Camp Augusta is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) camp
What's Special About Camp Augusta?
There are over 12,000 camps in the United States. There are a dozen camps in Northern California that are “like” Camp Augusta. We are different in many specific ways, and below are some of them, which is one reason we believe we were the only camp in California we could find that was full from 2009 through 2017. Augusta remains full every summer, and has been for over a decade.
The list is long of things that make Augusta unique among summer camps. Use the table below or scroll down and enjoy the journey. You may be surprised that a place like this exists.
Partnering with Parents Efforts
Although camp can be an important part of a child’s development, obviously families are central and critical as well, especially if the peer group is not more central than the parents. To help parents raise healthy children – to partner with parents, Camp Augusta is doing three things. One, we are providing a safe, healthy, community environment where kids can have fun, and learn a little while they’re here. Two, counselors write letters to the parents about their child’s experience so that there can be some continuity. Three, we have pet-project website entitled “Partnering with Parents.” Just a few topics you will find there are: behavior guidance, serious play, media and children, character development, self-esteem, communication skills, the heart of camping, integrity, and much more.
Evaluation and Improvement
To prevent guidelines/documents from becoming rigid and “rule bound,” we operate with rigorous, continuous evaluation. When campers or families are here, we seek their feedback. Parents of campers evaluate camp via an on-line form. During the summer, Camp Augusta staff travel to two or more camps for benchmarking visits. Most nights during the summer, non-counseling staff meet for “knowledge management,” which turns into “OWL.” At the end of the summer, the Camp Augusta staff create a year-end report that is literally hundreds of pages long. We also hold a Camp Augusta Symposium after the summer for topics that require considerable reflection and discussion.
Staff Quality, Personality, and Character
Everyone promises a quality staff. We invite you to check out our staff selection process, which includes writing deeply and authentically about yourself through a couple of rounds of questions and a 2 hour interview by a doctor of psychology (Our camp director Randy). Our staff hiring process is the most extensive of any camp we know of. Staff are usually older on average than most camps, offering a maturity to accompany playfulness and skill.
29 hours of videos on child, culture, and human development are viewed before staff arrive at camp. Over 300 pages of staff manuals are read before staff training, and each staff member has a 2 hour discussion on the content, before training even begins. Our residential staff training is over three weeks long, making it the longest in the nation we know of, and more than three times the length of most other camps. During the summer, there is an extensive mentorship system in place, so that on-going training occurs daily.
We are the only camp in California, and one of a very small handful nationally, to include extensive biographies on our web site of all of our staff.
Parent Letters and ‘Wookies’
Counselors write a two-plus page letter (usually typed) about your camper’s experience. The letter has the individual flair of the counselor, and are personal letters to the parents. They often include a bit about the cabin, the camper’s activity choices and how they did with them, descriptions of cabin activities, discussion about how the camper interacted with the other cabin mates and campers in general, the counselor’s impressions of the camper, generally how their time at camp was, and more. We don’t know of another camp anywhere that makes this extensive effort. Campers also receive hand-painted “wood cookies,” or Wookies, that include their name on one side and something that highlights, playfully, enduring and notable pieces about their personality (presented at closing campfire). These are unique pieces of art, specifically for your child; campers almost always keep these for several years displayed prominently in their rooms.
Director with Ph.D. in developmental, social, and organizational psychology and over 20 years in camping
Camp Augusta is fortunate to have Dr. Randall Grayson as our director. He maintains a separate web site where he consults with other camps around the country helping them to improve. Dr. Grayson created several other websites as well, which are listed on his bio page, as well as in “Partnering with Parents.”
Director Takes a Cabin of Campers Himself Every Summer
At no other camp we know of does the director of the camp take a cabin of children himself for a session, which has happened for several years. With about 50 staff working directly with the 90 children, it certainly isn’t necessary. Yet, it speaks to the value of cabin life at Camp Augusta, as well as the director’s love of play. 🙂 Teaching clinics and playstation daily is also a common occurance.
Empty phrases and marketing lingo sprinkle the web, and sometimes actually reflect what happens in the organization itself as well. At Camp Augusta, we have deep intentionality about what and why we do things. For example, we have guidelines/philosophies on music, skits, stories, food, behavior guidance, CAP projects, partnering with parents materials, competition, clinics and their role at camp, challenge by choice, how we begin the day (special wake ups), how we end the day (evening embers), and more. Ask us, and we can likely send you an intention document for what you’re curious about.
