ACA Camp Blog

August 7, 2012

The Children’s Defense Fund has just released The State of America’s Children® 2012 Handbook. Consider a few of the facts shared:

  1. There are 16.4 million poor children in America.
  2. More children were killed by guns in 2008–2009 than U.S. military personnel in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to date.
  3. A child is born into poverty every twenty-nine seconds in America.

I believe we are a part of the solution. But only if we are informed advocates for all children.

I find it alarming that two things most critical to a healthy future are fragile today — the environment and children. We can do something about both. What will you do?

July 23, 2012

We all know we don’t operate at our best all the time. So what do we need to understand in order to manage that risk, especially at this time of year in the summer camp season? 

Remember where our counselors are developmentally.

  1. New risk capacities (training) evolve over time with experience.
    • Mentor young counselors with seasoned staff throughout the summer.
  2. Peer pressure can still prevail.
    • Continue to support clarity and sincerity in behavior and words.
  3. We all get tired and exhausted.
    • Be sure counselors are getting plenty of rest in order to be at their optimum.
  4. We function best when we know our surroundings.
    • If going to a new surrounding, partner new counselors with seasoned staff.

Counselors are modeling for campers — seasoned staff and directors are modeling for counselors. It is an enormously successful form of synergy and energy. It can power positive camp experiences.

Photo courtesy of Jaycee Camp Hope, Pendleton, South Carolina 

July 9, 2012

We hear so much about 21st century competencies such as creativity, collaboration, and communication. I have my own 21st century list of desired “Cs”. Here is my wish list:

  1. I wish for confidence. Not arrogance or hubris, but the spirit of probability — probability of success and the ability to add value to the lives of others.
  2. I wish to achieve clarity. I want to be able to share my thoughts so they are easily understood, giving my voice a quiet power as an advocate for others.
  3. I wish for consistency. A consistency in principles that offer a framework for shared uniformity even within an ever-changing and complex world. I wish for an ability to assert these consistent principles even in contradiction.

I wish for these things because I believe it will make me a better person in a better world.
 

July 2, 2012

I have never liked lengthy documents — especially when it is clear something can be said using fewer words. I have always been particularly fond of bullets and even more enamored if it can be done in three, or fewer, bullets! Personally, I have been suspicious that I feel that way because remembering more than three bullets is a challenge for me.

But as I read some tips on marketing strategies today, behold, I found: “Never try to make more than three points in a single message.” I am validated!

Can we make messages about the camp experience that are: meaningful, believable, and memorable? What are your messages?

Check out the marketing resources available in ACA's Knowledge Center.

June 26, 2012

A couple months ago, I spoke with Susie Lupert, the new executive director of ACA, New York and New Jersey, about the importance of customer service. Although customer service may be seen as traditional business nomenclature, the concept is just as critical (if not more so) for associations. A few weeks after our conversation, Susie sent me Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service, by Ari Weinzweig.

As I have always loved things in threes, I was immediately drawn to a three-step recipe. (Yes, life should be so easy.)

  1. Figure out what your customer wants.
  2. Get it for them accurately, politely, and enthusiastically.
  3. Go the extra mile for the customer.

Certainly, we can all strive to accomplish those recommended steps to great customer service.  Can you?
 

June 12, 2012

I believe we all want kids to grow up to be successful, healthy, contributing adults. Yet, it seems we have a contradiction in approaches — a paradox — that causes competition in resources, both fiscal and time.

Which strategy gives kids the brightest future: One that employs academic, resume building environments? Or one that presents engaged, experiential, and expanded learning approaches?

I believe, if we do share a desired outcome for children, in fact, both strategies are essential. The sooner we figure out how to manage that shared space, the greater our shared success — for our kids.

Photo courtesy of Camp Echo in Coleman High Country, Merrick, New York.

June 4, 2012

As a parent, I fear we have forgotten that for generations, children grew up outside. We rode our bikes around the neighborhood and splashed around in creeks. We ran barefoot in the grass and climbed trees. Childhood was characterized by innocence, imagination, energy, wonder, and laughter. Frankly, the thought of being cooped up inside all day long was unfathomable and tortuous. Truth be known, that was how my dad punished me — I was sent to my room.

Yet today, research shows that the amount of time U.S. children spend outside has declined by 50 percent in the last two decades alone. On average, children currently spend 5.5 hours a day plugged into some kind of electronic device. Worse, yet, both the media and parents are often telling children and youth they should fear others and be afraid to go outdoors. As a result, silently and suddenly, we have a population of young people who may never have seen the stars, heard an owl in the darkness of night, or been surrounded by the miracle of nature versus the "progress" of man. Kids today even define the outdoors differently — for many of them, it's hanging out on a corner or on the hood of a car versus really enjoying the natural world.

Play time is markedly decreasing. According to researchers who monitor how our children are actually spending their time, outdoor activities are on the decline. Even walking is an endangered activity. William Doherty, a University of Minnesota researcher, reports that over the last twenty years, there has been a 25 percent decline in the time children spend playing and a 50 percent decline in time spent in unstructured outdoor activities. While fleeing indoors may not be a "movement" in itself, there is a profound cultural shift occurring. This shift threatens to leave behind an entire generation of the caretakers of this planet — who will fail to recognize the wonder and discovery of the open air and space, the awe and beauty of nature, or the importance of the ecosystem and its relationship to the quality of life.

