Thursday, January 31, 2008

Time for Girls Camp

Gosh I love girls camp. I went for eight years as a youth, and then I've gone back every year they let me as an adult. I love it even though I am so not an outdoorsy person. In fact, the only time I've been camping since I was about 13 was at girls camp. I love all the cheesy activities and the emotional testimony meetings, I love reeking of campfires, I love all the intense time with these wonderful teenagers.

Over the next few months I'll be posting several discussions of issues relating to Girls Camp, and I'd love to answer any questions or research anything I can to help. While I haven't been a camp director myself, I've done enough around there that hopefully I can help and we can all learn from each others experiences and great creative minds.

To get things started, let me broach an issue that's been pestering me for the past few years:

When I was a camper, we spent our days at camp doing the certification from the manual. Usually the older girls taught clinics to the younger girls, which is how I could get away with attending my sixth through eighth years. Sometimes it was tedious, but if the teacher was prepared it could be a lot of fun trying these skills out in the setting they were intended for, rather than just listening to a lecture. Plus, this method contributed to unity across age groups as the younger girls and older girls worked together to teach/learn the certification skills, and filled a lot of time during the camp day with purposeful activities.

It also gave quite a cool cache to the older girls as they showed off their years of experience. As a little yearling I would listen with awe and fear about the dreaded fourth year hike and having to cook my own meal over a fire! And stay all the way through the night! What if I starved? Or froze? Could I ever grow up to be as cool and knowledgeable as those older girls? Oh how I hoped.

As an adult, most of the certification seems to happen away from camp. In my last three stakes the certification was either the responsibility of ward YW leaders, or the stake conducted certification nights the wards would use as their activity for the week. The hikes usually happened during the camp week while the other years sat around or played games or did crafts until everyone else got back.

Doing the certification away from camp always struck me as bizarre. Isn't the whole purpose of camping that certification, coupled with gospel instruction? How can you really deeply learn these camping skills if you learn them in a ward meetinghouse where you're not allowed to actually start a fire? And how do you possibly keep up to hundreds of girls entertained during the day without learning these skills?

I would suspect it was just a weird idea from a stake camp director, if it weren't for the fact that my last three stakes, in New Hampshire, Southern California, and Central California all did it. Three different stakes thousands of miles apart all came up with the same technique that was so radically different from the girls camps I attended as a youth.

Does anyone know if there was a policy change? I don't really understand why that would happen. Maybe it's a way of getting the camp skills to girls who can't make it to camp? Maybe it requires fewer leaders? I can't imagine, but if anyone knows whether or not this is now the way it's supposed to be, then maybe I can stop being so perturbed.


  1. Yeah! As a newly-minted stake camp director, I've been eagerly awaiting a post about girls camp.

    Our last stake camp was two years ago, and wards were not allowed to do any certification at all before camp. All certification happened at camp.

    As far as I know, there's no official policy about when to do certification, and I've been given no direct counsel either way.

    So, I've been thinking of having the girls certify all of the first aid requirements before camp for two reasons.

    First, these are skills they can use and learn anywhere, no fire required, and besides, it just seems like a good idea to know how to stop bleeding before a beehive picks up the ax.

    Second, one of the most frequent complaints I hear about stake camp is that every minute is scheduled and there's no time to just relax. So doing first aid certification beforehand might free up some time.

    I really like the idea of having a stake certification night. But it does seem odd to me too to do all of certification before camp.

    Looking forward to other posts about camp.

  2. Well I'm super relieved there's no weird new rule about certification not happening at camp. I just could not wrap my head around that one. I wonder what the rationale behind it could possibly be. I'd love to hear more reasons for it if anyone else has a different perspective.

    I think the first aid happening at a separate time makes a lot of sense. It's certainly the most time consuming thing to pass off, so that should definitely give you some more time to play with. It's such a fine balance, having things too regimented vs having too much time on your hands. Sounds like a topic for our next camp post!

  3. "hundreds of girls"??!! WOW!! we wish!! LOL!
    So, what do you do when you have been told to do camp at local (ward/branch) level, but none of the YW leaders knows ANYTHING about camping??? This is the part of being a YW leader that I am dreading the most - I am totally not an outdoors type at all!!

