So how exactly do you run activities at a summer camp for 21st century skills? How do you teach and coach sports while also focusing on character building? In last Tuesday’s blog I profiled Andrew Disbrow, who has been the head of our ceramics program for the last 18 years. In it Andy outlined how he balances a camper’s need for learning both soft and hard skills (e.g., learning how to throw on the potter’s wheel while also becoming more creative and more independent). But how exactly do we teach skills like executing a pick and roll while also making sure that our campers learn resilience, critical thinking and collaboration?
Well, this week it is my pleasure to introduce you to Coach Chris Straker (@CoachStraker on Twitter and Instagram), the longtime head of our basketball program. Chris is the consummate Kenwood and Evergreen coach. He’s exciting, he’s passionate, and he’s incredibly nurturing. He’s an amazing sports coach, both for how he imparts technical knowledge about the game, and how he tries to help our campers grow.
Would you like to radically change your understanding of how children succeed? We invite you to watch this provocative TED Talk video by teacher and child development expert Angela Duckworth. In it she makes a persuasive case for why IQ is not quite the predictor of success that so many of us think it is, and why perseverance or “grit” is.
Grit is a skill that we talk a lot about at our summer camp in NH. It’s also a skill identified by the P21 organization as one of the core 21st Century Skills that today’s children lack, and need to succeed in the future.
Think about your own experiences and the people you have encountered in school and in your professional life. Which person have you wanted on your team: the person who was naturally gifted and not all that motivated, or the person with above average aptitude and an insatiable desire to surpass goals?
The academic and business leaders of our society have come to realize that over time we have taught our young people to devalue grit. Our schools more often than not reward the students who can quickly recite the facts and figures, as opposed to those who are able to wrestle with the larger concepts. More and more we teach to the test, and not how to critically solve problems. A net effect of this is that we are raising generations who either give up when sufficiently challenged, or who avoid things outside of their comfort zone all together.
But the world is readily changing, and with it the skills needed to succeed are, too. There was a time that you could make yourself indispensable by being able to recall vast amounts of trivial information. Now just about everything can be looked up on Google using a smartphone. Going forward the true difference makers will be those members of the work force who will be able to process complex ideas in order to solve problems, and those who have the ability to communicate effectively and collaborate in groups.
This is where overnight summer camps enter the equation. By their very design, summer camps are incredible laboratories for developing 21st Century / Non-Cognitive Skills. While they are outside playing and having fun summer campers learn to negotiate with their peers and authority figures; test out how to assess risks and live independently; are required to shift their expectations and be more flexible in their thinking; and practice a whole host of sports, arts, swimming, friendship-making skills that can only be mastered through repeated practice. It’s in the summer camp environment that children are able to acquire the characteristic of grit that they will so desperately need to succeed in the future.
At Camps Kenwood & Evergreen in NH, we focus on developing these 21st Century/Non-Cognitive Skills every single day of the summer. Over the course our 7-week experience our campers become more proficient in all of the following soft skills:
Over the years we have developed relationships with the select few other summer camps around the country that also focus on teaching 21st century skills to children. One of them is Camp Champions in Texas. Recently, Steve Baskin, the owner of Champions (and a partner in our day camp Everwood), wrote a piece articulating why 21st century skills are so crucial to today's children, and how summer camps are the ultimate classroom for teaching them to young people. With his permission and a few adaptations we are happy to share his insights and ideas with our camp community.
Summer Camp for 21st Century Skills
After a fabulous, funny Counselor Show last night we awoke to a beautiful, humid, sunny Camp day. When I left my house at 7am Kenwood & Evergreen campers were already out of their beds, jumping with excitement on the front porches and lawns around their bunks. It appeared that everyone had slept well and seemed to be in a great mood. With a picturesque backdrop of a perfect blue sky we sang “Happy Birthday” to two campers during Assembly and then enjoyed a delicious breakfast of homemade waffles, fresh fruit and yogurt.