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Archive for January, 2011

Developing “Five Minds” to successfully “think outside the box!”

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Our society has long promoted the idea that intelligent people do well on tests and earn good grades. But Howard Gardner, a Professor of Education at Harvard University argues that there are multiple intelligences or ways of processing and using information that are necessary. In his recent research, Five Minds for the Future, Gardner describes “five minds” or ways of thinking and acting that will determine success in the future. Gardner’s research shows that children need to cultivate both academic skills and character — that developing “the respectful” and “the ethical” minds is essential–this is where summer camp comes into play.

Camp experiences are designed with the whole child in mind and to take things further. Camp helps children develop respect for others, hone personal character, and learn to negotiate and appreciate diverse people. Although this learning should take place all year long, most education systems operate on old models, so summer camp provides opportunities that are often difficult to find at school.

Gardner believes that to be successful, each person must figure out a unique personal combination of intelligences from his list—disciplined, synthesizing, creating, respectful and ethical minds–since there are multiple ways to approach life and work. Here’s a brief introduction to his categories and why children need to develop these “minds”:

1. A disciplined mind knows a lot about something like History or Math and works to learn more. These ways of thinking are challenging to learn and require practice since they are in areas that the human brain is not prewired to understand.

2. The synthesizing mind has the ability to deal with information overload by understanding what to pay attention to, what to ignore, and how to put this information together in useful ways to share with others.

3. The creating mind works to generate new ideas using comprehensive knowledge and synthesizing what has been learned. A creative mind takes chances and uses even negative feedback to be innovative.

4. The respectful mind does more than tolerate differences but goes further to cultivate respect, along with emotional and interpersonal intelligence. This requires embracing and celebrating diversity on multiple levels—and welcoming difference as a fact of living in our amazing world.

5. The ethical mind thinks about how individual work and needs are connected to society. This mind conceptualizes how workers can serve purposes beyond their own self-interest and become citizens who work unselfishly to improve things for other people.

Gardner explains that our changing world especially needs new “respectful” and “ethical “minds. In the future, citizens and workers will rely on “out-of-the-box” and non-linear thinking skills to solve changing and complex challenges. For example, solving real world problems like the complex syndrome of autism, involves understanding medicine and education so interdisciplinary expertise and a team approach is the best way to find solutions. Students need to not only master “the box” but also need other skills to “think outside” of it!

We know that summer camp gives children the time and space to learn how to contribute as individuals within the group. Throughout the summer weeks, each unique camper tries out activities and comes to understand their personal strengths. With the help of staff they learn to negotiate differences and truly learn how to support each other. While an unaware observer might just see children having fun, camp is actually full of opportunities for showing care, practicing teamwork and developing multiple minds! It’s a great place for personal growth, acquiring life skills, having fun and making memories all at the same time.

What do you think about Gardner’s theories? Do you think that interpersonal respect and teamwork are as equally important as academics?

Deborah-Eve

Thank you for the images harpreet thinking and twicepix.

Camp: The Most Fun and Biggest Extended Family You’ll Find!

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Before setting off for camp, some campers and their parents wonder about how they will fit in, since it’s natural to try and imagine new experiences ahead of time. However, like most adventures, camp often turns out to be wonderful in ways that can’t be completely anticipated! If you’re still wondering about going to camp, you’ll be interested to hear about the experience of India (9) and Athéna (6), who crossed the Atlantic from France to attend Camp Weequahic last summer. Well, at first the plan was for India to go to camp, but after watching the Camp Weequahic video and getting goosebumps 10 to 20 times, Athéna became determined to go with her sister. Their parents did a lot of research and supported the girls going to camp 100% — a combination that led to a fantastic summer camp experience for the whole family!

The girls’ mother Shaila-Ann, looked for a camp to meet her specific criteria—a camp that was not too big, near a major airport, co-ed, and with tons of new activities for her child to experience. Shaila-Ann also feels it was important to choose the camp before presenting it to the children (especially for those as young as hers), so they felt secure with a decision made by their parents and didn’t feel pressured by such a big question. She also reports that looking back, using online resources like the video “really gave a feel for the actual camp experience,” and allowed India and Athéna to participate in the process.

The family met camp directors Cole and Kate at an information meeting. They immediately felt that Cole’s criteria for choosing staff was in line with their values and could see that he was fully dedicated to camp and facilitating a caring family environment. These parents especially felt that nobody could “pull the wool over Cole’s eyes” and this gave them “tremendous confidence in taking the leap of faith to send the children to a place [they] had not visited themselves.” Once at camp, the girls felt included and supported by camp staff and other campers, which is what their parents had predicted! The girls were happy and their parents enjoyed that reassurance with so many miles between them.

India and Athéna really loved camp and also gained a first hand experience of diverse American culture—exactly what the family was looking for. India was thrilled that she could communicate with Spanish speaking campers from Florida although at first she imagined they were from a different country and not part of the United States. Camp really broadened her concept of the States and understanding of North American families and geography! Athéna learned that she can make friends and have a wonderful time without being completely fluent in English—now both girls use those skills in meeting people and exploring their world. Their parents still make sure to share how proud they are of their girls who fiercely embarked on their camp adventure and had such a memorable time. They haven’t pushed for details about everything and Shaila-Ann says, “even today several months later the girls will suddenly relate their success in overcoming their initial fear of going down the zip line or a funny incident with one of the wonderful counselors that made them laugh. . .”

