Blog | How to plan your first summer camp
So, you’re running your first summer camp! It may seem daunting at first, but the good news is that there is plenty of research (as well as anecdotal evidence) to show that residential experiences are extremely valuable and fun experiences for both adults and young people, so all your planning and hard work will definitely be worth it.
Whether you have had a go at running a shorter, local camps or are yet to achieve your Nights Away permit, we gathered some tips to help you get started.
Help, where do I start?
Ask your young people! Sounds obvious but your summer camp is for them so, it’s important to ask your section what they’d like to do. Their ideas will help you all design a camp that everyone can feel excited about attending. When you have all agreed on an idea for a summer camp, you’ll need to fill out a Nights Away Notification form and send it to your District Commissioner to let them know you what you are planning.
We also recommend getting a copy of the Nights Away manual. It's a brilliant guide for planning your camp from start to finish.
Where to go?
The ideas your Section comes up with are likely to influence your venue choices, so do some research on what different centres or campsites offer and visit any in advance if possible. If you’re new to Scouts or have little experiences of camps, it’s worth remembering that Scouts Scotland’s three National Activity Centres can offer you lots of support with both programme planning and running your camp.
What’s your budget?
Work out the cost per person for your camp, including any transport or food costs, and make that clear when advertising the event to young people and their parents. It’s a good idea to draw up a payment plan and make sure participants understand clearly the financial implications of withdrawal. Consider the impact that fixed costs, like minibus hire, which aren’t costed per person, may have on your budget. To make it more affordable, consider fundraising or applying for local grants or to Tesco's Bags of Help scheme to subsidise some of the costs.
Your young people’s ideas will hopefully shape some of your camp programme, but you might also want to use your summer camp as an opportunity to achieve badges or awards that you may lack the facilities or skills to deliver during a regular meeting.
If you plan to carry out any adventurous activities yourself, make sure you have the appropriate Adventurous Activity Permit but if not choose a venue where trained staff can run adventurous activities for you. For example, you can earn a range of water sports badges at Lochgoilhead with full support from the centre’s staff.
Think about progression and how your Section connects to the Group’s wider activity. For example, your camp might be a good way to introduce Beavers or Cubs to climbing on an artificial wall, with a view to preparing them for tackling more adventurous rock climbing when they reach Scout or Explorer age.
Whatever you choose to do, it’s important to make sure that the programme is balanced and inclusive and will allow everyone to participate fully regardless of their ability.
Building your team
Like everything in Scouting, running a summer camp is a team activity, so you won’t be alone! Involve your whole leader team in the planning as well as the young people and their parents. For the camp itself, you’ll need to make sure you have a sufficient ratio of adults to young people, depending on the age group. Every adult attending the camp overnight must have a PVG disclosure and at least one of the adult team should hold the appropriate Nights Away Permit. Young Leaders can be a great help during a camp but because they are under 18, you’ll need permission from their parent or carer and they’ll count as a young person when working out your ratios.
For more information, contact your District Nights Away Adviser.
Keeping parents informed
You will need written permission from parents or guardians before taking a young person aged under 18 on camp. It’s also important that parents feel secure and reassured that their children will be well looked after and happy on camp, as for some young people it could be their first time away from home. Hold a meeting with parents to talk through what you’re planning and give them a chance to air any concerns or ask any questions they might have. It could also be a good opportunity to do any paperwork, such as gaining permissions or recording dietary or medical requirements.
You will also need to develop a system for communicating with parents during the camp in the case of an emergency or incident, or if plans change unexpectedly. We recommend using the InTouch system.
Where to go for support
The professional staff team at Scouts Scotland can offer advice and guidance on processes and policies related to Nights Away, and the expert teams at our National Activity Centres are always on hand to help. Training modules 16 and 38 cover the skills and knowledge needed to run a residential experience.