ACA Camp Blog

November 14, 2011

If we have bequeathed saving the planet to our children, how do we help them with this legacy? As a result of technology and disappearing access to nature, I fear our innate DNA with the natural world has been buried.

That said, if we want to restore an intimacy with the out of doors, we must be more intentional than ever. Our efforts must exceed simple exposure and include experiential activities, integration of such into everything we do, and shared language that articulates the ecology of nature.

We must incorporate science in order to ensure understanding, embrace spirituality to cause it to be emotionally welcome, and respect mystery in order to secure appreciation of nature's awe.

We have the best vehicle to help our children manage the legacy: the camp experience.

November 1, 2011

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education defines dispositions as: “professional attitudes, values, and beliefs demonstrated through both verbal and non-verbal behaviors . . . .” How does one’s disposition impact their ability to work with others, impart knowledge, and manage life? 

When we are hiring or training, do we give equal time to assessing "dispositions"? I believe dispositions have a powerful role when working and sharing space with others. I am sure it impacts the quality of the experience. 

What is your disposition? What impact do your counselor’s dispositions have on camper experiences?

October 24, 2011

Most of you know that I have been fascinated by the teen brain research. Lance Ozier (who has made contributions to Camping Magazine on the topic of the camp and learning connection) shared a fascinating article with me that he found in National Geographic Magazine, authored by David Dobbs. I highly recommend it!

I loved Dobbs’ article because it gave me a new perspective on teen brain development. We need not think of a teenage brain as simply “not fully developed.” Instead consider what Dobbs writes: “The brain undergoes extensive remodeling, resembling a network and wiring upgrade.” He talks about many attributes of teen brain development that explain why the camp experience is SO PERFECT for adolescence.

For example, Dobbs describes teens as a “highly adaptable creature[s] wired almost perfectly for the job of moving from the safety of home into the complicated world outside.” At this stage of brain development, the urge to meet more people and the love of novelty are high . . . there’s no better time to experience camp and all that it entails.

We are good for adolescent brain development!

October 10, 2011

Our Jewish friends in the camp community celebrated Yom Kippur this past weekend, the holiest of Jewish holidays. The holiday culminates ten days of reflection and is an opportunity to start anew — a fresh beginning for the new year. What a perfect time to celebrate the children and look forward to the future with joy in our hearts! Even in the differences that any of us may have, we share so much. When we are able to do so, we give so much to our children and the future.

I sit here in the Midwest watching the leaves turn colors realizing in another part of the country they have received an early snow. Regardless, whether weather or belief, seasons change . . . affording us the opportunity to reflect on what we have done well, where we need to improve, and how to capture the opportunities of tomorrow.

October 3, 2011

We are all asking ourselves how the new market forces are causing us to think differently . . . That said, I hope we don't lose the "HUM."


Without the essence of HUM, market forces or not, moving forward won't be easy.

September 22, 2011

I have a big magnet on my desk that says, “Whatever you can do or dream, you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” It made me wonder if we fail to embrace boldness today. There are two definitions of boldness. One is more negative — related to brazen, brassy, or insolent. But the other is relates to being courageous, valiant, sturdy, and plucky.

Have we let the negative connotation of boldness usurp the positive possibilities? If so, what might we be losing? I so long to be plucky! Do we not want our children and youth to be able to muster up the courage and determination to face life’s inevitable difficulties? With all the fun at camp, do we not also teach kids to be plucky? I hope so. I so long to be plucky . . .

September 19, 2011

We really don’t say those words out loud, but often our behaviors get our meaning across quite clearly. We have to deal with so many complex and difficult situations that we just grow tired of “self-regulation.” Don’t you just want to throw a good old fashioned temper tantrum sometimes? But learning how to pause, “count to ten,” and consider alternatives is critical if we are to maintain a civil society.

The camp experience is a wonderful vehicle to help kids use their brains to practice “self-regulation.” Every time we are exposed to a new situation, we experience a low-level stress response. As parents and educators, it is our job to expose kids to new situations in safe and responsive settings so they can learn to manage feelings of discomfort without getting angry, fearful, dismissive, or even by becoming a bully. Discomfort is not necessarily a bad thing; rather, it’s an opportunity to learn.

