Yellow school buses used to transport summer campers have returned to their school year routes. By now, everyone’s back in school and busy establishing or re-establishing school year routines. Memories are very much alive and well from the summer of 2012 and so is the learning that summer camps provide, encourage and inspire. Parents and teachers are likely to notice children’s gains and growth in these three areas.
Academic Skills. Summer camp programming helps prevent what experts are now calling Summer Learning Loss. Camp is full of fun, active learning opportunities that keep children’s brains engaged while school is not in session. Reading is alive and well at summer camp: independent reading, reading directions, reading aloud, and listening to counselors or other campers read aloud. Campers build numeracy too whether they are cooking or calculating probability in archery. Camps bring science to life as it plays a huge part in camp programming from marine science at camps near the ocean and shore to lake, pond and river ecology, from astronomy to biology, and from nature studies to environmental stewardship. Camp programming provides a real life and world context for reading, writing, arithmetic, science, and many other academic pursuits. Camps reinforce lessons of the school year by allowing and encouraging campers to make connections and build understanding in hands-on ways. Learning at camp is experiential; campers learn by doing.
Independence and Decision-making skills. Teachers appreciate students who can work independently, who know how to ask for help when they need it and who take pride in their own work. Day and overnight camp experiences are designed to build independence and to encourage children to do as much as they possibly can for themselves. Campers walk a little taller as they cross the threshold into a new school year! Successful adulthood requires the ability to make decisions as an individual and as a member of a group. Summer camps give children practice in making small, medium and large decisions of all sorts. Salad bar or sandwich? Pottery or stand-up paddle boarding? When and how to ask for help? Kayaking trip or backpacking? To tell the counselor or not to tell? Hang up the wet towel or wad it up in a backpack? Knowing how to make good decisions for oneself and as a member of the group comes in very handy during the school year.
Social/Emotional Learning. Navigating the social and emotional challenges of the school year can get complicated. Social/emotional development may sound like a soft skill to some, and less important than certain academic skills, given what’s required to succeed in school and after graduation. What’s become increasingly clear, though, is that social/emotional bumps in the road can create roadblocks for academic learning. Camps foster social/emotional competencies and growth that serve children well in the new school year: How to make and keep a friend. Conflict resolution strategies. How to share food and conversation over a meal. Skills for working through a group challenge. How to appropriately express feelings like anger and frustration. Self-advocacy strategies. Patience and other interpersonal skills. How to interact with peers and with children who are older or younger. Making eye contact with adults. Compromising. Chances to interact in person with other children and with adults are plentiful at summer camp—in a day and age where there are fewer and fewer opportunities for face to face interaction in world. School-based learning is much easier for campers whose social/emotional development has been boosted at summer camp.
New England’s summer camp world is proud to send children back to school empowered and excited after the unique and dynamic learning experiences of summer.
Photo courtesy of Camp Ramsbottom (ACA Accredited), Rehoboth, MA.