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"Leadership Essentials" – Online Education for Summer Camp Staff


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Jan 18, 2008, 7:29 AM

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On January 15, 2008, child psychologist Dr. Christopher Thurber launched “Leadership Essentials,” a web site designed to train summer camp staff. The site, designed by Target Directories Corp, uses an innovative format that integrates professional video, online quizzes, and downloadable handouts. Typically, camps have just five or six days to train new counselors on the multitude of child development, leadership, and safety topics required by accreditation standards.

Dr. Thurber’s “Leadership Essentials” site ( allows camp directors to begin training staff as soon they are hired, paving the way for more advanced training when they arrive on site.

Video training modules streaming over the Internet may be the future of how summer camp staff are educated about working with today’s campers. The launch of “Leadership Essentials” means that camp directors can begin training staff as soon as they are hired, from anywhere in the world. With more camps hiring international staff and more counselor education required by accreditation standards, Dr. Thurber anticipates that his video training modules will be useful to all day and overnight camps.

“Ultimately, the goal is to provide a better camp experience for our children,” said Dr. Thurber, a Harvard graduate and father of two. “And the quality of a camp experience hinges directly on the quality of the staff.”

Typically, camp directors have less than a week to endow their staff with the multitude of child development, leadership, and safety topics required by accreditation standards.

“It’s never enough,” lamented Thurber, “so we designed these video modules to fill the gap and give every camp a jump start on training.”

Thurber, who has 27 years of experience working at camp, collaborated with Target Directories in Toronto and CampTV Media in Dallas to design the site and produce the modules. Each module lasts between six and nine minutes, covers a specific topic, and is followed by a quiz to test counselors’ comprehension. Camp directors can view statistics of which of their staff have viewed the modules, what their quiz scores were, and even which questions they missed.

“This initial library of video training modules addresses the most important content for any camp counselor,” said Thurber. Module titles include: Becoming a Youth Development Professional; Bullies and Targets; Camp Staff and the Internet; Campers with Attention Deficits; Classic Problem Solving; Providing Feedback; Safe Touch and Safe Talk; Skillful Discipline; Tolerance and Diversity; Treating Homesickness; and Wise Use of Time Off.

Future plans for the site include adding new modules and inviting other camp experts to contribute content.

“Leadership Essentials represents a great leap forward for all day and resident summer camps,” said Daniel Zenkel, CEO of CampGroup, LLC. “By providing online video training modules, Chris has put our industry at the cutting edge of staff training. The video modules are concise, engaging, and well produced.”

Dr. Christopher Thurber is the school psychologist at Phillips Exeter Academy. During the summer, he provides staff training workshops to camps across the US and Canada. He is the host of “The Secret Ingredients of Summer Camp Success,” a homesickness prevention DVD produced by the American Camp Association and the co-author, with Dr. Jon Malinowski, of “The Summer Camp Handbook,” a preparatory resource for new camper families.

For Sales inquiries, contact:
Evan Heltay
CEO, Target Directories Corp
(877) 777-7738, x221 or [email protected]


(This post was edited by stephenwinbaum on Jan 20, 2009, 1:00 PM)


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