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Welcome to ACA's Parents Place blog! A new and exciting resource for families, the Parents Place blog will feature tips, information, and advice from ACA, as well as other guest bloggers, on child and youth development, health and safety, and of course - camp.
December 5, 2013
Guest post by Scott Brody
American fifteen year olds are lagging behind students from other nations in math and science, according to the results of an international assessment exam called PISA. Though we'd like to think of ourselves as an educated nation, these results point to some glaring deficiencies in the way that we educate our children. For the record, our shortcomings are not limited to children from lower income families; students from wealthy American families fared no better in the results when compared to similarly well-off peers in other countries.
What is hidden behind these results, however, is an even more unsettling insight. The PISA test, unlike the standardized tests that are administered in most American schools, assesses older students in mathematics literacy and science literacy — or how well they can apply their knowledge and skills to problems set in real-world contexts. Most standardized tests that are used in the U.S. measure only content knowledge. The newest U.S. assessments now being piloted, PARCC and SBAC, which are aligned to the new "common core" standards, measure some of the cognitive skills linked to that content. They are a step forward, but they don't really assess the skills that are needed for college and career readiness. In other words, it is not what our kids know that is really important, it is whether they can apply that knowledge to real-world problems and new situations.
The PISA test does measure some of those college and career readiness skills, and the mediocre performance of our high school freshmen in these important measures should raise some pretty serious concerns among our local, state, and national leaders. We assume that Americans will always be able to innovate, to invent the future. But if these tests are any measure, our ability to think critically, to problem-solve, and to adapt our knowledge to new and novel situations is truly in doubt.
It is for this reason that a number of camps have chosen to focus on the teaching and strengthening of these essential 21st-century skills. They consider it their mission to teach their campers the skills that they will need to be successful and fulfilled in the world they will enter when they join the workforce. If our schools are unable to teach these skills right now, then it is incumbent upon all of us who work with children during out-of-school time to do this important work. Free of the constraints of funding streams and the politics of assessment, camps can do all that they can to ensure that all children are college and career ready, with the skills to innovate and invent the future.
Scott Brody is the owner/director of Camps Kenwood and Evergreen and founder of Everwood Day Camp. Read his recent Camping Magazine article, “Teaching the Skills That Children Need to Succeed.”
Photo courtesy of Cheley Colorado Camps, Estes Park, Colorado
November 18, 2013
Guest post by Lydia Pettis
When I was eight years old I spent four weeks at a summer camp for girls in West Virginia. My mother grew up in this camp, and I imagine she hoped I would grow to love it as she did. Nestled in a corner of the Shenandoah valley, surrounded by mountains, the camp provided wide-ranging activities. Best of all, it had horses, and we rode several times a week. Four weeks, however, was a very long time for a little girl's first adventure away from home. Every day I received a warm, newsy letter from mom or dad, and every day I wrote the same thing... "I miss you. I am homesick. I want to come home." This was followed by a list of all of the activities and adventures that had taken place in the last day or two. Looking back on this time it is clear that I was generally recognized by camp staff as the most homesick camper that season. Special attention was given to me in many ways, such as being chosen to be the Indian princess for one of the camp tribes.
When the last day of camp and my parents arrived, I ran and threw myself at my mother in relief. There were a number of Parent's Day activities to be endured. After a humiliating showing in the horse show (I was given Haymaker, and he made some hay) I insisted that we leave right now. And we did. I still remember sitting in the back seat of the car wheeling out of the camp. On some level that experience had been a trial and a burden to me and I was relieved to be headed for home and safety.
That said, it may be a surprise to learn that I spent the next twenty summers at camp. Closer to home initially, for shorter periods of time. As I got older I was a counselor-in-training, then a counselor, then a camp director. And as I got older I longed for camp as I had once longed for home. Longed for the outdoor living, the meaningful relationships, and the freedom to be a different "me" at camp. It has been many years now since I have been at camp, but every spring I start thinking about heading off on another adventure, and camp songs haunt me throughout the summer.
Today, at 62, I again hear myself repeating the same refrain: "I want to go home. I want to go home." In this voice I recognize the longing for relief, comfort and safety. A longing for something beyond our daily life. A spiritual yearning for those still and exultant magical moments that I most often experience in the out-of-doors. This longing often takes me out of the present moment. I don't want to be here, I want to be there. And yet, as I finally came to recognize camp as home, it seems as if the little girl longing for home might have been at home all along. Perhaps our fears and insecurities, our uncertainties and worries, drop a veil in front of our eyes and keep us from seeing that we are always home, always held in a loving heart.
