Monday, 30 April, 2018 (All day)
Managing behaviour on school camps

School camps can bring out the very best in your students as they as they forge new friendships, enjoy new experiences and spread their wings in a fun, safe and nurturing environment. But it’s unrealistic to expect scool camps to be all smooth sailing, and many of the issues and behaviours you see on a day-to-day basis in the classroom are likely to be reflected on camp. And then there are the ‘unknowns’ to contend with, such as homesickness.

However, taming the negatives and encouraging the positives isn’t that hard…all it takes is a little forward thinking, some fun games and activities and lots of support.

Taming negative behaviour on your school camps

Ryan is the class clown. He’s generally a sunny-natured boy, but his high-spirited behaviour on camp is starting to seriously annoy other students and disrupt camp activities. Yesterday, he disrupted game time with his silly behaviour, and today his constant teasing is causing upset amongst the girls. How do you handle the situation, get Ryan’s behaviour back on track and keep camp spirits high?

Behaviour management on school camps is a delicate balancing act. On the one hand you want to ensure camp is a happy and positive experience for all involved. On the other hand, for the safety and wellbeing of all students, you need to ensure that camp rules are followed and that students listen and adhere to your directions.

The relaxed and informal atmosphere of camp is an ideal environment for looking at the bigger picture of student behaviour, and helping kids to develop improved social skills and emotional intelligence. The key is to help children understand their behaviour and emotions – and their effect on others.

Teachers and caregivers can help students understand and acknowledge the reasons behind negative behaviors and work with them to develop more socially acceptable ways to interact. Communication is key to this process. ‘Guiding’ questions such as: What happened? What were you trying to achieve? What are some other choices you could have made? How can we improve the situation in the future?’ can go a long way to helping students understand how their behaviour is linked to the present outcome – and how they can create more positive outcomes in the future.

Once the student has accepted their responsibility in the situation, conversation can turn to appropriate restitution and more positive choices in the future.


Sarah has always been a quiet little girl, but she’s quieter than usual on camp. Yesterday, when all the other students were playing a game in the camp open room, Sarah sat on her own, hugging the soft toy bunny she brought from home. She tells you she’s missing her mum and dad.

Homesickness is a common occurrence on school camps, particularly among younger campers or ‘first-timers’. Teachers and caregivers are the front line defence for helping students cope through periods of homesickness, and to help them get back on track to enjoying the school camp experience.

The following tips are designed to help teachers get kids started on the right foot at camp, and to recognise, support and reassure those students who may be experiencing pangs of homesickness.

  • At the beginning of the school camp, run a ‘housekeeping’ session to let students know the rules of camp. Having a structured camp can ease anxieties kids might have around bedtime, meals and activities.
  • A sense of belonging and familiarity is important for any child, but particularly on camp. If your camp involves a couple of classes, or you have some new children on board, play a ‘get to know you’ game on Day 1 of camp.
  • Post a schedule of day-to-day camp activities on a general noticeboard in a commonly used camp area, such as the camp kitchen or get-together area. Kids are less likely to miss home if they’re busy – and have lots of interesting activities to look forward to.
  • Talk openly about any anxieties, fears or concerns kids might have, including homesickness, or worries about the dark. It takes away any embarrassment students might have, and gives them reassurance they can come to you for comfort and support.


Grace is usually a carefree little girl, but her behaviour on camp is very out of character. She seems anxious and moody and has been complaining of vague headaches and tummy aches. She takes ages to settle at night and seems withdrawn during the day. She won’t confide what is bothering her, but you suspect Grace is being bullied by a stronger girl in her social group.

Bullying is never nice, but it can be particularly painful for children on school camp when they are isolated from their family network.

Successful bullying prevention requires education, preparation, and teamwork. Creating positive relationships is one of the keys to bullying prevention, and this is where teachers and caregivers on camp can play a key role in creating the type of environment that discourages bullying behaviours.

  • At the start of camp, or even before you leave, get students to help you put together some ‘camp rules’ that promote respect and discourage bullying. Post the rules clearly in the kitchen, living room and sleeping areas.
  • Develop a ‘buddy system’ on camp where students ‘look out’ for each other.
  • Use relaxed free time, such as sitting around the campfire, to discuss bullying. Teachers can give examples of the type of behaviours that could constitute bullying. This is also an ideal opportunity to talk about the importance of reporting any incidents of bullying, and what students can do to prevent it.
  • Use role-playing activities to encourage students to explore different forms of bullying, and how they can be addressed. Encourage students to discuss each situation, and how the victim or those around them could have intervened in a positive way and perhaps changed the outcome.
  • If you suspect bullying behaviour, be on extra alert during supervision of free times, bathroom time and meal times
  • Supervise the assignment of ‘teams,’ particularly sporting teams, to ensure each team has a good cross-section of personalities and abilities, and that less sporty kids are not made to feel left out.

Poor behaviour, homesickness and bullying may be a part of everyday life, but they’re less likely to occur at camp if students, teachers and caregivers feel connected and responsible for one another. By developing positive relationships, and encouraging games and activities that allow students to voice any concerns they may have, camp can play a major role in encouraging and reinforcing positive behaviours.