How Camp Fire Staff Build Youth-Driven Programs
Camp Fire is both for young people and created by young people. This isn’t just aspirational: Our commitment to youth voice is carried out in very practical ways by thousands of Camp Fire staff at the program level.
Here are a few ways that Camp Fire programs are led by young people’s plans, decisions and goals:
- “At Camp Fire Central Texas, they scaffold youth voice and choice over the course of their school-based programs. Kids plan lessons, choose topics to learn about, and come up with activities or games to play. In middle school, groups tell their instructors what they want to do, and instructors ﬁgure out how to do it. With middle school kids, they usually incorporate a campout or ﬁeld trip that lets them practice skills like ﬁre-building and prepare for the adventure by shopping for food and choosing how to cook it.”
- “At Camp Fire Wilani, programs use the BEETLES curriculum, which upends traditional top-down teaching methods. This curriculum allows youth to choose how their day goes. The things they learn are informed by their prior knowledge and what is important and interesting to them.”
- “At Camp Fire Heart of Oklahoma, youth create a ‘home in the woods,’ their piece of nature for the week. Campers’ ‘home in the woods’ serves as a home base for their time at camp. Each group has their own campsite, and they get to decorate it and cook meals there. It’s their own piece of nature for the week, and before they leave, they put it back to how it was, which also reinforces the conservation principle of ‘leave no trace.’”
(Examples are from “Exploring Innovative Nature Engagement Practices: Supporting Camp Fire’s Commitment to Promote Environmental Stewardship and Action,” by Jenna Sethi, Ph.D., and Clare Eisenberg, M.Ed. Prepared for Camp Fire by Informed Change.)
Our Programs Team, led by Nikki Roe Cropp, works hard to create opportunities to support Camp Fire staff as they center youth voices. It takes a lot of adult forethought, planning and effort to develop programs that put kids in the lead.
Here are a few of the ways Camp Fire leaders are working behind the scenes to put youth voices on center-stage:
- Staff take Camp Fire’s “Designing Youth-Driven Programs” course to learn how to put young people in the (metaphorical) drivers’ seat in developmentally appropriate ways.
- Teams train on the Active-Participatory Approach (APA), a method of helping young people actively engage, build skills and knowledge, and take leadership in programs.
- Adult leaders start Youth Advisory Cabinets (YACs) to more fully incorporate youth decision-making into their councils.
- Camp Fire staff use resources like project-based learning processes, Camp Fire’s Youth Voice Planner, and youth survey data to youth-driven craft programs.
Programs that put youth first don’t happen by accident! We’re proud of the Camp Fire staff and volunteers who spend long hours learning, adapting and building kid-led programs.
Are you a parent looking for a place where your child can lead, grow and use their voice? Find a Camp Fire program near you.