Step 3: Finding a place to have camp

Once you've got an idea of how your camp is going to run, you're going to want to start getting kids on board. Before you can do that though, you're going to have a place to have it, so that parents can figure out whether or not they can bring their kids to your site.

Churches are an excellent resource (as are synagogues, temples, and other religious centers used primarily on weekends.) We found space our first two summers by calling up a ridiculous number of churches and asking around until we found a space that was free for the summer. Incidentally, this turns out to be a great to chance to refine your spiel about camp before giving it to families who might attend.

Small churches are more likely to be helpful than big ones.  Religious organizations are almost always looking for ways to get involved in helping out the community, and bigger institutions are more likely to already be well connected, and, consequently, booked up, than small ones.  In college towns like Boston, places that cater to the college community are going to be almost empty during the summer and are likely to be pretty enthusiastic about someone using their space for something cool.

Some religious sects have more hierarchy and bureaucracy than others.  Unaffiliated churches are great.  The fewer levels of bureaucracy that have to approve your use of the church, the faster you're going to get answers and the more likely you are to get good answers.

Schools are another possibility -- many are unused during the summer. Calling up the local school board or schools themselfves has never gotten me anywhere. Due to liability issues, only a few people in the school system actually have the authority to let a school be used by another organization. The easiest way to get school space is to either utilize or make a personal connection, who can then navigate the hierarchies of power to get your space use approved. I've heard some people recommend calling principals directly, though this hasn't really worked for us. 

Getting cooperation from the local school system is probably something that you can get after you've done camp for a year or two and have some established credibility.  We were eventually given space to use for Camp K one summer by the local school system and spent that summer in a school building.  The next year we went right back to a synagogue -- there was too much arbitrary oversight, hierarchy, and bureaucracy for us to be entirely comfortable in their space. 

Features to look for in a space include:

Being near a park or other play areas. If you're giving kids' freedom, you'll want to give them ample space to run around and play.

Being near public transportation. This opens the world up to field trips and the exciting adventures of taking kids on busses and subways!

Having parking nearby. Last summer we were in the heart of urban congestion -- Harvard Square, and there was no parking less than a 10 minute walk away. Whoever owned the street we were on (and how someone can own a street is beyond me) had hired a towing company to send a tow truck up and down the street we were on 24 HOURS A DAY. Counselors had to race outside out to fend off the tow trucks when a parent parked for three minutes to pick up their kid -- it was like playing Choplifter.

Having more than one room to use. This isn't necessary -- we did without it our first year, but it can be really nice to have separate spaces to run activities with a small subgroup. We've tended towards labelling one area as the soft/quiet area, full of pillows, quiet voices, and chill activities, so that kids can escape the high-energy parts of camp when they need to.

And, lastly, people in charge who are excited about what you're doing.  I can't stress this enough.  If you don't think it's a problem for kids to run down the empty hallway on the way to the gym, but the people who own the space do, you're going to find yourself constantly having to enforce rules that you don't believe in.  This slowly saps your credibility as well as your enthusiasm.  If someone in a position of authority is going to periodically poke their head into the electronics take-apart area and tell you warningly that it's very messy, you're going to have a lot less fun, and be a lot less creative, than you would be if you felt able to use your own judgments.