Leaving camp early that day more than fifty years ago meant that I missed the final council fire. Seasoned campers cherish the memories of the ceremony that brings closure to the camp experience. It is one of the few places where the ritual of saying goodbye, of remembering and honoring our time together, is enacted. Next year I will be returning to my mother's and my camp to attend the closing council fire and finally complete the summer of my eighth year. I am going home.
Lydia Pettis is an imagery guide, life coach, and creativity consultant. This post was originally published on her blog at http://lydiapettis.blogspot.com/.
Photo courtesy of Cheley Colorado Camps, Estes Park, Colorado
September 11, 2013
This blog from ACA’s Educational Ally The Monday Campaigns is designed to help you keep those healthy camp habits alive at the start of school! Some of these tips your child might have learned at camp; others might be fresh ideas! Bon appetit!
We all know that “Monday morning” feeling. We wake up early to find that a weekend full of lax routine and play has left our brains in need of a reboot. Mondays can be especially tough for school kids who may have stayed up late and taken “brain breaks” all weekend. Why not give your kids a healthy start for the week by offering food that is helpful for their minds? On behalf of Kids Cook Monday, Allison Righter, registered dietitian and program officer for the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, offers these tasty tips.
Full Bellies, Alert Minds
Keep kids’ bellies full and their minds free of distraction by offering hearty whole grains for breakfast. Oatmeal, for example, is a great brain-awakening breakfast that provides enough fiber and protein to keep kids satiated until lunchtime. Oatmeal is also a good source of iron, which supports healthy brain development. Tip: Steer clear of sugary instant oatmeal packets — sugar gives kids quick energy but will inevitably lead to a pre-lunch crash. Spruce up plain oatmeal by adding natural and nutrient-rich sweeteners and flavors like applesauce, banana,s and cinnamon.
The Power of Purple
Purple foods may be especially beneficial for the brain thanks to the memory-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties of anthocyanins, the phytochemical that give food that bluish-purple hue. Seek out fruits like blackberries, blueberries, grapes, and plums, and vegetables like eggplant and purple cabbage. Tip: Add some natural color to breakfast by letting your kids garnish their oatmeal with purple fruit, or have some fun with a scavenger hunt at the grocery store and farmers’ market with your kids to find more unusual purple veggies like purple carrots, asparagus, and peppers.
The Brilliant Egg
An egg provides a protein punch in addition to many important nutrients, such as choline, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are all essential for maximizing cognitive capabilities. With their versatility, eggs can be a part of a mind refreshing meal or snack any time of the day. Tip: Get your kids’ brains working by engaging them in the cooking process! Ask your kids to help crack the eggs for a quick veggie omelet in the morning, or to help prepare hard-boiled eggs ahead of time for a convenient high-energy snack or for making healthy egg salad sandwiches.
Monday Brain Smoothies
Running late on Monday morning? Blend frozen purple fruit, oats, and some low-fat plain yogurt together for a brain boosting breakfast on the go. Don’t forget to make one for yourself! Smoothies also make for great after-school snacks and are a fun, easy, and refreshing way to get more fruit (and even veggies!) into your child’s diet. Tip: If you’re feeling creative on Sunday night, pour the smoothies into popsicle molds to enjoy a prep-free breakfast, snack, or even dessert!
For Sharp Minds, Think Dark Green
Green leafy vegetables, especially darker varieties such as spinach, kale, and collards, are nutritional powerhouses rich in many vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to help grow and maintain strong brains as well as bodies. Tip: Try adding spinach to fruit smoothies for a green energy booster, mixing greens into pasta dishes, or having your kids create their own leafy veggie salad masterpiece.
Water = Concentration
Dehydration can lead to poor concentration as well as fatigue. Providing your kids with constant access to filtered water will reduce the risk of dehydration and its consequences. Water-rich snacks like cucumber and watermelon will also aid in hydration. Warn your kids about sugary drinks — they may hydrate, but they come with empty calories and a sugar crash at homework time. Tip: Increase the appeal of plain water by adding slices of lemon, lime, or cucumber, or a sprig of fresh mint.
