As a parent and a camp director, I often speak with parents that have their child on the fast track. Life has become all about building their child's resume, one filled with Accomplishment and Direction. When I mention I run a summer camp they are often unwilling to hear why camp is an important part of what today's children need. At Swift Nature Camp we are about people building not about building resumes. The  better the kids,  the better the people. We believe it is people that will change the world not resumes.
Recently the below article was in the Washington Post,  maybe this is what I need to print and hand out to those parents... Tell us what you think.


I send my kids to sleep-away camp to give them a competitive advantage in life

- Washington Post

“Do you even like your children?” the woman I had just met asked me.

The audacity of the question took my breath away. I had been chatting with her, explaining that my kids go to sleep-away camp for two months every year.

I quickly realized two things at once: She was obnoxious, and she actually didn’t care if I missed my kids during the summer. She was talking about something else.I didn’t have to tell her the reason I “send them away” for most of the summer is because I like them. They adore camp, and it’s actually harder on me than it is on them. I often tell people that the first year they were both gone, it felt like I had lost an arm. I wandered around the house from room to room experiencing phantom limb pain.

Now, instead of being offended, I got excited.

I was going to be able to tell her something that my husband and I rarely get to explain: We do it because we truly think it will help our kids be successful in life. With under-employment and a stagnating labor market looming in their future, an all-around, sleep-away summer camp is one of the best competitive advantages we can give our children.


Surely, college admissions officers aren’t going to be impressed with killer friendship bracelets or knowing all the words to the never-ending camp song “Charlie on the M.T.A.” Who cares if they can pitch a tent or build a fire?

Indeed, every summer my kids “miss out” on the specialized, résumé-building summers that their peers have. Their friends go to one-sport summer camps and take summer school to skip ahead in math. Older peers go to SAT/ACT prep classes. One kid worked in his dad’s business as an intern, while another enrolled in a summer program that helped him write all his college essays.

Many (this woman included) would say that I’m doing my children a serious disservice by choosing a quaint and out-of-date ideal instead. There are online Ivy League Coaches” that might say we are making a terrible mistake.

We don’t think this is a mistake at all. It might not be something to put on the college application (unless my child eventually becomes a counselor), but that isn’t the goal for us.

Our goal is bigger.

We are consciously opting out of the things-to-put-on-the-college-application arms race, and instead betting on three huge benefits of summer camp, which we believe will give them a true competitive advantage — in life:

1. Building creativity.

2. Developing broadly as a human being.

3. Not-living-in-my-basement-as-an-adult independence.

MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson says, in his book “The Second Machine Age,” that we have reached a pivotal moment where technology is replacing skills and people at an accelerated pace. He argues that creativity and innovation are becoming competitive advantages in the race against artificial intelligence, because creativity is something a machine has a hard time replicating.

The problem is that creativity seems so intangible.

Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is just connecting things.” He believed that people invent when they connect the dots between the experiences they’ve had. To do this, he argued that we need to have more experiences and spend more time thinking about those experiences.

Indeed. According to Adam Grant’s book “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World,” researchers at Michigan State University found that to receive the Nobel Prize, you need deep study in your field and those broad experiences Jobs was talking about. They studied the winning scientists from 1901 through 2005 and compared them with typical scientists living at the same time. Grant writes that the Nobel Prize winners were:

* Two times more likely to  play an instrument, compose or conduct.

* Seven times more likely to draw, paint or sculpt.

* Seven-and-a-half times more likely to do woodwork or be a mechanic, electrician or glassblower.

* Twelve times more likely to write poetry, plays, novels or short stories.

* And 22 times more likely to be an amateur actor, dancer or magician.

You read that right. Magician.

It’s not just that this kind of original thinker actively seeks out creative pursuits. These original experiences provide a new way of looking at the world, which helped the prize-winners think differently in their day jobs.

The beauty of summer camp is that not only do kids get to do all sorts of crazy new things, they also get to do it in nature, which lends its own creative boost.

Most importantly, my kids have such intensely packed schedules full of sports, music, art classes, community service and technological stimulation throughout the school year that it makes finding these all-important quiet mental spaces more difficult.

Summers provide a much-needed opportunity for my children to unplug, achieve focus and develop those creative thought processes and connections.

Okay, okay. Creativity might be a compelling tool to beat out that neighbor girl applying to the same college, but what about this “developing broadly as a human being” stuff?