To make sure we don’t nurse “sacred cows,” we operate via consensus and flat hierarchy, so change is available to everyone. Tradition is a guide and a compass point instead of a jailer.
Close to Nature
The only electricity children use is their flashlights and the lights in the bathhouses. At night in the cabins, candles are often used as the only source of light. The cabins are open air. There are literally thousands of trees in the heavily forested 80 acres of camp. Children spend all day, every day living outside in nature, including eating outside at picnic tables. Deer commonly walk through camp. Campers swim in two natural waterfall swimming pools, the lake, and the Yuba River. Playing in Rock Creek, which runs through camp, is another favorite activity. At least once, children sleep outside under the stars. You get the idea. 🙂 Why is being close to nature for a period of time important? Find out here.
Meaningful Individual Attention
With our small size, comes meaningful individual attention. A joy of being a very small camp, with a very high staff ratio. You’re not going to get a bureaucracy; you’re going to get a personal response. Please see “The Heart of Camping.’
The majority of our clinic activities have about a 1:5 ratio, with many less than that. Every activity clinic block, there are usually 2-6 activities that have a 1:2 ratio. The maximum in a class is 10 campers, and class size is limited for best effect, such as Pod A having a cap of 4 campers and 2 staff. Playstations may have 10+ campers, but they would also have more staff present. Not including kitchen, maintenance, and other non-camper focused roles, Camp Augusta has 45 staff for 90 campers. And, that does NOT include Junior Counselors, who have successfully completed the CIRCLE program. This is the highest ratio we know of in camping.
Our sessions have 90 campers on site plus our wilderness trips. There isn’t a sea of campers and staff to get lost in. When kids eat inside (outside at Augusta), there isn’t a rumble when people are simply talking normally. The director and staff get to know the kids and chat. Many camps have 200 – 400 kids plus staff, but we like it small and friendly. After about 150 people total, including staff, the human mind can’t keep track of the social connections . . . the humanity of one another and the whole. Think about it . . . how many people are in your address book? We’re small on purpose, and we love how that feels, and what it teaches.
Developmentally, think of a canyon with high walls (culture) that guide the water (person) along a path. When people travel, they experience anti-canalization as they experience a new way of being and thinking. This is especially the case when the destination is more different than the person’s normal experience/life . . . think of going to India or the deep Amazon from a Western culture.
At Camp Augusta, we aim to be an anti-canalization experience, which is more the case in two-week sessions where campers settle into camp more. Campers travel to a world that shakes up their normal experience, allowing for insights and experiences otherwise unavailable. Every part of the day and the way the staff interact with the campers is designed around this concept. Some examples . . . being awakened in a creative way every morning, experiencing responsibility without punishment or reward or guilt, seeing what you’re like without your family and normal routines, being out of one’s comfort zone sleeping outside or learning to live with people you don’t like, having your creative muscle exercised with pervasive wish, wonder, and surprise, challenging oneself and being exposed to over a hundred new activities, expressing oneself in evening embers, and so much more. Camp Augusta aims to be very fun . . . and so much more
We live in an age where neighborhood block parties are rare, people go from isolation at home, to an isolated car, to activities that are done either alone or in small groups. Only about 60% of the country votes. At Camp Augusta, we strive to create a real community. There is shared effort as campers help clean their cabins, dishes, the camp, and help with meals. People belong and we work hard to prevent cliques. Campers and staff have a real voice in how things run at camp (consensus); combined with a flat hierarchy, everyone at camp, including campers, shape the community we all live in. Camp Augusta has core values that we strive to make real daily — “We are a creative, trustworthy, fun, community of servants focused on the mission and vision.” Our hope is that children and staff appreciate living in a real community, and that they’ll take that knowledge and appreciation with them to make the world outside of Camp Augusta a little bit stronger of a community.
