September means school is in full swing, and so are Camp Fire’s Out-of-School Time (OST) programs! Yes, “camp” is literally our first name, but we help kids find their sparks in so many other ways. In fact, 47 of our councils offer programs before school, after school, and during school breaks.

More than 25,000 kids and teens participate in Camp Fire OST programs across the country. These programs are built on Camp Fire’s Thrive{ology} framework and let young practice the skills needed to thrive through hands-on, real-life opportunities.

“Our councils do a good job of facilitating high-quality OST programs that meet the needs of their communities,” says Shawna Rosenzweig, Director, Program Effectiveness at Camp Fire National Headquarters. Shawna says OST programs range from traditional Camp Fire clubs, to STEM-based afterschool programs, while others focus on particular needs.

Camp Fire Columbia in Portland, Oregon, has a middle school program with a strong focus on social justice, designed to meet the needs of a vulnerable, underserved population,” Shawna says. That program was selected to be a partner in a SEARCH Institute initiative testing ways to help strengthen developmental relationships that young people from marginalized communities experience.

Camp Fire Minnesota, which serves young people who reside in affordable housing partners, runs unique nature-focused OST programs in the Twin Cities. “Even in an urban setting, they provide those young people with experiences in the outdoors,” explains Shawna. “They use nature as a catalyst for thriving.”

Shawna says Camp Fire’s OST programs stand out because of their Social Emotional Learning focus, thanks to the consistent Thrive{ology} framework. Both teachers and principals report that it’s a challenge to provide enough SEL practices during the school day due to lack of time, training and funding. Camp Fire’s OST programs help make up the difference, giving kids the SEL tools they need to succeed both now and later.

“For many people, OST programs are a safe place to send their children after school, or a way to help them make friends or help older teens get community service hours in,” Shawna says. “But Camp Fire’s programs are also making kids more college and career ready in ways that may or may not be happening during the school day.”

Sheri Hemby, Program Executive at Camp Fire Lone Star, agrees. “We reinforce what they learn during the school day and add to that with SEL opportunities,” Sheri says. She says they set clear expectations with parents that their programs have big goals beyond getting homework done.

Lone Star’s after-school, day camps and academic enrichment programs highlight conflict resolution and self-determination skills.

“We provide opportunities for kids to be independent and advocate for themselves,” Sheri says. “Everything we do is a partnership with our students.  We don’t do things for kids…we help them figure things out for themselves. This builds the confidence and grit they need to be successful.

“We want to prepare them to be the leaders they can be right now in their homes, classrooms, and communities.”  

Find a Camp Fire OST program in your area!