Latest ACA Blog Posts

June 12, 2012

I believe we all want kids to grow up to be successful, healthy, contributing adults. Yet, it seems we have a contradiction in approaches — a paradox — that causes competition in resources, both fiscal and time.

Which strategy gives kids the brightest future: One that employs academic, resume building environments? Or one that presents engaged, experiential, and expanded learning approaches?

I believe, if we do share a desired outcome for children, in fact, both strategies are essential. The sooner we figure out how to manage that shared space, the greater our shared success — for our kids.

Photo courtesy of Camp Echo in Coleman High Country, Merrick, New York.

June 4, 2012

As a parent, I fear we have forgotten that for generations, children grew up outside. We rode our bikes around the neighborhood and splashed around in creeks. We ran barefoot in the grass and climbed trees. Childhood was characterized by innocence, imagination, energy, wonder, and laughter. Frankly, the thought of being cooped up inside all day long was unfathomable and tortuous. Truth be known, that was how my dad punished me — I was sent to my room.

Yet today, research shows that the amount of time U.S. children spend outside has declined by 50 percent in the last two decades alone. On average, children currently spend 5.5 hours a day plugged into some kind of electronic device. Worse, yet, both the media and parents are often telling children and youth they should fear others and be afraid to go outdoors. As a result, silently and suddenly, we have a population of young people who may never have seen the stars, heard an owl in the darkness of...

June 1, 2012

According to author and psychologist Michael Thompson, PhD, 97 percent of children experience at least some occasional homesick feelings at camp. Considering that statistic, you’ll probably have at least a few campers who experience some level of homesickness this summer. As their counselor — their first line of communication and comfort — do you know what to say and do?

Selected Tips for Handling Campers’ Homesickness

1. Early on, introduce campers to older campers who were once in their shoes.

“One thing that helped me was bringing me to visit older campers in their bunks,” said David. The older campers welcomed David and shared personal memories of their first days many years ago. In their unpacking, they also showed a glimpse of a teenage world to which most ten-year-old boys aspire. When companies market products to children, they often will show children and teens several...

May 31, 2012

Guest post by Missy Schenck       

The first time I went away to summer camp I had just finished the third grade. All first-year campers have nagging doubts about their summer away from home and I was no exception. 

I love sharing my very first summer camp experience (fifty years ago this summer) because I was so homesick that I thought I was going to die. It was entirely possible for me to average at least four good cries a day that first week or so. I’ve shared this story summer after summer with our homesick campers. 

When I was growing up, parents were not helicopter parents; in fact, they were quite the opposite. Children were put on trains and buses and sent to camp and we said good-bye at the station. Parents did not make our bunks or put away our clothes. Our counselors...

May 29, 2012

I love to read, and as such, many people forward things to me they think I might find interesting. It is great — I feel like I have my own set of librarians working just for me. ACA’s Director of Research Deb Bialeschki is one of those librarians.

Last week, Deb shared an article with me by Shelly Engelman and Tom McKlin about “Grit” as a measure of academic success. Seriously! They write: “While interest and content knowledge do contribute to achieving goals, psychologists have recently found that Grit — defined as perseverance and passion for long-term goals — is potentially the most important predictor of success. In fact, research indicates that the correlation between grit and achievement was twice as large as the correlation between IQ and achievement.”

Let’s a give a “Woo Hoo!” Or as Linda Erceg, executive...

May 23, 2012

Photo courtesy of Trailside Discovery Camp in Anchorage, Alaska.

Stargazing in the night sky, hiking in an ancient forest, even just feeling the breeze on a warm day — these simple things help kids find peace of mind, wonder, and a greater connection to the world. Camp is one of the best places (and in some cases, the only place) for kids to be nurtured by nature!

Time spent in nature — away from a screen — benefits kids in so many ways:

  • Mental: Studies have shown that time spent in nature improves cognitive functioning.
  • Physical: Playing outdoors gets kids off the couch and moving, helping them reach (and often exceed!) their recommended 60 minutes of activity time per day.
  • Emotional:...
May 22, 2012

There is something to be said about the revival of a “way of learning” that supports tacit knowledge, (tacit knowledge will be needed in a constantly changing world — see “Learning for a World of Constant Change,” by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown), and its relationship to the cultivation of both hope and imagination. Tacit knowledge is a result of doing and experiencing — engagement. Tacit knowledge is not a learning process that is linear or mechanical but the result of a collection of experiences that help one make meaning.

This approach to learning requires a massive shift from hierarchical teaching environments to "heterarchical" learning environments. The camp community is one such heterarchical learning environment — and it happens to bring to the 21st century more than 150 years of...

