Child shouting through vintage megaphone. Cinema concept. Retro style

Episode 26: Putting Your Campers in Charge with Allison Vining



Ever wondered what it would be like to run a camp where the campers call the shots? Allison East Vining is here to tell us her vision for this exact scenario.

We find out where the name “Camp Weed” came from. Anyone care to wage a guess?

Allison fills our hosts in on how her dad hated camp, but faced his fear 25 years later which helped her begin a journey to her current role, she also shares what (a young) age she became a counsellor and then camp director, and which camp pro’s shout flattered her so much.

Then she answers the question everyone’s asking, “Won’t campers stop challenging themselves and trying new things if you let them choose their own activities?” and gives some great insight on how to get around that potential problem and the benefits of allowing young people to have some autonomy in their choices.

“We’ve got to give kids more opportunities to make choices and to build things on their own so they can continue to do those things when they go home and that have those skills for life…”

Allison talks about the benefits of this model to campers and staff, gives advice to people who are still on the fence on this type of programming, and tips for counsellors to become “facilitators instead of dictators” (LOVE that!). Take a look at the article she wrote on this topic. She also highly recommends checking out the blog post by the folks over at Stomping Ground –  Creating Real Choice.

Speaking of kids being in charge, Curt brought up a show from the past called Kid Nation, and Allison countered that with the show Endurance.

Lightening Round

What book do you recommend for other camp/ recreation professionals?
Balanced and Barefoot – Angela J. Harescom

What’s a word that has meaning for you professionally?

What’s one piece of advice you have for an emerging camp/ rec professional?
Push yourself to learn all you can.

What’s your favourite quote?
“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”
– Thomas Paine

How to reach Allison


Things we’re grateful for

Curt – the seasons – something he didn’t experience as a kid
Allison – her house and view (but not french doors!)
Patti – her inspiring friends and the cool things they’re up to

Random Questions

What animal would be cutest if scaled down to the size of a cat? Question comes from Mel Dash via Twitter
Curt – chooses the biggest animal he can think of, and even does a sound effect for us
Allison – chooses one that she could pet and spend time with
Patti – chooses hers based on a PSA from the 90’s

A penguin walks in wearing a sombrero. What happens next? Question comes from Allison Vining via FB
Allison – Her answer has to do with dancing and apparently the Penguin knows her sister?
Patti – Assumed that the Penguin was walking into a bar…
Curt – Apparently his Penguin speaks too and does a very specific type of dance.

How to reach us

Curt: Summer Camp Pro

Patti: The Camp Nerd

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