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ACA Camp Blog
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
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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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
- Fabulous YouTube video by University of TN (consider for a staff training exercise around understanding civility)
- Good YouTube short by Sara Hacala (Author of Saving Civility: 52 Ways to Tame Rude, Crude, and Attitude for a Polite Planet)
- 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.
March 6, 2012
It was nearing the close of my day and I leaned back to reflect. I suddenly found myself focused on several sayings that I had posted on the wall in front of my desk. I started rereading them and found myself asking why these statements had resonated with me. Why had I saved them? I began to chuckle to myself because they were all related to change and the human condition.
- “People exposed to the same information can often interpret it differently.”
- “Integrative thinking can resolve tension between opposing ideas and generate new alternative solutions.”
- “The edge is not the abyss. It’s the sweet spot for productive change.”
- “Explore the possibilities of opposition — the tension between the two can create superior ideas.”
- “Collaboration is an unnatural act committed by non-consenting adults.”
- And finally, “Humility makes it possible for us listen to others.”
I realized I had saved the sayings to help me understand change; appreciate the value of opposition and tension; find humor even in the struggle; and recognize that I had to let go of hubris and embrace humility if true, positive outcomes were more important than winning.
February 14, 2012
Recently I picked up the book True North, written by Bill George with Doug Baker. Released in September 2011, the book centers around leadership development. I found these words inspiring for camp counselors: “The missing link in leadership development is having a safe place where people can share their experiences, challenges, and frustrations, and receive honest feedback.”
A young adult wanting to develop real-world experiences, receive immediate and relevant reflection and feedback designed to ensure success (not punitive), and learn to work in groups sharing interactions and problem solving should seriously consider becoming a camp counselor. A camp counselor receives personal value while offering social and educational value to others. Such a deal!
February 6, 2012
I was rereading “That’s the Way We (Used to) Do things Around Here,” by Jeffrey Schwartz, Pablo Gaito, and Doug Lennick, a strategy-business.com article published in February 2011. Because ACA’s Director of Research, Deb Bialeschki, and I often talk about mindfulness, self-regulation, and reflection, a couple of sentences in the article caught my eye:
“The kind of mindfulness that accomplishes this [change] combines metacognition (thinking about what you are thinking) and meta-awareness (moment-by-moment awareness of where your attention is focused). Adam Smith, the 18th-century philosopher, understood this. He described self-directed reflections as an ‘impartial spectator’ . . . .”
We train counselors each year to do what neuroscience has described as “attention density.” Pay attention, be in the moment, and respond to the current environment — not just habitual patterns. We help them refocus their behaviors to be aligned with the positive outcomes we all desire for our campers. We are grooming future leaders, and we understand that leadership demands a high level of self-awareness. Our efforts are two-fold: camper and counselor development.
January 31, 2012
A couple of weekends ago, I had the honor of spending some time with members of the Coalition for Education in the Outdoors during their Research Symposium. They gave me a one-day remedial pass. But I digress . . . .
In one of the discussions, we started talking about generative outcomes. It really excited me because I believe that is where we (the outdoor and camp community) really add value to the overall, comprehensive education and development of children and youth. It legitimizes our contribution to the overall formula that we should appreciate and respect as human development.
Think about it — Positive human development is the precursor to academic excellence, is it not? We need to be able to understand the camp experience as a generative process in and of itself. Add intentionality to that environment, and you have put magic on steroids!
We help young people make mental connections between what they are hearing, seeing, feeling, experiencing, and reading. The dynamic processes we provide develop attention and knowledge — and help young people make meaning from what otherwise may seem abstract and unrelated. Suddenly, the generative experiences help young people develop concepts, interpretations, and even applications for new ways of thinking, being, and working.
This generative process is experienced individually, in small groups, and as a community, making all lessons transferable to the 21st century global community! And all of this is happening in a natural learning environment — the richness of the simplicity is easily missed.
January 23, 2012
As we each initiate or continue to sustain our life’s work, I feel that today our personal brand is nearly as important as our resume. How are we unique and distinct? Is it the collective list of skills, education, and job experiences that will make you stand-out? Maybe — but only for a nano-second, because whether we are cognizant of it or not, today people are searching for deeper meaning, purpose, and translation of your collective resume fodder.
