Tuesday, August 27, 2013

ACA CEO Responds to Recent Articles about Technology at Camp


The following letter was sent by ACA CEO Peg Smith to Beth Teitell of Marketplace and Amanda Hess of Slate in response to their recent online articles about technology at camp.

I read your article, and I find I am incredulous. People are questioning the use of technology at camp? Camp, although 150 years old, is not an antique. The camp community serves more children than ever before in its history – preserving the best attributes of a quality experience for young people while remaining contemporary and relevant. Yet, people discuss the experience from rather dated assumptions and, in my opinion, with low regard for parents.
It is important to note that privileged kids are not the only kids going to camp today.  Many camps serve middle and low income children and youth.  The American Camp Association® (ACA) community annually provides nearly $216 million in camp scholarships. Defining the camp community as a privileged community is a disservice not only to the community itself but even more so to those kids whose parents may never even consider sending their child to camp as a result of your misinformation.
In terms of technology and camp, could you possibly see it as an appropriate responsive measure?  The camp community has artfully preserved childhood for children while still satisfying the need parents have to know their kids are safe and having fun. Parents today have a set of expectations that are often driven by fear that is fanned by the media. This fear results in a need to feel they are in uber close partnership with those sharing custodial care for their children.
Technology allows the camp owner/director and parent to have a line of communication without disrupting one of the key elements of a camp experience for children and youth – independence.  Today's children, from birth, have had their lives recorded in some fashion. The camera lens is almost like a sibling. I am not suggesting that this is good or bad, but I am suggesting that kids today hardly notice the camera lens when involved in quality activities.
I think it is ill-advised to shame parents, blame the camp community, or suggest the demise of camp.  Instead, we should celebrate that these sacred spaces have been preserved for young people – young  people who have limited access to the out-of-doors, community living, and the nurturing space dedicated to a child's rite of passage.
The camp experience is as special and simple as it was 150 years ago – it is the world that has changed and the camp community has evolved accordingly. In truth, the camp community has preserved the rite of passage since the beginning of the Industrial Age. The camp community respects the parents of today and has attempted to address their anxieties while preserving the camp experience for kids.
Peg L. Smith, CEO, American Camp Association

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The campers are back!

The campers are back!

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Nature Nurtures Kids!

Stargazing in the night sky, hiking in an ancient forest, even just feeling the breeze on a warm day — these simple things help kids find peace of mind, wonder, and a greater connection to the world. Camp is one of the best places (and in some cases, the only place) for kids to be nurtured by nature!
Time spent in nature — away from a screen — benefits kids in so many ways:
  • Mental: Studies have shown that time spent in nature improves cognitive functioning.
  • Physical: Playing outdoors gets kids off the couch and moving, helping them reach (and often exceed!) their recommended 60 minutes of activity time per day.
  • Emotional: Studies have shown that nature reduces stress, and it allows for opportunities of self-discovery.
(Read more about these benefits and others in “Nature, Childhood, Health and Life Pathways” by Jules Pretty, et al. — a 2009 report from University of Essex.)
Nature is also a great way to “come up for air” in our technology-saturated world. In a recent blog, bestselling author Richard Louv relates that while some aspects of technology can be fun and beneficial, recent studies show there are serious cognitive and emotional detriments to a world without nature!
There's no escaping some "screen time" in kids' lives, but here's the good news: Researchers have found that when children are exposed to free play in nature at a young age, they are likely to make a lifelong connection with the outdoors. Kids might think they are just having fun at the waterfront, under the trees, or on the hill — but they are really forming a bond with nature that will offer renewal and life skills for the rest of their lives!
Photo courtesy of Trailside Discovery Camp in Anchorage, Alaska.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Session 5A

Dear Parents,

Where to start!!!!!!! We have been so busy.  The weather has been a little chilly in the morning!  But it is classic NH.  If you wait 15 minutes, the weather will change.  Your children are a delight to have around!  I have really enjoyed getting to know them.

We have had lessons, carriage driving, and vaulting on Gruffy (our Clydesdale). We have had pony spa.  We have as an afternoon activity, Mini – Loving.  We gave them extra kisses and hugs, and brushes and baths! And soooo much more!

Today we had riding lessons in the morning and this afternoon we are practicing our specialties for you on Saturday. The campers have signed up for Vaulting, Driving, Puissance, Courses (Big and Little).  We were hoping to swim with the horses today, but the weather was a little bit of an issue so we are going to try again tomorrow!  Your children have just been so great!!!

We have played Bag Skits, Fashion Show, Personal Scavenger Hunter (my favorite game) and tonight we are going to sit around the fire and listen to Boo Stories!!  The campers can’t wait!  So as you can tell, we have been busy, hence why I haven’t written more.  Can’t wait to see some of you on Saturday!



Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Fun & Safety — ACA Accredited Camps Set the Standard

Fun & Safety — ACA Accredited Camps Set the Standard

Why an ACA-Accredited Camp?
ACA Accreditation means that your child’s camp cares enough to undergo a thorough (up to 300 standards) review of its operation — from staff qualifications and training to emergency management. American Camp Association collaborates with experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth-serving agencies to assure that current practices at your child’s camp reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation. Camps and ACA form a partnership that promotes growth and fun in an environment committed to safety.
ACA helps member camps provide:
  • Healthy, developmentally appropriate activities and learning experiences
  • Discovery through experiential education
  • Caring, competent role models
  • Service to the community and the environment
  • Opportunities for leadership and personal growth
Answers to Parents' Most Frequently Asked Questions About Camp Accreditation
What’s the difference between state licensing of camps and accreditation by ACA?
Accreditation is voluntary and ACA accreditation assures families that camps have made the commitment to a safe, nurturing environment for their children. If a state requires licensing, it is mandatory; licensing requirements vary from state to state. ACA standards are recognized by courts of law and government regulators as the standards of the camp community.
How do ACA standards exceed state licensing requirements?
ACA goes beyond basic requirements for health, cleanliness, and food service into specific areas of programming, including camp staff from director through counselors, emergency management plans, health care, and management. ACA applies separate standards for activities such as waterfront, horseback riding, and adventure and travel.
What are some of the ACA standards that camps rely on?
  • Staff to camper ratios are appropriate for different age groups
  • Goals for camp activities are developmentally based
  • Emergency transportation available at all times
  • First-aid facilities and trained staff available when campers are present
Does ACA accreditation require criminal background checks?
ACA accreditation standards require a staff screening system which may include criminal background checks where permitted by law. When talking to a camp director as you consider enrolling your child, ask what the screening process for that camp includes.
How can I verify that my child's camp is ACA accredited?
Parents can (and should) verify the accreditation status of any camp at any time by visiting ACA's Web site at www.ACAcamps.org or by calling 1-800-428-CAMP.
If your child's camp isn't ACA-accredited, ask WHY NOT?
Keep in Mind — Informed parents are best prepared to select a camp that meets their standards for staff, programs, safety, and facilities and strives to promote the welfare of every child.
ACA Standards and Accreditation
Child Protection is a Shared Responsibility
Camp and State Regulations (American Camp Association Web Site)


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Dear Mom and Dad . . . Come Get Me NOW!

Guest post by Missy Schenck       
The first time I went away to summer camp I had just finished the third grade. All first-year campers have nagging doubts about their summer away from home and I was no exception. 
I love sharing my very first summer camp experience (fifty years ago this summer) because I was so homesick that I thought I was going to die. It was entirely possible for me to average at least four good cries a day that first week or so. I’ve shared this story summer after summer with our homesick campers. 
When I was growing up, parents were not helicopter parents; in fact, they were quite the opposite. Children were put on trains and buses and sent to camp and we said good-bye at the station. Parents did not make our bunks or put away our clothes. Our counselors helped us. If we were homesick, parents were not so quick to come get us. The possibility of calling home was out of the question. We were at camp for the duration; in other words . . . SUCK IT UP!
My counselor’s name was Harriett, but I called her Rebecca. I thought she looked like a Rebecca, and I loved that name, so I called her Rebecca. Now that I know more about counselor duties, Harriett-Rebecca was a saint to have tolerated and survived my homesickness. I’m sure she had stories to tell throughout the summer. 
Homesickness can be unbearable! Raining every single day for two weeks makes it worse. It rained and it rained until I thought it could not possibly rain any more . . . and it did. The canvas roofs on the platform tents were sagging from the weight of the rain water and they began to leak. All of our clothes and bedding stayed damp. We could not put things on the clothes line because . . . it was raining. Trekking to the outhouse in the rain at night was not fun!
The arts and crafts supplies had not arrived in time for my session. Arts and crafts could have saved me — maybe — anything creative was fun for me (I even became an art major later), especially indoors on a rainy day. The swimming pool was closed because of the rain, thunder, and lightening. We played a lot of indoor games — we exhausted our counselors. We learned to cook; I learned to make one of my all time favorite trail snacks — a cored apple filled with peanut butter, oatmeal, and raisins.   Still love it! Nothing seemed to cure my homesickness . . . it just got worse as the days went on.
Excessive rain, thunder, and lightening yielded to extended rest hours . . . the worst thing in the world for a homesick camper.  Rest hour and bedtime are a big catalyst for homesickness and tears. It’s a time for reading, writing letters home, being quiet, and missing your parents. I wrote multiple letters a day to my parents and wrote AIR MAIL all over them. I was certain that this would ensure a speedy delivery for my letters to our home about fifty miles away. I knew once my parents got these letters they would come for me. WRONG!
Finally, after about a week and no word from my parents, I was convinced that I must have done something terrible to warrant this horrible punishment of summer camp or worse . . . something had happened to them! A week soon moved on to a second week and the rain continued. One day, I realized there were only about three days left in the camp session. The end was in sight.  WOW! I was surviving. I could make it to the end. I stopped crying. Three days was no time at all . . . I might as well have some fun . . . and I did. 
One of my bunk mates brought a baritone ukulele to camp with her. I listened to her play "Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore" over and over every day of camp. I knew all the words to the song. I loved to sing. I wanted to know how to play her ukulele, so I could sing and play one, too. I asked her if she would teach me, and she did. I was hooked!  
Oh, how sad it is to leave camp at the end of the session. The tears flowing at the last lakeside candlelight service is proof you are a dyed-in-the-wool camper for life. These tears are only matched by the ones shed as the bus pulls away from camp.  
For Christmas that year, I asked for a baritone ukulele. I thought I would just die if Santa did not bring me one. He did. I was determined to learn as many songs as I could, so I practiced and I practiced and I sang and I sang. I drove everyone in our household crazy with the exception of our maid, Irene, who loved me best of all and just told me to keep on singing and playing. 
Peter, Paul, and Mary led the top ten of my repertoire. I was destined for stardom . . . even better . . . I was destined to go back to summer camp and share this new talent of mine . . . and I did. I was never homesick again.  
Missy Schenk is the executive director of Green River Preserve in Cedar Mt., North Carolina.
Photo courtesy of Camp Wawenock in Raymond, Maine