21st Century Skills and Camp

This last off-season has been a particularly exciting one for me.  In fact, there are so many different areas of excitement, I will not attempt to enumerate all of them at once.  Just be ye warned, I will be sharing lots of information about improvements at camp, research about children and the new projects.

Today, I want to focus on 21st Century Skills.  OK, l admit, that sounds MIGHTY DRY.  I’ll give you a moment to wonder why your camp director is writing about something that sounds so non-campy.

Here you go. . .

OK, your time of contemplation is over.

Actually, this is very relevant to your children and their future success.

About 5 years ago, a group of forward-thinking companies and educational non-profits commissioned a study to determine what skills will be most important in careers in this century.  They understood that we live in a very different world than the past.

200 years ago, if you could plow, plant and reap, you could farm.

75 years ago, trade skills like engine repair would provide viable employment.

Now, I could teach a Sophomore everything about the hardware and software of an iPhone and the technology would be outdated by graduation.

Specifically, they noted the following:

�      *Market is global

�      *Competition is fierce

�      *Businesses innovate

�      *Technology advances

�     * Workplaces adapt

�      *Individuals create and participate

�      *Jobs and lives change rapidly

So they went to multiple organizations and surveyed, studied and formulated.  The organizations include Apple, Sesame Street, Dell, Corporation of Public Broadcasting, Intel, Discovery Channel, Microsoft, American Associates of School Librarians, Cisco, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Ford and many more.

There is a LOT in the study, but I want to give you some of the key points.

First, they look at skills in 2 categories: Basic Skills and Applied Skills. Basic Skills are what we get in school and are best known as the 3 R’s (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic).  Applied Skills refer to “those skills that enable new entrants to use the basic knowledge that have acquired in school to perform in the workplace .  Rather than 3 R’s, the Applied Skills refer to the 4 C’s: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

Here is where it gets interesting.  They then ranked the skills in order of importance in the workplace and the success of the individual.  Here are the Top 5 for workers with a four-year diploma:

1.     Oral Communications

2.    Teamwork/Collaboration

3.    Professionalism/Work Ethic

4.    Written Communication

5.    Critical Thinking/Problem Solving

Notice that these are essentially all Applied Skills.  Where are the classic school-related skills?  Writing in English is #6, Information Technology is #11, Math is #15.

Also, the area rated as having the greatest deficiency among workers is Leadership .  Leadership is #10 on the list, but it is the area that companies would like to see the most improvement.

Singapore is adopting this model as a core to their education system. Different states in the US are doing the same, but with little real reform.

The frustration is that our schools tend to focus on those skills that are easy to measure.  Math scores are easier to evaluate than teamwork skills, so teachers are rated on the former rather than the latter.

Where might a child develop and refine these skills that will enable success?

Camp Champions.

Communication, collaboration, creativity are infused into everyday.  Cleaning a cabin for inspection requires all of these aspects (cleaning is only part of the job; amusing the inspector has become a tradition as well).

Campers are placed in a group of unfamiliar people and then develop their own rules, norms and traditions.  This happens through oral communication and teamwork.

Counselors model superior work ethics.  Remember, they are on 7 days a week with 2 lunches and 2 evenings off in a non-air conditioned environment.  Few work harder than a summer camp counselor.

Critical thinking is also a big part of camp especially for Senior Campers (high schoolers) and counselors.  Imagine planning every detail of an evening event and then learning of an approaching rainstorm.  You now have one hour to find a way to amuse 10-50 9 year-old children GO!  Solving problems and adapting rapidly to change are part of every day at camp.

I passionately believe in the power of the summer camp experience in general and the Camp Champions experience in particular, but have been searching for the right ways to articulate it and prove it.  As you know, we are partnering with Shawn Achor to study how camp affects optimism, positive social connections and resilience.  I am also almost giddy about this framework because it focuses attention on skills that are not readily provided through traditional schools, but ARE readily provided in a quality summer camp experience.

Your child is getting these skills and they will be better for it.

Steve Sir

PS  I know that it is a long time before your children have to think about all of this, but isn’t it nice to know you are doing things today that set them up for success later?


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