I didn’t come up with that phrase. Harvard did.

William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions at Harvard, has penned a compelling letter to parents. It practically begs and pleads with them to reevaluate the summer extracurriculars race and to “bring summer back,” with an “old-fashioned summer job” perhaps, or simply time to “gather strength for the school year ahead.”

Fitzsimmons writes, “What can be negative is when people lose sight of the fact that it’s important to develop broadly as a human being, as opposed to being an achievement machine. In the end, people will do much better reflecting, perhaps through some down time, in the summer.”

In terms of “developing broadly as a human being,” summer camp can provide an impressive list of life skills.

Studies over the past decade have shown outdoor programs stimulate the development of interpersonal competencies, enhance leadership skills and have positive effects on adolescents’ sense of empowerment, self-control, independence, self-understanding, assertiveness, decision-making skills, self-esteem, leadership, academics, personality and interpersonal relations.

Now for the cherry on top: Independence.

Michael Thompson, the author of “Homesick and Happy,” has written, “… there are things that, as a parent, you cannot do for your children, as much as you might wish to. You cannot make them happy (if you try too hard they become whiners); you cannot give them self-esteem and confidence (those come from their own accomplishments); you cannot pick friends for them and micro-manage their social lives, and finally you cannot give them independence. The only way children can grow into independence is to have their parents open the door and let them walk out. That’s what makes camp such a life-changing experience for children.”

So, yes, Ms. Tiger Mom, I am letting my children walk out the door and make useless lanyards for two months.

They might not have anything “constructive” to place on their college application, but they will reflect, unwind, think and laugh. They will explore, perform skits they wrote themselves and make those endless friendship bracelets to tie onto the wrists of lifelong friends.

The result will be that when they come back through our door, we’re pretty sure that, in addition to having gobs of creativity and independence, they’ll be more comfortable with who they are as people.

And just maybe they’ll even bring back a few magic tricks.


Laura Clydesdale lives in Berkeley, Calif., with her husband and children.

3aWe want the best for our children. Yet, for myself, as a parent of a 14 year old son,  I often look back and think of a simpler, less connected time. A time when the Andy Griffith show roll modeled how life should be. I want my son to know what these times were like and connect with them. But, as I nostagically look back to these simpler days am I limiting the skills he will need for the 21st Century? To make this even more complicated our son is Homeschooled. So where can I turn to give my child an advantage in years and decades to come?
 Most parents tend to rely on our own pareting skills and schools to raise our children. Summer Camp is as often missed oppertunity. Children tend to learn when they are away from us and away from school. This is when they are actually most able and willing to learn. This is where the summer camp experience comes into play and the American Camp Association realizes the impact it has on todays youth is more than playing outside.

The American Camp Association is jumping with both feet into measuring camp’s impact on kids.

In the process, the national organization representing 2800 summer and after-school camps has found a new marketing tool: 21st century skills.

“There’s a common perception that the American Camp Association is about canoes in a lake and tents,” said Tom Holland, chief executive of the camp association.

“But where we have transitioned in the last ten years is being about youth development, specifically the out-of-school-time space.” He spoke at the group’s annual conference in February in Atlanta, where various workshop leaders spoke excitedly about the new direction of camp.

Summer camps still have traditional activities such as archery and swimming, Holland said. They may be located in beautiful wilderness areas,”

“It’s not about that location. It’s about the growth and development of a child,” he said, “the outcomes that they have through our programs.”

For years, camp has fostered leadership, grit, tenacity and resilience in kids in the course of fun activities, he said, referring to qualities that researchers are pointing to as valuable.


“That’s the core of who we’ve always been,” he said.

But camps need to demonstrate their impact.

“Let’s track those outcomes,” he said.

About 20 percent of camp association member track outcomes. “It’s a number we hope to grow,” Holland said.


The association is urging its members, which include nonprofit and for-profit camp operators, to begin using the new Youth Outcomes Battery. It’s a survey kids take to measure whether camp has increased their independence, friendship, confidence, interest in exploration, perceived competence, problem-solving ability, responsibility, spiritual well-being, family citizenship, teamwork affinity with nature and sense of connectedness.

• Camps pick the qualities they wish to measure, some of which line up with the “21st century skills,” a buzzword for abilities thought to be needed in a changing economy, particularly critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration.

