Another exciting summer season of adventurous fun and learning at camp is just ahead. I hope you will take every opportunity available to ardently articulate the considerable educational and developmental advantages of camp with your prospective and longtime camp parents and staff members. Social-emotional learning is more important now than ever before, and findings from decades of camp research suggest that camp is an optimal context for practicing these skills. We must help parents, teachers, and our government leaders understand how our camp activities, program structures, intentional communities, and unique physical settings result in rich opportunities for children to practice social and emotional learning in distinctive, lasting, and transformative ways beyond their formal academic education.
Articles such as "The Future of Education Depends on Social Emotional Learning: Here's Why," by Giancarlo Brotto, are becoming more common in the news media. In it, Brotto highlights how critical social and emotional learning (SEL) is to a child's development, and how these core abilities can be as important as cognitive intelligence in determining future employment. He also emphasizes how challenging it is for principals and teachers to find ways to prioritize, teach, and assess social and emotional learning in schools (Brotto, 2018).
In a meta-analysis of nearly 900 public school principals, superintendents, and district evaluation specialists, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) found that only 35 percent of principals reported their school had developed a plan for teaching students SEL, and only 40 percent of principals anticipated that SEL would improve academic performance in spite of well-documented research (DePaoli, Atwell, & Bridgeland, 2017). While CASEL reports that 18 states do have mandated SEL standards for K–12 students and all 50 states have articulated preschool competency standards, schools also must prioritize creating a safe, supportive learning environment to effectively implement SEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, 2018).
In comparison, I believe that safe, immersive camps succeed in prioritizing and emphasizing the development of social-emotional learning proficiencies including relationship skills, leadership, teamwork, emotional regulation, and appreciation for differences. Camps also work hard to establish a positive climate of trust and meaningful relationship building in a thriving community that cultivates independence and responsibility in an inspiring SEL environment. Without cellphones and other screen devices to distract campers, camps are a fun experiential learning environment that encourages campers and staff to practice their uniquely human, creative, collaborative, cognitive, and communicative skills. They learn to manage their emotions, perceive themselves, and develop empathy for others.
Through ACA's bold 2020–2024 Strategic Plan, we will be a leading voice for all young people by advancing the public's understanding of the value of camp for all as an essential developmental and educational experience. All people need camp more than ever today. Through our collective efforts, we will battle the prevalent tide of depression, anxiety, and lack of connection while teaching the mindsets, skills, and dispositions everyone needs to thrive in school, work, and life. Thank you for your passionate leadership, vision, and determination. It's an honor to serve you all.
- Brotto, G. (2018, June 4). The future of education depends on social emotional learning: Here's why. EdSurge. Retrieved from edsurge.com/news/2018-06-04-the-future-of-education-depends-on-social-emotional-learning-here-s-why
- DePaoli, J. L., Atwell, M. N., & Bridgeland, J. (2017). Ready to lead: A national principal survey on how social and emotional learning can prepare children and transform schools. Civic Enterprises with Hart Research Associates, a Report for CASEL. Retrieved from casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/ReadyToLead_FINAL.pdf
- Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. (2018). State scorecard scan. CASEL. Retrieved from casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/csi-scorecard-sept2018.pdf