May 13, 2014
I just returned from a week in China. I was there meeting with Chinese education thought-leaders about the educational
benefits of summer camp, engaged role models, and alternative teaching methods.
I have been talking with this group since we met last year at the National Conference of the American Camp Association. At the conference, they were investigating ways that “camp education” could impact children in China. They sought out my best friend Scott Brody, Susie, and me. Through various venues, the three of us promote the educational benefits of a quality summer camp experience. The picture above is from a presentation on 21st Century Competencies (that Scott and I made to a group of 30-35). In particular, we argue that camp is a particularly effective way to teach critical skills; these include character skills (grit, self control and optimism) and “21st Century Skills” (communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and leadership).
The group from China is a serious one. They have already built an incredibly impressive facility. Even more important, they have created a team of committed and creative individuals with knowledge regarding the current challenges of the Chinese education system. China wants to become a leader in innovation and doubts that their current schools are fostering innovation. The current Chinese education system (“drill and kill” and “test, test, test”) is creating a group of children who become very disciplined manufacturers, but not entrepreneurs or innovators.
Some of the Chinese leadership are looking at new ways to create long term advantage for their population. The government has reduced homework until the 4th grade and mandated non-academic afterschool programs. The group we are talking with believes that camp offers powerful lessons in teaching the very skills needed to flourish in the future. They have come to us to learn about how to create this kind of advantage for their campers.
We also hope that we can learn better ways to impact our wonderful campers here in Texas. It is exciting to see children in different cultures and their responses to camp (or “camp education” as they call it). It helps us understand other ways that we can impact campers at Camp Champions. Studying different cultures helps us understand what is true of all children and what varies by culture.
All in all, we are excited about working to spread the value of the camp experience internationally. Our camp parents have always appreciated camp’s educational potential. Yet the “uninitiated” equate camp with recreation (Disney) or skill development (build a fire, paddle a canoe) . It has been interesting to note the reaction of non-camp folks when they find out that China is now pursuing camp: “Well there must be some educational value to it if the Chinese are interested and they don’t value fun.” Of course, Camp Champions families have known all along, Camp Champions promotes fun AND education!
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