Are We Engaged?

Posted: December 07, 2012

As many of you know, a new national grant announced this past Monday will fund extended school days for ten school districts in five states. (Read more about the grant here.)

This pilot merits our serious attention: 1.) to learn more 2.) to advocate for the camp experience as viable in the education of the whole-child and 3.) to take the opportunity to engage in the conversation. I am also encouraged by the words of Education Secretary Arne Duncan:
The goal here is not more time, the goal here is more learning.

I hope that means it is about learning, not more skill and drill.

Being ready to learn is just as important, if not more, than being taught. What do children need in order to learn? They need authentic connections in order to make learning relevant, experiential opportunities to engage their natural curiosity and make learning fun, and safe environments to take risks, make mistakes, and grow. These things have been inherent in camp experiences for over 150 years, and I am pleased to see the opportunity for them to be used in a classroom — but a traditional classroom is not the only learning environment.

I am also encouraged by the words of Ami Prichard, president of a teachers union in Colorado that has already been working with expanded learning hours:
If we can provide kids with a longer day that allows them to have electives, explore arts, become critical thinkers, as well as learn basics, we're all better off . . . This is not more of the same but something additional.

To that point, we must be involved, which includes understanding the action steps we can take as advocates for children and youth:

  1. We must collaborate with the larger community of youth development practitioners and teachers. We must work with parents, schools, and other out-of-school time activities to take on the critical task of raising this next generation of leaders. I applaud the efforts of school leaders to provide children with learning environments that infuse the best of the camp experience. However, the opportunity to truly collaborate between the two systems would provide an even stronger foundation.
  2. We must share and build with schools when it comes to effective teaching and learning. Over the past ten years or so we have added great knowledge to our 150 years of experience. We have learned a lot about successful camp-school partnerships and how to actively engage students during a school year. We have also learned a lot about keeping kids from the summer learning slump by incorporating just 30 minutes of reading time into their day through ACA’s Explore 30 Camp Reading Program. We must share this data as it relates to desired outcomes and translate what we’ve learned to the needs identified.
  3. We must engage and participate in the solution. We must network, write, call, and seek out opportunities to contribute to the discussion. Young people need our voices to be heard.

That said, there will always be a unique love for the camp experience. Lastly, I find encouragement in the words of student Olivia Nevadomski, who will soon have extended school days. While she does not mind extra hours during the school year, she did have this to say about school in the summertime:
That's a “no way” for me . . . It's for sleepovers, staying up late, and sleeping in. No summer school. Please no summer school.

Photo courtesy of Camp Courageous, Monticello, Iowa