Developing healthy eating habits from a young age is crucial for optimizing and maintaining cognitive function and overall health for a lifetime. For this new school year, pledge to start adopting these tips into your weekly Monday routine to help your child reach his/her full potential!
The Kids Cook Monday, a project of The Monday Campaigns, is a nonprofit organization associated with Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Syracuse universities. Kids Cook Monday provides a weekly opportunity for parents and kids to cook and eat together. Its Web site and social media program feature weekly kid-friendly recipes and tips for parents, as well as comprehensive resources for educators developed with the help of Columbia Teacher’s College in New York.
Photo courtesy of Pali Adventures, Running Springs, California
August 28, 2013
As you get back into the routine of the school year, of driving morning carpools and coordinating afternoon extracurriculars and homework, you will likely continue to hear “At camp, we . . . ” stories trickling into conversation at the dinner table or in the car. The reality is that it can take months for a child (and the staff, too!) to truly process the effects and experience of summer camp. Children process experiences using many different techniques and almost every technique utilizes some form of communication.
Perhaps your children like to draw and you find they are drawing more pictures of plants, animals, and other natural features.
Perhaps your children are writers and you find they are spending more time with their journals writing stories, poems, and plays using words like “Coolsville,” “waste not, want not,” and “seefar.”
Maybe your child is a performer and he continues to act like characters that sound a lot like Ortman, Scruffy, Selena, and Dr. Dodo.
If your child is a musician, you may have heard her endlessly plucking away at the piano or guitar trying to figure out the chords to “Wagon Wheel” or “Paradise” or “Mud.”
For the children who are analytical thinkers, you may find them withdrawing to a corner of nature in the yard or neighborhood to simply feel the familiarity of the sense of place and connection to the earth.
For the children that are talkers, you wonder how it is even possible for your child to still have new stories to tell about camp or how she is still glowing when she tells that same story from when she took a leap off the swim dock to catch a frisbee.
One of the special aspects of camp is that children have their own world and experiences that you, as a parent, only get to see through the child’s point of view. And though their camp experience may be incredibly personal to them, they often desperately want you to approve of their experiences and to share their many accomplishments with you. There may be no photograph of your child going off the zip-line; however, their recollection of it is clearer in their mind than any hi-definition, Go-Pro footage that could have possibly captured it. Your child wants you to SEE that incredible picture he paints with his words. The best ways to validate their explanations and stories are to a) ask questions about their experiences and b) simply repeat what they said.
What kind of questions should I ask?
How did it feel? Who shared this experience with you? What did you need to accomplish that goal/have that experience? What did your counselors say? What did your friends say? What did you tell your friends? Would you do that again? How would you do it differently next time? Share with me more about this.
Simply repeat what they said?
Yes, that’s right! Simply repeat what they said. Your child is telling you about the salamander she painted on the new bus. After she has finished her story you say, “So you are saying that you used red and black paint to create a salamander that is going to be on the bus forever?” Children often find that adults do not completely listen to what they say, so by repeating — almost word for word — what they just heard, it communicates that you value their story, so much so that it was worthy of repeating. (And children, believe it or not, value repetition — thus why the “knock, knock, who is there, banana” joke is a classic!) From there you can ask leading questions that accentuate the value of the experience they have shared with you, “So does that mean that campers that come after you will get to see YOUR creativity with YOUR salamander?”
Another strategy for repeating what they have said is the DLP method. Define the behavior (repeat what they said), label it (say what character/personality trait it displays) and praise the behavior. “You painted a salamander on the bus. That must have required creativity and attention to detail. Those are wonderful traits for you to have.”
The more your children feel that you “get” what they are telling you, the more they will share with you.
Photo courtesy of Camp John Marc, Meridian, Texas
July 21, 2013
One of the greatest treasures of a camp experience is the bond formed between campers and their counselors. Not only do campers receive a bounty of fun times and memories with their favorite counselor, but they also take steps on a developmental path that leads to a healthy, happy future.
Research from school psychologist and adolescent counselor Stephen Wallace, MS Ed, shows the importance of role model and mentor relationships:
- 46 percent of teens with a mentor reported a high "sense of self," versus 25 percent of teens without a mentor.
Please note that the image above is best viewed on Chrome/Firefox.
