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A Word from Peg
December 7, 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
November 27, 2012
It may be my imagination but, at times, I feel many of us feel that we are far too often dealing with unfriendly spaces or feeling threatened. We may feel physically, emotionally, or even economically threatened. Regardless, the feelings are the same — discomfort or fear. How can we be better people, a stronger family or community, or a healthy country, if we feel unsafe?
I believe the camp experience allows young people to learn and practice civility — which might be one of the most important attributes in this decade.
I am not saying we should be passive or easily pushed around to avoid conflict; rather, what are the skills we can possess and teach others that will facilitate healthy, constructive, and safe discourse?
Well, I don’t believe the answer is rocket science. Frankly, what comes to mind are the lessons my grandmother taught me. Or more recent, the lessons I have observed being taught at camp.
- Be polite. Say “thank you,” “please,” and “I am sorry.”
- Lower your voice if you want me to hear you.
- Stop whining or begging — it is unattractive.
- If you don’t like her, she probably doesn’t like you. (Ouch, I remember that stinging.)
- Be fair. No manipulating to get your way — again, it is unattractive.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff or fight over petty issues.
- No one will change until you change.
- A smile wins more than a frown.
- You are not as important as you might think.
- Don’t become your own problem.
The wisdom in some of my grandmother’s quips was not always immediately apparent to me, but over time, when I have found myself worked up or hurt, they have provided great counsel. I believe the lessons camp professionals teach may not always be immediately apparent, but I will bet money they will help us secure a more civil world.
Photo courtesy of Camp Aranzazu, Rockport, Texas.
November 20, 2012
Last week I wrote about the value of play as it relates to socialization and maturation. Play has an important role in the development of maturation for not only our campers, but the adolescents and young adults at camp who serve as our CITs and counselors.
As I reflected on the concept of play, it occurred to me that if I were a young adult, I might resent my activities being characterized as play. When I was in that stage of my life, it was important to me to be seen not as a child but as a capable adult, albeit a young one.
I started to dig a bit deeper into the literature about play. I found myself wondering what Piaget, Hymes, and Erickson would think regarding all that we have learned recently about brain development. Ah, this would be a whole new and interesting discussion, but I digress.
Regardless, there are any number of definitions of play that clearly complement what young adults want to be recognized and valued for today when engaging with the world:
- Comprehension of directives
- Ability to cope and react in emotionally appropriate ways
- Flexibility of mind
- Adaptive practices
- Ability to create and improve
- Responsive to circumstances and environment in appropriate manner
It is also clear that many of these attributes resonate with the 21st century skills. Play for the young adult is a form of rehearsal where one continues to refine and hone one’s skills and abilities.
So, I return to the title of this blog. Scott Brody, an ACA board member and owner of Camps Kenwood and Evergreen, often talks about the counselor’s job as a legitimate internship that should be valued as much as any other internship that a young adult might secure, if articulated appropriately. It’s an internship that offers supervised practical learning opportunities; an internship that affords one the chance to acquire professional skills that will serve one in life and career. Let’s consider how we describe the counselor’s internship. How would you describe such an opportunity?
Is it play or an internship? I think it is both . . . the best of both.
Photo courtesy of YMCA Camp Kitaki, Lincoln, Nebraska
November 9, 2012
What happens when children and youth are deprived of play?
We view play as frivolous or fun — a waste of time. Yet, once again while meeting with camp staff in Alaska, I was reminded of the danger of removing critical developmental opportunities for children and youth. Marginalizing play is an unwarranted, unrecognized, and careless experiment.
Play is a child's laboratory. Without that lab, the camp professionals in Alaska are witnessing some interesting developmental gaps in readiness. As we discussed these observations, it called the questions . . .
What happens to young children who are not allowed to participate in unstructured free time — play that is not scripted or merely a secondary experience? What is happening when children do not have a chance for SOCIALIZATION — engaging in parallel play and moving into cooperative play?
I believe, absent positive play, we are seeing children who are six and seven years old manifesting social and emotional behaviors of three and four year olds. They are not prepared to work with others or participate successfully outside of the family unit. These children might know their colors, speak in compound sentences, manage technology, or read, but they are unable to share space with and understand others. They have not learned to manage conflict and solve problems. They have not exercised their creative and innovative muscles. As a result, one has to ask what happens when we limit or remove a child's developmental right to play. What skills have they not had a chance to learn and practice?
