Summer Wrap-Up Saying Goodbye to Summer

By the time summer comes to a close, camp staff are both weary and disappointed.  They are weary of the long hours and emotional drain, but they are disappointed that the job is ending and they have to return to new places or, for year-round staff, new responsibilities.  Staff look forward to more sleep, time to shower, and a real personal life, but they know without a doubt that they will seriously miss the crazy pace of camp life, their jobs in the sun, and the people among whom they worked.

It is important to find ways for both your summer and permanent staff to wrap up their summers well so they can look to the future in anticipation.

Traditionally, campsites finish their summer schedule and immediately send summer staff packing and put permanent staff back in the roles of retreat hosts, recruiters, and fundraisers.  Camps may take a few hours after the last camp to say goodbyes and have a last meal together, but that’s about the extent of the goodbye process.

This is a shame.

Experiential education research shows that most of the learning from an experience comes as a result of reflecting carefully on it. ( The Association for Experiential Education has some great information on this.) People do learn from experience alone, but have difficulty connecting specific experience with larger themes if they are not helped along in the process.  When staff are not given the opportunity to have this reflection, much of the potential learning is lost.  Staff are not the only place where campsites lose out by neglecting the summer goodbye; campsites lose the benefit of evaluation and additional care.

So don’t hurry to wrap up your summer.  Don’t say a simple goodbye to your summer staff and send them packing right after your last campers.  Hold off for a while, and take the time to say goodbye to the summer well.  Yes, people are in a hurry to get to the next section of their life.  Students return to school.   Retreats need planning.  The camp needs maintenance.  But remind yourself, and others, that debriefing is just as important as the initial training (and you found plenty of time to manage that).

Consider how much time you spent training your summer staff initially.  Would it be possible to have the same amount of time at the end of summer to wrap up?  Your immediate answer may be no, but think on it some more.  Let the idea simmer.  How much maintenance help could your summer staff offer in that time?  How much evaluation could be done, and then used to make the next summer better?  Could summer staff help with the beginning planning for retreats?

And all this could be happening simultaneous to wrap up discussions and reflection.

If, after letting the idea simmer for a while, you still answer no to the possibility of an extended wrap up time with your staff,  you still need to find a way to book mark the end of summer.  None of this having a quick lunch together before heading out.  That just will not do.  Ending in such a lackluster manner easily makes the entire summer feel less valuable, and you do not want anyone working for your campsite to ever question the value of their job.

Plan a celebration.

It doesn’t need to be complicated.

Maybe try a day at the beach.

Grilling, swimming, tubing, pontooning.

It’s relaxing, which everyone will need.

It’s fun, which everyone will want.

And it gives opportunity for long conversations, which is vital.

And your staff will recognize the signal that this is the end.  Summer is over.  And it was great.  You may not have had the time for in-depth wrap ups,  but you did recognize the importance of punctuating the end of summer well.


  1. This is a great article.
    Thank you

    • The Camp Whisperer says:

      Thanks, Vyan. It doesn’t really fit Rocklands well, but hopefully other camps will find it useful.

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