Learning from Experience
According to author and psychologist Michael Thompson, PhD, in his New York Times online article, “Why Camp Counselors Can Out-Parent Parents”:
- Children love to learn but get tired of being taught by adults.
- Children want to learn from older children —older campers, C.I.T.’s (counselors in training) and camp counselors.
- In our age-segregated society, camp is the only place in America where kids can really do this.
Comfort Relying on Other Adults
Author and psychologist Madeline Levine, PhD, says:
- At camp, kids learn the value of relying on adults other than their parents.
- Having “go-to” people out in the world can broaden a child’s horizons.
- Kids who are capable of relying on other adults find success when away from home — for example, going to college.
July 11, 2013
Kids come home from camp with lots of stories — games they played, meals they ate, and, most importantly, friendships they formed. Often times, the relationships formed at camp have a lifelong impact on a camper’s life. Having special camp friends is not only fun and eye-opening for campers, but it’s also critical to their well-being. According to psychologist Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness, “a person’s happiness is best predicted by the breadth and the depth of their social connections — their ties to other people. Camp gives kids a wonderfully rich opportunity to extend both the breadth and depth of their relationships.”
ACA research supports the idea that campers extend their connections at camp. 96 percent of campers say, “camp helped me make new friends,” and 94 percent say, “camp helped me get to know other campers who were different from me.” Quality camp providers set the stage for intentionally increasing friendship skills in their campers by ensuring staff manage group dynamics, form unique relationships with each camper, and encourage a positive environment.
The concept of the camp experience — where campers are away from the regular social structures of school and home life — enables campers to be who they truly are, contributing to the authenticity of their relationships. Also, being away from parents and finding role models in older campers and counselors is an incredibly identity-forming experience. When campers share that amazing experience with the other kids in their community, it’s no wonder camp friendships often have such a lasting and meaningful place in campers’ hearts!
For more on friendship outcomes of the camp experience:
- What Is It about Camp Friendships?
- Camper Outcomes Increase Regardless of Session Length: Beyond Anecdotal Evidence of Increased Competence, Independence, and Friendship Skills
- Directions: Youth Development Outcomes of the Camp Experience
- Research Notes: Facilitating the Art of Friendship
Photo courtesy of Camp Courageous, Monticello, Iowa
June 30, 2013
In the heat of summer, camps are accustomed to taking precautions to ensure the safety and comfort of campers when temperatures get extreme. Drinking plenty of water, moving more “active” programming to times when it is cooler, encouraging use of sunscreen, and training staff to recognize signs of heat-related illness are ways that camps make sure that kids are having fun while in the sun.
You can partner with camps during times of extreme heat by talking about the following CDC recommendations with your camper before camp:
- Drink Plenty of Fluids — When weather is especially hot, increasing fluid intake is essential, regardless of your activity level. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16–32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour. This does not include liquids that contain large amounts of sugar — these actually cause the loss of more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
- Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen — Lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing is ideal. Sunburn affects the body's ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids, not to mention can cause discomfort! When outdoors, wear SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say "broad spectrum" or "UVA/UVB protection" on their labels) 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.
Photo courtesy of Tom Sawyer Camps, Altadena, California
June 19, 2013
Guest post by Brian Trota
Summer is upon us and you know what that means? It’s summer camp season! My wife and I just welcomed our first born child a few months ago, so it will be a while before we send him off to camp. But many of you are smiling as you remember your experiences of having sent your kids to summer camps throughout the years. I know from my nieces that summer camp can be a lot of fun: meeting new people, making lasting friendships, and learning a lot of new things.
While you prepare your child for a summer of healthy growth and experiences, don’t forget to keep his or her eyes healthy as well! Here are 5 tips to keep your kid’s eyes thoroughly protected this summer:
- Buy a Good Pair of Sun Glasses. It’s imperative to buy a good pair of sunglasses for your child. So do your research and make sure to find ways to keep them secure on him or her. Kids usually have a habit of losing things quickly!
- Eat Healthy. It’s important to provide your child with a healthy diet with food from the four major food groups . . . it even helps their eyes! Foods like strawberries, oranges, eggs, and carrots are easy to incorporate into snacks. Be sure to ask camp officials what healthy food options they provide!