September 13, 2011

Do I want to strive for compliance? To what end? Do I want to spend my time creating processes for predictability and accountability? Do I want to be recognized for complacency and towing the line?

Or do I want to help myself and others learn to cope, survive, and thrive with unpredictability and uncertainty? What will best nurture innovation and creativity?

Something to think about . . .

September 6, 2011

Ei yi yi! How many ways can it be said?

Okay, so we get it. You don’t want to use the word “camp experience.” But for heaven’s sake, you have to recognize that the research that supports out-of-school time, after-school time, expanded learning opportunities, and/or summer learning also supports CAMP! It is a credible, evidence informed vehicle for learning! Learn to say "camp experience!"

August 30, 2011

Good friends make you think. That is why I love words. Sometimes it is the sound and rhythm of a word. Sometimes it is the simplicity or complexity of the pronunciation. Often, it is the meaning that attracts or provokes me — like "disruptive thinking" . . . love it.

I was reading a blog about disruptive thinking: "Being innovative . . . requires disruptive thinking, which is an evolutionary process with many failures along the way. That 's tough to do especially since all of us are taught that failure is bad and we try to avoid it at all costs".

We, as professionals, must protect our disruptive space if we are to succeed. As those who teach and influence children and youth, we must provide space for disruptive thinking. And as an institution, whether a camp or ACA, we must embrace disruptive thinking if we hope to remain relevant.

August 22, 2011

We are nearing the end of another season. Don't forget to pause and be thankful to those who helped you create small miracles. They are the everyday human angels, saints, and legends who silently stand with us and make us better than we ever imagined. They are not the ones who yell, demand, criticize, threaten, complain, bluster, or brag. They are the hearty and hardy. They are the ones who embrace you with kind eyes. They are the ones who have great crinkly smiling eyes. They are the ones on which you imprint and forever remain with you. When the season ends, they are the ones who make you smile even during the bittersweet moment of closure.

August 9, 2011

The Summer 2011 issue of the journal New Directions for Youth Development focused on “Recreation as a Developmental Experience.” In it, an article by Barry A. Garst, Laurie P. Browne, and M. Deborah Bialeschki was published — “Youth Development and the Camp Experience.” This excerpt is food for thought: “Research with adolescents suggests that young people reinvent themselves through the camp experience by escaping the negative impressions of others and revising their self-identify at camp. Undesirable personal characteristics can be shed in favor of new ways to think, feel, believe, and express themselves. Through camp groupings, campers also have opportunities to explore different social roles and build social capital.”

As always, you can find more camp trends and research at our Research homepage.

August 1, 2011

They say the brain is innately social and collaborative . . . which means it must be very happy at camp! Let’s start a “Feed the Brain Campaign.”

Feed the brain in a safe camp environment with steady doses of:

  • Challenges with low threats
  • Opportunities to talk and listen
  • Places to make friends and new acquaintances
  • Chances for variety and innovation
  • Time to problem solve and make decisions
  • Events that support resiliency

If you think these things are not important, consider whether you would hire someone who did not have a well-nourished brain — these factors can, in fact, tip the scale!

July 27, 2011

If we think our efforts to teach campers how to resolve conflicts, solve problems, and collaborate with others for the good of the camp community are not important — just look at Congress. These are critical competencies that our campers will need in the future as we attempt to solve the world's problems against a backdrop of competing priorities and agendas. Your work is so important!

To that end, I asked the camp community to be ever diligent about safety. We shared resources to help you talk to campers about violence and terrorism. But I was reminded that maybe our most important job is doing what we do best — providing opportunities where we can learn, share, and grow together. Fostering peaceful humanity; learning about one's self and others. The camp experience is about self, the environment, and learning . . . engagement at its best.

July 26, 2011

What we do and say, as those who influence the lives of children and youth, is of the utmost importance. Whether a parent, a caregiver, a counselor, a teacher, a person driving the bus, a cook, or a journalist, we cannot fail to take time to think before speaking or to research before writing. We must not fail to consider the consequences of our words. Words said or written, in anger or carelessness, can impact the lives of children and youth for a lifetime. Words define truth whether true or not. Words have such power they can alter reality — for good or ill. Don't risk being shallow.

Remember, we are bakers . . .

Syndicate content