Camp is an exemplary classroom without wall.  Great for kids and parents!  Camp offers children opportunities to stretch and experience key developmental steps that help them become successful adults - things such as; independence, healthy risk taking and important life skills.  Camp actively engages young people in an expanded learning process while promoting effort and accomplishment.  As a safe and nurturing environment designed as a community that supports authentic relationships with peers and mentors, it quietly helps young people ward off summer learning loss while having FUN.

Learning – such a great word.  I went to Wikipedia to further explore what I feel may be one of the most important and critical brain functions we possess.

Wikipedia said, “Learning is acquiring new knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, preferences or understanding, and may involve synthesizing different types of information.”

“Play has been approached by several theorists as the first form of learning.”

That said the camp experience is a synonym for learning.

Take it a step further and I found a Learning Pyramid by Dr. Tom Bayston Jr. that illustrates average student retention rates for certain learning modalities.  Reading = 10%, Discussion = 50%, but to Practice Doing = 75%, and to have the opportunity to Teach Others = 90%.

The camp experience is an exemplary complement to the formal education system and should be a viable expanded learning environment for today’s children – all children.

At this time of year, the “Letter from Peg” is directed to camp staff and counselors as you prepare to enter the summer season. This year is no different.

During camp training and orientation, you will receive a great deal of content knowledge. This information will be very important to ensure you have a productive summer. But to be successful, it takes more than content knowledge. This is true of everything in our world today. We all need twenty-first century skills to be successful. John Dewey, a twentieth century educator said, “knowledge is no longer an immobile solid.”

So, I am going to ask you to think about doing something special this summer. Learning is a lifelong journey, and without intentionality — being present in the moment — you may suffer a form of learning loss. I want to suggest a tool that may enhance your summer experience.

This summer at camp, start a Life/Career Skills Journal. You have the opportunity to acquire and practice critical twenty-first century job skills at camp that will be transferable to all of your future environments — professional and personal.

Chapter One: Flexibility and Adaptability
Record your experiences adapting to new roles and responsibilities. Consider how you find ways to balance diverse opinions and values.

Chapter Two: Initiative and Self Direction
Record how you manage goals and your time. Reflect on how you are exploring and discovering learning opportunities.

Chapter Three: Leadership and Responsibility
Describe how you help others problem solve, see patterns, and discern meaning. Capture the ways you learn to inspire and present a positive example to others.

These are just a few examples. You will probably think of other chapter titles such as “High Order Thinking Skills,” “Productivity,” or “Community Building.” If you journal with discipline, you will have excellent text for a job resume or an interview by the end of the summer. Employers love real-world context. More importantly, each entry becomes a teachable moment for your campers. Share your narrative with the campers — we know the power of oral histories. They, too, will need twenty-first century competencies in order to be successful.

John Dewey also said, “To be playful and serious at the same time is possible and it defines the ideal mental condition.”

Have a great summer, and send me journal entries!

Many of you will be working at camp this summer as a camp counselor.  Consider your opportunities and how to maximize those opportunities well beyond the summer months.  I would like to ask you to consider keeping a Life/Skills Career Journal this summer.  Many of the  skills and competencies that you will use this summer will demonstrate 21st century skills that employees will be seeking.  Let me give you a few examples -

Chapter One:  Flexibility and Adaptability

Consider the varied roles and responsibilities you will have the chance to experience this summer.

Chapter Two:  Initiative and Drive

How do you utilize and manage your workload?  How do you learn when it is time to listen and time to speak?

Chapter Three:  Productivity and Accountability

Think about how you share a positive attitude.  When you behave ethically, even when it might be hard.  Consider your reliability and collaborative spirit.

Chapter Four:  Leadership and Responsibility

How do you problem solve and help others do so.  How do you inspire people.

Chapter Five:  Higher Order Skills

When do you practice analytical skills?  synthesizing information, observing patterns, and discerning meaning?

Record your best thinking.  Reflect and be aware of what you are doing.  These skills will serve you well in your career and personal life.  And remember, oral history is a tradition at camp.  Campers are going to need these 21st century skills, as well.  Share your learnings with your campers.

I was a keynote for the Parenting Publications of America’s conference early this March.  I was sharing with them many of the messages I share with you when I post on this blog.  I picked up again on my theme about the Field Guide for Preserving Childhood.  I posed the question, “Does additional institutionalized education endanger the ages and stages of development and natural maturation?”  What is really at risk?  If we believe developmental growth is a precursor to academic achievement can we afford to delay natural, important stages of development?  What happens when we do so?  Might it have something to do with the fact that we are seeing so many university freshmen drop out of school due to an inability to manage time, navigate a new environment, exercise self discipline?  Does it contribute to the need for the corporate world to spend millions of training dollars on communication skills, conflict management, and leadership?  It begs once again the need for alternative expanded learning environments such as camp to complement formal educational instruction in partnership with schools and parents.  Child and youth development are a part of human development.  Play is a child’s art of learning. 

I encouraged the magazine editors to give parents permission to protect, nurture, and ensure children have developmental experiences that preserve their rite of passage - childhood.  We will all benefit.

We created a 7 minute video about ACA’s 100th anniversary.  You simply cannot capture 100 years in a 7 minute video.  It is a snapshot - an index that precedes many chapters.  An index that attempts to capture the enormous heart of ACA.

Yet, there are many faces, voices, and experiences we did not capture.  Many living legends, many champions of today’s camp experience, many emerging leaders who stand arm in arm with the legends of yesterday.