- Eye Exercises. Kids may think this is boring, but it’s essential that they do some quick eye exercises in order to keep their eyes in tip-top shape. One easy exercise is to tell them to move their eyes left to right and then up and down for about 20 seconds every few hours. This is very useful if they are doing an activity or focusing on something for a long period of time.
- Don’t Stare at the Sun or the Sun’s Glare. When your child doesn’t have his or her sunglasses on, looking at the sun or catching the sun’s glare is unavoidable. Prolonged staring at the sun or the sun’s glare can do permanent damage to your child’s eye. So tell them to be sure they wear a good pair of sunglasses as much as they can when they are out and about — especially around bodies of water.
- Always Be Aware. Although the above four tips are all logical steps in helping maintain and protect campers' vision, one of the most important tips is teaching them to be aware of their surroundings. There are so many everyday things like sports equipment and activities that pose a threat to your child’s vision. But not to worry; get your child thinking about their environment — especially ones they aren’t too familiar with — so that they can pay attention to any potential hazards.
This guest post was specially written for the American Camp Association by Brian Trota. For more articles about eye health and eye wear tips visit the EyeBlog found at www.GlassesOnWeb.com.
Photo courtesy of Camp Howe, Goshen, Massachusetts
June 14, 2013
ACA recently teamed up with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in an effort to keep getting more kids outdoors, reaping the benefits of nature experiences.
Camp is one of the best places for kids to experience nature, and a whopping 71 percent of camps intentionally target programs to connect children with nature and the outdoors (ACA's 2011 Sites, Facilities, and Programs Report). Time in the outdoors is great for unstructured, creative play and discovery opportunities, as well as moments to unwind and de-stress away from a screen. (Read more about the benefits of nature here.)
This June 22, the whole family can enjoy an outdoor experience by participating in NWF’s Great American Backyard Campout. When you register for free, you’ll receive instant access to NWF’s brand-new Camping Guide, chock-full of fun activities, great recipes, camping tips, and more!
ACA camps across the country are also registering for the Campout — so join the outdoor movement today and enjoy a night under the stars with your family!
Photo courtesy of Cheley Colorado Camps, Estes Park, Colorado.
May 30, 2013
Summer Learning Day is Friday, June 21, 2013! Sponsored by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), Summer Learning Day is a national advocacy day to spread awareness about the importance of summer learning for our nation’s youth in helping close the achievement gap and support healthy development in communities across the country.
Camp is the most comprehensive summer learning environment there is! Kids enjoy healthy doses of: experiential learning, inquiry, activity and nutritious meals, skill acquisition, relationship building, and more — all while having fun!
The following are some summer learning facts from NSLA. Your child can make the most of summer by enjoying a camp experience, and there is a camp for every child and every budget. For ACA’s Find a Camp database, expert advice, planning tips, and more, visit CampParents.org.
- It is important for every child to learn during summer to avoid losing skills they have gained during the school year.
- There are free or low-cost resources available for summer learning any family can use — check out NSLA's Summer Learning Day for Families Resources.
- High-quality summer programs can help disadvantaged children avoid summer learning loss and even register gains that will keep them on track for high-school graduation and productive careers.
- Summer is also a time that puts nutrition at risk for disadvantaged children. They are more likely to gain weight during summer without structured activity and balanced meals.
- Many of the school children who qualify for federally funded meals during the school year do not have access to those meals in summer.
- Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains.
- Summer learning programs are a cost-effective vehicle for boosting school-year achievement that school districts can accomplish at a high level in a variety of ways, even in a very tight economy.
- Summer learning programs will be instrumental in building a competitive 21st century economy.
- Summer is an untapped space for instructional innovation that can transform teaching and learning all year and help prepare all students for both the Common Core standards and college.
- As more children than ever slide into poverty, summer learning programs are an important link in the safety net, supporting their development with healthy meals and physical activity that in turn increases their readiness to learn.
Photo courtesy of Tom Sawyer Camps, Altadena, California
May 24, 2013
Before summer starts, make sure your camper is geared up — literally! — for all the fun activities at camp. Here are some tips when it comes to packing:
- Pack Light — Remember your camper will be living out of a duffel bag, trunk, or suitcase for the duration. Packing light helps campers keep track of items and guarantees that they can handle their own luggage at camp.
- Check Camp Packing Lists — Individual camps should provide a recommended camp packing list, complete with any required equipment, preferred footwear, etc. Be sure to carefully review what is needed, paying special attention to those items that may not be permitted at camp.
