How summer camp ties into 21st Century skills

A study shows that the camp experience can help a child be successful in life and work



Do our schools educate the whole child? And even if your school is doing a great job, what about summer break? Are your kids gaining or losing ground? Are their days and weeks off well-spent?

It’s no secret that most families in America are dependent on two incomes. So what are your kids doing while you’re out earning a living? Are they spending their time well, or are they obsessed with technology like TV, texting or online gaming? Couldn’t their time be better spent? We in the camp community think so.

We agree with the information below from a recent study — and we also live it each and every summer.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (www.p21.org) stems from a group of innovative companies including Apple, Microsoft, Walt Disney Corporation and McGraw-Hill, that commissioned a study to identify and quantify the attributes of their most successful employees.

The impetus behind this study was a growing concern that recent college graduates were entering the workforce ill-equipped to handle the demands of their jobs, and as a result the success rate of new hires was diminishing.

The commission arrived at the conclusion that while there is a lot of emphasis on developing technological literacy and content-based knowledge in the educational system, it has come at the expense of developing life and career skills.

The trend in schools has been to cut back on music, recess, and gym in favor of more academic or technological pursuits. While this may create a more technologically literate and knowledgeable graduate, the commission believes our educational system is not producing graduates who are prepared for success out in the real world. The commission defined this neglected skill set as “Life and Career Skills.”

The core principles of Life and Career Skills as defined by the commission are:

• Communication and collaboration

• Leadership and responsibility

• Flexibility and adaptability

• Social and cross-cultural skills

• Initiative and self-direction

These terms are technical definitions for the development of social skills and personal confidence. This is something the camp community has known and fostered for more than 150 years. At summer camp, we believe our programs develop these skills and are an excellent augmentation of a child’s school experience.

Most camps have little or no technology present, especially from the camper’s perspective. This gives your child – our camper – time to "reset" without being tethered to a cell phone or computer. Camp is low tech – a time to communicate face-to-face.

Camp is the perfect opportunity for children to develop new skills through organized activities and free play. They get to know their peers and are empowered to try new things. Whether overcoming a fear of the zip-line, hitting the game-winning single, or performing a solo at the camp talent show, camp offers different ways to grow in a safe and positive environment.

Each summer, superb camp staff comprising educators and camping professionals weave these concepts into camp life and put them into practice during daily activities.

The camp community is excited about the 21st Century Skill Initiative and believe it will serve to increase the value of the camp-life experience for your child, making them ready for their future.        

Jerrell Cox is the director of Camp Hale in Sandwich.

More articles you might be interested in

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6 reasons why you can put your trust in your child’s camp counselors

You can feel confident that the young adults who will take care of your child at camp this summer can handle the responsibility with which you are entrusting them

Why you should consider a local parks and rec summer camp

Research and think local

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