How We DREAM BIG and STAND TALL
At Camp Tall Tree we provide intensive staff training, so our counselors can deliver a safe and engaging summer camp program for a wide variety of campers.
Developed and implemented by Scott Arizala, a leading expert and international trainer in summer camp, and Sylvia van Meerten, a nationally recognized expert in the field of autism, the Camp Tall Tree staff training develops staff in three key areas.
Camp Tall Tree staff training develops:
1. Appreciation for camper perspective
2. Healthy daily routines
3. Creative and accommodating activity planning
Camp Tall Tree staff training specifically covers:
- Safety training
- Developmental stages
- Structured programming, individualization, and group dynamics
- Communications styles, differences, & strategies
- Best practices in youth development: behavior, conflict management, problem solving, independent living skills, team building, etc.
- Structured choice
- Age based programming
- Theory of mind
- Meltdown prevention and management
What does all of this mean? The staff of Camp Tall Tree are trained to help our campers Dream Big and Stand Tall. Our staff understand the power of having big dreams—dreams help us work hard, and give us a reason to improve our skills. However, big dreams are not enough.
Standing Tall is how we achieve those dreams. Standing Tall is developing a sense of pride and self-confidence. Standing Tall is gaining new independence and taking those skills home. At Camp Tall Tree, we think kids can Dream Big and Stand Tall and we train our staff to make this happen. Our counselors know how to connect quickly with each camper and celebrate their unique interests and strengths. We create a loving and accepting environment where campers are free to explore who they are, what they like, and how they navigate the social world around them. Counselors make the everyday camp moments magical by understanding the needs of each camper, and the giant potential involved in each new situation.
At Camp Tall Tree, our programming is based on teaching the social curriculum, while enjoying really fun group activities. Just like any summer camp we have swimming, boating, horseback riding, a high & low ropes course, arts & crafts, sports and recreation, GaGa, fishing, and plenty of room to run around outside, but we set very clear expectations about how people are supposed to act at each activity. We make the choices clear, and we explain various ways we can interact with each other positively. If some people want to watch a game first, that’s just fine. If some people need to hear the directions, see the directions, and watch a demonstration—that’s no problem—we do that for all our campers, regardless of diagnosis. Flexible programming does not mean that everyone can do whatever they want, whenever they want. It means that we have planned several variations on each activity, and we modify the way we explain what is happening.
Our program is flexible in the following ways:
- Adaptable activity content, length and pace
- Empowered choice-based activities
- Directions are given in multiple formats
- Challenge by choice
- Watching first is acceptable
- Campers can ‘opt out’ of activities they don’t like, and choose ones they do enjoy
- We plan for supported transitions
- We can cater to specific interests (and we like to!)
- Incredibly fun (and safe) activities are our top priority
At Camp Tall Tree we set our counselor to camper ratio specifically for campers to be successful. Our overall ratio is about 2:1 (camper to counselor). When campers need more support, they get it. When campers are exploring the social dynamics of their group and working on independent living skills, our staff give them the space they need. If a camper needs a little more support during some parts of the day, we have enough staff to make that happen.
At Camp Tall Tree, our leadership team has been running camps together for 10 years. We have run traditional resident camps with mainstreaming programs for campers with special medical needs, day camp programs, summer camps for under-served populations, and resident camps for campers with special developmental needs.
Scott Arizala is a nationally recognized expert and consultant in summer camp.
Sylvia van Meerten has created and implemented the nation’s best camp programs for kids with different needs, helping hundreds of kids with autism (and without autism) successfully attend summer camp.
Johnny Floyd has been a youth development professional for 12 years, specializing in leadership development and dynamic programming.
Dr. Karin Arizala has had extensive clinical training and has experience in a wide range of therapeutic and outreach settings, including summer camps, alternative schools, and community centers.