Then, what happens to young adults who continue to have their opportunities to “play” (practicing adult skills) limited, managed, or absent? Without MATURATION, experiences that provide safe environments for risk, mistakes, reflection, and exploration, we find young people who are unable to self-regulate, are unable to make independent decisions, or, worse yet, feel crushed by defeat. I would suggest many of these young adults are the same ones failing in their freshman year of college.
You simply can't skip critical developmental steps without consequence.
Are we paying attention? Have we considered the shrinking radius of space for play children have today? A decade ago it was one mile; today it is 500 feet. Have we considered the accumulative time a young person spends in front of a screen compared to having authentic experiences with others? For instance, by the time a young adult is twenty-one, he or she will have logged in nearly 10,000 hours in front of a screen. It takes 4,800 hours to get a bachelor's degree. What does that say about our priorities? Have we considered that limited access to the out of doors combined with sedentary screen time have produced the most obese, unhealthy child population in our country's history?
At times, I grow weary hearing all the jargon about 21st century skills, graduation rates, or workforce readiness when we have undercut a basic, foundational key to healthy development — play. Creative, imaginative play does, in fact, exercise and support many of the 21st century, character, noncognitive, soft skills young people so desperately need if they are to grow up and be successful, contributing adults who are ready to learn, adapt, and excel.
We need a balanced, informed approach as parents, caregivers, politicians, and the public. We must learn to understand play as a form of invention. Invention seeds innovation. Innovation will bring true value to the 21st century.
Photo courtesy of Cheley Colorado Camps, Estes Park, Colorado
November 5, 2012
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This was Shakespeare’s way of telling us that what matters is what something is, not what it is called. Boy, would Shakespeare love today’s nomenclature. Today, we spend an inordinate amount of time arguing over shared concepts just because we are using different terms to describe the same thing.
Consider the term “development” of a decade ago — career development or work force development is now referenced by the term “readiness.” Often you see the trifecta — career, work, and life readiness. And yesterday’s reference to “soft skills” seems remarkably similar to today’s “noncognitive skills.” A rose by any other name . . .
I was reading Expanding the Leadership Equation by Ellen Van Velsor, PhD, and Joel Wright, and it clearly illustrates how similar concepts under new headings can be seen as “new work.” But there are timeless human qualities that are essential to “readiness” no matter the decade.
For example, we look at today’s contemporary competencies compared to yesterday’s desired skills and find, in fact, two major abilities endure — self motivation/discipline and effective communication. It is anticipated some of today’s competencies will, in fact, endure in another decade — adaptability and agility. At the same time, it is expected we will still see the need to advance self-motivation/discipline and effective communication into the next decade. A rose by any other name
. . . and in any time!
Regardless of your affection for any particular term based on your generation, professional affiliation, or popular culture, it is my hope we will focus on what matters — what it is and how we add value to the acquisition of such skills and competencies. A rose, indeed.
Photo courtesy of Happy Hollow Children's Camp in Nashville, Indiana
October 30, 2012
I sit here today like many others across the nation watching the weather event taking place in the Northeast. My thoughts go to the children. Although I grew up in “tornado alley,” weather was rarely a distraction. With all of the talk about global warming and one dramatic weather event after another, it seems these topics are as oppressive for young children today as the Bay of the Pigs was for me as a child.
The adult talk in nervous, hushed voices frightened me as much as the black and white granular news coverage or the school safety drills at school. I wonder today how children are managing the glaring, relentless coverage (in HD) of the world’s weather challenges.
“Googling” the phrase “kids and weather” results in a fascinating array of Web sites sharing the sad, threatening realities of our weather today. Reading through these pages, I realized many of the messages are the same as one finds on the news pages for adults. That said, I found reading the messages designed for kids had a much greater impact on me. Maybe that is because I was seeing the messages through the eyes of a child. If we viewed our global weather challenges through the eyes of children, would we not be doing more?
Regardless, I hope we are paying attention, preparing, and planning to keep our children safe — not only today but in the future. The small child in me says: “work harder.”
Photo courtesy of Camp Howe, Goshen, Massachusetts
October 9, 2012
Recently, ACA received a 2012 Summit Award from ASAE — the Center for Association Leadership. Watch the video below to learn more. Giving a voice to the camp experience's positive (and safe) youth development outcomes for parents and the public is a very important part of all of our work, and ACA was honored to win this award.
September 25, 2012
I was rereading an article that was in the Boston Globe earlier this month titled “How Kids Make Friends — And Why It Matters.” Of course when I first read the article, I was reminded of ACA’s outcomes research and the power of the camp experience as it relates to “making friends.”
However, as I reread the article, I found myself considering deeper thoughts: The article does not just talk about making friends but honing “friendship skills.” Are we simply creating opportunities for kids to “make” friends, or are we teaching and facilitating “friendship skills?” And what does that look like?