Shaila-Ann is thrilled that, “the Camp experience enabled my girls to feel that they can do pretty much ANYTHING–since they felt accepted and “at home”–at camp in a foreign country they had never visited!” Learning they can feel secure and happy on their own anywhere built tremendous confidence and India is thinking of studying in the US when she is older. “For my younger daughter who was not so fluent in English, the experience showed her the benefits of speaking up in order to interact with others and that skill will last a lifetime!”

AFSC Camps are committed to caring for individual campers and creating an environment where campers grow and friendships blossom. Camp staff are trained and dedicated to helping campers feel included and encourage campers to care for each other. This reciprocity of sharing/caring is core to the whole inclusive experience and foundational to developing capable children–even as young as India and Athéna. Now that’s kid power!

Do you have a similar story to share? How has summer camp shaped independence in you or someone you know?

Thanks Shaila-Ann, India and Athéna for sharing your adventure–and well done girls!

Deborah-Eve

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Thanks for the images gardener41, Michael Oh, and Sugar Daze (f/k/a LittleMissCupcakeParis).

Summer Camp: Rewind and Fast Forward

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Moving from one year towards the next has me thinking about summer camp in the past and future. For over a century, summer camps in the United States have helped millions of American children develop and grow as well as start negotiating their worlds outside of immediate families and neighborhoods. At first, a small number of elite camps only served boys, and primarily Protestant boys at that — but by the time the prosperous years after World War II were in full swing, approximately one in six American children went to camp, usually for eight weeks at a time. Throughout the 20th century, camps changed to serve all children including varying camp lengths, welcoming girls, and opening their gates to all races.

As summer camps have become more inclusive, the world that children experience both in the United States and globally has also become very different. Many children have access to a much broader world through travel, moving images, or other technologies, but some things just haven’t changed. For instance, our pre-college age identities are still informed by interactions with peers and people connected to our individual worlds, directly translating to the people we make direct contact with. While community is still central to human development, many of our daily communities are no longer bound by neighborhood blocks tied to local shared institutions and celebrations. Our families and extended social circles filter across state, nation and even electronic borders.

SO, since children today live in this exciting world of shifting boundaries most months of the year, summer camp is the perfect environment to find time for nurturing our human need to create community. For the past century and through some necessary changes, the basic premise of summer camp has remained the same—camp is a designated, safe space dedicated to fostering and experiencing community life, personal development and skill-building. Each year as improvements are made to camp facilities and other choices, some things don’t change, like living in cabins or bunks, daily activities together, arts and crafts, hikes, water and land sports, singing camp songs and roasting marshmallows around campfires to name a few! Lessons learned at camp and friendships made there can provide the “glue” to help children become well-rounded adults in the future.

Past, present and future campers are all part of a lively and creative shared community where remembering a song, a person, an event, a skit, food or a poignant moment can instantly transport peers back to camp. So, what you would add to a time capsule to “capture” the timeless spirit of camp and why? We’d love to hear what alumni and present campers would include in an electronic time capsule, so get scanning or writing up those memories and lessons learned! If you’re not sure how to get started, ask questions in the comments below!

Deborah-Eve

Thanks for the images openDemocracy*Sally M*katietower and Crunchy Footsteps.

Camp: Future, Past and Present

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Whether your Holiday Season has ended or is about to begin, summer camp season isn’t far away! In fact, on December 8th 2010, next year’s campers wore their camp shirts in numerous cities to mark the 200 Day Countdown To Summer. If you’ve never gone to camp, it may be difficult to understand what drives this passion for camp all year—but campers know that camp is contagious, FUN, and essential! The camp experience helps children develop into well-rounded adults inenormous and complex ways, and that’s really important—but having FUN and intense youthful experiences is how it all happens. That’s the brilliant combination of camp. The experience includes serious AND hilarious moments—often simultaneously! The whole experience is much like the two sides of a single coin, or the double-faced image of Janus, the Roman god who can see into the past and future at the same time—and the origin of the name for the first month—January.

The serious side of camp includes feeling part of a unique community, identity development and participating through the years to make irreplaceable memories. If you don’t understand why camp is such an important American institution, in 1998 Ira Glass and the This American Life radio program attempted to investigate the topic—#109 Notes on Camp. The program addresses why people who love camp say that non-camp people simply don’t understand what’s so amazing about camp and attempts to bridge the gap of misunderstanding between camp people and non-camp people!

It also highlights how fun, tradition, stories, community and being human are all part of identity development at camp. With his signature quirky style, Ira assembled more “truth is stranger than fiction tales,” where real campers tell stories of camp in days gone by and explain why the camp experience is so special. Hundreds of campers responded to his call for stories and the program shares a selection, so if you’re interested in history and interpreting American culture, you’ll find the reminiscences fascinating. Just remember that all camp experiences are not like the stories told—the point of the program is to illustrate the intensity of the experience! It ends with campers talking about becoming camp alumni and how their camp experiences won’t ever be forgotten.

As we all know, time passes and our camp years are limited by the fact that we’re only children once. It’s easy to feel briefly melancholy at year’s end as time waits for no one, but of course, December also means that the promise of a new year is around the corner! In January, we’d like to continue looking backwards and forwards while thinking about camp and we’d especially love to hear from camp alumni. What’s the funniest thing that happened to you at camp? How did camp contribute to your adult life? We’d like to hear about the memories you hold dear and close to your heart, or what you wish for campers next year? If you’re counting the days until camp starts, what are YOU planning?

For now, “Happy New Year” to everyone and let the countdown to Camp 2011 begin!

Deborah-Eve

Thanks for the images wikipediaquinn.anya, and megawheel360.