68 Ways To Illuminate The World

Working at a summer camp is not the only way (even though it’s one of the best). Consider these 68 simple ways to make the world a better place.

North Carolina camp mountains

1. Be curious
2. Lend a hand
3. Learn all you can
4. Be gentle with those who make mistakes- including yourself
5. Share
6. If you don’t have to step on that bug, don’t
7. Upcycle, recycle, reuse, home make- turn trash into treasure
8. Be open, stay soft, be flexible
9. Ask questions
10. Remember names
11. Put people first
12. Invest in your neighbors daily
13. Listen
14. Don’t stop at the surface
15. Say, “I love you”
16. Withhold judgement
17. Start over whenever you need to
18. Reach out
19. Try
20. Advocate for something

girl camp Friends
i love you necklace

21. Plant a seed
22. Add laughter where can
23. Spend time outdoors
24. Let others have the right-of-way
25. Give thanks
26. Say thanks
27. Give people a chance (or two)
28. Dismiss perfectionism
29. Explore
30. Every now and then, ignore the mirror
31. Start from the heart
32. Choose words that lift people up
33. Buy two, give one away
34. Sometimes, step up- other times, stand back
35. Hear people out
36. Seek understanding
37. Never boo- always cheer
38. Have a hankering, a sweet tooth, for life
39. For someone in need, give up your place in line
40. Be humble
41. Appreciate yesterday, but move on from it
42. Celebrate even the smallest of achievements
43. If you can lighten someone’s load, do it
44. Invest in children
45. Don’t turn a blind eye
46. Trust
47. Pats on the back, high fives, hugs- reach out and touch
48. Celebrate others
49. Celebrate success
50. Celebrate failures
51. From harvest to heart- honor the work that goes into a good meal
52. Bring life wherever you go
53. Don’t give too much thought to what happens behind your back
54. Deliver bad news tenderly
55. Remember what it’s like to be every age you’ve been thus far
56. Be someone’s safe haven
57. Stay true to truth and dare to dare
58. Break as many falls as possible
59. If you can’t find splendor at first glance, take a second

60. Give compliments
61. Accept compliments
62. Think long and hard before you ever swing a fist
63. Recognize lessons everywhere
64. Show up for tomorrow
65. Trust in your ability to do hard things
66. Lean on someone
67. Let someone lean on you
68. Be of service

Staff Development: Sample Lesson Plan

The perfect shot

Partner work can have a powerful affect on a staff development curriculum. This lesson plan focuses strongly on elements of staff accountability and communication. Our goal is to subtly guide cabin leaders to communicate the ideals of camp within the framework of their own experiences. This lesson is best presented mid-season.

Materials Needed:

Large slips of paper, pens, ziplock bags or small jars


1. Staff are instructed to sit with a partner. (Counselors will switch partners throughout this activity, ten partners total.)

2. On a slip of paper, staff then write a response to a prompt (see below) read by the group’s facilitator (one prompt response per slip of paper).

3. Upon completion, staff will fold their responses and present the folded slip of paper to their partner. (It is critical that each partner cannot see the other’s written response).

4. Partners then place the folded response, without looking at it, from their partner into their ziplock bag or mason jar.

5. This pattern continues for three prompts per partner set.

6. This entire activity will yield a total of thirty different responses for each staff member to store in their bag or jar. Staff can read each response from their partners in any way they desire- they can read the prompt responses all at once, one each day, one each time they need a piece of inspiration, etc…

Blue Ridge Parkway

Partner #1: Focus- Cabin Culture

1. Write a statement that makes your partner feel powerful and confident in her capabilities as a cabin leader. This can be advice, a compliment, a recount of a camper’s description of your partner- or anything else you can think of!
2. Suggest how your partner can pamper herself during challenging moments at camp. How do you suggest your partner step back and relax when she feels overwhelmed?
3. Write a “big picture” statement. Remind your partner of the dent that her work in her cabin is making in the universe.

Partner #2: Focus- Program Objectives

1. What can your partner do when she wants to add new excitement, zip, and illumination to her teaching style at camp? Give her ideas.
2. Remind your partner how the energy and effort she puts into teaching her activity is actually changing the world. How is her hard work making our corner of the world a better place? What is it doing for our campers?
3. Give your partner a unique and creative idea to add a little spunk and spark to her activity’s lesson plans. If you were a camper in your partner’s activity, what would you like to learn and do?