  4. Our stake keeps certification at camp, which I think is great. I agree that the younger girls gain a lot from getting to see the older girls in action, and it gives them something to aspire to. I think the older girls benefit from getting teaching experience.

    I've seen a variety of forms as I've moved around. I think the length of the camp has a lot to do with it, and the opportunities in the area. I've seen wards that had camp certification before camp, and then go on a 3-day backpacking trip in the mountains, or some other more intense outdoor activity. This works well for areas where it is hard for leaders to get time off of work, and in wards where the girls see the boys go to high adventure and wonder why they don't get to go on cool trips like the boys do. But I can't imagine doing certification before for the traditional camp format - our girls would get bored.

  5. Last year was my first year ever to go to camp. Our stake is amazing, but I was confused by the "pre-certification". We finished cooking and first aid before hand. The girls didn't make a fire, or even cook really. They stood around chatting while one of our manly outdoorsmen fixed them dinner. I thought it was weird. While we were at camp there was plenty of free time, maybe too much.

    Also, our girls were told that if they missed the cooking certification they would have to make it up or miss camp. - Which I also thought was weird, as they didn't acutually do anything to begin with.

  6. I love reading your comments Namakemona. It's so fascinating to me to hear how things are in different parts of the world. I'm going to get to researching and see what resources I can find for you!

  7. Reese, yes, a post about balancing the time at camp is a great idea. As a ward leader, I was mildly annoyed at the regimented feel of stake camp. But now as the person in charge, I better understand the reasoning of planning every moment. My stake is huge...nearly 350 girls will go to camp this year. But I'd still like to avoid overscheduling.

    I'd also like to see a post about balancing leadership responsibilities between YCLs and adults.

  8. Great ideas ahna! This is so exciting! Yeah Jeans for starting this blog!

  9. a few stakes i know of, have had people cooking all the meals. so they had a certification day beforehand so that the girls could do some of the cooking certification. i know that they did some other things too that day. even so, camp still felt way too busy. for the girls anyway.

  10. I've been to Girls Camp every summer for the past 13 years (half of that as a youth, the rest as a leader). I don't remember there being an official statement about where/when certification should take place.

    I agree with trying to balance the time- in years past our camp has been too hyper-scheduled at a stake level and the wards felt like they suffered because of it.

    One year I was in charge of certification and we chose to do about half of the certifying before camp. The purpose was two-fold: to have more time for other activities at camp and to teach the girls skills ahead of time so that they could try them out while at camp. For example, going over poisonous plants before we arrived proved really helpful in avoiding stinging nettle while setting up our tents!

    I really like that the stakes and wards can tailor the girls camp program to fit their needs. Our church programs are not meant to micro manage the local leaders- the heart of what we do and why we do it is the only part that should be one size fits all, IMHO.

  11. Because of "Fire Restrictions" in our area, that seem to occur EVERY year, we are unable to have fires, nor even cook on a camp stove most years. Therefore, we have to do all of our Cooking Certification before hand. Our camp is also very short, which makes it very difficult to do all of the Certification while there. We also try to set a good balance, and would like our girls to have learned about some of the Certification before camp, and practice their skills while up at camp. It is very difficult to pack everything in our 2 1/2 day camp! The Wards in our Stake also like a lot of "Free Time", or "Ward Time", and often, there may be some tension because they felt there wasn't enough!

    It is very interesting to hear about LDS Camps throughout the World! Thanks for the info.!

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  13. I'm camp director for our ward. We are doing quite a bit of certifications prior to camp so when we get to camp we can test them on what they learned. Our camp is only 3 days (actually 4, but the last day we have to be out of camp by 11 am!) but we have certification activities everyday.

    I think it's ok to have pre-camp certification as long as the YW get a chance to show what they have learned while at camp! I the only one who thinks the church needs to update the YW Camp manual?!! They don't even have "virtue" added to the YW values! I also think many of the certifications are outdated or could at least me better organized.


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