- Label, Label, Label — Laundry pens, iron-on labels, and press and stick labels will distinguish your camper’s belongings from those of other cabin or tent mates. Most camps ask that you label each item, including clothing, personal items, and toiletries. Make sure that your child can identify the label used.
- Wear Those Shoes! — Make sure that your child’s clothing and footwear are comfortable and appropriate. Sending a camper in brand-new hiking boots can result in sore feet and time spent sitting out of exciting activities.
- Plan Together — Decisions about camp, like what to pack, should be made together. The more ownership your camper has in these decisions, the easier the adjustment and transition to camp will be.
Photo courtesy of Victory Junction, Randleman, North Carolina
May 20, 2013
You’ve done your research, worked as a family to find the right camp for your child’s experience, and signed up your camper for the experience of a lifetime! Naturally, leading up to the big “First Day of Camp,” he or she might have questions, just like the first day of school. Encourage your child to talk about his or her feelings, and use this guide for talking about camp with your first-time camper!
Who will be my friends?
Reassure your camper that camp is all about making new friends! Some campers know each other from past summers or from school, but many come to camp in order to meet new friends. Camp counselors will help him or her make friends the very first day of camp. It's nice to have winter friends and summer friends — other kids with whom your camper shares special experiences.
Who will help me have fun at camp? How do they know how to care for me?
Group or bunk counselors are selected because they love working with kids. In fact, counselors are one of the best parts of camp! They are trained before camp begins to help campers have a good time, make new friends, and enjoy a variety of activities. Their job is to help campers have fun, be safe, and know their limits. They spend a lot of time before camp learning to do all these things for campers. And they love to have fun, too!
What if I have a problem?
There are lots of people at camp, besides counselors, to help take care of campers, depending on what they need. Let campers know that there is a nurse or a doctor if they don't feel well, and a special place, sometimes called a health center, to rest until they are better. Campers can count on the grownups that are at camp to help them with any problem they may have.
Will I be alright while I’m away from home?
Remind your camper of other times in his or her life that were spent away from home — sleepovers, a weekend a grandma’s, or even class trips. There’s no pressure to be anything but yourself at camp! The main point is just to relax and have fun. Remember to stay excited and positive about the camp experience. Talking at length about how much you will miss your camper can increase his or her anxiety. BONUS: Send a familiar object, such as a stuffed animal or blanket, with your camper. Send a letter or card in advance for your child to have the first day of camp.
For more tips on preparing for camp, visit www.CampParents.org.
Photo courtesy of Camp Kupugani, Leaf River, Illinois
May 8, 2013
ACA and the National Research Center for College & University Admissions™ (NRCCUA®) are collaborating to serve the needs of campers, staff, and their families, especially those interested in college who might otherwise be missed. The NRCCUA is a nonprofit educational research organization that, for forty years, has conducted the largest nationwide survey of high school students and serves as a communications link between college-bound high school students and public and private colleges and universities.
Through this alliance, youth campers and staff who are interested in college planning resources can create their very own online college profiles. This simple two-step process is:
- STEP 1: Complete this brief survey.
- STEP 2: Sign on to MyCollegeOptions.org and access your college planning profile. (You will be given access to your profile after you complete the survey.)
Photo courtesy of Camp Howe, Goshen, Massachusetts
April 19, 2013
Guest post by Megan Lawrence, director, Camp Wawayanda
Darkness. The sun has shone in the past couple days . . . but I can’t remember it. Why? Why can’t I remember the warmth of the sun and the music of the spring birds? I swear I remember seeing sunshine on the weather report for this week. How come it is so hard to place my finger on all of the good things that have happened?
Weeks like this make me feel like the sun has forgotten me, that there is very little left in this world to hope for-to believe in. Death and destruction fill our news feeds, prayers and sorrow inundate our lives 140 characters at a time. Pictures and messages are shared and passed at the click of a button. Something about how quickly sorrow spreads and penetrates our lives makes it feel less human.
My mind trails back to another dark week, one in 1995 — I was eight years old, waiting to walk to school, sitting at a neighbor’s house. We must have been watching morning cartoons . . . breaking news, a bomb had gone off somewhere far away. In the days following there was a picture on the front of our news paper that will be burned into my mind for years to come — a firefighter carrying a child. I’m sure I wept — scared, I don’t remember for certain — but I will never forget how dark that week was. That darkness didn’t last.