Partner #3: Focus- Navigating A Session Change

1. Tell your partner what you really admire about her. How she can keep this element of her character strong even in moments of fatigue?
2. Describe how you think the new session’s campers will remember your partner.
3. Share a quote or saying that you think will inspire your partner’s stamina and endurance.

Camp Crafts

Partner #4: Focus- Gratitude

1. List ten things that your partner can be thankful for here at camp.
2. Tell your partner why you’re thankful for her.
3. Tell your partner why she should always remain thankful to her campers.

Partner #5: Focus- Life Beyond Camp

1. Tell your partner how she can use her experience in this job to elevate her next academic year or her next year in her career.
2. Remind your partner of her potential and capacity to change the world for the better.
3. Suggest five skills and traits of your partner that she can use on a resumè or highlight in an interview.

Partner #6: Focus- Happiness and Laughter 

1. Tell your partner three things that will make her happy.
2. Describe and thank your partner for a time when she made someone else happy.
3. Write a joke to make your partner laugh.

Partner #7: Focus- Negotiating Feelings of Fatigue in a Job that Requires Energy and Effort

1. Write something, anything, that will give your partner good, energetic vibes.
2. Share with your partner how you navigate your own feelings of fatigue- these tips and tricks may help her too!
3. Work often requires us to give of ourselves completely. Even in moments of fatigue, explain to your partner why this job is worth doing.

Climb to the top

Partner #8: Focus- Morals and Ethics

1. How will your partner impact her campers as she makes morals and ethics the driving force behind all of her actions during the camp season?
2. Think of the little ways that we can “slip” in our job description at camp- staying up late, lingering a touch too long in the staff lounge, etc… Remind your partner of how her own experience will be enhanced if she stays strong and resists these little moments of temptation.
3. Your partner is a role model. Share with your partner how her high standards and morals inspires those she works with.

Partner #9: Focus- Challenges and Conflict

1. Name a time when you observed your partner artfully and effectively solve a problem.
2. What is it about your partner that makes her so well equipped to handle the world and whatever it throws her way?
3. Anticipate a challenge that your partner may encounter this week. Based on your knowledge of her capabilities and skills, how do you foresee her successfully solving the problem?

Dog Days

Partner #10: Focus- Our Imprint

1. Why should your partner dedicate her summer to giving her absolute all to this job, her campers, her peers, and herself?
2. How has your partner impacted the camp community thus far?
3. For the remainder of the summer, how can your partner work to make everybody feel like a somebody?

Staff Training: Ideas and Instruction

Reflection is an essential component of any staff development curriculum. The following topics provide a solid foundation for individual contemplation as well as ideas to stimulate large and small group discussion. This material focuses on staff attention and efforts while it also communicates clear expectations of a camper-centric work ethic. These themes also help to reveal the meaning and power behind a staff’s work and purpose during the camp season. Each question can be easily tailored to reflect an individual camp’s philosophies, missions, and program objectives. Most of these questions are best presented to a staff at the middle or end of a camp season.

1. Describe a time this summer when you completely exceeded your expectations for yourself.

2. This summer, did you experience more moments that were professionally rewarding or professionally challenging? Throughout the season, did you focus more attention on the rewarding moments or the challenging ones?

3. Describe a moment with campers that made you stop and think.

4. Practice gratitude. Create a list of ways to thank yourself on your time off.

5. Do you have a role model on staff? Identify what you admire about her.

Tower climbing at camp

6. Can you recollect a time when you solved a problem by stepping back and using a sense of humor? Conversely, can you recollect a time when you solved a problem by stepping in and taking yourself and the situation completely seriously?

7. Share a positive thought for the start of each day.

8. Describe one topic that you’re passionate about outside of camp and explain why you’re so dedicated to it.

9. Set a milestone to celebrate with your campers this summer. What will it be and how will you celebrate it?

10. Describe a time when you thought and acted beyond your own immediate needs for the good of the camp community.

11. Create an award to present to the entire staff.

12. Name a way that this job will affect your life outside of camp.

13. Name one thing that you offer the camp community that is uniquely your own; something that can never quite be replicated.

