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Latest ACA Blog Posts
April 1, 2013
Okay, so, I know I harp on play. Yet, with all the disparate nomenclature surrounding noncognitive skills, character building, and the plethora of “readiness” inventories, I find it may just all be about a four-letter word: PLAY.
I was reading a 2008 article by Alix Spiegel called “Old Fashioned Play builds Serious Skills.” He notes that today, the word play is associated with toys; but in the nineteenth century, play meant activity. Gee, what a difference a few decades can make.
When play is improvised and regulated by those participating (kids), what happens? It seems kids are practicing self-regulation. They are using their imaginations and creating ideas upon which to innovate. They are using what many call executive functions; planning, problem solving, and reasoning. These are elements that many bemoan are missing today, causing kids to...
March 26, 2013
A summer of learning is just around the corner. Lately, I have been reading about “inquiry learning,” and I found a quote on NPR’s Mind/Shift blog that resonated with me:
Inquiry means living in the soup. Inquiry means living in that uncomfortable space where we don’t know the answer.
Inquiry is about creating an environment that embraces curiosity and the desire to learn even more. It is not about telling and repeating, but accessing and experiencing. It is about wanting to know more and being enabled to explore, seek, question, try, fail, and learn again.
The camp experience is an oasis for these joyful, teachable failures.
Photo courtesy of Sanborn Western Camps, Florissant, Colorado
March 19, 2013
. . . to overparenting! So says Madeline Levine, PhD, psychologist, author, and keynoter at the recent ACA national conference in Dallas.
Drumroll . . . !
The mother of three “newly minted adults,” all who had life-changing positive experiences after growing up as campers, Levine says dreaming, creating, and play are the lynchpins of a happy, successful adulthood — enter camp!
You see, she explains, a counselor is not invested in the same way as a parent who, understandably, finds it hard to endorse a “successful failure,” which provides the traction for mastery. And yet successful failure is exactly what we encourage at camp, along with an invitation for exploration and collaboration and manageable risk taking.
So maybe we are not only in the business of youth development but in parent development, too! Is it possible that, through the camp experience, parents can discern the benefits of not...
February 18, 2013
So you’ve found your dream job this summer — you’re working at camp for the first time!* You’ll be spending your summer playing with kids, making a positive impact on their lives, having tons of fun, meeting new people, and making friends. But there are a few other very important things that you should expect from your job at camp.
The most essential aspect of your job this summer is safety. Make sure your campers are always wearing the right clothing/equipment for activities. Create an environment among your campers that values respect — make sure everyone feels emotionally safe. Take care of yourself (get proper sleep and nutrition) so that you remain alert and can make appropriate safety judgment calls at all times. Physical, mental, and emotional safety should be your main priority at all times.
Resources to help:
February 18, 2013
This month's guest on Peg's blog is Lance Ozier, member of ACA's national Committee for the Advancement of Research and Evaluation (CARE) and former education coordinator at Project Morry.
Once upon a time, when the world seemed young and our whole lives lay before us, my brother and I would camp outdoors just a few feet from the backdoor of our house. Under the night’s moonlight and beside the fire's shawls of final smoke, we were free. Although our parents were only a few steps away inside the house, they were out of sight and out of mind. Spending endless childhood days in the woods, we found wide open spaces that gave us room to learn and make mistakes.
From morning coffee to goodnight yawn, there’s nothing quite like long adult days to remind us that we’re no longer drifting through the dream of childhood. After the Victorian era, when children were seen and not heard, child psychologists...
February 12, 2013
Recently, ACA Board Executive Steve Baskin spoke at the TEDx San Antonio Conference on "Unplugging Our Kids." Steve does a wonderful job explaining to attendees of the conference why kids need camp more than ever to find success in the 21st century. Watch the video below.
February 7, 2013
This week's post is a guest blog from Laura Dallas McSorley, a member of one of ACA's educational allies, Teach For America.
Camp Glisson was the most wonderful place I had been as a kid — almost magical. I had been to other day camps and even overnight camps, but nothing was like the first time I stepped onto the grounds of Glisson — beautifully nestled in the North Georgia mountains around a large waterfall, with an old wooden chapel. I went every summer, as did my siblings, and even my parents as a nurse or the minister for a week. (Glisson is a United Methodist camp.) When I was old enough, I was finally a counselor, getting to fulfill a long-held dream. Most of my co-counselors were passionate about Glisson's central mission: ministry to children. Many went on to go to divinity school or teach school.
I, however, couldn't imagine myself in the classroom or in a church. Instead, I spent the next several...
February 5, 2013
“Camp is not all about the performance, but the pursuit — the pursuit of relevant experience and knowledge.”
