There are times when I'm talking about our summer camp community that people give me a look that says "but realistically, could your campers really that nice to each other?" Sometimes they even come out and say "just because you tell them to care about the other members of the community doesn't mean they actually do it". During these conversations I wish I could show them moments like I saw yesterday at our New Camper Party in the Boston area. In such a short time we were already seeing how effectively our staff can teach a group of kids be more empathetic.
As I mentioned earlier in the week, much of the Camp Office team was recently in Beijing. We went to see our returning campers and host a camp reunion, but we were also in China to take part in the 2nd China Camp Education Conference as guest speakers.
More than once this summer I've written that at its core our overnight camp in NH is about taking part in things that you wouldn't normally do at home. It's why our days are filled with jumping off of zip lines, tubing around our beautiful lake, and learning how to make our own furniture (while also playing lots of sports and making a ton of camp friends). This drive to do the exciting and unusual was on display from morning to night today.
It occurred to me that I didn't write that much about this year's staff training. It being the cornerstone of how we create summers of fun and learning for our campers, I thought that I might want to remedy this.
Starting June 12th each of our coaches, teachers, activity heads and group leaders arrived for two weeks of learning how to be an exceptional child development professional. During their training we offered seminars on every aspect of being a camp counselor, from how to run the most fun and engaging sports and arts activities possible to how to keep each of our campers physically and emotionally safe.
So here's my favorite story of the day: At breakfast this morning one of our newest, youngest campers from Westchester, NY turned to his counselor and said "I just want to go home". The counselor was completely caught off guard by this, and with a sinking feeling in his chest gingerly asked "what do you mean?" The young man replied "you know, the bunk. Where we live. Can we go back there now? I like it there".
Almost 10 years ago, Scott Brody, the owner/director of our brother-sister summer camp in NH, spotted a growing national trend: some of our education leaders and the heads Fortune 500 companies were starting to speak publicly about a massive skills gap in our young people. In what was a surprise to many, the issue wasn't about our young people's STEM skills, but rather, that our high schools and universities were producing graduates unable to think on their own, lead in a group, or be responsible for their own actions. They were lacking in the sort of soft skills that are crucial in today's workplaces: the ability to effectively communicate, to work well with others, to think creatively, and to be positve leaders. These traits were eventually gathered together under a single heading and given the name 21st century skills, with educators and CEO's identifying them as the necessary skills and dispositions young people will need to succeed in the 21st century global economy.
Every now and then I read an article and say to myself "why did I not think to write that?!" Today was one of those days. In today's Boston Parents Paper Lucy Norvell published a piece called "Here’s why you can sleep soundly while your kid’s at a sleepaway camp". As I read each paragraph I kept saying outloud at my desk "she gets it! This brilliant woman gets it!"
When you are a part of our summer camp community, your camp friends are everywhere! No matter where you go there's a good chance you'll see a friend you made during your 7 weeks at our brother-sister summer camp in NH.
I saw this really interesting article on Today.com earlier this week. It was written by Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University. For more than a decade she watched incredibly bright, accomplished young people arrive utterly unprepared for life outside of their nurturing homes. She saw some of our best former high school students go on to completely fail at college because of their lack of independence, resilience, and other 21st century skills. Based on her breadth of experience, she suggested that there are 8 life skills that all young people should have as they leave home and enter college: