Mr. Adam and I just returned from a week at the American Camp Association (ACA) National Conference in San Diego, CA. We loved the warm weather get-away, and learned so much!

As always in the “off-season” from camp, I’m totally thrilled for the many professional development opportunities in the camp conference season. Even though there’s plenty of work and details to nail down happening in our winter camp office in preparation for our summer season ahead, it’s still the time when, through several conferences, I can dig in deeply to the pedagogy of camp education, camp business principles, new camp ideas for campers and staff, and general camp industry innovations. I love all of this, as well as new connections and networking with camp professionals. And I definitely love keeping up with my friends in the camping industry!

#ACANat20 was teeming with other camp professionals with whom we could mingle and share ideas, and the conference itself offered compelling informational sessions with valuable, up-to-the-minute camp industry content. I was so glad we were there!

Adam started off Monday with a New Director’s pre-conference orientation to get up-to-speed on the ACA Accreditation process and to learn from others about being a brand new Camp Director. Tuesday morning, he went to another pre-conference session called EPIC (emerging professionals in camping), led by Scott Arizala and Chris Thurber, two of the most amazing camp professionals out there!

The conference officially kicked off on Tuesday afternoon with a keynote by David Yeager, Ph.D. Dr. Yeager’s research focuses on growth mindset and adolescent development. Our Camp Fire Thrive{ology} approach focuses on developing a growth mindset as one of the keys to helping young people thrive.

Then came the digging in part — lots of informative sessions to choose from a really well thought out program of offerings. Here’s where it’s great to have a team at these conferences so we can split up and try to get as much information as possible out of the conference. Adam and I tried to split up as much as possibly, and we also worked with 3 of our camp friends and their staff to divide and conquer.

Adam attended several camp programming sessions, along with new ideas in staff training, leadership development, and games sessions for bonding and growing the camp community — whether for campers, different age cohorts, or staff.

My favorite session of the entire conference was led by Dr. Debi Gilboa (@askDocG), one of my all-time favorite conference presenters. The topic was on Preventing Stressed Out Staff, and she had lots of great take-aways for preparing staff for the stresses of the summer at camp. Plus she’s just fun to listen to!

Presenting at the Conference

This year, I applied to be a presenter at the conference with a group of three other camp professionals. The four of us, all women who lead camps, have formed a group called a Mastermind. We meet via videoconference a couple times a month to share information, trade ideas, and support each other. All four of us are raising families at camp, and are around the same age.

We presented at a “Night Cap” session about the process of starting a Mastermind, how it works, and some of our favorite things we have learned from one another. It was so much fun and we had a great turnout for our session.

Our Mastermind Group

The Exhibit Hall

We’re never ones to miss the exhibit hall of camp-related vendors. We checked out t-shirt companies and graphic design companies, camp insurance companies, food service firms, outdoor adventure programs, farm-to-table offerings (who knew?), a company that sells patches, sticker makers, and more! I’m gonna confess — it’s so much fun to immerse ourselves in ALL aspects of the camp world!

Evenings in San Diego

One of the best parts of attending these conferences is the opportunity to spend time with other camp people and network. Each evening during the week we shared dinner with other camp professionals, meeting new people and reconnecting with other camp friends we’ve met at previous conferences. While the conference sessions are interesting and informative, I always feel like I learn just as much from networking with other camp pros!

Next up, members of the Camp T team will be attending the Buckeye Leadership Workshop in Ohio in March. And in between all of it, there’s plenty to do to get ready for camp this summer. So here’s to a new year and a new decade of conferencing and to a promising #Summer2020 camp season!

~Amber Grundy, CEO, Camp Fire River Bend