The FIVE YEAR System

"Dig" commented about the (dreaded) five-year system that many camps have been using to keep their content "fresh" while not having to rewrite the program every year. Basically, a camp will pick five themes, topics or events to base a summer on, compile an entire schedule and programming around this idea and then cycle without varying the fifth year...

IOW: Every 5 years, the same exact regiment of stuff is repeated.

Here's why this is a broken system: As pointed out by Dig, first and foremost, the campers may not realize the repetition, but the staff absolutely does. If the staff is bored with a concept, that will be reflected in their actions; essentially trickling down and making for a mediocre camp experience... It's like that popular one-hit wonder band that has to play the same song for 30 years... most of the time, the performance gets stale... UNLESS...

Ah, the trademark UNLESS! Here's a real-world example. Broadway shows go on for hundreds, if not thousands of performances. "The Phantom of the Opera" happens to be the longest running show currently and I had the fortune of seeing it several times over the last *20* years (gasp). Each performance was strikingly different - not just because the actors had changed, but because the producers evolve the show over time. Little changes occur in various places and after a year or so, the show is (kind of) *new*.

So, there is hope for repetition... but I have other reasons for not using a *system*. You, the camp director (or whomever), hires a staff because they are outstanding. None of us are just trying to fill slots - we're trying to get the best group available... like creating a baseball team. You don't just hire a pitcher - you want a pitcher who knows six different pitches and can hit over 90 with his fast ball (I'm just sayin'...).

Anyway, in creating your perfect ensemble, you are picking people of various outstanding talents. These skills should be utilized to the fullest each year. Just because it's not "Circus Summer" (because you had that 2 years ago) doesn't mean that you cannot use a variation of that theme due to hiring three or four jugglers! LET YOUR JUGGLERS JUGGLE! LET YOUR DANCERS DANCE!

I hired a really great Nature guy, but he was incredibly smart and felt he could do more than "just nature." That's how we started "Science," an activity area where he made rockets and all sorts of fun stuff... AND HE WAS SO HAPPY. We had a fitness guy who wasn't that great at the "Athletics" area, but rocked at teaching "Wellness," a new area created around his talents.

Our special events went the same way, starting a "Music Festival," when many of our staffers were in bands.

It's really that simple. Having a *system* is OK as a backup plan, but it should not be the only plan. Camps that truly rock have to be nimble and evolve; have to take advantage of their strengths. Forcing a theme can be demoralizing and detrimental to the entire experience.

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