Additionally, the site coordinator will want to know that you are going to be licensed, provide liability and accident insurance for the site, and are doing background checks on your staff. Licensing and insurance are contingent on having a site, but in my experience all the coordinators want to know is that you will get those things done and provide them with copies of the relevant paperwork once you have them.
<p>Hello Mr Nagle,</p><p>Thank you very much for this piece as i find it very helpful and Important.</p><p>I am from Nigeria, and i started had started a summer-camp here in my city about August of 2013.</p><p>I thereby follow I full course all of your guidelines in that write as accurate.</p><p>Our camp centers as a purpose driven entertainment and leadership camp event, which will also be having certain celebrities from various industries such as: music, art, fashion, Movies and the rest, visit and enlighten them about life realities in practical terms. We believe edutainment is a truthful way of encouraging our teenagers for the reality of the future. It's for ages 13-19.</p><p>The camp also has other features such as the sports, dinner, awards, Entrepreneurship build-up, Career talks, orphanage visit and more.</p><p>I am a young graduate, and I'm growing.</p><p>I have been able to secure all the necessaries including the location, registration(licence), dedicated team members &amp; staff and stated camp activities for the week.</p><p>Where I have challenge now is about getting campers...</p><p>Yea!!! Publicity, and the rest. Does require quite some fund.</p><p>I need a website, designed brochure and many other certain materials..</p><p>I couldn't raise money for publicity anymore. What can I do please. Do get campers</p><p>Opeyemi</p><p>Lagos, Nigeria</p>
<p>Hey guys,</p><p>So me and my friends want to make a summer camp but we are not sure if we need licensing since we are only 15 years old. Can someone reply if you have and answer? It would be greatly appreciated. Thank you</p>
<p>Hey!</p><p>If you're doing something beyond just you and your friends and kids you already know, you'd need a license. If it's informal and it's just you and younger kids you know getting together for a few weeks then I think you can just work out that with the relevant families.</p><p>You should get in touch with your city hall to find the licensing rules, but I can 99% guarantee you'll need to find an 18+-year-old to sponsor your project. Why don't you check it out and check back in here as it develops?</p>
Hello Nagle <br><br>I'm going to start a summer program. How do I come up with a name that evolves around children k-5. _______ summer program.
<p>Hey :)</p><p>Well, what do you want the kids to do at your summer camp?</p>
<p>Hi,</p><p>So cool to find this instructable written by you! My kids were at Camp K. early on and my son is at P&amp;C this summer. So just a plug that the camps Nagle created were/are great and well received. <br><br>Any advice on promoting a new camp? I have a meetup that teaches women technology (front-end development) and I am considering creating a similar camp for girls summer 2016. I have sponsorship from two local high tech firms, one of which may be open to sponsoring the camp/providing a location.<br><br>Best, Sara</p>
<p>Hi Sara!</p><p>That's cool that we get a chance to re-connect here.</p><p>I'm happy to brainstorm with you or think more about what this would look like. My email is mpnagle atsign gmail dot com. One thought is if you would want to do something on your own or partner with the Cambridge non-profit Science Club for Girls. Maybe check out their web site -- I could make an introduction if helpful.</p>
Any thoughts about opening a camp kids stay at (sleep)? Specifically in regards to cost. Also what are the laws, for any camp, about running it on your own property? I'm from MA.
Great article. A friend and i have the idea of starting our own inner city sports camp in Brooklyn nyc. We know that we will have access to use a church and we know itll be 8 weeks long, starting july 6th which gives us just under two months to get it off the ground. My question to you is do you think 2 months is enough time to completely create and launch the camp successfully? Was your experience worth it? Or are we in way over our heads... Thanks!
<p>You can do it put your back into it!</p><p>Yes, totally possible. I launched Camp K. with less lead time. Finding kids will be tough. You may settle on a low cap like 10. Or trying to do weeks like first / last week of summer when camps often don't run. That will be your main concern, but it's totally doable, and you'll have something to reflect on in the fall for next time. I feel like it's worth getting the ball rolling. You should post here if you do keep going and keep us posted :)</p>
<p>hey guys, I am an Elementary Education Major in my final semester, and my friend and I are thinking of opening up a tiny summer camp in 6 weeks. We want a maximum of 10 children per week. I have a few questions I was hoping you guys could help me with! </p><p>1) can I run this camp out of my house? If not, I can rent a space, but would I have to have insurance for this? </p><p>2) do I need insurance for the camp? if so how much would it cost? </p><p>3) what type of documents do I need to have the parents sign in order to release liability for driving and such? </p><p>Please help! </p>
<p>hey!</p><p>that's great! i hope you make it happen!</p><p>your answers are going to be specific to your state and city. you should get in touch with someone at probably your city hall, and they will be able to answer these questions for you. there should be a safety office that does licensing for educational programs and specifically camps that you can talk to.</p><p>why don't you start there and write back as that evolves?</p>
<p>I think insurance is really important for businesses, especially something like a summer camp. There are a lot of different things that could go quite terrible, but if your insured you won't have to worry so much. It's good to talk to an insurance agent before getting insurance just to make sure you have all the coverage you need. <a href="http://www.fishelinsurance.com" rel="nofollow">http://www.fishelinsurance.com</a></p>
<p>Summer can not get here soon enough! I've applied to work at a couple camps this summer, but I haven't heard back yet. It's something I always wanted to do though. If I enjoy it enough maybe I'll think about starting my own summer camp someday. I never really thought about that before.<br><br>http://www.kidsclubchildcare.com/</p>
At my summer camp if we get in trouble they just tell your parents
Starting a summer camp sounds like a great idea! I love <a href="http://daycarematch.com" rel="nofollow">child care</a> so it shouldn't be too much of a stretch for me.
