Blame it on the fresh air, a hectic schedule or lack of sleep, but school camps are notorious for making even the quietest and most easy going of students push the behavioural boundaries. They may become more boisterous, challenge your authority or seem less engaged. This guide offers our Top 10 tips for reigning in difficult behaviour and keeping school camps safe and enjoyable for all.
School camps are a great leveller. It brings shy children out of their shell, encourages stronger students to support those less strong, and inspires kids of all shapes, size and gender to challenge themselves mentally, physically and emotionally.
But all that excitement and challenge – coupled with a lack of sleep, tired bodies and extended socialising with little opportunity for ‘quiet time’ - can also see some less desirable behaviours come to the fore. It’s not uncommon to see the shy student blossom to the point of becoming cheeky, the lazy child become motivated to the point of being overly boisterous or the challenging child become downright disrespectful or difficult to deal with.
Keeping a sense of order and discipline is critical to your camp’s success – not only from a safety and wellbeing perspective, but also to ensure that every student enjoys their camp experience. It could also be the make or break between an enjoyable experience for you!
Our Top 10 strategies to encourage positive behavior on school camp include:
1 Prevention is better than cure
There’s no doubt that the old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ applies especially on camp. Teachers and parent helpers can limit misbehaviour by:
2 Know your students
School camps are an ideal time to further bond with students and determine what their ‘triggers’ for poor behavior are. This is particularly important where you have a multi-class camp and may not know the students from the other classes well. Knowing your student group better will help you determine why a particular child is misbehaving. Is it because they are seeking attention? Or because they are tired, stressed, angry or bored? Understanding a child’s motivation will better help you deal with the situation and work towards a positive outcome for all involved.
3 Involve students in setting rules
Students are more likely to adhere to rules if they help to set them. It will also give them a sense of responsibility and respect. In the weeks leading up to camp, organise a ‘camp rule focus group’ and act as facilitator while students discuss what rules they think should be in place for camp. As always, you will need to guide them to ensure that the rules, corrective measures and consequences are appropriate and achievable. Remind students that you are the final decision maker and matters regarding security and overall health are no-go zones and will not be put up for discussion.
4 Delve deeper
Often, students – particularly younger students – will act up if their needs are not being met. When a student misbehaves, think outside the square and play detective with a few key questions to try and ascertain the cause of their behaviour. Perhaps they didn’t get much sleep the night before; or are hungry, tired or dehydrated. Perhaps they have had an altercation with a close friend or social group? Perhaps they feel overwhelmed by the physical activities, or are feeling homesick? Maybe they feel left out by their usual friendship circle? By working out the source of the issue, you can work with the child to help them develop the skills necessary to deal with it.
5 Getting to the heart of the matter
In a classroom or school setting, engaged and enthusiastic students tend to congregate in the centre of the action, while the less engaged students will find a quiet spot at the back of the classroom or group where they hope to go ‘under the radar’. Allow this phenomenon to continue at camp, because chances are that the enthusiasm and energy from the centre of the group will filter out to the edges of the group. If the activity at hand is interesting, you may well find you have a whole class of engaged and enthusiastic students!
6 Conflict resolution
Conflicts on school camp can quickly spiral out of control when students are tired, hungry, or haven’t had a chance to unwind and regain their energy. When spats begin, try to work with the students involved early on to devise ways of solving the situation – rather than allow the blame game to develop. Ask students their ideas on solving the conflict. The answer may be as simple as a handshake and mutual apology, or could involve changing a seating plan or reviewing which room the students sleep in at night.
7 Reward and reinforce desired behaviours
Just as you do in the classroom, show your appreciation for positive behaviour with a smile, a word of thanks or a gesture. Students groups who ‘play the game’ can also be rewarded with being the first to be served their evening meal, the first group to set off on orienteering, or the group to decide what movie to watch that night.
8 The reluctant student
The student who is reluctant in class may also be reluctant on school camp. They will do the bare minimum, be the last to offer help, will hang at the back of the group and show little interest. Try and engage the reluctant student by singling them out to help with special tasks. If you know that the student has an interest in food or cooking, ask for their help in the kitchen or with serving. If they’re techno-savvy, ask them to help you set up music for the end of camp concert, or work out how to load the television/video recorder during movie night. By singling them out and making them feel important and trusted, you may find a more positive attitude emerges.
9 Be flexible
If you sense you’re losing your students’ interest, change it up and move to a new activity. Often, students will display disruptive behaviour if they’re bored or not challenged – or challenged too much - by a certain activity. It’s important to monitor students’ response to activities, particularly if they are ‘new’ activities to camp. When devising camp activities or tasks, allow for varying skill levels within your student group. Students are more likely to stay engaged if tasks can be individualised to suit their particular ability level.
As a last resort, remember that time-out for the disruptive student works just as well on camp as it does in the classroom. As always, time-out works best when the student is not in view of the other students. Invite the student back after a short period of time, contingent on a change in behavior.
At the end of the day, a successful school camp will have enough rules and regulations to keep all campers safe, while allowing for an element of fun and freedom.
Hot Tip - With a few strategies that can be adapted from the classroom, you can keep a lid on poor behaviour and encourage more positive outcomes.