14. Imagine that you’re giving advice to next summer’s staff. What would you like to say to them?

Water Fall

15. How do you define “success” at camp?

16. Is there anything about yourself that you wish you’d known at the start of the season?

17. Imagine that you’re writing a thank you note to your campers. How will you thank them for who they are and what they’ve taught you about yourself and your place in the world?

18. Imagine that you’re writing a thank you note to your co cabin leader (or program instructor). How will you thank her for who she is and what she’s taught you about yourself and your place in the world?

19. If your campers learn just one thing this summer, what do you hope it is?

20. What has this job done for you? What have you done for this job?

21. Describe a time this summer when you were pushed to think outside the box.

22. If you could take one thing that you’ve learned in this job and incorporate it into your life, everyday, what would it be?

23. Name your favorite place at camp and a moment that you shared with a camper there.

24. In the last 24 hours, try to count how many times your campers have made you smile. In the last 24 hours, try to count how many times you’ve made your campers smile.

garden cabbage

25. Did anything happen this summer that you expect to impact your next off-season year for the better.

26. What is the quickest way to make someone smile? Do you do this often throughout your day?

27. If this summer has encouraged you to add any three things to your life’s bucket list, what are they?

28.Describe five random acts of kindness that you’ve witnessed this season.

29. What are our ultimate goals for our campers? How can we begin our work with these in mind?

30. If you could teach humanity a single lesson, what would it be?

31. If you had to create a time capsule to represent your work this summer, what would you put in it?

32. Give an example of a minor victory that we can celebrate as a staff.


33. Was there a mystery that you solved this summer?

34. Describe how we’re making a difference throughout our day’s work.

35. Name three character traits that are essential to being an effective and successful cabin leader.

36. Did you build anything from scratch this season? (Think beyond things here.)

Score A Bathing Suit Body Today!

Bathing suit season can bring quite a bit of anxiety into the worlds of our campers and staff members. We’re inundated with the idea that, before we slip into our bathing suit, our body needs to change- smaller, flatter, smoother. The truth is the only thing that needs to change this bathing suit season is our mindset. We all already posses a body beautiful enough to wear whatever we want, we just need let our mind in on this secret.

Notice What We Notice

We tend to have a complicated relationship with our mirror. Our blemishes and asymmetries are the first thing reflected back to us, while we rarely notice the beauty and functionality of our bodies. When we notice what we tend to focus on in the mirror, we can begin to change our entire worldview. Taking in more of the beauty of our natural image will serve us well during bathing suit season.

Bathing suit season

Think Through Our Thoughts

Our thought patterns are the true culprits that keep us out of our bathing suit. Reconsidering any of our self-limiting mindsets can train us to embrace our beautiful body as it is, just as it is. We can keep an eye on our thoughts when we find ourselves engaged with these restrictive mindsets:

Comparing- We’re only ever going to be ourselves (and isn’t that exciting because we are great!), so we might as well rock a bathing suit on the body we were born with!

All or nothing reasoning- The fun of life lies in between absolute perfection and total failure and not achieving the former does not not automatically make us the latter. Of course, we’re not perfect, but we are strong, beautiful, capable, and lovely!

Confusing feelings with facts- What we feel is not what we are. We may fixate on how we feel about our “flaws”, but this does not mean that we are flawed as a person.

Going overboard- It is so easy to take one small thought and allow it to spiral out of control. For example, we may try on a bathing suit this spring that fits a little snug. This does not indicate that we should never try on anything ever again and that we’re worthless, and that we should go ahead and cancel our beach trip and live in our sweatpants! (See? Our thoughts can get very big very fast!)

bathing suit body

Watch What We’re Watching

Hollywood and glossy magazine ads can quickly negate any positive sense of self-worth that we work so hard to create and maintain. We can keep our own reality in check be recognizing the distortions in these images. With Photoshop, even the models in these photos don’t look like the models in these photos.

Perfect Our Perceptions

There’s a lot more to us as people than how we look. Our minds are sharp and we have so much to offer the world. We are not a number on a scale, the size of our jeans, or the laugh lines on our face.

Pack On The Positive

Let’s allow our minds to celebrate our bodies in all that they do for us. Thank goodness that we are healthy and strong enough to go for a swim in the first place!