May 18, 2012

Sometimes having the right activity at the right moment can make the difference between a good day and a great day at camp! Here are some no-planning, no-equipment-necessary games that you can play with your campers. (Find these and 98 other nature activities in 101 Nature Activities for Kids, by Jane Sanborn and Elizabeth Rundle.)

Scenario #1: You’ve got five minutes before lunch starts and you need a quick game that won’t get your campers too riled up.
Activity: Cloud Races
Have campers lie down, look up in the sky, and pick a cloud to watch race by. Choose a point as a finish line and see whose cloud crosses it first.

Scenario #2: Your campers are feeling extra energized this afternoon and you want to let them blow off some steam.
Activity: Balance of Nature
This...

May 14, 2012

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” — Dale Carnegie

Did you know that when your kids have the chance to engage in free, unstructured play, they’re actually developing skills that are vital to their success?

In a recent report, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) defended free and unstructured play as an essential piece of helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones. The report also says that kids learn to manage stress and become more resilient through free play.

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, kids need strong foundations from which to solve problems, communicate effectively, and think innovatively. This summer, you can give your kids those developmental...

May 9, 2012
Michael Eisen

Guest post by Michael Eisen

When I was nine years old I spent my first summer at camp. It was a huge step for me to be away from home for that long. I remember being very homesick that summer, but one of the things that made it easier for me was having a really kind, caring, and compassionate camp counselor. It’s unfortunate, but when I went to camp, having a really good counselor was by no means a guarantee. Over the next eight summers spent as a camper and one summer spent as a counselor myself, I learned a lot about what it took to be considered a campers favorite counselor, and I want to share some tips on how you can show up in that way for ALL your campers this summer!

Kindness and Compassion

Reflecting back on the handful of favorite counselors that I had throughout my summers as a camper, the most important factor that jumps...

May 7, 2012

We are rapidly approaching significant opportunity as a community of practice. We must be present, prepared, and practiced for parents, politicians, and professionals alike who are beginning to clamor for what we do and have done for decades for children, youth, and adults. They are using different terms and nomenclature to describe what they hope their children and the new work force will be able to achieve — but it is the same as what we do. So we need to step out, step up,  and get in the game — start the chatter — and be ready to knock it out of the park!

May 4, 2012

What do young people need most from YOU, their mentor?

Find out the answer to that and more in "Mentoring 101: Building Your Summer Skill Set" — a webinar taking place Thursday, May 10 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. ET.

Make an impact in the lives of your campers this summer and be the best mentor you can be!

Photo courtesy of Camp John Marc in Bosque County, Texas.

April 26, 2012

“A well-spent day brings happy sleep.” — Leonardo da Vinci

It sounds easy, but in reality, it can be so difficult: getting enough sleep! And you might not have thought about it much, but being well-rested is SO important to your job this summer.

First, being well-rested is critical to the health and safety of your campers. You’re expected to have the energy and clear head to be 100% present at every moment with them. Don’t let sleep-deprivation cloud your judgment! 

Not to mention — have you ever met anyone who is an absolute joy to be around when they haven’t had enough sleep? Be your charming, witty, positive self this summer — don’t let snarky comments or a bad attitude creep out around your co-counselors because you’re tired.

Tips

  • According to the...
April 26, 2012

Guest post by Audrey Monke

In her best-selling book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Wendy Mogel discusses the importance of letting kids take healthy risks and allowing them to experience failure. Camp offers a great opportunity for kids to do exactly what Mogel recommends.

When a camper says they “can’t” or “don’t want to” do an activity, counselors encourage them to give the activity a try. Following are three of the reasons why we believe campers benefit from trying their least favorite camp activity.

Previous Negative Experience

One reason a camper may not want to try an activity is because they’ve had a previous negative experience with the activity, usually not at camp and not with experienced instructors. Falling off a horse, being dragged behind a ski boat and not getting up, or going on...

April 19, 2012

If you’ve got a multiple-kid household, you have a lot of choices when it comes to summer plans — including camp!

First, assess each individual child’s readiness for camp. Consider each child’s age, past experiences away from home, and expectations about camp. Read specific tips at The Right Time — Gauging Your Child’s Readiness for Camp. Make sure to talk through any decisions with your children as a family.

Camping Together?

If you do decide more than one of your children is ready for camp, consider whether they would thrive at the same camp or separate camps. Siblings who are close in age and interests and consistently get along with each other may find camp even more enjoyable if given the opportunity to experience it together. And when the camp experience is over, the siblings can reminisce and engage jointly in any new hobbies...

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