We seem to all be tethered by invisible wires. I am not sure children today can feel the unspeakable liberation of moving, dancing, and running in open spaces, free of realized or unrealized confinement. Maybe that is the reality of today's world. Maybe it is imperative in order to keep kids safe. Yet, at what cost? Read more in my recent LA Family article, “Tuning into the Real World.”

Photo courtesy of Cheley Colorado Camps in Estes Park, Colorado.

May 29, 2012

I love to read, and as such, many people forward things to me they think I might find interesting. It is great — I feel like I have my own set of librarians working just for me. ACA’s Director of Research Deb Bialeschki is one of those librarians.

Last week, Deb shared an article with me by Shelly Engelman and Tom McKlin about “Grit” as a measure of academic success. Seriously! They write: “While interest and content knowledge do contribute to achieving goals, psychologists have recently found that Grit — defined as perseverance and passion for long-term goals — is potentially the most important predictor of success. In fact, research indicates that the correlation between grit and achievement was twice as large as the correlation between IQ and achievement.”

Let’s a give a “Woo Hoo!” Or as Linda Erceg, executive director of the Association of Camp Nurses, would say, “Hot spit!”

We are all starting our summer season of the camp experience. Without a doubt, we are helping young people discover their firmness of character and indomitable spirit when making new friends, trying new activities, and sharing a learning community with others. They will dare to face new and, at times, difficult experiences — using resources and courage — while being supported by a caring and, more often than not, cheering group of supporters. I believe we excel in the acquisition of GRIT!

Photo courtesy of Camp John Marc in Meridian, Texas.

May 22, 2012

There is something to be said about the revival of a “way of learning” that supports tacit knowledge, (tacit knowledge will be needed in a constantly changing world — see “Learning for a World of Constant Change,” by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown), and its relationship to the cultivation of both hope and imagination. Tacit knowledge is a result of doing and experiencing — engagement. Tacit knowledge is not a learning process that is linear or mechanical but the result of a collection of experiences that help one make meaning.

This approach to learning requires a massive shift from hierarchical teaching environments to "heterarchical" learning environments. The camp community is one such heterarchical learning environment — and it happens to bring to the 21st century more than 150 years of experience creating these learning environments. This revival may, in fact, become the new way of educating our children across all platforms of learning. The camp experience could provide a foundation for those platforms of learning.

Photo courtesy of Cali-Camp at Big Rock Ranch in Topanga, California.

May 7, 2012

We are rapidly approaching significant opportunity as a community of practice. We must be present, prepared, and practiced for parents, politicians, and professionals alike who are beginning to clamor for what we do and have done for decades for children, youth, and adults. They are using different terms and nomenclature to describe what they hope their children and the new work force will be able to achieve — but it is the same as what we do. So we need to step out, step up,  and get in the game — start the chatter — and be ready to knock it out of the park!

April 9, 2012
Promoting Self Control

Have any of you read Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky? This is another fascinating read.

Are you not both challenged and validated by any number of frameworks currently being promoted that all resonate with the value of the camp experience? Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner, 21st century skills, Mind in the Making, teen brain research, and others all are converging around similar concepts of innovation, creativity, global respect and understanding, ethical communication, critical thinking and problem solving, synthesizing, assimilating, and adaptation — to name a few.

This same convergence of research and thought leaders took place 20 years ago around the field of early childhood development. As a result, parents today sign up their children for preschool often immediately following birth, if not before. They do so because they now understand the value of early stimulation and that “play” is not frivolous.

We are talking about the human journey and the essential role we play in that development. How do we (the entire community of practice) provide children and youth the passport from one learning platform to the next to ensure safe and productive travels?

How are you talking to parents about the importance of what you do and enabling children to learn and manage self-control? Adele Diamond from the University of British Columbia says that more and more evidence is revealing that executive function skills including self-control “actually predict success better than IQ tests.”

How are you explaining to parents that physical games and experiences are a better use of time than sitting for long hours? Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang, authors of Welcome to Your Child’s Brain, write: “Though parents often worry that physical education takes time away from the classroom, an analysis of multiple studies instead found strong evidence that physical activity improved academic performance.”

Visit ACA’s research Web page, and you will find a plethora of evidence informed value that supports the importance of the camp experience. If a parent desires their child to be healthy and productive in the 21st century, there is a significant case to be made for the camp experience as an essential component in that journey.

What is your message?

Image courtesy of Camp Eagle Ridge in Mellen, Wisconsin.

April 2, 2012

In this week's blog, Peg shares the "back porch inspiration" that came to her this weekend — children and nature belong together!

March 26, 2012

It seems everywhere I go, the camp community is struggling to articulate its value proposition in today’s world. There are so many constructs: recreation related to physical well-being and fighting obesity; youth development and its relationship to what we know about adolescent teen brain development and 21st century skills; and work development and its relationship to 21st century skills and the completion of school.