My suggestion is we give equal consideration and articulation to our own personal operating principles. What drives our decisions about how we use our time, and what causes us to act, or not? Can you describe your ability to be adaptive, deal with ambiguity, or remain alert?
With the plethora of distractions and chaos, how do you remain present and ready to make meaning? Maybe it isn’t as much about the three "R's" as it is the three "A's": adaptive, ambiguity-able, and alert. What are your operating principles?
January 17, 2012
Sometimes in life one is blessed with an “out of the blue” moment. It is when something or someone comes to you that is unexpected and initially appears to be unrelated to everything else that may be going on but provides a tremendous profit in spirit or support. If one pays attention, one realizes its import and critical value to not only that moment in time but, if treasured, many moments yet to occur.
Out of the blue moments are often gifts of the greatest nature. Today, unexpectedly, I received a package. I have been blessed a number of times in my life with notes or phone calls offering out of the blue inspiration and support. The package received recently from Norman Friedman was another such moment — out of the blue. I admire Norman for all that he has done in his life to protect children and youth, and I feel honored to consider him a friend.
But why the out of the blue package? I have to believe that he knew it was going to be important to me. I doubt that he knew how or why, but there it was. Norman sent me a small book called The Dash, Making a Difference with Your Life by Linda Ellis and Mac Anderson. I sat back in my chair and paused to glance through the book. It caused me to take a calm moment — important in and of itself considering the day. When I got to page 55, there it was — just what I needed. How did Norman know? Do any of us know just how important out of the blue moments may be to someone?
But there was the quote by Nelson Henderson on page 55: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” I suddenly realized that I have been planting trees each summer on my property for nearly two decades. Yet, the last two years as I did so, I realized I might not see those trees mature. I didn’t stop planting — instead, I recognized it did not matter because my children or others would one day enjoy the shade of the trees I was planting. My enthusiasm about the trees did not diminish but actually grew with the thought.
When I read that quote I was reminded of those thoughts but realized something else — the camp community each year plants seeds in the hearts and minds of millions of children. We may never personally see those seeds flourish, but without question others enjoy the “shade.” We make our world better for tomorrow. Plant a tree this summer.
January 10, 2012
In today's global community, the world is made smaller by technology, and we are allowed to connect across countries and continents. The idea of "community" is taking on a new meaning each day. Because of this, camp is important now, and even moreso in the future — Forming community is one of the "basics" at camp. We recognize and support the human instinct for community, agreement, and belonging.
And even beyond that, we use exchange, contribution, and meaning to honor individual need within the context of the larger community. We know how to share space. We know how to bring people together regardless of differences. We understand our sameness. At camp, we strike the balance of individualism within a shared community.
January 3, 2012
How do our camp experiences make such a profound difference in the lives of young people?
It isn't rocket science, although if you read the adolescent brain research you can understand why our communities are so incredibly successful. Or if you read what we know about hope and the human spirit — the camp experience makes sense. Consider the following:
- Fundamentally, we still believe that having fun is an excellent way to learn. Fun, and specifically humor, is the highest form of abstract thinking. Fun keeps the brain alert and engaged.
- We believe in the outdoors as a natural and incredibly dynamic learning environment. We are a part of nature and are soothed when we return to the intimacy of the natural world.
- We understand that as humans we need real relationships and will seek them out and, in fact, suffer if deprived of human contact.
- Finally, we value active participation at whatever level physically possible. We are human powered, heart powered, and organically designed to excel and thrive in nurturing environments.
The quality camp experience is single handedly unique in all of these attributes; and it is because the camp experience offers so much in these areas that I believe it plays a vital part in the preservation of the planet and children.
December 20, 2011
I believe the camp experience should be a part of every child's developmental growth and education. As such, ACA supports those who create exceptional futures for children and youth through quality camp experiences. Even after 150 years, today, a quality camp experience makes the world better by creating 21st century leaders who understand character, community, collaboration, and citizenship.
Yet, maybe more importantly, in a world that is consumed by a tsunami of fear that causes us to consider keeping young people hostage in academic institutions 24/7, the camp community has the ability to encourage intellectual courage — a courage that recognizes challenge, imagination, and innovation. We encourage young people to seek solutions and alternatives. We appreciate and understand that mistakes teach important lessons.
At the same time, the quality camp experience instills moral courage — a courage that demonstrates conviction and supports the use of one's voice to make a positive change in the world. Maybe today, more than any time in our history, young people need positive camp experiences.