Experts recognize summer camps help kids develop 21st century skillsFebruary 23, 2016
Almost 10 years ago, Scott Brody, the owner/director of our brother-sister summer camp in NH, spotted a growing national trend: some of our education leaders and the heads Fortune 500 companies were starting to speak publicly about a massive skills gap in our young people. In what was a surprise to many, the issue wasn’t about our young people’s STEM skills, but rather, that our high schools and universities were producing graduates unable to think on their own, lead in a group, or be responsible for their own actions. They were lacking in the sort of soft skills that are crucial in today’s workplaces: the ability to effectively communicate, to work well with others, to think creatively, and to be positve leaders. These traits were eventually gathered together under a single heading and given the name 21st century skills, with educators and CEO’s identifying them as the necessary skills and dispositions young people will need to succeed in the 21st century global economy.
It was in the midst of this research that Scott had a eureka moment: along with being incredibly fun experiences for young people, these are the exact skills that summer camps have been teaching children since the first camp was founded more than 150 years ago! And for more than 80 years our summer camp in NH, with its focus on helping children become their best selves, has specialized in teaching young people to be resilient, creative, collaborative, and adaptable leaders.
Scott’s vision became clear: that camps needed to be considered a crucial part of American education, and not just be seen as a leisure pursuit. And, the camping industry needed to understand that these outcomes should be at the center of our work at all times.
Fast forward ten years: Scott is not the only person in the industry talking about this. In fact, his ideas have gained traction across the nation and a growing number of camps are now focusing on 21st century learning outcomes as the center of their work. Youth Today Magazine, the leading publication on the topic of Youth Development, published an article yesterday on how this vision has now become the mission for the American Camp Association. Experts are now recognizing that a national conversation about the 21st skills gap must include summer camps. And who did they go to for thoughts on this? Our friend Scott, of course!
“When you look at the entrepreneurial and innovation skill set, a lot of what you need are the qualities that people get to practice at camp—creativity, communication, collaboration, and building your own sense of resilience,” Brody said. “All of these themes are interwoven with the American dream. And the opportunity to practice these skills is the critical novelty of the camp environment.”
The article goes on to talk about Scott’s vision of “a partnership between camps and schools to strengthen 21st century skills in kids.” Think about all of the positive life lessons and skills children learn away from home while at summer camp. Imagine how benefitial it would be if every school district viewed summer camp as a necessary component of a child’s education?