The Highlights of Short-Term Camp: An interview with the NCAP Chairman

In January of 2021, councils will begin to use the National Camp Accreditation Program (NCAP) to authorize and evaluate short-term camps for the first time. So, we thought who better to help us understand the process than the chairman of the NCAP committee Carl Nicolaysen. We sat down with Carl recently and asked him some of the questions that are on everyone’s mind.

Outdoor Programs & Properties: What is short-term camp?

Carl: A short-term camp is defined as any council-organized overnight camping program, whether one-time or continuing, that is one, two or three nights in length where the council or its agents provide the staffing and may provide program and food services and includes camps conducted off council properties . It should be noted that National training courses are subject to the short-term camp requirements, regardless of format or duration.

OPP: That sounds complex, what does that mean in “layman’s” terms?

Carl: More simply, it means that any overnight event that is hosted by a council of one, two, or three nights. Anything more than three nights would be a long-term camp and a camp with no overnight is a day camp. It is important to remember the “council-organized” portion as well. Since districts are the operating arms of the council this definition extends to district events as well. It is also important to point out that on or off council property, the standards still apply.

OPP: The BSA has been hosting these types of camps for years, so how is this “new”?

Carl: You are correct, the BSA has been doing this kind of camping for years. What is new is these type of camping events must now follow the quality and safety standards. I should point out that this does not mean that councils were not following various standards in the past, but this new classification gives councils even more tools to ensure safe, quality short-term camps. The standards that apply for short-term camps are about safe, quality programs. Many councils are likely already meeting many of these standards making the transition easier.

OPP: Why did the BSA decide to evaluate short-term camps?

Carl: The goal of the NCAP standards are to promote the health, safety, and well-being of every camper, leader, visitor, and staff member while participating in a BSA-accredited camp; and to guide councils so that each camper and leader obtains a quality program consistent with the BSA brand .The local council is responsible for maintaining the BSA national camp standards .

Short term camps happen across the country every weekend and we serve lots of scouts during these programs. We wanted to make sure that councils have a guide to offer these programs safely.

OPP: What resources are available to councils to help with the process?

Carl: There are many sources where you can find information. Of course the NCAP website at scouting.org/NCAP, as well as the short-term camp webpage.

In December, we will also release a new short-term camp guidebook that will be an additional resource for councils.

You should also look at the National Camping School training for a short-term camp administrator. Each short-term camp must have a trained short-term camp administrator. You can find out more information on the NCS website.

OPP: Walk us through the process of short-term camp assessment. How do we do it? What is the timeline? How do we evaluate it?

Carl: The planning for a short-term camp is the same as it has been in the past. You should work with the local council or district to plan the camp with the committee with a budget, the program and promotion. You will need to add to the plan a short-term camp administrator who will be responsible for the administration of the camp and will be responsible for the NCAP Local Council Authorization and Assessment Declaration and the site appraisal form if needed in addition to overall administration of the camp. The council will decide who should serve in this role. This may be the event chair, or there may be one for each district or the responsibility may fall to the staff advisor, but someone needs to fill this role and serve in this capacity for each of the short-term camps. This person will also need to be trained for this position through the National Camping School certification training.

Once you have the short-term camp planned, the assessment will take place on site by the short-term camp administrator using the NCAP Local Council Authorization and Assessment Declaration. The short-term camp administrator can also use the NCAP “standards at a glance” as a tool to assess the camp and make certain that the appropriate NCAP standards are met for that camp.  There is also a section on the form for post camp closeout. This form must be kept on file by the council and can be audited during an NCAP review from the area. While the area may look for these documents in the annual review, the short-term camps are self-assessed by the council and do not require an area team.

This sounds complicated, but it is not as bad as it sounds. For most camps, this will be a simple acknowledgement of how the standards are met and filling out the correct paperwork.  

OPP: With this new position of Short-term Camp administrator, is there a training that they need to take?

Carl: Yes, there is a new section of National Camping School for short-term camp administrator. Don’t worry, it is not a full week. This can be administered through the local council or there are several opportunities to take the training online through National Council facilitated courses as well. The training opportunities can be found on the National Camping School website and the Short-term camp website (https://www.scouting.org/outdoor-programs/national-camping-school/ and https://www.scouting.org/outdoor-programs/camping/short-term-camp/.

OPP: With all these changes, how does the program of our camp need to change?

Carl: It doesn’t. The program of the BSA is still the program. As always when designing your camp to meet the needs of a particular age group, the age appropriate guidelines need to be followed along with the Guide to Safe Scouting. The NCAP standards for the camp are another checkpoint for safety and program design. The NCAP Local Council Authorization and Assessment Declaration also asks each camp to indicate the purpose of the camp. We think that camps should be able to articulate why the camp is being held and make sure that like Baden Powell said, what we do has a purpose. Each camp we operate should meet the needs of our units and individuals and should further the mission of the BSA.

OPP: What else would you want to remind our readers about the short-term camp classification?

Carl: I would encourage anyone who oversees a short-term camp to become familiar with the NCAP standards related to short-term camps. These will be a tool for you in planning a camp. I would also encourage you to pay close attention to the SQ standards that speak to staff qualifications. Remember that some of these qualifications call for National Camping School certified staff. Begin your plan now to send these people to the appropriate section of National Camping School or begin looking around your council for the staff who have these qualifications.

Thanks for letting me talk with you and share about this important topic. Just a reminder that you can always reach out to us at NCAP@scouting.org or to the Outdoor Programs team at outdoorprograms@scouting.org.

 

 

References listed in this article

National Camp Accreditation website: https://www.scouting.org/outdoor-programs/camp-accreditation/

National Camping School website: https://www.scouting.org/outdoor-programs/national-camping-school/

Short-term camp website: https://www.scouting.org/outdoor-programs/camping/short-term-camp/