In many respects, regardless of how you enter the conversation, one can find intersections within and across all three constructs. Perhaps, rather than one construct being “right” or “wrong,” each construct offers an opportunity to legitimately customize your message to your specific marketplace and program.

All of this said, I was recently reading Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner. It gave me yet another way to consider how the camp experience adds value to the future of our campers. He talks about five minds that will need to be mastered in order to contribute (and work) in the future.

Disciplined Mind: This mind knows how to work steadily over time to improve skill and understanding – if one does not have such discipline, “they are destined to march to someone else’s tune.”

Synthesizing Mind: This mind takes “information from disparate sources, understands and evaluate that information objectively, and puts it together in ways that make sense to the synthesizer and also to other persons.” In today’s world of ever growing information and knowledge, this will be an enviable skill.

Creating Mind: This mind “puts forth new ideas, poses unfamiliar questions, conjures up fresh ways of thinking, [and] arrives at unexpected answers.”

Respectful Mind: This mind “notes and welcomes differences between human individuals and between human groups, tries to understand these ‘others,’ and seeks to work effectively with them.” A tremendous skill for the global community.

Ethical Mind: This mind “conceptualizes how work can serve purposes beyond self-interest and how members of society can work unselfishly to improve the lot of all.”

I have witnessed these minds being built and exercised in every camp that I have visited. How does this happen at your camp? Do you witness such growth? How do you articulate value?
 

March 19, 2012

This week’s post is contributed by Deb Bialeschki, ACA’s director of research. Peg and Deb have a spirited habit of exchanging meaningful quotes, which sparked this post. Look for more guest contributors in the future, as Peg continues to share her latest thoughts and invite others to join the conversation.

Many people lament the rudeness, bad manners and behaviors, and lack of respect we see around us every day — and it’s not just in kids! We see it in our media “stars,” public officials, coaches, youth leaders — even our own neighbors and families! Many folks believe that bad manners can be attributed to our increasing use of technology, lax standards, and a general lack of respect. But it doesn’t have to be that way, especially in our youth programs! What better place to practice civility (by both staff and campers) than in our camp community?

Civility is more than just being courteous — it is about living respectfully. Some people would go so far as to suggest that civility is the glue that holds a community together. Civility is about compassion, respect, generosity, and kindness. It is about “doing the right thing” — even when there is no spotlight to highlight your good behavior. So what can a caring camp professional do? Here are four easy-to-practice “habits” for you to explore with your staff and young people!

  1. Make the practice of kindness, generosity, gratitude, and respect a HABIT! You’re never too young (or too old) to start — and the research supports that you will live longer, happier, and healthier if you do!
  2. In this time of “technologically-aided communication,” nurture your social relationships with more personal forms of communication. While we won’t give up our smart phones or internet connections, take a break from them occasionally (like at camp), sit with another staff member or some campers, and have a meaningful conversation without a screen or buttons. Seeing a real smile on a face is much better than the smiley face emoticon! 
  3. Seize “teachable moments” with your staff and campers! Remember, just because you like them doesn’t mean you have to like their bad behaviors. Child development experts have commented on how we have stopped teaching kids manners, respect, and empathy for others. In fact, several studies have reported that social skills are a more accurate predictor of future success than test scores. Focus on teaching good interpersonal skills and developing positive relationships, and be sure to share WHY these skills are important!
  4. Practice decency and civility every day in every way! Discuss with your staff and campers ways to model respect, caring, and good behavior toward ALL living things. Then design and post your own “Civil Camp Community” expectations.

The cultural shift around civility has to start somewhere — why not plant the seeds in our programs, even if it is one child or staff person at a time? Please share your thoughts and ideas or tips that you use at your camp to promote civility!

Tips and Resources
Videos:

Articles:

  • Good, T.L. & Nichols, S.L. (2001). School outcomes: Cognitive function, achievements, social skills, and values. International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. 13583-13589.
  • Agostin, T.M. & Bain, S.K. (1997). Predicting early school success with developmental and social skills screeners. Psychology in Schools, 34(3), 219-228.
  • Weeks, L. (March 14, 2012) Please read this story, thank you. NPR
     
March 12, 2012

It seems the more unpredictable the world becomes, the more rampant our fervor to predict. I'm in the process of reading Jim Collins' new book, Great by Choice, and I found this line intriguing: “It is about channeling your ambition into the cause, company, or association and whatever will ultimately make it successful.” 

He speaks of disciplined creativity based on empirical experience and data. It causes me to consider that ACA’s research environment is firmly embedded in "evidence informed" research. It resonates with the parent and is applicable to the professional.

As we all attempt to determine the next trend or predict the future, maybe there is something first to be reminded of in terms of our "cause" — because I am confident that our relevance today and tomorrow can be supported by both disciplined and empirical creativity for our cause and the intentional management of our future.

Peter Drucker once said, “The best way — the only way — to predict the future is to create it.” Or if you prefer a sport’s analogy, Wayne Gretzky said, “Good hockey players play where the puck is. Great hockey players play where the puck is going to be.” I am sure a hockey player’s ability to "predict" is based on empirical creativity.
 

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