schedule can be tough. We have you covered with seven topics to cover for day camps and after-school programs to elevate your program moving forward.
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Putting together a staff orientation schedule can be tough. We have you covered with seven topics to cover for day camps and after-school programs to elevate your program moving forward.

1. Mental Health First Aid

According to the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, 71% of parents said at least one of their children had experienced worsening mental health as a result of the pandemic.  

Preparing day camp and after-school staff for the mental health situations they may encounter is worth the training time. Depending on time and budget restraints, directors may consider certifying their staff in youth mental health first aid or pulling highlights for shorter sessions.

This topic is heavy, so it’s important to take the time to talk with staff about their own self-care and processing around mental health, too.

2. De-Escalation Techniques

In 2022, we saw more camps than ever asking for tips to manage campers running away from programs or acting unresponsively. This seems to be on-trend with other youth-serving organizations, as schools and after-school programs are reporting an increase in severity and frequency of difficult behavior and outbursts.

In addition to mental health first aid, staffs need preparation to deal with campers in the moment. Teaching (and practicing) de-escalation techniques will help them remain calm, encouraging campers to settle down more quickly. De-escalation techniques are perfect to break into digestible pieces and use for in-service training.

3. Reporting

This summer, we have also seen a lot of conversations around camp staff struggling to know what information needs to be reported to supervisors. Does your director team want to know about every physical altercation? At what point does a camper’s mid-level, yet persistent, bullying need to be reported? Having upfront conversations about what supervisors need to know and how that information will be used is vital to the safety and success of your camp.  

This is also a perfect opportunity to discuss mandated abuse and neglect reporting, its importance and the varying things that can happen as a result of a report.  

4. Camper Engagement, Creativity & Back Pocket Games

If we want campers to want to come back, our staff members need to be experts in keeping campers engaged. Training staff to know what engagement looks like is the first piece of the puzzle, while the next piece is ensuring that they know they can make changes based on low engagement — and actually feel empowered to do so. Allow staff to practice adding creative twists to activities, and give them a toolkit of back pocket games to use if activities finish early.

5. Group Conflict Resolution & Restorative Justice

Day camp and after-school groups are like any others — they have ups and downs, and there’s inevitably conflict they have to work through. Preparing your staff to quickly recognize and resolve conflict makes for a better experience for everyone, and teaching campers these skills along the way makes a better world. The Summer Camp Society’s Dealing with Conflict in Groups handout is a great place to start. As your staff gets more comfortable with conflict, consider adding some restorative justice practices to your program.

6. The Hidden Curriculum

The “hidden curriculum” is all the unwritten rules — the things certain people (maybe returning campers or campers of certain cultures) intuitively know but that others don’t. If someone with no experience with your program started tomorrow, what are the things they would have no idea about? Training on the hidden curriculum is two-fold: You want to train your staff on all the unwritten rules they may not know and train them on how to identify these things and talk to campers about them.

7. Customer Service 101

Day camp and after-school staff see caregivers daily, so it’s important to take time to train staff on how to interact with adults in addition to campers. Making eye contact, having conversations and smiling are all part of customer service best practices. When staff members engage with caregivers as well as campers, families are more likely to stick with your program. When we use our frontline staff to offer great customer service and engagement, we can follow up with great communication and software that strengthens the connection.  

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!

See how ACTIVE can help your organization grow.
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