Prep to Problem Solve

Camp can be unpredictable. Tech breaks down. It's raining. A group of 5-year-olds shows up for a theater session when you were expecting 10-year-olds. Sometimes it feels like the only thing we can depend on is the need to constantly pivot and adapt.

Most of us already have a lot of experience with being flexible and adapting to new situations. The challenges you will face at camp might even look tame in comparison to what you’ve experienced in the last year! But challenges will come up, and it’s good to be prepared for whatever comes your way! Here are some of our favorite tricks for anticipating and preparing for those unknown hiccups as well as tips for handling those moments when everything gets turned upside down.

Anticipate: the Back-Up Plan

As we’ve already discussed, the one thing that’s sure about camp is that things will NOT go according to plan at least once. So plan for the unexpected by going in with a back-up plan . . . and a back-up plan to that.

If you’re a director going into a summer of show rehearsals, your back-up plan might include leaving the last few rehearsals before your dress rehearsal blank. If you’re a teaching artist for a theater session, it might be as simple as including an extra activity at the end of your plan that you probably won’t have time for, but can easily swap in or jump to if one of your earlier games isn’t working out. The same goes for any variety show or evening activity set list you may plan at sleepaway camps.

You may not end up needing the extra wiggle room in your rehearsal schedule or the additional activity options, but you can rest easy knowing all your bases are covered!

Anticipate: Rain Days

Rain days are the camp director’s nightmare. Suddenly, at least half the camp which was supposed to be doing activities outside needs to be housed and entertained in some way INSIDE. Where does everybody go? What does everybody do?

In the past, rainy days often meant throwing everyone in a gym together for a huge camp-wide event or breaking everyone up into several larger groups for group games led by Teaching Artists.

Spend time planning specifically for rainy days. If you’re a Teaching Artist, consider what you would do with a group of campers if you weren’t in your usual space or were crammed into the corner of a room where there were three or four other groups of kids making lots of noise in their own separate corners. Or have at least two different large-group session plans in your back pocket, ready to go. If you’re a theater director, be aware that rainy days might mean lost rehearsal time or changes in rehearsal space—that’s where those built-in flex days will really help you out!

Be prepared for rainy days. Worst case scenario is it’s sunny every day all summer long and you don’t need them.

In the Moment: Be Proactive with a Solution

When problems come up, don’t waste your time dwelling on the problems. Instead, channel your energy and focus toward finding creative solutions or work-arounds to those problems so that you can approach your supervisor with those options and help problem-solve as quickly as possible.

In some situations, your supervisor won’t even be aware of the problem yet, and it’s especially great if you can go to them with both the problem and the potential solutions for how to fix it at the same time.

For example:

"I realized that both the dance instructor and I need to use the stage during the 1 pm activity block. I’m wondering if we could each take half the time and use the lawn outside the theater when we’re not on the stage? Or is there a possibility that I could use that first block of free time in the evening for my rehearsal instead, so we could completely avoid the space conflict?"

Supervisors usually have a lot on their plate—they’re supervising multiple specialist or areas of camp and they often have five million little details that they’re responsible for coordinating—and they always appreciate when you come to them with possible solutions to problems all ready to go. Be part of the solution, and you’ll quickly become one of their favorite staff!

In the Moment: Remember the Goal

When hiccups come up, it’s easy to get bent out of shape because things are going as you had originally envisioned. In situations like these, take a step back and consider: What are you trying to accomplish?

Whether you’re a teaching artist or director imagine your goal is to create community, encourage artistic expression, and build confidence in the campers that you’re working with. Regardless of the weather or how perfectly everything’s going, you can always be working toward accomplishing these things.

Focus on the big picture. Everything will be fine.