Scene: The Pav
Time: Day 1 of Session 1. End of Breakfast.
At the head of the Pav stands CHRIS. He raises his hand and a hush falls over the crowd.
CHRIS: Good Morning Ghostlight!
HALF THE CROWD: GOOD MORNING CHRIS!
CHRIS: Today is going to be a great Ghostlight day. First up this morning we have Audition Workshops, then this afternoon we have some...
(CHRIS circles two fingers in the air.)
HALF THE CROWD: POOL TIME!
CHRIS: That's right!
(A Cup drops to the floor.)
HALF THE CROWD: RUTABAGA!
Thanks for reading our short play (we don't say "skit" at theater camp). You may have noticed some references or words you are unfamiliar with. Because we can't Q&A this in person, let's pretend we know nothing of camp and name a few things that would confuse us in the scene above if it were real life.
Within a minute, we identified five moments that could make new campers feel like they don't get it, that maybe they never will, and that they don't belong at camp.
Built into every camp is a HIDDEN CURRICULUM, a series of traditions, rituals, jokes, and habits that return from one summer to the next. In this Weekly Call, we will pass along some thoughts on what we can do at camp to help new campers learn this HIDDEN CURRICULUM and share some of our most tenacious traditions with you. There will be others, for sure, and we will make sure you all have a chance to learn them during training before campers arrive and that we don't spring them on you as Chris did in the scene above.
(Adapted from The Summer Camp Society Blog - 5 Keys to Being a Great Counselor, also a great read!)
Illuminating the Hidden Curriculum starts with how we welcome campers to camp. A camp counselor’s first job is to host their cabin. This starts with welcoming campers on opening day and continues through explaining the bizarre chants, how meal and shower times work, and bringing new folks in on the inside jokes. We call this illuminating the hidden curriculum. The hidden curriculum includes all the unspoken lessons about a space that tend to be unsaid but are true. Understanding the hidden curriculum is what makes you an insider.
THE FIRST JOB OF CAMP STAFF IS TO ENSURE CAMPERS FEEL LIKE INSIDERS BY
ILLUMINATING THE HIDDEN CURRICULUM.
Tip 1: Hang a typical daily schedule in your cabin where all campers can see it. Next to or under that, post the places where campers can see the day-to-day schedule with specifics. (The Office, Studios, Pav, and Theater at Ghostlight will all have a daily schedule posted.
Tip 2: Use your first night in the cabin, first rehearsal, or first class to go over how things in that space will work. Share things like when campers can shower, expect to return to grab additional items, how the timing of breaks will work, and any specific language you use that might be foreign. If your moment (like a fitting or first day in the scene shop) doesn't allow for a "first experience" onboarding or needs time before campers' arrivals, we can make time at meal announcements for you to share information like, "We always wear closed-toe shoes in the scene shop."
Tip 3: Explain how you will open up the space for questions and encourage campers to raise their hands immediately when they don't quite know what something means.
More tips to come during training. We invite you to brainstorm your own to share with other staff!
🏮Four Ghostlights Festival - Also known as the Camper Showcase. Other places might call this a Talent Show, but we have seen that what Ghostlight Campers bring to the table is far beyond mere talent; it’s extraordinary bravery and passion.
🍠 Rutabaga! - You might hear this shouted if someone drops a dish or a cup in the pavilion. It’s our way of saying everything’s okay, no need to worry. (Admittedly, there is no rutabaga emoji.)
👧🏾 CIT or Counselor in Training- This special program is for campers going into their senior year of high school. It marks their final year as a camper at Ghostlight. CITs are given certain responsibilities and privileges unique to their position at camp.
🔥 CIT Fire or Crying Fire- The name may seem sad, but the importance of this place and event has come from years of tradition. After the final tech rehearsal finishes, the camp gathers around a special campfire to reflect on the summer and session behind us and gather our thoughts on how to take the memories and impact of camp with us.
🌹 Roses & Thorns - a nighttime favorite at Ghostlight. Once the campers are ready for bed, they pause to reflect on their day and plan for tomorrow. Campers may share a ‘rose’ with their bunkmates, a positive feeling or event that happened that day, and a ‘thorn’ that was a bit challenging. Some campers may mention a ‘bud,’ something exciting they are looking forward to. (We hear this ritual has spawned an ever-evolving list of other garden accouterments. We may never know whether this is our campers' attempt to prolong the evening or dig deep into their souls.)
🧇 Joy's Diner- Non-cabin staff is there to lead classes, oversee the shops, run the office, and much more. On Sundays, they also COOK YOU BREAKFAST! Get ready for the best omelets in Maine as the non-cabin staff treats you to Sunday brunch, complete with waffles and all the toast you can eat!
🏊🏼 Pool Time! - Ok, admittedly, this one may die out soon. But here's hoping that anyone announcing anything about pool time (daily around 4:30 pm) will swing their fingers in the air as though they are spinning a whistle around their fingers like a lifeguard, resulting in a raucous, "Pool time!" shout from the crowd. (Not just half the crowd.)
Take a look at this great video shared with us by The Summer Camp Society.
To learn more about The Summer Camp Society, follow this link.
Did you miss last week's email? Just joining the Weekly Call? Check out the Staff Updates page to catch up anytime!