But more importantly, how will we carry forward?  How will it look in the next 100 years?  Will the colors of our mosaic expand?  Will more voices find space in our discussion?  What is our promise for tomorrow?  How will we tell our story?  Our narrative?

I want to suggest that we start by considering ‘well founded hope’.    A feeling of well being or words of promise are not enough.  Instead, many are seeking answers that are convincing, reasonable, defensible, and legitimate.  Well founded hope.

Let’s consider some of the top issues facing our species?  Consider our children and youth.  They are certainly key to true survival and yet many important elements of human development have diminished over the decades.

Take ‘play’, for example.  Life is regimented, standardized, scored, and frankly less free and spontaneous.  Physical activity is being reported as less than a half an hour a day for fewer than 1 in 4 young people.  Our relationship with the out of doors has decreased.

Our economic, education, environmental, and demographic landscape is changing, mutating, and moving like a seismic shift under our feet.

We must rethink and reshape our dialogue and the articulation of our value proposition.  If we do not, we passively accept the risk of becoming increaseingly discretionary.  We may also make the choice of passively watching the slow extinction of childhood - a very critical stage of healthy development.

So our promise for tomorrow is that we have many answers to a number of today’s challenges.  We can and do help stem summer learning loss.  We don’t just talk about the nature deficit but we promote environmental literacy and stewardship.  We don’t sit young people behind screens for endless hours or behind a desk - we engage them in the experience of learning and growing.

We have science based evidence that supports the impactful outcomes young people receive from camp.  We have evidence that tells us that the camp experience is safter than most school sport’s activities.  We have an understanding that developmental opportunities serve as a precursor for academic achievement.

We are an alternative, expanded learning environment that supports and promotes skills and competencies that are needed in the 21st century.

But , as we teach our campers, we must engage and reach out to others.  We must listen to new voices and adopt and adapt to a new norm. If we want to serve even more  children and youth in the next century we must learn to tell our story in a way that is central to the contemporary culture.

Mawi Asgedom, who spoke to us at the national conference, told us to watch for the invisible child.  I remind you that you cannot help the invisible children if you are invisible.  I will also ask you, “what is the risk if we suffer both invisible children and disappearing childhood?”  Neither should be marginalized if we want to see more graduate from High School and  grow and develop into healthy, productive citizens.

Years ago, Marla Coleman told us the camp experience could not be seen as discretionary.  She suggested the camp experience be described as vital. In today’s economy, few can afford to be viewed as discretionary.  That said our ability to articulate the added-value of the camp experience as an expanded learning environment that complements and supports a child’s academic growth and development is imperative. Yes,  the experience is fun.  Fun is important because that is how young people learn.  Fun  need not be frivolous or discretionary.  A dollar invested in camp - a child’s education - is a dollar invested in a child’s future success as a citizen of the world.  Children are not discretionary, either.  They deserve our best investment.

Okay, I am guilty!!!  I have ignored this blog for far too long.  No one will probably read it now.  I am so sorry.

That said so much has been happening particularly around the idea of ‘reframing’ the education reform discussion.

 

In collaboration with ACA’s legal firm, IceMiller LLC, we now have an executive office space in Washington, D.C..  I, and several others, will be in and out of D.C. at least two weeks each month.  I leave tomorrow for my  second visit this month.  Our reception has been incredibly positive.  What has been most remarkable is that we are seeing the impact of our current relationships and partnerships and they are having a positive impact on our presence in D.C..  It is clear that we are not only recognized for the work we do, but our body of knowledge is admired by many in D.C..  Our research on outcomes, best practices, and healthy camps is adding value to our conversations that are taking place especially around the subject of education reform.  Our professional development work as a result of our new body of knowledge is also being encouraged and adopted by others.  Apparently, many other organizations are visitng the ACA Web site to view our research and partnerships.

We also just completed a camp/school partnership survey and that information will be available SOON.  Last week when I was visitng with staff at the America’s Promise office they asked if we might have such data available.  I was so pleased to tell them we’d have some early data in another week or so.  They are mapping all the ‘at risk’ schools in the country and would love to cross reference the location of camps with those schools in need of community partnerships.  They, too, see camp as a viable  expanded learning environment.

I promise more to come……..and not so long!

As the debate continues around education reform and summer learning loss, ACA is advocating that we re-frame the issue.  What do children and youth need in order to learn?  What conditions and experiences cause a young person to be ready to learn?  The solution must be child-centric.  Teaching children to pass standardized tests doesn’t necessarily teach them to think for themselves. Placing children in traditional education environments ‘longer’ does not necessarily prepare them for life.

ACA has been reaching out to organizations and institutions to re-frame the current discussion around education reform in an attempt to introduce the importance of understanding how children learn - not pass the test.  Our national board of directors and a number of our volunteer committees that work on media relations, public policy, and research are doing the same - suggesting an alternative assessment of the problem and the solutions.  Many of the questions I have posed in the past are the questions we have asked ourselves as we have prepared to proactively respond to the debate. 

Learning is active.  Camp is active and child/youth centric.  We are a part of the solution.

I want to know what you are thinking about when you read the literature about education reform?  What are the implications for camp?  What is our position/s?  How do children learn?  How do children and youth learn mastery and competence?  What did it look like?  What does it look like?  What might it look like?  What has endured?  What must endure?  What are we willing to fight for?

What is our contributary value when people are thinking about putting together a 12 month ‘learning’ environment?  What are you reading to be sure you are equipped and informed?

Have you seen the movie 200 million minutes?  Have you read the Global Achievement Gap?  Have you read Spark? What do yu think I should be reading?

We must remember form follows function.  So let’s be a part of the ‘function’ so we are not left out of the ‘form’.

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