The article also recognized our recent societal concentration on the prevention of bullying (which is very important). But the article questions whether we should be putting equal focus on helping kids build friendship skills. Once again, I recognize the camp community as an excellent environment for this kind of skill building. Do we talk about it enough as an antidote to bullying?
What are your thoughts?
Photo courtesy of Tom Sawyer Camps, Altadena, California
September 17, 2012
Are we camp professionals? Yes. Are we mentors and advisors? Yes. Are we coaches and social workers? Yes. Are we surrogate parents? Yes. Are we youth development workers? Yes. Are we educators? Yes.
I also believe we are a new form of venture capitalists. We are making investments in humans and community systems that build competencies and capacities that lead to better results! Don't undersell or underestimate the power of capacity on future performance.
Better results that lead to better tomorrows — changing the world.
Photo courtesy of Tom Sawyer Camps, Pasadena, California
September 10, 2012
There are many ways to have a "ful" life.
The choice is yours!
Photo courtesy of Camp Howe, Goshen, Massachusetts
August 20, 2012
Have you seen the T-shirt that says, “Forget the box — think outside”?
I want that T-shirt. There are so many applications for this phrase.
- If we want to save the “outside,” we better forget thinking inside the box. Solutions are going to have to be new, innovative, and profound.
- If we read the research, our ability to think is enhanced by the time we spend outside. To be boxed in a classroom for extended periods of time (throughout the year) seems counterintuitive.
- If we would think about how we help our children balance their time spent with technology and outside, my guess is we would be healthier, have young leaders committed to solving environmental woes, and take more time to be thoughtful and reflective.
We all need to “wear” — that is, live — the life this T-shirt suggests.
August 13, 2012
Articles are once again popping up about adding school days to the academic year. No one argues that year-round learning is not only developmentally and academically sound, but also pertinent to the issues of safety and wellbeing for many children who may not have something to do over the summer. Where we seem to diverge is the appreciation on how best to accomplish those desired outcomes.
The organized camp industry for children and youth provides nearly 216 million dollars for those who might not otherwise have a camp experience. The research that has been done absolutely supports the fact that a quality camp experience is a viable expanded learning environment that not only meets the developmental needs of a child but compliments academic success. A camp experience can stem learning loss that so many suffer.
If those outside the camp industry were to provide equal, if not more, support for children and youth to have the opportunity to have a quality camp experience, we might have a new solution to an old argument. If we want to get rid of the learning problem, we need new solutions.
Photo courtesy of Camp Courageous, Monticello, Iowa
August 7, 2012
The Children’s Defense Fund has just released The State of America’s Children® 2012 Handbook. Consider a few of the facts shared:
- There are 16.4 million poor children in America.
- More children were killed by guns in 2008–2009 than U.S. military personnel in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to date.
- A child is born into poverty every twenty-nine seconds in America.
I believe we are a part of the solution. But only if we are informed advocates for all children.
I find it alarming that two things most critical to a healthy future are fragile today — the environment and children. We can do something about both. What will you do?
July 23, 2012
We all know we don’t operate at our best all the time. So what do we need to understand in order to manage that risk, especially at this time of year in the summer camp season?
Remember where our counselors are developmentally.
- New risk capacities (training) evolve over time with experience.
- Mentor young counselors with seasoned staff throughout the summer.
- Peer pressure can still prevail.
- Continue to support clarity and sincerity in behavior and words.
- We all get tired and exhausted.
- Be sure counselors are getting plenty of rest in order to be at their optimum.
- We function best when we know our surroundings.
- If going to a new surrounding, partner new counselors with seasoned staff.
Counselors are modeling for campers — seasoned staff and directors are modeling for counselors. It is an enormously successful form of synergy and energy. It can power positive camp experiences.
Photo courtesy of Jaycee Camp Hope, Pendleton, South Carolina
July 9, 2012
We hear so much about 21st century competencies such as creativity, collaboration, and communication. I have my own 21st century list of desired “Cs”. Here is my wish list:
- I wish for confidence. Not arrogance or hubris, but the spirit of probability — probability of success and the ability to add value to the lives of others.
- I wish to achieve clarity. I want to be able to share my thoughts so they are easily understood, giving my voice a quiet power as an advocate for others.
- I wish for consistency. A consistency in principles that offer a framework for shared uniformity even within an ever-changing and complex world. I wish for an ability to assert these consistent principles even in contradiction.
I wish for these things because I believe it will make me a better person in a better world.