Look At The Big Picture

Live boldly! How we look and feel in a bathing suit has very little to do with the quality of our lives. Outside ourselves exists a whole delightfully charming world just waiting to be explored and enjoyed. And oh how lovely that we can experience some of it in a bathing suit!

Shut Your Mouth

Being a great camp counselor means being aware of the needs your campers have, even when they don’t express them directly. It can mean knowing when to speak and when to listen. At times, camp life asks us staff to be quiet. Here are a few times when we best serve ourselves by staying silent.

In The Mud

When We’re In The Mud

Anytime we find ourselves engaged in a nasty conversation, we should shut our mouths. Gossip and cruel words about the character, clothing, or personality of anyone else adds no value to our own lives. In fact, those powerful words do quite the opposite. At these times, we can open our mouths only to stand for the hard right against the easy wrong.

When We’re Learning

Teachers come in many forms- bosses, children, friends, books, newspapers, animals, moments, and, of course, teachers. When life is presenting us with a lesson we should work to keep our mouths closed. We can listen and observe, and allow our minds time to process the experience before we jump in with our own opinions.


When a Friend Comes To Us

Often times, we just want to help. When a friend or loved one comes to us with an issue, our first instinct is to problem solve. We, initially, must resist this urge. Let’s give our friends the time and space they need to explore their troubles from multiple angles. Instead of talking, we can listen, nod, empathize, and speak only when our loved one elicits our help. Mostly though, in this moment, they are searching for a listening ear.

When Good Things Are Happening Without Us

This shut-our-mouths moment is crucial for those of us who work with children. We want to facilitate conflict management, encourage healthy risk-taking, and manage our children’s choices so that they will make the right ones. Of course, we need to model best behaviors and teach our children healthy and wholesome ways to live their lives. After this, we can take a step back now and then. We’ll be amazed at how well children can manage their own arguments and how gracefully they can implement the lessons we’ve passed on to them. Practice makes perfect. Let them practice without us every once in a while.

When People Are Watching Us

…and we’re watched more than we realize. What we say helps those around us determine who we are as a person. If what you are about to say may speak negatively about your character: keep it to yourself.

The Good Life

When Life Is Good 

Sometimes we talk over our own bliss. Allotting ourselves just a few moments of quiet observation each day can help us see how beautiful our lives really are.

Words that Inspire

During a staff meeting this past summer, we divided our counselors into groups of four. Each group was given a set of famous quotations that they were asked to relate to their job at a summer camp. After five minutes the groups traded quotations and the pattern continued until each counselor had analyzed about 25 different quotes.

Some of the responses from counselors were funny, some sweet and tender, and many were thought-provoking. Take a look at a sampling of the words that inspired our job performance last summer.

camp garden and girl back

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the sky.”     -Jack Kerouac, On the Road

“Do the things you talked about doing but never did. Know when to let go and when to hold on tight. Stop rushing. Don’t be intimidated to say it like it is. Stop apologizing all the time. Learn to say no, so your yes has some oomph. Spend time with friends who lift you up, and cut loose the ones who bring you down. Stop giving your power away. Be more concerned with being interested than being interesting. Be old enough to appreciate your freedom, and young enough to enjoy it. Finally, know who you are.”     -Kristin Armstrong

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”     -Neale Donald Walsh

“Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing until it gets there.”     -Josh Billings

“If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito.”     -Unknown

Fall in Love With Fall

Lessons from Rockbrook Camp

Rockbrook is the reason why we all love summer so much, but it doesn’t have to stop there! We can take the lessons we learned at camp and use them to help us fall in love with every season. Try to complete ten of the following challenges and brighten up the fall season!

  • Take an extra snack to work or school and share it with a friend.
  • Remix a popular song (extra points if the new lyrics speak to good manners, girl power, or sharing).
  • Find a green space in your city and enjoy it.
  • Eat dessert first.
  • Paint each of your ten fingernails a different color.
  • Go to bed at 9:15.
  • Turn off your cell phone for a day.
  • Send a “snail text” (also know as a letter).
  • Make up a game.
  • Water a plant.
  • Have “flashlight time.”
  • Wear socks with sandals.
  • Don’t look in the mirror.
  • Host a sleepover.
  • Get a little dirty.
  • Pick up trash.
  • Give a thumbs up.