When we attended the American Camp Association's Tri-State Conference this Spring, we went to many excellent, educational and inspiring seminars. One that was particularly intriguing, but told us something we have known for years, is that "Camp Creates Advantage."
Dozens of camp professionals in the room nodded their heads when hearing that "over the last five years, a growing tidal wave of research makes it clear that there are a certain set of skills that predict for long-term success in life -- and those are the skills being taught at summer camp."
Of course at camp, there are opportunities for kids to make good friends, build confidence, independence, unplug and reconnect with nature. These are many of the reasons that parents initially consider camp for the summer. But what camp builds even better than school are the 21st century skills needed for success in today's world. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills reports that academic institutions and employers are seeking candidates with skills like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, grit, self-control, optimism and leadership. Look no further than camp!
Which got us thinking about a bigger idea than camp creates advantage... camp is for life. Camp is the one place that prepares you for the real world, even though it may seemingly be nestled in the woods, tucked away from reality. At camp, you live in a bunk with a dozen campers and staff and you need to find common ground and learn how to get on the same page. You learn how to make decisions as a group and work (and live) with people who may be different than you. You learn to tackle challenges as a team, wait your turn, advocate for yourself, create magical skits and silly songs and look at the bright side of life (every day isn't sunny and not every day is pizza day!). You learn how to hold back when things get heated and how to make people want to work and live along side of you. All of these skills get students ready for the independent college and post-grad years and gives them confidence and coping skills that they cannot get under their parents' roof.
Why else is camp for life? Princeton's Dean of Admissions was quoted in an article in the New York Times as saying, "If you have gone to a summer camp that you love, please return to it in the next few summers. Being a senior leader at camp or working as a counselor can be a rewarding, fulfilling and meaningful experience." While we can appreciate all of the travel and educational opportunities that are offered to students outside of camp, camp nurtures high-quality people (a.k.a. "menches") who will ultimately give back to their communities and make a difference in the world.
And what about staff? Being a counselor at camp gives you real-world skills and then some. Camp provides endless leadership opportunities including the art of persuasion (sometimes with a group of 8 year olds), communication (with senior staff and their peers), conflict/resolution, creativity and you learn how to win friends and influence people! Which is why we loved the recent MTV news article "Why I'm a Twentysomething Who Still Goes to Summer Camp"! We strongly recommend that camp is a prominent feature of a staff member's resume and wrote a very popular blog called "How to Make Camp Counselor The Best Thing on Your Resume." Our former staff will certainly reiterate that camp helped them learn more about themselves than any internship or job and it helped shape the kind of employee they would become.
So, revisiting the idea that "camp creates advantage." Did you go to summer camp? How do you think it made you into the person you are today? What leadership opportunities did you get that helped you achieve your academic and professional goals? What kind of networking opportunities did your camp family provide to help you succeed? If you had a positive experience at your camp like the ones our campers and staff have at Camp Towanda, we think you will unanimously agree that camp creates advantage and camp is for life. It isn't just about getting better at a sport or roasting s'mores. It is about so much more. The benefit of camp is long lasting and goes well beyond the years you attend.
Did camp give you an advantage? Please share in the comments.
For additional reading about this topic:
How Children Succeed by Paul Tough
Teach Your Children Well by Madeline White
Homesick and Happy by Michael Thompson Phd.
The Camp Counselor vs. The Intern
The Argument We Must Learn To Make: Camp Creates Advantage
About Camp Towanda:
Camp Towanda is an independent, traditional, co-ed sleep-away camp in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. It is privately owned, operated and directed by Mitch and Stephanie Reiter. For over 90 years, Camp Towanda has continued to define what camp should really be. Our program offers state-of-the-art facilities, an excellent and professional athletic department, waterfront, extensive arts, drama and adventure programs, culinary cooking classes, and special events. We are highly regarded and respected as an industry leader and are involved in giving back to various organizations throughout the year. Camp Towanda is accredited by the American Camp Association and a member of the Camp-Alert-Network, Wayne County Camp Association, Camp Owners and Directors Association and the Pennsylvania Camp Association.