Raise The “Stock Value”

By Susan Langlois and John Amaral

The term “Common Core” has become a buzz term in public schools and has raised anxiety in parents and school officials. It is even making headlines in political advertisements for the 2016 presidential race. So what exactly is the legislation and how can camp owners benefit from promoting it at their camps?

As of December 2014, 46 states have voluntarily adopted this approach to public education. The Common Core is a set of problem-solving skills and content areas that outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade (www.corestandards.org). These standards are primarily in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. Since 2008, parents, teachers, and principals have spent countless hours helping students learn what they need to master these standards. The good news is that your camp’s activities may already teach many of these skills. The focus of this article is how to promote, teach, and reinforce the Life and Career Skills of the Common Core:

  • Self-direction
  • Flexibility
  • Adaptability
  • Productivity and responsibility
  • Civic literacy.

How can you demonstrate that campers will learn the Common Core while enjoying their camp experience? First, publicize the scientific facts: there is a substantial body of evidence that physical exercise and teambuilding activities at camp increase academic achievement in schools. There is also strong evidence that camps that use best practices will strengthen the physical and emotional well-being of campers. If you want to promote these benefits on your website, print media, and camp bulletin boards, there is a mountain of evidence on the website sparkpe.org.

Here are a few examples of how the Life and Career Skills of the Common Core can be taught and reinforced:

Cooperating and compromising: Highlight campers working together in teambuilding through photos, videos, camp signs, and newsletters. Emphasize activities that show campers taking on challenges and solving problems: adventure activities, team competitions, even awards to campers for clean cabins. You can even publicize cooperative learning exercises in staff training, in cooperative learning and other human growth and development teaching skills.

Getting along with others: Start the week by having each cabin write a “code of conduct” regarding respectful, constructive behavior, and post samples onthe website. Have each camper interview a camp buddy and introduce him or her to the rest of the cabin members. Designate a Random Acts of Kindness Day; highlight these gestures on posters in the dining hall and on social media.

Managing time and focusing attention on the present: Set the tone by requiring campers to be on time for meals and activities. Practice “enjoying the moment” by building in daily mindfulness meditations. If appropriate, establish specific times for use of electronic items.

Filtering out inappropriate behaviors: Develop a hand signal that indicates the need for complete silence, and track how long it takes to get from using the signal to achieving silence. Encourage fair play by having campers officiate their own games. Institute a “play it over” system when there are irreconcilable disputes. Insist on quiet after lights out.

Learning to adapt from past mistakes: Whenever possible, give campers immediate feedback on their performance.  Brainstorm with campers about strategies that can be used for improvement. Stress the importance of using proper technique, conditioning, and persistence to achieve success. Also, ask staff members to engage campers to acknowledge one success during their day before turning out the lights. Compile a list of these successes for staff training sessions and camp advertising.

Planning ahead: Have campers prepare a to-do list for the next day. Require each camper to write individual goals and then collaborate to write team goals for an activity.

Invite guest speakers to talk about what their camp experience did for them. Thank-you notes should highlight one important point that each camper learned from the speaker that aided the speaker’s success. Ask campers to evaluate activities to obtain feedback on their likes and their suggestions for improvement.

Work with staff members to develop a list of transferable Common Core skills to be developed at camp. This activity can reinforce the importance of communicating high expectations for every member of the camp community. Taking pride in what campers gain from their experience will help build a culture that recognizes the power of critical thinking and intention. It can also turn first-year campers (and their parents) into satisfied veterans who will promote your camp to their families and friends.

Dr. Susan Langlois has 35 years of experience designing developmentally appropriate camp activities, training staff members, and engaging campers to enhance and inspire their growth and leadership development. She is currently the Dean of Academic Affairs and Student Services, at Marian Court College in Swampscott, Mass. (mariancourt.edu)

John Amaral, M.Ed., is the owner of Amaral Soccer Academy (amaralsoccer.com), which operates soccer camps at every developmental level, both nationally and internationally. Coach Amaral’s primary mission is to ensure that campers use their natural instincts to develop personal responsibility in reaching their maximum potential in soccer and in their personal and professional lives.