Fast forward four years. I was twelve. I don’t remember much about this week except racing home to watch TRL only to find breaking news being reported that there has been a horrific shooting at a school in Colorado. A school. Students — like me. In the days that followed this event adults talked to us about safety and school — I remember a tension in the air, convinced I would be scared forever that this could happen to me. That dark week ended though . . . we carried on.
I could easily comment on the days leading up to and following that awful day in September. Despite being old enough to understand the weight and the magnitude of the horror and devastation of that event — I was old enough to talk about it, and to reflect on it, and to try my very best to wrap my almost adult brain around it. The events above are burned into my brain because I was just a child.
We can’t protect youth from these dark weeks, when someone steals away the good and the warmth — our sunshine. These weeks are sadly going to happen. I think the adults in my life at the time did everything they could to shield me from the horrors of the Oklahoma City bombing and the school shooting in Colorado. I am lucky that the memories I have are limited to a few disturbing images and details of the events.
When the events of this week began to unfold and millions of statuses were filling news feeds across this world, a need to say something haunted me. But what was there say? How do we make sense of things that just don’t make sense?
After a few days of reflection and prayer I have determined that the only thing left is to continue to reflect and pray. Here lies my reflection and also my worry. I worry that in the stress and the sorrow and the darkness of this week we are leaving children exposed to images and details that will haunt their developing minds. The images and details are haunting me — an adult.
It isn’t just about shielding children — there is more. This week nearly stripped me of my optimism. I had forgotten how to hope but was reminded that truly all is lost when the adults of this world forget this essential skill. We are responsible for teaching hope and optimism and during dark weeks like this . . . it isn’t easy.
So then we teach our children how to mourn for our neighbors, and grieve for someone we’ve never met. We teach them how to pray or send positive vibes and energy — we teach them how to love. We teach them how to help people in need, we teach them how to be brave, and in the end — we do every.thing.in.our.power to restore their optimism and resilience because without these things moving forward is nearly impossible. We teach them how to hope and to appreciate the sunny days, because in the end it is the hope and the sun that gets us through these dark weeks.
Megan Lawrence grew up in Battle Creek, Michigan and has nine years of experience working with youth in the camping field. Megan has been a part of the Frost Valley Summer Camp Team since 2008, acting as the assistant program director for two summers, as program director for one summer, and, now as the Wawayanda director. She graduated in 2009 with a degree in Natural Resource Based Recreation from Michigan State University and is currently working to complete her masters in Youth Development Leadership through Clemson University. See the original post on Lawrence’s blog, I was the last child . . . .
Photo courtesy of Camp Pathway, Macon, Georgia
January 28, 2013
Many parents are starting the search for their child’s perfect summer camp experience NOW. With over 2,400 ACA-accredited camps nationwide, parents have many options. Along with choices like location, session-length, and budget, here are a few things to consider as you make an informed decision:
- Philosophy and Program Emphasis —Ask questions about learning approaches, how behavioral and disciplinary problems are addressed, and how adjustment issues are handled.
- Training and Education — Don’t be shy about asking for the education and background of the camp director and staff. At a minimum, camp staff should be trained in safety regulations, emergency procedures and communication, behavior management techniques, child abuse prevention, appropriate staff and camper behavior, and specific procedures for supervision. Families should ask about camper-to-staff ratios and supervision in cabins and for various activities, like swimming and athletics.
- Special Needs — For a child with special requirements, parents should ask the camp director about needed provisions and facilities, nursing staff, the storage of medicines, and special dietary needs.
- References — Asking for references is generally one of the best ways to check a camp's reputation and service record. Ask if the camp is accredited. If not, ask why. ACA accreditation is the best evidence parents have of a camp's commitment to the health and safety of campers.
- Involve the Camper —The more involved children are in the process, the more ownership they feel. This helps ease concerns about camp, and can ultimately help make a child’s camp experience more successful.
Ultimately, it is important for families to remember that they know their child best, and are best able to determine which camp experience is right. By visiting ACA’s family resource site, www.CampParents.org, families have access to the Find a Camp search, tips for planning a camp experience, expert advice, and research.
Photo courtesy of Skyline Camp and Retreat Center, Almont, Michigan