The Secrets to “The Best Day” at WYP
After a week of summer camp, I asked my granddaughter,
“Which was the best day?” she instantly replied "All of them."
- Grandparent of 2021 WYP summer camp participant
Practice makes perfect.
At least, that’s what I always told my kids, whether we were talking about math facts or learning an instrument. At WYP, we’ve been practicing getting ready for summer camp for 23 years now. We aren’t actually aiming for perfection, but we do enjoy sharpening our skills to create joy-filled summers for kids.
If I were giving us a review, I’d say WYP has always excelled at creating “best days” summer camp experiences, but an area that we still need improvement on is being able to explain what exactly it is we do out there that makes kids feel so alive (especially to brand new parents and guardians).
Staff Training & Summer Camp Planning
This past Wednesday, as our whole team convened at Arroyo Hondo for staff training and summer camp planning, I nearly jumped for joy when I realized that our morning was devoted to an illustrated conversation about what it is we do out there. We reviewed a “day in the life” of summer camp, and went over a “typical week of WYP during summer.”
Here are some notes to help you understand what our program staff does when they plan a week of summer camp. Hopefully, that will help give you a sense of the why behind when the children in your life come home and tell you— “that was the best day ever!”
The “Formula” for a WYP camp
- 12 participants
- 2 staff: one “North” (lead mentor) and one field staff
- 1 volunteer
- 1 big van or 2 smaller vans (for ages 6+, Bumblebees (ages 3-5) stay in one location.)
A Sample Summer Camp Week
|Day||Possible Destination/ Activities||Staff Goals|
|Monday||Skofield Park: games, creek wander, crafts intro, getting to know each other||Assess participants' interests and curiosities, interpersonal dynamics, to make a great plan for the week|
|Tuesday||Santa Ynez River: explore, focused curiosity, begin projects (carved spoon? Gourd bowl?)||Deepen connections among participants, staff, volunteers, find adventure|
|Wednesday||San Marcos Foothills: games, projects, stories, carving, crafting, resting||Take it easy|
|Thursday||Lizard’s Mouth: games, challenges||Epic adventure|
|Friday||Haskell’s Beach: finish projects, feast, play||Celebrate the week, honor specific ways each participant supported the group|
A Sample Day
|8:30 am||Staff arrives to finalize the day’s plan|
|9:00 am||Kids arrive, get checked in (sunblock? Plenty of food? water?), join new friends, play games
Gratitude circle, names, nature names
|9:45 am||“To the vans!” and off to the day’s destination|
|10:00 am||Morning activities, games, crafts, discovery|
|12:00 pm||Lunch, keep hydrating, shade, stories, rest|
|1:00 or 2:00pm||Wander, adventure, craft|
|3:00 or 4:00 pm||Return to the park, circle up, share reflections on favorite parts of the day|