Camp Augusta is not high tech, glitzy, or full of the latest toy trends. Kids’ lives are full of that already. We provide an environment where a kid can see and watch the butterfly, kick a stone and see how it really bounces, and have a conversation with a friend without needing anything that whistles, buzzes, hums, or makes an electronic connection with anything. Life is reduced to rustic simplicity, and we are once again reminded of the pleasures that come from simply being with one another and spending time with ourselves. At Camp Augusta, we create wonderful simplicity, amazing simplicity, ecstatic simplicity . . . it’s simple to us! Our wilderness trips provide an even higher level of this, without the activities calling the children’s attention to try a new experience, like wood lathe, and allowing for days in nature as simple as it gets. While at camp, campers are welcome to exit the daily schedule to chill or do something different as they desire.
When you think of camp, you probably think of a lake, forest, simplicity, fun, and stunning beauty. Camp Augusta has all of that, and its own waterfall, with the amazing Yuba River just around the corner. Spending three hours wandering around Camp Augusta unguided to our most amazing spots (like Secret Pool, Madrone Cradle, Maidu Village, numerous tree houses, Manzanita forest, etc.) is a delight in and of itself. If you’re in the area, please avail yourself of this wonderful opportunity!
While we occasionally offer magic tricks as a Playstation option, “Magikeering” refers to the culmination of Wish, Wonder, and Surprise combined with creation. At its heart, magic is the opening to wonder (how did they do that?!), the entreatment of wish (wow, I’d love to be able to do that or see another), and the visceral surprise and reminder that what we know is small compared with what we don’t know. Instead of an observation of magic, which all of us have been a part of, Magikeering is the creation of magic, together, in an experience where what will happen is both known and unknown. Cabin activities are a prime example, where campers lead with their imaginations, made real. Playstations and Evening Programs begin with a premise, and then travel where they will from there. Creativity throughout camp inspires the children to be a part of Magikeering at camp, and through the rest of their lives. Who doesn’t need more of that?
Oh sure, we’ve got activities such as a climbing tower, ropes course, canoeing, archery, overnight trips, berry picking, horses, riflery, arts and crafts, mountain biking, mountain boarding, and lots more. However, we specialize in opportunities and challenges that children and families can’t normally or easily (or at all) find near home. Atlatl, archery clout, ninja, broad-sword fighting, fire spinning, aerial silks, low ropes, native flute, Celtic arts, balloon sculpture, paper marbling, Quidditch, tree climbing, aerial bungee, primitive skills, parkour, kalimba, and many, many more!
Some of our activities have levels, such as Archery or Horses. Basically, they are graduated skill groupings, which campers advance through in their time at Augusta. With higher skills come different opportunities, which require the skill in order to participate, such as challenging archery games or advanced equestrian techniques. This system allows for faster progression, greater safety, further opportunities, and higher attention and motivation, among other benefits. Two-week sessions, in particular, allow for these opportunities.
Cabin activities are a hybrid of the creativity and randomness of Playstation coupled with the structure of regular programming clinics. They are an opportunity to do something special as a group that facilitates bonding, teamwork and togetherness. Campers are greeted with the question on the first day “If you could do anything . . . anything you could imagine while at camp that is not a regular clinic activity, what would that be?” From there, creativity and imagination are engaged and incredible experiences are spawned. Because of that openness and “we can do it” attitude, cabin activities number in the hundreds by way of examples. Learn more on the cabin activity page.
After dinner, the whole camp participates in activities together known as evening programs (EP). Camp Augusta’s unique evening programs come in many forms, such as “Everyday Olympics,” “Nature’s Wrath,” “H20-No!,” “Shakespeare,” “Super Heroes,” “Jokers and Aces Wild,” “Nightfall,” as well as traditional campfires with songs, skits, and traditions. We change the evening programs every year, so campers always experience original evening programs. All campers and almost all of the staff take part in EPs (sometimes the kitchen staff even join in the fun!). An EP is designed as a themed adventure consisting of an opening skit, a middle task to be completed by the campers and an ending skit. Evening programs are full of characters, dialog, skits, stations, heroes, villains, smoke, flags, gunk, water, epic challenges and so much more. While many camps play a big group game in the evening (game shows, big games of dodge ball, Vegas night, MTV night, Dating game), our evening programs don’t just say “hey kids lets play this game it’ll be fun,” they say “come with me on a journey of adventure.” Where else do 140 people play make believe in an engrossed, interactive adventure?
