Our dive staff complete!
So after two weeks of intense and fun dive training, we were fully staffed with Skin Dive Instructors, Dive Masters and Instructors. It was now onto the work aspect of my new career. Because we would be working with children over the course of 9 weeks, we were required to sit through a week of staff training and orientations which consisted of over 100 staff members ranging from counselors, kitchen, maintenance, science instructors, marine science instructors, sail staff and our dive staff which consisted of anywhere from 15-18 dive members.
Here is a little background on the camp itself so you can understand the importance of fully training staff members who come to the island so they understand what it is like to be around hundreds of little munchkins, and not so little munchkins!
"Guided Discoveries strives to make a difference in the lives of children through unique opportunities of discovery.
Founded in 1978 by Ross and Kristi Turner with help from long time board members Steve Garrett and Jerry Tambe, Guided Discoveries has grown into an organization that serves over 45,000 children annually."
learning how to handle snakes in the Terrestrial Lab
Along with providing summer programs to young children and teens, they also run school programs throughout the year education children about science and marine sciences. And not only do these children have an amazing learning opportunity with hands on experience and educational skills involving the environment, critical thinking and personal growth, but the non profit organization also welcomes many college graduates, offering them teaching experience in their facilities.
During the summer months, CIMI conducts a 9 week summer camp that is broken up by weeks.
The first 3 weeks, are weekly camp sessions call Jr. Sea Camp. This is offered to boys and girls aged 8-13 and allows them the extraordinary opportunity to snorkel in the beautiful Toyan Bay under the sun, kayak, hike along the numerous trails surrounding the facilities, conquer the rock wall, discover the ocean through shark, algae, and invertebrate touch tanks, and begin incredible friendships that will last their lifetimes. Nightly activities also consist of campfires, drama skits, crew nights, Dive Deck Social (dance), ice cream social, and several other fun activities.
Jr. Sea Campers
The following 6 weeks are divided into two 3 week programs and is offered to 12-17 year old youths. Because the Jr Sea Camp program has been so successful, we have seen many children returning after year(s) of attending Jr.
Sea Camp and continuing on to Sea Camp. And slots to join camp do fill up very quickly because of the rate of returning campers, along with new campers catching wind of the amazing camp. The program is designed a bit different than the Jr. Sea Camp. Campers are staying for three weeks, and unlike the Jr. Sea Camp, these campers are able to choose what activities they would like to be involved with as they are learning to master their different interests given a greater amount of time with professional instructors and leaders. Most activities are outside consisting of water sports, hiking, climbing, arts, leadership, mountain biking, marine sciences, green team and several nightly activities.
All exciting activities aside, there are several other things to consider when working with children.
For several children, this may be their first summer away from their families. Feelings of homesick, anxiety, illnesses do arise and with a great counseling staff, many of these children do make it through their entire stay. However this is not always the case. Many children are also taken off their usual medications which are used to treat behavioral disorders like Attention Deficit Disorder, because mom or dad feels that for the summer they should be able to be free. Sometimes this is difficult to manage, but we discuss techniques to handle the situations properly while still giving children equal opportunities to learn. There are several different types of kids we see. Just like a school setting, you have your out spoken kid, the quiet kid, the sports kid, the smart kid, and the well rounded kid ect. So we get to handle a variety of personalities. Encouraging a child who has never been in water to put on a mask and snorkel to try snorkeling so they can see the fish below, or taking the sports minded kid and applying some educational marine science information.
I didn't get to the hose in time! I lose!
Our goal is to encourage the kids and exhaust their potentials. And over the years, it is really neat to see how they have changed and who they become.
We also discuss “good touch, bad touch” when around kids. This is obviously to protect not only the child, but of course us as staff members. Because today’s youth seem to get a little bit more “fresh” with one another, we also discuss how to handle youth dating and ways of expressing themselves, along with how we can monitor and assure no babies are being made at camp. ;) And of course disciplining. As an instructor we have classes, and should there be a problem with a camper(s), usually we go to our director to discuss the situation and if need be, we would go to the Head Counselor as they are more familiar with a campers behaviors and how we can handle the various situations that arise.
Sometimes this may even mean a camper may go home. And lastly we also go over blood borne pathogens, hygiene, promoting healthy life style choices and protocols for fire and other emergencies that could arise.
Skits for the kids
During the staff training week, not only do we learn plenty about teaching children, handling children and understanding things to expect from children, but we also learn a lot about each other. There are several staff bonding games that allows not only for us to get to know our individual staff member, but members of other staff as well. Divided into several groups, we create skits for the camper’s first night visiting the island. We do staff Olympics where we split up into different teams and challenge each other in various activities with funny themes.
We have an ice cream social and make huge sundaes! This is exceptionally important thing to develop among the staff as on a day to day base we are working with the same children. In the first 3 weeks during Jr. Sea Camp, counselors escort their campers throughout the various activities, participating in the fun as well. It is good for counselors and instructors to form a good relationship, so the activity can go smoother. The kids spend the majority of their time with their counselor, so they trust them like they would their older brother or sister, their mom or dad and they look up to them. Having an outgoing, fun, enthusiastic counselor makes our job as an instructor easy if the counselor’s campers can have fun like they are. As instructors we need to be able to communicate with other instructors regarding uncommon behaviors or better yet, really good behaviors. It’s important to recognize if a child is having difficulty in a water sport, but not arts and crafts, or maybe if they are in both.
Through this we can assess the situation and decide that A) Tommy isn’t into water sports or needs to try something new, or maybe we could find him another activity where he can enjoy his arts and crafts more or B) Tommy is all around not having a good time, and maybe there is an underlying problem that we could help change making things better for him. We also like to recognize those that are exceeding and doing well. At the end of Sea Camp, awards are sometimes given out and usually through discussions and suggestions from multiple staff members, a great candidate is reached.
Sometimes bonding over a beer or two
And not to mention, we are surround by hundreds of children! I enjoy the child brought out in me, but it is also nice to have staff members around, sharing similar interests.
Through new friendships, we are able to offer different things to each other. Some give up their time to teach dive or sail lessons. Others enjoy playing board games or going for a hike. And it’s nice to just make new friends and have fun on such a beautiful island.
And at the end of Staff Training week, we are ready and excited to meet these people we have worked so hard to train for. And not only is it summer camp for these kids, but selfishly, it is going to be such an incredible summer for ME too!
If you are keen to check out the website, there is information regarding the camp sessions along with slideshows from previous camp sessions.
And there are details pertaining to other facilities ran by Guided Discoveries for school and summer programs. http://www.guideddiscoveries.org/home.html
Dive staff, and me with red hair. hahaha