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How Camp Curriculum and Experiences are Built

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Ever wonder how Youthfront camp curriculum and content gets developed? Ever look at your child or grandchild’s camper journal and wonder who produced it? 

Here’s a peek behind the scenes of what goes into choosing each summer’s Biblical theme and how camper experiences are designed. 


camp curriculum

Youthfront’s Matt Saunders

MAIN THEME

As soon as one summer ends, the Youthfront camp staff takes some time to evaluate the previous summer’s content. How well did it tell a story from scripture? How interactive were the cabin experiences? Was it centered on Jesus? Etc. Then, early in the fall, we begin the brainstorming process for the next summer’s theme. There are usually some themes that hit the cutting room floor from years before. We consider them again, and our camp team also brainstorms new ideas.

When we plan a theme, we always look for stories rather than topics. We also want the stories to somehow connect to the story of Jesus. Once we narrow the large list of ideas to two or three themes, we invite the entire Youthfront staff to provide feedback. From that group’s input, we discern one theme that has traction above the others, and then we begin the work of developing its daily themes.

DAILY THEMES 

The Youthfront camp team spends much of the fall and early spring tailoring daily content for high school, middle school, kids camp, and day camp. The process begins by taking the larger story and breaking it down into three to five smaller daily themes. Each daily theme has one “big idea”–the one thing we want campers to know, discover, or experience while we focus on that daily theme.

From there, a general direction is developed that provides an overview for the gatherings related to the theme. These overviews summarize the parts of the story we want campers to experience, the practical implications for campers from the story, and ways campers will be invited to respond to the story, including reflection times, guided by camper journals, and cabin experiences. 

YOUTH WORKER PREVIEW

Youthfront partners with dozens of churches and youth groups to provide a camp experience for their children and youth. A vital part of our development process is to invite partnering youth workers to preview the content and make suggestions.

By February, our content is usually developed to the point where we are ready for this feedback. Not only do we gain buy-in from youth workers who use our program, but we also leave these preview sessions with stronger and more fleshed-out content.

CABIN EXPERIENCES

As the daily themes are being established, the Youthfront camp team also begins creating cabin experiences. These experiences are group activities developed to reinforce the daily themes. Always interactive, sometimes playful, artistic, or contemplative, the cabin experiences provide ways for campers to reflect and dialogue about the daily theme with each other. It’s during this time with their peers that the “aha” moments are often discovered. Here, campers tend to make decisions about their life and faith.

CAMPER JOURNAL

We produce journals to accompany the sessions of camp for our overnight campers (kids camp, middle school, and combined). There are spaces for campers to write down notes during gatherings and daily reflection activities to guide quiet times. These reading, writing, and drawing activities help campers reflect on the story they heard during the gathering. The journal activities are often used to set up or debrief the cabin experiences. We design the journals to be a keepsake for campers so that years later they can look back at their responses and remember their thoughts and feelings about the story they heard at camp.

STORYTELLER PACKET

In addition to the material we produce for campers, we also develop a storyteller packet for youth workers who lead during camp sessions. The packet contains general directions for each gathering as well as summaries of cabin experiences and journal activities. Sometimes we find and include videos or other object lessons that could be used to illustrate what the storytellers teach in the gatherings.

Our team spends many hours reading commentaries and theological books about the theme to help us produce storyteller study notes. We believe these study notes are important to help storytellers understand the biblical, historical, and literary contexts of the story as they prepare.

CAMP AT HOME

Our Youthfront camp team knows that camp is a place where many campers make spiritual decisions and life changes. We also know that those changes are best sustained with support from parents and churches. Because of these realities, we develop Camp at Home content. Camp at Home is a set of activities and discussion questions for the whole family that can be led by the parent (or even the camper).

It’s designed to feel like cabin experiences and aims to extend the camp theme for one more day. Camp at Home provides an opportunity for campers to debrief their camp experience with their loved ones.

 

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Interested in learning more about Youthfront Camp? Call our main office number at (913) 262-3900 or email us at camp@youthfront.com.
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