• Camps may still have traditional activities such as swimming and archery and they may be located in beautiful wilderness areas, but the new focus is youth development, according to the American Camp Association.
• Camps may still have traditional activities such as swimming and archery and they may be located in beautiful wilderness areas, but the new focus is youth development, according to the American Camp Association.
Efforts to push these skills in school and out of school are hailed by organizations such as the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, a business- and educator led group.

Critics, however, say the skills are presented in such a generalized way as to be meaningless and they are not new.

What’s to prove?

But in a world of data and evidence, the camp association wants to show its impact. The survey data is helpful for camp leaders to see what’s working well in their programs and what could be improved, Holland said.

The camp association is positioning itself as a partner in education in order to convince today’s parents of camp’s value.

“More and more parents are asking the question: ‘What is my child going to get out of this?’” Holland said.

“This is giving our camps the tools,” he said.

It’s about intentionality, he said. “Are you intentional about what outcomes the children will walk away with?” And then are you translating and sharing that information with parents?”


Scott Brody is a former national vice president of the American Camp Association and owner of Camps Kenwood and Evergreen in Wilmot, N.H.

He recently expanded his camp business into China, where affluent parents are looking to give their children an edge in a competitive economy.

He envisions a partnership between camps and schools to strengthen 21st century skills in kids.

Every activity in camp could be matched with one of the learning outcomes, he said.

Last year, Brody was quoted in an article in the Yale Globalist about the expansion of American-style camps in China.

“When you look at the entrepreneurial and innovation skill set, a lot of what you need are the qualities that people get to practice at camp—creativity, communication, collaboration, and building your own sense of resilience,” Brody said. “All of these themes are interwoven with the American dream. And the opportunity to practice these skills is the critical novelty of the camp environment.”

At the camp association conference Brody spoke about the value of the Youth Outcome Battery.

“We’re talking about outcomes and measures that are valued in the business world and in schools,” he said.

“It’s a huge marketing advantage,” Brody said. Parents are looking for experiences that give the child an advantage, that add value.”

“We are in the college and career readiness business,” he said. “We are in the education business.”


reprinted from Youth Today

By Stell Simonton | February 23, 2016



abug As we all know connections are so important with our children. As a parent I have to say their are times that I think back to those younger years and think about how easy it was. You pick up a Dr. Suess book or play Hands Down and life is good. However, as kids get older and enter teendom they want to be independant and break away from us Parental Units, this is natural. But here are a few things we can do to bring back those connections. that we know we need to keep.

Talk (and Listen) to Them

The most basic way to connect with your children is to talk to them. Tell them about your day and ask about theirs. Try to remember everything they tell you. Children have a memory that just won’t quit sometimes, and they expect you to have the same. Ask them questions. It’s important for people to feel like the person they are talking to cares about what they have to say. Asking questions about what they told you it proves you were listening and want to know more. Don’t expect your kids to tell you everything about themselves in one sitting. It takes time to build the kind of connection you are looking for, especially with teens and older children who are still feeling rebellious.

Take an Interest in their Interests

Sometimes just talking doesn’t work for all kids. They may have built their guard up too high to realize that you just want to help them. In this case it may be a good idea to consider doing something else together. If your child likes to play video games, ask for the second controller and play too. Maybe help them with an art project they’re working on. You can try to get involved in anything they like to do. They may still try to shut you out sometimes, but eventually you will find something to do together.
Just try not to seem judgmental about their hobbies. If they aren’t hurting anyone, then you shouldn’t be concerned. If they start to feel that you don’t appreciate what they love, they will start to push you further away.


Invite Them Into Your World

If you can’t find common ground in the things they like to do, maybe you should look for some in the things you enjoy. It’s not uncommon for children to forget that parents or guardians are people too. If you’re willing to show them who you are, then perhaps they will open up and do the same. You can invite them to one of your favorite shows or sporting events. Let them meet some of your coworkers. If your children are old enough, then you can take them with you to the gym or your yoga class. Anything can work as long as you can get them interested.


Find a New Hobby

You may find that you simply have no current interests in common with your child. That’s OK. In this case, you can talk to them about finding something new for the two of you to do together. Try to find something that neither of you have done and you both find at least mildly interesting, and start together. Neither of you will be the leader in this activity because no one has more experience. Even if you find out that you both hated the activity, you at least have a mutual experience to work with.