Imagine going to bed and knowing that in the morning you don’t need an alarm clock. What you do need is an inspired individual to awaken you in some unique manner! At Camp Augusta, the children, by cabin, are awakened in magical ways, every single day. We have literally hundreds of different ways to do so, and scores of new ones are created each summer. Special wakeups can touch theheart, tickle the funny bone, inspire wonder, create wishes, be surprising, foster creativity, buildconnections, and make memories for everyone. Learn more about them here, and how you can do these at home!
At night, after the evening program and showers, the cabin gathers for a time together before going to sleep. These times, which we call evening embers, serves many purposes and forms, such as to create connection, understanding, awareness, character, laughter, history, a sense of family, and a host of other positive ends by being together with these topics, adventures, challenges, and experiences. They get their name from the close of the day being like the embers of a fire. In form, they can be discussion based, an adventure, star gazing, playing the “I Wonder” game, or whatever else the cabin designs. You can check out several examples that your family can use at home here.
Camp Augusta ‘Playstation’
We’ve also got activities that were played 50 — 2000 years ago, and that most kids have either forgotten, or were never exposed to, except at Camp Augusta. We’ve got activities such as PDQ, Kabaddi, Zoogle, Candle Duel, 9 Square, Balero, Juggling, Bocce Ball, Koob, Horseshoes, Indian Rope Balance, and over 200 more. Check out more about our Camp Augusta Playstation.
Intended Benefits of a Camp Augusta Experience
Creativity and Innovation
- Experimenting with all of the clinic activities
- Evening programs — new every summer; inspired by their creation and participation
- Cabin activities — “if you could do anything, what would that be?”
- CAPP — Camp Augusta Pride Projects for creative, optional community service
- Playstation — “oh my goodness, really!?, well, okay, I’ll try it!”
- Special wakeups — start the day off right, creatively!
- No digital forms of expression. Art clinics are blank slates, not kits or assembly.
- Dr. Grayson, Augusta’s director, has a draft book in the works about fostering creativity and innovation; here is a single page checklist as an excerpt from his book.
- Being around creative staff who love to experiment
- Whether in arts and crafts, archery, or horsemanship, children are encouraged to try new things. Camp is a safe place to fail and succeed. Check out “The Art and Science of Mistakes.”
- Lesson plans and competent instructors — see activity areas; ask to see our detailed lesson plans
- Time to learn activities if the campers choose to (especially over two weeks)
- Some of our activity areas are setup on leveled system, to allow for progression appropriate to current and developed skill ability.
- Balanced skill-based activity exposure – extensive arts, diverse music program, adventure, equestrian, circus skills, field games, outdoors/nature, performance arts, diverse target sports, water, and Augustan uniqueness like blacksmithing and ninja training.
- Physical experimentation with body — diverse activities, most of which children haven’t tried before.
- Exposure to such a diverse array of activities enlivens the passion to be a student in life, outside of camp and school.
Whether chatting in the cabin, walking to activity areas, hanging out at meals, chilling at rest hour, or participating in activities together, camp is a social place to build friendships. This is especially true for campers who stay two weeks. And, our small community fits the Dunbar Limit for helping people know others and be known. Evening Embers are also a wonderful time for deepening connections.
- Satisfy the child’s own emotional needs, without encouraging excessive self-concern
- Encouraging children to identify, experience, and express a wide range of emotions
- Provide frequent opportunities to observe other people’s emotional responsiveness (modeling)
- Guide empathic understandings via “Success Counseling”
- Staff are trained in an array of emotional intelligence skills, such as Compassionate Communication
Environmental Awareness and Appreciation
- Provide a beautiful, natural surrounding
- Nature education
- Camping in a minimally-invasive manner
- Be outside as much as possible
- Measuring the food waste at each meal and composting
- Extensive recycling program (over the course of a summer, we generate the trash equivalent of an average family of 4 over the course of a year).
- Outdoor living skills
Healthy Lifestyle – exercise, good nutrition, and knowledge of healthy lifestyle
Camp Augusta is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
Wait…What about Testimonials and Quotes?
We have them, tons. We don’t post them. Why? Let’s say a camp has had 10,000+ campers (maybe 50,000) over its life. Posting a dozen or more cherry-picked satisfaction quotes, to us, doesn’t mean anything. Even in the last year or two, a dozen happy campers utilized for pull quotes out of all campers is likely at any camp. Instead, if you’d like, we offer another challenge — we’ll give you a list of all campers from a given session at camp, and you get to pick who you call for a reference.