I appreciate the info! I've been looking around for a decent <a href="http://daycarematch.com" rel="nofollow">child care</a>, but didn't really think about doing my own.. I'll have to look into that. Thanks for sharing!
Welcome to Uncle Touchy's puzzle basement
&nbsp;Geez! You are making me get hyped up about summer already! I have 7 weeks left then final exams.&nbsp;
I would like all of your advice an information for starting a camp. I have the motivation and imagination as to starting a camp. Along with that motivation , i have heart, and i think that is a key element in teaching, and helping kids. From a young teacher, to a more wiser teacher, i am asking for your advice and help to make my dream come true. When you find the time, if you could contact me on my email at johnreynolds42aaron@yahoo.com, I would greatly appreciate it. thank you for your time, and i look forward to hearing from you. <br />
Although it is only pocket change, the fact of having to pay for the information that you are providing in order to help people, is somewhat disheartening. I&nbsp;was quite excited&nbsp;to find that there are people out there with positive ideas and plans&nbsp;to help&nbsp;kids to be able partake in and learn important life building skills that we all need to realize before we can lead a richer fuller more appreciative life. But none the less i do not have a credit card, nor do i want one, but i will not let this stand in my way. I would enjoy to hear from you (the organizer) as i have some questions i qould like to run past u, as i have a few very lucrative propositions to discuss. If you would&nbsp;be so kind as to get a hold of me at <a href="mailto:anislandkid85@gmail.com" rel="nofollow">anislandkid85@gmail.com</a> that would be great.<br /> Thanx for your time!&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Brandon
We would like all ideas for starting a camp for kids. Thank you. Doug and Dawn Stnrddn@yahoo.com
We need too talk. My wife and I are going to start a opportunities camp for kids and for others. I have a story to tell you about when I was 14 and what to start up a camp. Please contact me at stnrddn@yahoo.com or 503 391-4649 PO Box 1184 Aumsville,Or 97325 Thank you, Doug and Dawn Stenerodden
Can I use the same concept to start a cult? :D
a boy touching cult
Juklop ,you could but remember everything has a price and I'm quite sure you dont want to pay for that.
I thought this site was very helpful. However I have a question? What do you do for money during the rest of the year. How do you generate an income to support your living expenses during the year?
I found that running a camp gives you a tremendous amount of reputation and social capital, making it possible to <br/><br/><ul class="curly"><li>run afterschool programs (I did some in hands-on science; some in creative math activities)</li><li>run classes for homeschoolers</li><li>tutor</li><br/></ul>and this how I supported myself for the 2 school years after the 1st and 2nd summers.<br/><br/>After the third summer (this past year,) I tried launching <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thekaleidoscopecenter.org">The Kaleidoscope Center</a> -- a homeschooling center based off of the same principles. It got going (and is still going!) but I felt like it wasn't the right fit for me. I've taken the past 6 months, living off of the savings I have from camp to fix a major neck problem I'd had for 3 years (I wrote about it at my health blog at michaelnagle.org) and to start a community science center called <a rel="nofollow" href="http://sproutward.org">sprout!</a><br/><br/>Of particular note there is that while after the first summer we just broke even (I made $2,500 over the summer), the second and third summers were both profitable enough to live for the remainder of the year, frugally (I made about $15 - 20k , closer to $15k, each summer.)<br/>
It seems to be a very good instructable for a day care or something, but what was described here does not sound like a summer camp to me. Summercamp is outdoors, and involves actual camping (ya know, in tents). Still quite good, just not what i expected when i clicked the link.
elbel, if I understand correctly, I think this is designed more for a day camp than an overnight or "sleep-away" camp. A lot of kids go to camps where they are dropped of in the morning and picked up when their parents get out of work. So yeah, it is kind of like a really sweet daycare with a lot of fun organized activities and education mixed in. :-) Though you could do something like this with kids in dorms or cabins. There are sleep-away science camps at research facilities and stuff.
<a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=136459,00.html">public charity/private foundation</a><br/>this page seems to outline info on public charity vs private foundation<br/>
Seriously! As an adult, I would consider a kind of camp like this an awesome holiday. I have no science background and am 52 years old with an artsy kind of history. Does ANYONE know of a camp like this where I could go? I'm not kidding. It would be a dream holiday!
This site was super helpful I had the idea of starting my own camp and needed some resources, thanks
Very nice instructable, If someone does make a camp I'd like to see a comment on it. What was your average kid turn out?
Our first year was small: we had 5 - 10 kids each week. The camp has grown really rapidly -- in its second year we had 25 - 35 kids each week, and this year we're looking at roughly 60 kids each week.
How is your summer camp going??
All I can say is "wow!" This instructable has been invaluable. Starting a summer camp has been my dream for the past quarter century. Finding this on the internet tonight seems like kismet. I think it's high time I made my dream a reality. Thank you!
Have you gotten started with your summer camp??
Fantastic instructable! I love that don't hurt anybody sign :)
did you know that they are taking apart a CD drive that has invisible lasers that can be potentially harmful if power is supplied these invisible laser can sometimes blind if looked into directly(when power is supplied)!
I noticed that it would be OK if there is supervision to make sure power is not supplied and all power leads are taken away! sorry for causing any stress from what I said before!
daddy day camp lol. rated pg.
For someone who's going to be working at a summer camp very soon (5 days! Scary...) I find this very interesting!
That's really cool! I have plans to start a primary school (way) later in life, but starting a camp first would be a great idea. Thanks for the tips/instructions!
Excellent instructable! I've been thinking of starting a similar maker-style camp and this has been very helpful. Thanks for the inspiration!

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Bio: It's me, Prince Nagle Nagle!
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