My Experience as an AIS Camp Counselor

My Experience as an AIS Camp Counselor

Remember when you were maybe seven or eight and you thought summer camp counselors were the most incredible people ever? I remember feeling that way, looking up to people I trusted and respected. 

Now, as a counselor myself, when I’m close to losing it with a child, I stop. I remember how much I looked up to my counselors, who always listened, tried to understand, and were patient. I try my best to take the same approach. It gets tough when a child simply won’t listen or is testing the rules.

A day is made up of five “class periods”, and can include science, gym, art, and sometimes a special presentation. As counselors, we take our groups around to the different classes and watch them at lunchtime (which means I get to beat second graders in four-square). 

You get to know the kids pretty well when you are with the same ones every day and with some of them for multiple weeks. I remember the kids who only came to camp for one week just as well as the ones who came for all six. 

I always looked forward to the weekly field trips. A few of the places we went this year were Skyzone, The Franklin Institute, and The Natural History Museum. 

The camp also had a few “staycations,” where the field trip would come to us. One of them was a ‘Skydome’, which felt like an igloo with projections of the night sky inside. Most campers loved it; however, one of my campers was not a fan. 

This particular camper struggles with overly stimulating environments and anxiety. He looked at me before the presentation started and asked, in complete seriousness, “Are the lasers going to burn a hole in my head?” I stood there, not sure how to respond, before explaining that everything was safe and nothing was going to hurt him. He still wasn’t satisfied with that answer. 

Realizing this kid had no intention of participating unless something was done, I handed him my sunglasses and hat. He thanked me, put them on, and walked inside. 

This interaction made me much more aware of his needs. I took extra care so he could enjoy himself at camp. Having a camper who was a little different made me realize things I take for granted every day are things that he struggles with.

The next time he came to me claiming he felt like he would throw up, I asked him what he had been thinking about. We talked it out, and he said he felt better. He was happy for the rest of the day. It felt good that I had been able to help him, and that he had chosen to come to me to express his feelings. 

As a camp counselor, you are a mentor, a friend, and a role model, and there is no better feeling than being chosen by a kid and gaining their trust. But the surprise is that even though you think you are the leader, sometimes it’s the kid who becomes the teacher.

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