Because of summer camp, your child is far more ready for school! Back to School preparations will now dominate our lives until the yellow buses that have transported campers to and from day and overnight camp and to and from camp trips over the summer make their annual return to school year routes and routines in a matter of days. School children will be riding back to school in New England before we know it. Families are now focused on school readiness whether they’re prepping for a first foray into the wonderful world of preschool and Kindergarten or they’re sending a baby off to college. Helping a child be ready for school, truly ready, for all the learning that one school year can bring is an enormous undertaking. Camp experiences contribute mightily in ways that can be easily appreciated and measured today and in ways that won’t become apparent until later. Rest assured, camp has helped to get your child ready for school this year. Helping children be ready for the new school year has been the specialty of summer camps for the last century and a half.

In the intensity of this tectonic back-to-school-shift, the impact of summer camp experiences is profoundly apparent. Even the youngest of campers (preschoolers) and those children attending the shortest of camp sessions (a partial week) take away lessons that enhance their school-based learning and their future lives. Camps work in partnership with schools and with families to help raise children, to help move children toward independence and autonomy, and to prepare children for the future.  In all the fun and adventure, all of the group and individual experiences, all of the programming that summer camps specialize in offering, there are actually too many lessons to count. Small and large lessons, life lessons and literacy lessons, lessons in swimming and in how to be a responsible group member, just to name a few. The educational moments are so rich and varied, the optimal educational environment of camp so powerful, it’s no surprise that the end of the season is met with intense emotion. 

Summer camp worlds are created exclusively for children—for their benefit and learning. All kinds of fascinating skill building happens as children learn about what they’ve signed up to do, whether that’s hiking or musical theatre, soccer or kayaking, or cooking or Lego robotics; most importantly, children typically learn even more about what they didn’t sign up to do but what a counselor and role model has encouraged or what the camp also specializes in offering. Campers certainly have taken away these and many other skills learned in summer ‘13; teachers and parents will see and appreciate them!  What parents and teachers will also notice is social/emotional growth. Campers also take away new conflict resolution strategies, decision-making chops, and a better understanding of the unique role they can play within a group. It’s easy to focus on what campers need to pack in order to come to camp. It’s equally important to focus on the other skills they pack out—or take away. These can be more intangible and they rarely fit so easily in a backpack or duffle, like beach towels and water bottles do. What they do fit is the list of 21st century skills the U.S. education system has recently embraced, which are known as the 4Cs—Communication, Collaboration, Creativity & Innovation, and Critical thinking and problem solving. These 4Cs are at the core of camp programming. 

It's a simple equation, really that describes why no experience is positioned better than summer camp to set children up for the rigors of next school year through significant skill building: 

Skills from programmatic experiences (from archery to zumba) +
Life skills (such as separating from parents and independent decision-making) +
21st century skills (the 4Cs)

Campers who are prepared to navigate life! 

New England’s summer camp world is proud of the successful partnership we’ve fostered with families and with schools. Camps provide children with mentors and guides,  with a map for the future, and with the skills to navigate into that future as this mid-summer piece in The Patriot Ledger attests. Crossroads for Kids and their ACA Accredited camps figure prominently in the article and provide several examples of the transformational power of summer camp experiences. 

“I learned how to navigate with a compass and a map, but also how to navigate life,” said Rachelle Alfred, a former camper and summer ‘13 staff member at ACA Accredited Camp Wing in Duxbury, MA who attends Tufts University.                    

So, as we see families eagerly waiting for their campers to step off the camp bus, as we hear about the final banquets and bonfires, and as we marvel at sun-kissed and rain-drenched and better rested children who are walking a little taller than they were at end of last school year, it’s appropriate to assign camps some credit (yes, credit!) for the significant role they play in educating our youth. Camps competently and confidently are sending their campers home, prepared to go back to school. Hundreds of thousands of campers rocked summer camp experiences in New England in summer ’13. Each one of them packed out a unique combination of new skills that are sure to help them navigate the upcoming school year and years to follow!