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Reading is like fuel for the brain. I use my airplane time to catch up on reading. I have been in the air a great deal lately — literally and, some would say at times, figuratively. Nonetheless, I have been reading a number of interesting articles and books that have caused me to ponder.
I am reading Drive by Daniel Pink. In one chapter, he talks about how children live life with joy and are equipped with a mindset of possibility. If you have that memory, you remember how powerful and liberating those joyful opportunities were when you were younger. He goes on to write, "They use their brains and their bodies to probe and draw feedback from the environment in an endless pursuit of mastery." Of course, the book explores how mastery and purpose are two attributes we will need in the twenty-first century. We could use the same descriptive sentence to define the camp experience; it is an experience of both purpose and mastery.
Then I pick up the executive summary Year-Round Learning: Linking School, Afterschool, and Summer Learning to Support Student Success from the Harvard Family Research Project. It is a summary of a full report done on afterschool and summer programming and their effects on student success. Again, the article defined elements that resonate with me. I have been working on the issues of children and youth my entire career. Even as a neophyte, I was saying the only difference between one kid and another was often access. The Harvard Family Research Project states, "removing barriers to learning and increasing access to learning supports and enrichment" is one of four principles critical to year-round learning. ACA's 20/20 Vision is about removing barriers and ensuring more children and youth have access to the rich learning environment of the camp community! The camp experience should be a part of the seamless fabric of learning environments — a fabric that creates a path through developmental stages and calendars! We are the weavers in the communities in which we live.
Finally, I pull out a research brief by the National Center on Time and Learning titled Summer Learning Loss. They describe six key practices that must be in place if summer programs are going to successfully stem summer learning loss. Again, the camp community can meet all six: enrichment and physical activity, real world applications and hands-on experiences, incorporation of curricular standards, and trained staff.
So, I ponder — why the 20/20 Vision? I believe it is a moral imperative — we must ensure access to all. Or why promote ACA's Send a Child to Camp campaign? Because it will ensure that one child at a time has access to an enriching opportunity they might not otherwise have — and we will all benefit from such a gift. Our outcomes-based research supports the evidence-informed value of the camp experience and provides credibility to this cause. Our Camp 2 Grow initiative has demonstrated how we can incorporate curricular standards (as have many camps) without compromising the camp experience. We know how to do this work! We want to promote ACA and the camp experience, but we need to do what we do best — promote kids and give those who work with youth and families the best tools and knowledge possible. When we do what we do best, we serve the needs of families and society. There is no greater way to prove or share one's value than by serving others.