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The Ultimate 21st Century Skills Learning Environment

Posted by: NJ Kids Team - January 13, 2015

Andy Pritikin, the President of the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey, has written a timely new article about the relevance of Summer Camp for today’s children. Mr. Pritikin is known nationally as a leading expert in the Camp Industry, as well as being the owner/director and founder of Liberty Lake Day Camp in Mansfield Township, NJ, and co-founder of Everwood Day Camp in Sharon, MA.
 
In recent years, Summer Camp has become more and more legitimized as an optimal learning environment for teaching the character and life skills that are not normally taught in the classroom. Mr. Pritikin and his ACA colleagues work closely with the Partnership for 21st Century Skills in Washington D.C., and participate in outcomes research with the American Camp Association to prove and promote the value of Summer Camp with today’s children. Andy Pritikin was featured on the Today Show this summer, to discuss the virtues of Summer Camp to the American public, and is leading professional development workshops for other camp directors throughout the country this winter. He is available for comment and interviews at the above contact number/Email.

 

ABOUT LIBERTY LAKE DAY CAMP

Liberty Lake Day Camp, located in Mansfield Township, NJ, is a special place for children ages 4 to 15 to expand their talents, make new friends, and develop the life skills needed to become a successful adult in the 21st Century. Every summer, Liberty Lake transforms into an "extraordinary world," creating a recreational and educational environment that is unparalleled in our area. For more information, visit www.LibertyLakeDayCamp.com
 

ABOUT THE AMERICAN CAMP ASSOCIATION, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

The ACA provides accreditation, professional development and public relations for 2500 of the best Summer Camp programs in the USA, with 475 being members of the NY and NJ Section, which is led by Andy Pritikin. For more info, http://www.ACA-NYNJ.org
 

Summer Camp: The Ultimate 21st Century Skills Learning Environment

By Andy Pritikin
 
It used to be so easy. Mom was home, and kids wanted to play outside, as we only had seven channels on the television (and no central air). Boy, how times have changed. Technological advances have profoundly affected life, as we know it, including how we raise our children.
 
Most families rely on two sources for child rearing, (1) What we as parents teach our children at home, and (2) what educators teach our children in school. But there is a third, very important arena that many parents do not consider: What is taught to our children when we, the parents, aren’t with them, when they are away from us and away from school. This is when they are actually most able and willing to learn. This is where the SUMMER CAMP experience comes into play!
 

PROBLEM: Too Much Technology Consumption

Technology is a drug, and we parents are the drug pushers. While parents recognize the inherent issues, the majority of American families do not institute (or uphold) rules to govern their children’s technology consumption. It’s right in front of our eyes- the two year old scrolling through Mom’s iPhone, kids who can’t ride in a car for more than 2 minutes without a movie playing or a handheld electronic device, and older children addicted to violent video games. Most parents give their children these technological gadgets thinking that it relaxes them, when in fact they are being greatly STIMULATED, suppressing their capability to control their emotions (self-regulate). Today’s children are less able to cope with challenging situations, as most lack resiliency and patience. Kindergarten teachers tell us how their students are no longer able to build large-scale projects, as they get frustrated and quit.
 
Parents can’t figure out how to mitigate it technology consumption. They often choose to avoid negative interactions, since they have so little time with their children to begin with. But when summer comes around and school obligations end, the opportunity is out there for a digital detox in the sun, dirt and sweat of Summer Camp- the only place that kids give up their phones, xBoxes, TVs, computers and THANK YOU for it!
 
In an unplugged environment, Camp helps children develop emotional self-control, allowing them to find connections within themselves- a vital part of growing up. Camp also provides a unique environment for kids to learn how to share, co-create and collaborate with one another, developing friendship skills along the way.
 

PROBLEM: 21st Century Skills NOT Taught in School

“21st Century Skills” are defined as the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to be competitive in the modern day workforce. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (p21.org) is a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. which is comprised of some of the biggest, most successful businesses in the USA. The p21 organization researched and compiled a list of the specific skills that these companies seek in their new hires. The answers were not the “3 R’s” which our schools focus on, but “the 3 C’s”:
1. Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
2. Creativity & Innovation
3. Communication & Collaboration
 
They also listed the following life skills as most important for their new employees:
  • Flexibility & Adaptability
  • Initiative & Self Direction
  • Social & Cross-Cultural Skills
  • Productivity & Accountability
  • Leadership & Responsibility
 
Unfortunately, the wonderful teachers in our schools focus a major portion of their classroom time on preparation for standardized tests. The newest educational reform uses a term called “Depth of Knowledge” (DOK) which measures the process of transferring and applying knowledge to different situations. While this is a step in the right direction, the new Core Curriculum does not measure collaboration, creativity, initiative, leadership or responsibility- skills that are taught extensively at Summer Camp. The teachers that work for me in the summer say that they WISH their classrooms could be more like Summer Camp. While working at Liberty Lake, they tell me, “Now THIS is why I became a teacher”.

 

SOLUTION: Children’s Summer Camp

Below is a typical Camp experience, acknowledging 21st Century Life Skills:
  • Parents sign up their children for Summer Camp, children anticipate it for the upcoming months, having inner-conversations, keeping their emotions in check, and imagining what it will be like. (self-control, emotional control, self-distraction).
  • Children take the bus or get dropped off at Camp, breaking free of their parents and embarking on exciting new experiences (independence, initiative, courage, optimism).
  • Children become part of a group/bunk at Camp, sharing responsibilities and working together, all while being a good person. (teamwork, responsibility, accountability, integrity)
  • Children participate in activities throughout their day, including swim, athletics, arts and adventure. They try new things, listen to the staff members, and push themselves and their peers to new heights (aspiration, curiosity, respect, leadership).
  • Children experience the ups and downs of making and keeping friendships (integrity, communication, adaptability, patience).
 
Camp is the ultimate “depth of knowledge” environment for teaching 21st Century Life Skills. We see it every day in the growth of our campers (and staff), and more and more Camps are doing the research to actually prove it!
 
At Liberty Lake, we survey Campers during their final week of Camp with us, and ask them questions based on the growth of the Life Skills we focus on. When asked last summer how their Teamwork skills changed at Camp, 63.3% said they increased some, I am sure”, and 33% said they increased a lot, I am sure”- a 96% reported increase!
 
We also surveyed PARENTS, and 81% reported seeing an increase in their children’s Teamwork skills at home, in regards to an improvement in interpersonal skills, ability to effectively communicate, cooperation, collaboration, leadership, and supporting/helping others. The results were similarly positive for the other character skills measured.
 
Like a life-skills multi-vitamin, Summer Camp is supplement for modern society. In a world where parents battle for their children’s attention from video screens, and school teachers focus on teaching for the tests, Summer Camp provides a wonderfully unique environment for learning the skills that parents and future employers yearn for our children to develop- skills of character, skills for life!
 
Andy Pritikin is the Owner/Director of Liberty Lake Day Camp in Mansfield Township, NJ and the President of the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey. LibertyLakeDayCamp.com, ACA-NYNJ.org
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Posted by: NJ Kids Team| January 13, 2015
Categories:  Summer Camps
Subcategories:  Feature Summer Camps
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