Guilt is Not a Weapon

Never send your children on a guilt trip. It’s a cheap trick that will only cause them to resent you in the long run. Make it clear that you want to spend time with them and get to know them, but don’t try to make them feel bad if it doesn’t work out right away. It may take a few tries but you’ll wear them down eventually and they’ll give you a chance.
There’s a Time For Friendship and a Time For Parenting
It’s great to be your child’s friend. The feeling is unmatched. But it can be easy to take it too far. You should never forget that you are a guardian first. You are there primarily to see to it that the child in your care is safe and grows up well. A balance must be found between parenting and friendship. You need your child to trust you enough to tell you about the things going on around you but also to feel safe enough to seek true guidance from you.


Don’t Get Discouraged

Kids can be difficult. It may seem that no matter what you try, you’re still feeling just as distant from them as when you started. Don’t give up. They know what you’re trying to do, and on some level, they appreciate it, even if they don’t make it obvious right now. If nothing else, they will at least think of you when they face any struggles and remember that at least one person cares for them. Sometimes that’s enough.


Reprinted from Child Development Insitute

As a parent I often wonder when conflict happens at home, What should I do to be a good role model for my child. We recently found this article and think it is a great read for every parent.



What Happens to Kids When Parents Fight


By Diana Divecha | January 26, 2016 |
Conflict between parents is inevitable—but it doesn’t have to hurt kids. Here’s how to turn a disagreement into a positive lesson.


When I was a child, my parents’ fights could suck the oxygen out of a room. My mother verbally lashed my father, smashed jam jars, and made outlandish threats. Her outbursts froze me in my tracks. When my father fled to work, the garage, or the woods, I felt unprotected.


“Children are like emotional Geiger counters,” says E. Mark Cummings, psychologist at Notre Dame University, who, along with colleagues, has published hundreds of papers over twenty years on the subject. Kids pay close attention to their parents’ emotions for information about how safe they are in the family, Cummings says. When parents are destructive, the collateral damage to kids can last a lifetime.
My experience led me to approach marriage and parenthood with more than a little caution. As a developmental psychologist I knew that marital quarrelling was inevitable. According to family therapist Sheri Glucoft Wong, of Berkeley, California, just having children creates more conflicts, even for couples who were doing well before they became parents. “When kids show up, there’s less time to get more done,” she says. “All of a sudden you’re not as patient, not as flexible, and it feels like there’s more at stake.”
But I also knew that there had to be a better way to handle conflict than the one I grew up with. When my husband and I decided to have children, I resolved never to fight in front of them. “Conflict is a normal part of everyday experience, so it’s not whether parents fight that is important,” says Cummings. “It’s how the conflict is expressed and resolved, and especially how it makes children feel, that has important consequences for children.”
Watching some kinds of conflicts can even be good for kids—when children see their parents resolve difficult problems, Cummings says, they can grow up better off.

What is destructive conflict?


In their book Marital Conflict and Children: An Emotional Security Perspective, Cummings and colleague Patrick Davies at the University of Rochester identify the kinds of destructive tactics that parents use with each other that harm children:


  • 1. Verbal aggression like name-calling, insults, and threats of abandonment;

2. Physical aggression like hitting and pushing;

3. Silent tactics like avoidance, walking out, sulking, or withdrawing;

Capitulation—giving in that might look like a solution but isn’t a true one.


When parents repeatedly use hostile strategies with each other, some children can become distraught, worried, anxious, and hopeless. Others may react outwardly with anger, becoming aggressive and developing behavior problems at home and at school. Children can develop sleep disturbances and health problems like headaches and stomachaches, or they may get sick frequently. Their stress can interfere with their ability to pay attention, which creates learning and academic problems at school. Most children raised in environments of destructive conflict have problems forming healthy, balanced relationships with their peers. Even sibling relationships are adversely affected—they tend to go to extremes, becoming over-involved and overprotective of each other, or distant and disengaged.
Some research suggests that children as young as six months register their parents’ distress. Studies that follow children over a long period of time show that children who were insecure in kindergarten because of their parents’ conflicts were more likely to have adjustment problems in the seventh grade. A recent study showed that even 19-year-olds remained sensitive to parental conflict. Contrary to what one might hope, “Kids don’t get used to it,” says Cummings.
In a remarkable 20-year-old study of parental conflict and children’s stress, anthropologists Mark Flinn and Barry England analyzed samples of the stress hormone cortisol, taken from children in an entire village on the east coast of the island of Dominica in the Caribbean. Children who lived with parents who constantly quarreled had higher average cortisol levels than children who lived in more peaceful families. As a result, they frequently became tired and ill, they played less, and slept poorly. Overall, children did not ever habituate, or “get used to,” the family stress. In contrast, when children experienced particularly calm or affectionate contact, their cortisol decreased.
More recent studies show that while some children’s cortisol spikes, other children’s cortisol remains abnormally low and blunted, and these different cortisol patterns seem to be associated with different kinds of behavioral problems in middle childhood. Other physiological regulatory systems can become damaged as well, such as the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system—these help us respond to a perceived threat but are also the “brakes” that rebalance and calm us.
In 2002, researchers Rena Repetti, Shelley Taylor, and Teresa Seeman at UCLA looked at 47 studies that linked children’s experiences in risky family environments to later issues in adulthood. They found that those who grew up in homes with high levels of conflict had more physical health problems, emotional problems, and social problems later in life compared to control groups. As adults, they were more likely to report vascular and immune problems, depression and emotional reactivity, substance dependency, loneliness, and problems with intimacy.


