Planning a Dynamic School-Age Summer Program

I spent my past fourteen summers working directly for summer school-age child care programs, otherwise known as summer camp. I have worked the front-line as a Summer Camp Counselor followed by many more years as Coordinator and Director.  In all of these roles, I dabbled with being a nurse, referee, coach, entertainer and advisor.  My summers were dedicated to long days and long weeks-sometimes unbearably hot, sometimes ridiculously cold.  I was always exhausted by Friday afternoons and ready-to-go on Monday mornings. It wasn’t always easy and I learned something new every day. One thing I learned quickly about summer programs is that they are complex with a lot of moving parts. I came to realize that the key to a successful summer was having plans in place before the start of summer.

High quality summer programs include a wide range of academic and personal achievement opportunities that deliver positive youth development outcomes.  Planning this type of program requires reflection, strategy and time. It is best practice to plan several months before the summer to allow sufficient time. Or, use the off-season to plot the course for the upcoming summer. During this time you’ll reflect on the previous summer.  You’ll review feedback from the kids, parents and staff – maybe complete a program assessment yourself.  You’ll identify strengths and weaknesses and adjustments that need to be made.  At this point you’ll have boundless amounts of information and ideas!

SA_Summer__Planning_Timeline – This month-by-month timeline is a useful planning tool. It allows you to organize your work while keeping your focus in your program goals.

Here’s what you need to know about the timeline:

  • The process of planning, delivering and improving summer learning programs is continuous. Just as the summer ends, planning for the next year begins.  This timeline is year-round, January through December.
  • Customize this schedule to meet your needs; make it work for you. The timeline is a guideline. You may find that your program is ahead of this schedule or needs to play catch-up.  Some of the tasks may not apply to your program, or you may have tasks to add.
  • Compare this timeline to your work calendar and set due-dates for each task.  Hold yourself accountable. Directors and Teachers should work together on this.
  • Once your planning is underway, track and document your progress along the way so you can adjust next year’s planning calendar. (Get some tasks done way ahead of time, or allowing more time for other tasks, etc.)
  • Collect ideas and organize your plans in a binder, folders, or resource packets.

Here’s to a successful school-age summer program! Contact me if you need further support in planning your summer program or other school-age related needs. Watch ECA’s website training calendar and our on-line training newsletter for my mid-summer training, “Summer Survival Tips: Strategies to Stay Focused and Avoid Burnout.”

Karin

Karin Gilbert is ECA’s School-Age Specialist, serving Allen, DeKalb, Elkhart, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Marshall, Noble, St. Joseph, Steuben, Whitley Counties.  Karin has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University-South Bend and an Indiana Youth Development Credential.  She has 16 years of experience in school-age youth work.  Karin provides support for providers of SA programs to increase the quality of SA care. Contact Karin at 574-360-3070 or kgilbert@ECAlliance.org