The end of the school year and the start of summer opens up a whole new lifestyle for families. How can kids continue the joy of camp while parents go to work? I find summer camp to be the answer!
As the heat of a new season is upon us, so is the opening of day camps, overnight camps, specialty camps, and so many others. Choosing the best camp for your child and family can seem overwhelming; however, an essential organization exists to help you. The American Camp Association is the only organization in the country that accredits camps. Accreditation involves a rigorous site visit followed up with annual reporting and ongoing site visits as scheduled. The commitment a camp shows to become nationally accredited is a symbol of their dedication to providing the best and safest experience for your child. Just click here to ACA Find A Camp.
If the word leadership invokes images of experienced people trained in exerting authority and team motivation, you wouldn’t be wrong. However, great leaders aren’t born, they were grown, and that starts with a seed.
I believe in the power of camp to introduce children to the concept and nuances of leadership. Without knowing, the leadership seed is first planted and nurtured. In an environment free of parents, children can establish some level of independence which may include making decisions on how to make new friends; fitting into the crowd; trying new things; caring for themselves. The new activities introduced to campers daily challenge them mentally, physically, and emotionally. Campers also learn to reflect upon the role they play and the expectations they set for themselves.
Consider this, a child hops off a bus and isn’t at school. Excited camp counselors greet eager students and what happens next is thrilling. Joe, a child who struggled both socially and academically, began to stand taller as he took the lead in skit night. Joe told me how much he loved his camp counselor who helped him with squid dissection and taught him how to shoot a bow and arrow. He led his team through the challenge of scuba diving at night by assisting others to overcome their fears. But Joe, he was never the same. Inadvertently this counselor changed the trajectory of Joe’s school year and possibly his life.
I recently invited a group of 42 campers, staff, and parents to reflect on the lessons learned at camp. Overwhelmingly, the responses revolved around: appreciating diversity, independence, teamwork, and responsibility. Most defined leadership based around qualities similar to the lessons learned during camp. Further, participants listed camp as an influence of their current educational or employment goals and positions.
By encouraging participation in summer camp and allowing our children the independence to navigate the camp environment, we are planting the seeds of leadership. Schools, community leaders, and parents need to look at how or if we will cultivate those seeds during the rest of the year. For now, I challenge our current leaders to take a look at their team, reflect on lessons gained when in a new environment, and allow the team to interact in a similar way. By guiding from behind new strengths will be exuded and a great leader will build upon these behaviors and watch the team soar.
I’m quite certain most people reading this blog barely remember and lecture, a powerpoint, a mandated book or even the best meal ever served in elementary school. What I would bet is remembered is the trip to the museum, a visit to the local high school or library and if you were lucky enough you definitely remember the time you got to go to camp and be away from your parents for the very first time.
Experiences generate memories but a great task remains for many camps… how do camps keep the passion of science, marine life, the environment etc… fresh in students’ minds long after they return to school? My research has shown both camp directors and teachers want camp to be more than a single experience but both clearly admit time is so limited that neither have the staff or resources to create experiences beyond camp. This research was so frustrating to me that I have decided to do something. Starting a program like Camp Beyond Camp has been a dream of mine for so long. I’m not sure I have always known I would combine my traditional education background with an experiential education connection; however, I always knew there was something missing. When my students returned from a great experience I felt like I didn’t have the know-how or time to keep the magic alive. Life experiences and circumstances made it clear to me that kids and camps deserve more
Students have returned to school after a long winter break and camps are back in session. The excitement of 2019 has begun and we could not be more excited. If you are a camp or school attending Pathfinder Ranch, or any other camp, and would like to add great value to your experience we are here to help. Enjoy extending the camp experience long after your campers return to school!