What to Know About Staff Training

Ease into it!

Our staff start practicing behavior management and other interactions on day one of training with small-group role-plays. Our staff go through about 140+ hours of training, ranging from behavior management to how to uphold the typical structure in a camp day. In addition, we play many teambuilding and getting-to-know-you activities to break up the information about camp policies and procedures, child abuse awareness/training, basic safety, and so much more! We work extensively with the Starfish Tools, Keys and Strategies, how to effectively lead a group and activities, diversity, conflict resolution, practicing how to structure any camp activities and learning all the daily routines and camp traditions.

Some other training we do, depends on the position. We train our Lifeguards inhouse, with first aid, CPR and AED training. 

Before the arrival of campers, our staff will have completed enough profession-focused learning to become certified as a Level I Care Specialist. Following additional hands-on work with children over the summer, you may also receive your Level II certification, which includes a salary boost and opens up opportunities for leadership positions at camp!

When our first session starts, we call Session one, staff training part two; this is where our staff take what they learned over the last two weeks and put it all into practice. Of course, there is only so much you can roleplay! And as behavior happens for real during the summer, debriefing and follow-up helps you identify best practices..


Another tradition that we do at Starfish and is a huge piece of staff training is Torchgroups!

The tradition of staff Torchgroups began at Starfish in 2006 and has quickly become one of the most eagerly anticipated parts of our annual staff training for those who return! Torchgroups offer an opportunity for every staff member to participate in a small mentoring group during their introduction to Starfish. The names of the torch groups were chosen to represent attributes that we, as a camp, value in our staff team and camp community.The Torchgroups include: Leadership, Enthusiasm, Honor and Integrity, Belief and Empowerment, Respect, Community, Patience, Compassion, Fun and Safety, Dedication, Friendship, and Acceptance.

Every staff member is randomly placed into one of the Torchgroups at the beginning of staff training. Between team builders and occasional debriefs, your torchgroup will be a familiar place for support and comfort! We include a torchgroup competition as well into training, where we play games we use over the summer with campers, and hold game nights as a way to relax and unwind after a long day of training! 

While training is long, it is very beneficial to being a successful specialist as Camp Starfish. We hope that after reading this you are a little more prepared about what to expect this summer!

If you ever have any staffing questions, you can reach out to Rachel, our Director of Staff Experience at [email protected]

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“While training is long, it is very beneficial to being a successful specialist as Camp Starfish. We hope that after reading this you are a little more prepared about what to expect this summer!”

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Danielle Lubbers

Danielle joined Camp Starfish in the spring of 2023 as Camp Director. Originally working with the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay, Danielle has ten years of experience providing programming to children, outdoor skills training for adults, and directing overnight summer camp experiences.

In her spare time, Danielle enjoys spending time with her two-year old Dalmatian, Mia. Danielle’s favorite activity at camp is raft building, as she enjoys seeing campers and staff work together to complete a team goal. Her favorite Camp Starfish Tool is “We are here to learn, grow, and have fun!”

Staff photo of David

David Mahnken

David Mahnken is Camp Starfish’s Mental Health Consultant. He provides staff training each summer on topics such as self-care, trauma-informed care practices, and health & wellness. David also provides support and consultation to the organization throughout the year. David holds a BA from St. Olaf College and an MSW from Simmons University. David is a LICSW who works in emergency services in addition to his own private practice in Massachusetts.

Prior to becoming a social worker, David’s first experience at camp was as a counselor in the early 2000s before becoming an administrator and member of the year-round team. His favorite camp activity is swim-I (swim instruction), and his favorite Camp Starfish Tool is: “We make camp a safe place.”

Staff photo of Joe

Joe Clark

As the Assistant Director at Camp Starfish, Joe is a seasoned professional who is well-versed in all aspects of camp life. With five years of summer work at Starfish, he brings extensive experience and expertise to the camp year-round. Joe is from the UK, and holds a degree from Keele University. Joe works as a support worker in the UK, providing care to individuals with disabilities, since 2019. Joe also engages in volunteer work, including spending three months in Abrobiano, Ghana.

Joe is known at camp for his charming English accent, which campers often try to replicate! His favorite camp activity is playing soccer (football) on the field, and his favorite Camp Starfish Tool is: “I take responsibility for my actions.”

Staff photo of Rachel

Rachel Roberts

Rachel Roberts is the Director of Staff Experience at Camp Starfish, responsible for all things staffing and groups. With a degree in Anthropology, and a Certificate in Global Citizenship from Franklin Pierce University, Rachel brings a unique perspective to her role. She oversees hiring, onboarding, retention, and staff appreciation for the 100+ seasonal staff at Camp Starfish each summer. Rachel has been a part of the Starfish team since 2016, working in various seasonal roles. She joined the Year-Round Team full-time in 2022.

As a lifelong New Hampshire resident, Rachel enjoys hiking in the woods with her dog, Clover. Her favorite camp activity is Free Play, and her favorite Camp Starfish Tool is: “We respect each other’s differences.”

Staff photo of Kristie

Kristie Martin

Kristie Martin is Camp Starfish’s Program Director, responsible for ensuring that each camper receives a structured, supportive, and fun program during both summer and year-round weekends. With her degree in Applied Psychology & Human Development from the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, Kristie has a deep understanding of child development and uses this knowledge to create a nurturing environment for all campers.

Kristie grew up in the Monadnock region and takes pride in being a local. Kristie’s favorite camp activity is the Camper Talent Show, which she believes is the perfect opportunity for campers to showcase their skills and feel comfortable sharing with the community. Her favorite Camp Starfish Tool is, “I try my best, I do not have to be the best.”

Staff photo of Sarah

Sarah York

Sarah York is the Director of Operations at Camp Starfish, joining the team in the Spring of 2022. She brings with her a wealth of professional experience working in both mental health and human resources. Sarah’s role at Camp Starfish is crucial in ensuring that camp runs smoothly, and she is available to assist families every step of the way through the registration process. If you call the Starfish office, Sarah will likely be who you speak with first!

With her dedication to helping others and her commitment to creating a positive camp experience for every child, it’s no wonder that her favorite Camp Starfish Tool is: “We are members of a team.”

Staff photo of Jamie

Jamie Mahnken

Jamie Mahnken is Camp Starfish’s Executive Director, and has been an integral part of the Camp Starfish community since 2010, serving in a variety of roles. With a degree in Business Administration and Organizational Leadership from Southern New Hampshire University, Jamie is committed to creating a safe and positive environment for every camper, staff member, and volunteer.

As a North Carolina native, Jamie enjoys spending time outdoors with her family. Her favorite camp activity is kayaking to Blueberry Island, which is a meaningful and memorable experience for many campers, as well. Jamie’s favorite Camp Starfish Tool is: “I am flexible and open to change.”