Nurture Creativity at Camp

Posted: June 17, 2013

Guest post by Ann Sheets

In his closing keynote speech at the 2013 ACA National Conference in February, Dr. Gary Krahn spoke about children's creativity. He reported that during the preschool years, children score a 98 percent on the Torrance creativity test; at five years old, the score drops to 50 percent; after children reach the age of ten, their creativity score drops to less than 30 percent. His point? Formal education inhibits creativity in children.

Fast forward to the present time for summer camp. What better place than camp for children and youth to think outside of the box, to stretch their minds unbound by academics, and to be creative?

The ACA National Board of Directors recently created a work group on noncognitive skills, those skills we take for granted that we teach at camp, such as self-esteem, leadership, grit, curiosity, and creativity. I am very interested in seeing the results of their work, especially as it relates to creativity at camp.

But in the meantime, here's a resource that I have found quite interesting — the Creativity Post. It's a Web platform that shares the best content on creativity, from scientific discovery to educational reform.

You'll find tons of fascinating articles; the March 18, 2013, post on "Unschooling and the Benefits of Unstructured Time" included this quote:

"Because outdoor play spaces are more varied and less structured than indoor spaces, they provide children with better opportunities to engage their curiosity and imaginations, use their bodies and engage in decision making and creative thinking as they explore the outdoor space."

Another post, from September 29, 2012, was "As Children's Freedom Has Declined, So Has Their Creativity," by Dr. Peter Gray. This post describes the fascinating study using the Torrance Tests that Dr. Krahn mentioned and includes this statement:

"Creativity is nurtured by freedom and stifled by the continuous monitoring, evaluation, adult-direction, and pressure to conform that restrict children’s lives today. In the real world, few questions have one right answer, few problems have one right solution; that’s why creativity is crucial to success in the real world . . . . We are also increasingly depriving children of free time outside of school to play, explore, be bored, overcome boredom, fail, overcome failure — that is, to do all that they must do in order to develop their full creative potential."

Reading these articles is an affirmation of what we do. As camp professionals that are knee-deep into last minute planning for the summer, there seems to be little time for anything except the urgent. But I urge you to take time for yourself to read something every day — messages from ACA (caught you doing just that!), the Creativity Post, or your favorite blog — because you'll likely find reminders of why we're in this business. And along the way, encourage your staff to be creative and nurture your campers in the fantastic opportunity at camp to let their creativity soar!

Ann Sheets served as ACA's national president from 2005 to 2008 and recently completed a term as the Board Development Chairman. She is senior vice president at Camp Fire First Texas in Fort Worth.
 

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