At Leadership Academy, we believe in giving young people a voice.
We believe in asking them how they want to be treated and how they think they should treat others. We believe in inviting campers to develop the rules and expectations for their camp session. And we believe in the benefits of guiding them to a deeper understanding of community and asking them to hold themselves and each other accountable to that community. There are countless ways, big and small, that we put these beliefs into action throughout the course of the camp season, but the most important piece of the puzzle is employing a tool called the Full Value Contract.
Each of our 6 summer camps utilizes the Full Value Contract. At the beginning of every week, campers and their counselors work together to create these agreements which clearly state the expectations for the group. We ask them to consider questions such as:
- How do you want to be treated by the other campers?
- How do you want to be treated by your counselor?
- How will you treat the park and nature?
- Are there any rules or boundaries that you think we should have for our group?
- What should happen if someone forgets these rules?
- What are some positive ways we will handle it if someone breaks a rule?
Once the expectations have been agreed upon, campers and counselors sign the contract.
Why do we do it this way? For so many reasons!
- The Full Value Contract is a fantastic way for each camper to be fully invested in the success of his or her camp experience as well as fully responsible for his or her behavior.
- Because each person has the chance to contribute to the contract, boundaries are clear and campers know what’s expected of them from the start. The “rules” are positive. Campers feel safe and included.
- The Full Value Contract fosters ownership of and a commitment to the shared values of the group.
- This gives campers a voice to express how they want to be treated and how they will treat each other, and it teaches them how to hold themselves, and each other, accountable.
This feature of accountability is a key component to the success of our camps. We love watching campers increase in confidence and emotional intelligence as they rise to meet the expectations they’ve created for themselves — as they hold themselves accountable to the group’s agreement. They are also encouraged, through modeling and guidance from staff, to hold their fellow campers to this same high mark. We often overhear campers saying things to their peers such as, “We learn names here because it makes people feel included,” and “No name calling — remember, we agreed on that!” It is so awesome when the campers are armed with the ability to stand up for themselves and each other in healthy, productive ways.
The Full Value Contract is important to applying our overall philosophy because it virtually eliminates the need for “disciplinary action” or negative consequences. Our counselors are trained to immediately recognize the behaviors that we want to see from the kids and praise them for this.
One way our staff does this is by creating a Daily Award for the campers in their group. Each day, counselors create 1 or 2 awards designed specifically to recognize a child’s achievements or behavior for the day. At the beginning of each session there is a particular focus on awarding campers who demonstrate the Full Value Contract expectations or embody the community philosophy that the group has designed. Each day throughout the week, awards are presented to campers with concrete examples of how they embodied a particular strength — one child might receive the Friendship Award on Monday because he learned and used everyone’s names and was especially kind to each group member; on Tuesday another child might receive the Nature Bug Award because she picked up litter by the creek and asked her group to join her efforts. Counselors work hard to make sure that each camper is recognized for something special throughout the week. Kids LOVE getting these awards — this positive reinforcement is one small but powerful motivation for campers to stay committed to the Full Value Contract.
At Leadership Academy, we believe in giving young people a voice — and we’d love to have your child’s voice join our chorus. Visit our website today to find out more about our six great summer camps.