The following article by ACA CEO Peg Smith appeared in USA TODAY on February 1 and 4, 2013.
What is the path to innovation — spending alone time in a seat or actively engaging in learning that helps one become adaptive, ambiguity-able, and alert? What will help create tomorrow’s innovators? One thing is clear: We will need innovators. Maybe we should spend as much time considering how we develop innovators as we do graduates. I believe a balanced approach is imperative — to life and to education.
Robert C. Pianta, PhD, found that fifth graders spend 90 percent of their time in their seats listening or working alone (Bromley, 2007). That statement seems counterintuitive to what we know about child and brain development. If play is a form of invention, and invention seeds...
January 28, 2013
Want to know what it takes to have a career in camp? Take advantage of ACA’s upcoming Student Camp Leadership Academy (SCLA) — Texoma opportunity:
- Begins: Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 2:00 p.m.
- Ends: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at noon
- Location: YMCA Camp Carter in Fort Worth, Texas
SCLA — Texoma brings students together with camp professionals to take an in-depth look at options for a profession in the camp field. It also helps students build skills to prepare for a career in camp. For more information about SCLA and its history, read Student Camp Leadership Academy: Developing the Next Generation of Camp Professionals.
After successful completion of the SCLA experience, all students will receive an ACA SCLA certificate. Learn more about outcomes of SCLA.
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...
January 15, 2013
Each month, Peg will host a guest blogger here on A Word from Peg. This month's guest is Audrey Monke, owner and director of Gold Arrow Camp.
"Camp has taught me to be brave and reach my goals. If it wasn't for camp, I wouldn't be nearly as courageous as I am now."
— Remi, age 11
At camp we have the phenomenal opportunity to teach campers grit, a character trait that will benefit them far beyond our lakes and forests. Through teaching our campers to set goals and have a growth mindset, we can make a positive, life-changing impact.
The start of a new year begs for a resolution. Why not set a goal to incorporate more grit development into your camp curriculum this summer?
Grit has become the new buzzword in education and parenting thanks to Paul Tough's best-selling book,...
December 21, 2012
We all continue to mourn the events of Sandy Hook Elementary School. That said, the discourse and deliberation about possible solutions are being expressed across the country.
Yet, what is the comprehensive answer? Frankly and honestly, I don't know. That said, I expect that any number of ACA's leadership groups will be seriously deliberating on this issue, and others, during the next couple of months. For instance, the National Council of Leaders and the ACA Board of Directors will meet in February, and I expect this topic to be at the top of the agenda.
We must act — but informed and cogent action is imperative. I do believe we will see both short- and long-term solutions emerge as a country and as a camp community. The problem is too complex to result in one solution; instead, the solution may be a series of powerful, impactful changes in regulation, access, procedures, behavior, and culture. (Again, for the camp community and...
December 17, 2012
In her latest blog post, with the December 14 Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy fresh on her mind and heart, American Camp Association CEO Peg Smith asks herself, "Am I doing enough?" to create a world that fosters community and values learning about and understanding others. Smith shares her thoughts on creating a world of humility, civility, and human connection by demonstrating those very traits.
December 17, 2012
Last week, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School horror, I shared on Facebook that I had no words. Since, I have watched and read many reactions to the loss of such innocence. People have expressed such wisdom, insight, and resource. Yet, I am still without words.
I find I am left with one thought. Maybe more than words, laws and regulations, and resources, we must also demonstrate new behaviors. I am not so naive to think the answer is that simple because I understand so much more is needed. However, I have to ask myself, “What can I do?” What can I do that teaches young people new ways of behaving?
Instead of getting angry, can I take the time to seek alternative solutions? Can I demonstrate that there are more responses than harm or rage? Can I slow down so I can be more civil?
Instead of saying more needs to be done, can I give more? Can I encourage communities to consider solutions to societal issues as individuals who...
December 11, 2012
Give the gift of camp! A quality camp experience is a real-life version of what kids want from video games and toys — fun, adventure, excitement — and so much more!
Character and Developmental Skills
Camp is an experience that will last a lifetime — from memories to friendships to newfound hobbies. Kids certainly learn a lot about themselves while at camp, and according to research, they also gain critical social, emotional, resiliency, and teamwork skills:
- 96% of campers said: “Camp helped me make new friends.”
- 93% of campers said: “Camp helped me to get to know kids who are different than me.”
- 92% of campers said: “The people at camp helped me feel good about myself.”
- 74% of campers said: “At camp, I did things I was afraid to do at first.”
Campers also come away with powerful lessons in self-awareness, citizenship,...