Summer Camp Organization

Summer Camp Staff

Summer camp is a traditional experience for the wealthier sections of American society. a wonderful institution that can provide fertile ground for kids to grow in ways that city and the increasingly rigorous life that the modern world entails won’t allow. The staffs at summer camps can be just as large an influence as anything else, if not larger. Staff members play the role of parent, friend, confidant and teacher. The staff structure at camps may differ but it is usually complex and a part of camp that outsiders and parents rarely get to see. This is a look at how the staff is structured at one U.S. summer camp.

Camp Positions

Cabin Level

Most cabins consist of 3-4 counselors/specialists that oversee 11-13 campers. The counselors in the cabin have the most interaction with the students and are the most directly responsible for every decision that typically include keeping the cabin on schedule and handling disputes but other than that they have little power on their own. Even at the cabin level their is a smaller hierarchy that tends to emerge. Through either appointment by the unit head or the natural development of one counselor becoming the lead counselor. the lead counselor receives messages more often from the unit head and is given additional responsibilities. There are also specialists who perform additional duties in other areas of camp but do not have any more authority over other staff members than counselors and are still in the cabins with counselors and campers. Counselors and specialists are supervised by their respective unit heads and directors.

Programming Staff/Director

The specialty directors are in charge of their respective areas: art, pool, adventure, music, etc.
Each director has a staff of at least one. All aspects of their areas are their responsibility. The speciality director don’t usually live in cabins with campers. Since they may have more time than Unit Heads they often take on additional responsibilities like organizing a particular event within the camp. The progaming staff is supervised by the asst. director or programming director.

Unit Heads

The Unit Heads have the most staff members under their direct supervision with at least two cabins composing a unit. Unit Heads are responsible for all aspects of their units from the daily decisions that their counselors make, the daily programming, schedules to major incident management within their unit. The role of Unit Head is very demanding but Unit Heads may take on additional responsibilities such as running a particular activity or program on a regular basis or organizing special events within camps. The Unit Heads may be supervised by either the Director of Assistant Director.

Assistant Director




Hierarchies tend to be depicted as pyramidal arrangements of sheets. Hierarchies are identified as the relationships between layers become evident. In most cases, hierarchies are exemplified by power or control moving downward. In other cases, the top layers may indicate greater importance or significance. Information, materials, or energy move upward. They tend to create stratified stability. However, this stability may depend upon the types of binary relationships and other patterns that are created within the overall structure.

Camp Context

The summer camp hierarchy starts at the top with the Director and travel all the way down through the chain of command passing through various Unit Heads and Sub Directors down the to cabin counselor, who constitutes the lowest position in the camp hierarchy. The authority of any member of the staff comes from their immediate supervisor in most cases, though any member of the staff is obligated to stop any unsafe activity with or without approval from their superior's approval. It's interesting that almost all of the direct contact with campers is done through the cabin level staff but they have relatively little control of camp compared to their superiors. This is a quality shown in many hierarchical structures. Another feature of this structure (and others I think) is the necessity of the intermediary positions, those between the lowest and highest levels. If the top or bottom levels are removed the structure would still function, with limited effectiveness, but if the middle portion is removed there is a total break down in organization. The Director is suddenly left as the direct supervisor for more counselors and specialists than is realistically possible to handle, thus making the middle sections the most important posts organizationally.

Analogous Structures



Centers act to stabilize the whole, provide resistance to change, and provide for organization of the whole. They can act as attractors for autopoietic (self-generating, self-sustaining) systems. In a more general sense, they can imply importance or significance and a sense of centricity. As such, centers can radiate relations to other centers, information, and so forth.

Camp Context

The camp structure based on a three-dimensional model looks very similar to the hierarchical model but lends some new insight into the functions of the different levels of staff. In this model the various levels of directors and sub directors function as more than just a source of authority and power. In this model the directors serve to keep their understaff organized and functional. This is can be seen most clearly in the pre-session and periodic unit meetings where the unit heads address specific issues and formulate overall plans for their unit. Without those meeting and plans organized by the unit head the camp would fail to function as smoothly as it could. In the case of lifeguards with out our daily meetings we would be unaware of what our rotation shift was or any update on particular policies. Similar situations can be seen in every level of staff

Analogous Structures



specific objects or ideas are repeated to create layers of embeddedness. As with the process of cloning, a specific object can be replicated. Clonons can build wholes and each whole can be a clonon of larger set

Camp Context

The clonons in the camp structure are the cabins, units and specialty areas. Each cabin, unit and speciality areas are fairly similar to each other. This creates a very functional dynamic in large organizations. In the situation of personnel needing to be transferred between cabins and units the adjustment to their new assignment will be as fluid as possible. Of course there are differences in all the clonons but they are what gives the different clonons their character.

Analogous Structures

Conceptual difficulties

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License