At Tanadoona summer camp is more than a place for youth to have fun outdoors, make friends and create memories. Teenage campers are able to develop leadership skills through the Tanadoona leadership development program. Campers start as a Day Camp Assistant (DCA), then progress on to Counselors in Training (CIT), and finally Junior Counselors (JC). Leadership development starts in the summer but doesn’t end there. Tanadoona’s Teen Outdoor Leaders (TOL) continue throughout the fall and spring and provide more opportunities for youth to discover their personal leadership style, learn about nature, and become strong leaders in their communities.
Meet the 2021 DCAs
We caught up with a few DCAs as they assisted in leading day camp, and were able to see them using their leadership skills:
Ray has been coming to Tanadoona for seven years. She has been a resident camper and is looking forward to overnights returning to Tanadoona. She’s spending part of her day setting up for water games with her group.
“I’m working with 6- and 7-year-olds this week. I really like this age group because they listen well and are excited to do all the activities.”
She is also eager to continue in leadership programs at Tanadoona and is excited to become a Counselor in Training (CIT) next summer.
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11 is in the Nature Center with her group, digging in the dirt and learning about worms. Although it’s her first summer at Tanadoona she has visited before on school field trips and through other Tanadoona programming, including being a Teen Outdoor Leader.
It had been raining off and on during the day, which gave 11 the chance to use the attention-getting skills she had worked on earlier in the week.
“I was able to lead a few songs and play games with the campers. I kept them entertained which isn’t always easy when we’re indoors.”
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Moxi has been coming to camp for years and has been a Tanadoona resident camper and a Teen Outdoor Leader. He’s playing Gaga Ball with his campers and is having fun taking on a stronger leadership role this summer.
“I like the freedom to kind of do your own thing and supervise activities more than participate in them,” he says.
He’s been in both DCA sessions this summer and is excited to use his new leadership skills to get a summer job next year. There’s also one other bonus of being a DCA that Moxi mentions:
“I get to have extra snacks. Which is awesome.”
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Raven is wrapping up swim time with her group. She’s happy they were able to get in the water in-between the stormy weather.
Raven has been coming to Tanadoona seven years in a row, but this is her first summer in a leadership program. She likes being able to help at camp, especially with crafts, and takes the time to give us a quick tutorial on making the perfect lanyard.
“You learn patience and not to take things too seriously,” she shares as she helps cut up construction paper during her groups art time.
The DCAs have taken their first steps as leaders and are already gaining strong leaderships skills, which they are encouraged to develop next summer as CITs.
Meet the 2021 Counselors in Training
Popcorn and Snoopy are Tanadoona experts—each of these CITs have been coming to Tanadoona for 10 years as resident campers and Teen Outdoor Leaders.
Excited to continue their leadership training, CITs are tasked with more responsibility, and a chance to focus further on their personal leadership development goals.
“My personal goal is to be more confident leading group activities and speaking in front of larger groups,” said Popcorn. “I’m very confident that I will achieve my goal by Friday!”
She’s eating lunch with her group of campers, teaching them card games, and building mini-marshmallow and toothpick sculptures. She’s already looking forward to coming back next summer and is hoping to be hired as a full-time Tanadoona counselor.
“I have such great memories of my own camp experience, and being able to help other campers have those great experiences as well is my favorite part of being a CIT.”
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Snoopy keeps an eye on his campers while they eat lunch and play Gaga Ball. He is an experienced Tanadoona leader who has already been a DCA, TOL, and been on Camp Bluewater canoe trips. He’ll be coming back to Tanadoona for the rest of the summer as a supporting counselor.
“I’m really excited to work at camp because I’m gaining more experience and developing skills that can be used in the future.”
Snoopy’s favorite part of being a CIT is learning how to interreact with campers of different ages.
CITs are encouraged to reflect on their progress every day, including identifying times where they leaned into their strengths, and times when they felt they had struggled. Being able to look back on these moments are ways for CITs to gauge their progress and be intentional about the skills they want to develop.
Snoopy and Popcorn shared some great advice for campers thinking of going into a leadership program at Tanadoona.
“If you’re struggling or you feel like you’re doing bad, ask for help. But no matter what,, remember you’re having fun!” Snoopy shared.
“Be a leader because you want to be, not just because you’ve aged out of other camp programs. You get a lot more out of it if you really want to be involved and learn,” said Popcorn.
Leadership development year-round
Youth at Tanadoona can participate in leadership development programs year-round and are encouraged to do so! TOL runs during the school year, providing teens more opportunities to explore nature, their personal interests about the natural world, and discover their personal leadership styles.
“My favorite part of TOL is being able to learn new things in the place that I love to be in most,” said Cash, another DCA who has been a Teen Outdoor Leader for many years. “After learning about real problems the world faces, I am inspired to think more in depth about my everyday actions. As well as learning how to better educate others about issues I care about.”
To learn more about Teen Outdoor Leaders visit: campfiremn.org/camps/teen-outdoor-leadership/