9 Things You Can Learn from Summer Camp—and Take to Work

June 5, 2018


What is summer camp all about?  Jumping into cold lake water; the glow and crackle of a campfire; talking and giggling after lights out; hikes through the woods; learning to canoe. Even those homesick nights and bug bites are part of the adventure. 

There are thousands of camps across North America, and the oldest among them have been in operation more than 130 years. Summer camp is filled with new experiences and new learning that become a part of who you are. With a little thought and planning, there are easy ways to reap the benefits of summer camp in the workplace.  Take these lessons to work this summer! Need to get the boss on board?  Studies show that people who have fun at work are more creative, more productive, work better with others and call in sick less often. 

9 Lessons from Summer Camp:

  1. The play’s the thing. “Play” is not only fun; it stimulates the imagination and leaves us more open to new ideas, experiences and learning.
  2. Smells like team spirit.  A sense of community brings bonding, sharing and develops social skills. We are better together.
  3. This little light of mine.  Summer camp develops character, independence and self-knowledge---essentials for emotional intelligence.  Build on your strengths.
  4. Get a move on! Activity doesn’t only improve physical health; it improves mental health as well.  A change of scenery can energize us, and, in particular, nature nourishes.
  5. Always be learning.  Trying new things can be risky and hard.  Learning not only makes us a greater asset and builds confidence, it also teaches us to deal with failure and to persist. Plus, new adventures create new neural networks.
  6. Become the change you want to see. Leadership takes many forms; we can each show the way., in our own way.  Whether big picture or down in the details, leaders communicate what can be.
  7. Find calm in the chaos. We all need to unplug sometimes. Turn off the electronics and see what happens.
  8. Celebrate good times! Recognition and reinforcement  motivate and raise morale.  Make a fuss about achievements.
  9. Think different(ly.) Whether music, photos, pictures or stories, art inspires creativity and new ways of thinking. Art shares a vision at the same time it stimulates a vision in us, bringing us together.

How do you unleash the inner camper at work?

  • Take some meetings outside; walk while you talk
  • Announce an “Ugliest postcard” content. When staff go on holiday, they try to be the person who sends the worst possible postcard back to the office. (Giant ball of twine, anyone?)
  • Create an office scavenger hunt
  • Take field trips. For example, visit a museum and then have each person talk about something they saw that could be applied to their work
  • Decorate! When someone is away on vacation, decorate their space. Perhaps cobwebs, “dust” and a skeleton behind the desk to say “Seems like you’ve been gone SO long!”
  • Have people take turns organizing a lunch and learn once a week
  • Take the team to an afternoon movie
  • Put teams together for softball, pickle ball or even hop scotch
  • Commit to a volunteer project as a team
  • Instead of casual Fridays, make it “costume Fridays”
  • Have everyone post a copy of a favorite piece of art outside their  workspace
  • Declare an Unplugged Hour—no electronics!

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