Liberty Lake owner (and Chief Executive Song-Leader) Andy Pritikin regards summer camp as the ultimate learning environment for the 21st-century skills young people need. Perhaps you have (fond?) memories of a childhood that included your mom being at home, no such thing as cable TV or on-demand viewing, and lousy air conditioning. But technological advances have profoundly altered our lifestyles, including how we raise our children.
Parents value the life lessons kids learn at home and at school with their teachers. But there’s a third influence many families don’t contemplate: what children learn when we, their parents, aren’t with them—when they’re not with us AND not at school. Summer camp is a place where children are actually most willing to learn the nuances of human-relations and character-building skills (from cool young people, as opposed to you and their teachers).
Although current technology offers us global communicative abilities that shatter physical boundaries, too much consumption of it is a bona fide dilemma. Technology is a mind-altering drug, and we parents are our children’s dealers. In the car, at the supermarket and elsewhere, we give our children iPhone, iPad and Android devices, assuming usage is a fun diversion that relaxes them. In fact, though, these finger-activated gadgets STIMULATE children’s brains, suppressing the ability to self-regulate their emotions. Sadly, kids today are less able to cope with challenging situations because they lack resiliency and patience. This “beast of burden” is one not easily tamed…
When school obligations end, and summer arrives again, there is opportunity for a “digital detox” in the sun, sweat, and actual dirt of summer camp. It’s the only place where kids give up their mobile phones, Xboxes and PlayStations, computers, and TVs AND thank you for it!
As an unplugged environment, camp helps children develop emotional self-control, allowing them to find personal connections within themselves. This is a vital part of growing up. In this unique setting, kids also learn how to share and collaborate with one another, gaining friendship skills along the way.
Back to those 21st-century skills, which are defined as the knowledge, attitude, and other intangibles necessary to be competitive in the modern-day workforce. The Partnership for 21st Century Learning researched and compiled a list of specific skills large companies seek in their new hires. The most desirable skills aren’t the traditional “3 R’s.” In addition to seeking candidates demonstrating adaptability, accountability and initiative, employers look for people who possess the “3 C’s”:
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Creativity and innovation
- Communication and collaboration
But what does a typical school curriculum inject into K-12 students for almost 10 months each year of their young lives? Preparation for standardized tests, that’s what. Even the proposed Core Curriculum doesn’t measure collaboration, creativity, initiative, leadership, or responsibility—skills that are taught and reinforced at summer camp!
A typical camp experience bolsters the 21st-century skills your child will need as an adult:
- At camp, children break free of their parents and embark on exciting new adventures.
- Kids become part of a group/bunk at camp, sharing responsibilities and working together.
- Immersed in a diverse programming schedule, children try new things and listen to team members, pushing themselves and their bunkmates to greater achievement.
- Kids experience the ups and downs of establishing and maintaining friendships.
Camp is the ultimate “depth of knowledge” environment for teaching 21st-century life skills to children and teens. At Liberty Lake, we survey campers during their final week of camp. The kids’ responses always reveal personal growth, due to our focus on fostering life skills. But we are equal opportunity—we also survey our campers’ parents. Last year, an overwhelming 81% of parents reported an increase in their children’s teamwork skills at home. The results were similarly positive for the other personal-character skills measured.
Like a life-skills multivitamin, summer camp is the ideal supplement for modern society. It provides a wondrous, unique environment for learning the lifelong habits parents (as well as college-admissions personnel and future employers) yearn for in young people—and emotional intelligence that lasts a lifetime!