Avoiding conflict is not a solution

Some parents, knowing how destructive conflict can be, may think that they can avoid affecting their children by giving in, or capitulating, in order to end an argument. But that’s not an effective tactic. “We did a study on that,” Cummings said. According to parents’ records of their fights at home and their children’s reactions, kids’ emotional responses to capitulation are “not positive.” Nonverbal anger and “stonewalling”—refusing to communicate or cooperate—are especially problematic.
“Our studies have shown that the long-term effects of parental withdrawal are actually more disturbing to kids’ adjustment [than open conflict],” says Cummings. Why? “Kids understand hostility,” he explains. “It tells them what’s going on and they can work with that. But when parents withdraw and become emotionally unavailable, kids don’t know what’s going on. They just know things are wrong. We’re seeing over time, that parental withdrawal is actually a worse trajectory for kids. And it’s harder on marital relationships too.”
Kids are sophisticated conflict analysts; the degree to which they detect emotion is much more refined than parents might guess. “When parents go behind closed doors and come out acting like they worked it out, the kids can detect that,” says Cummings. They’ll see you’re pretending. And pretending is actually worse in some ways. As a couple, you can’t resolve a fight you’re not acknowledging you’re having. Kids will know it, you’ll know it, but nothing will be made in terms of progress.”
On the other hand, he says, “When parents go behind closed doors and are not angry when they come out, the kids infer that things are worked out. Kids can tell the difference between a resolution that’s been forced versus one that’s resolved with positive emotion, and it matters.”


How to make conflict work


“Some types of conflicts are not disturbing to kids, and kids actually benefit from it,” says Cummings. When parents have mild to moderate conflict that involves support and compromise and positive emotions, children develop better social skills and self-esteem, enjoy increased emotional security, develop better relationships with parents, do better in school and have fewer psychological problems.
“When kids witness a fight and see the parents resolving it, they’re actually happier than they were before they saw it,” says Cummings. “It reassures kids that parents can work things through. We know this by the feelings they show, what they say, and their behavior—they run off and play. Constructive conflict is associated with better outcomes over time.” Children feel more emotionally secure, their internal resources are freed up for positive developmental growth, and their own pro-social behavior toward others is enhanced. In fact, many child behavior problems can be solved not by focusing on the child, or even the parent-child relationship, but simply by improving the quality of the parents’ relationship alone, which strengthens children’s emotional security.
Even if parents don’t completely resolve the problem but find a partial solution, kids will do fine. In fact, their distress seems to go down in proportion to their parents’ ability to resolve things constructively.  “Compromise is best, but we have a whole lot of studies that show that kids benefit from any progress toward resolution,” says Cummings.
Both Cummings and Glucoft Wong agree that children can actually benefit from conflict—if parents manage it well. “Parents should model real life…at its best,” says Glucoft Wong. “Let them overhear how people work things out and negotiate and compromise.”

However, both also agree that some content is best kept private. Discussions about sex or other tender issues are more respectfully conducted without an audience. Glucoft Wong encourages parents to get the help they need to learn to communicate better—from parenting programs, from books, or from a therapist.
My own parents’ conflict no longer has the hold on me that it once did, thanks to careful work and a loving marriage of my own of thirty years. Our two daughters are now in their twenties and secure in their own loving partnerships, and I hope that the lessons of their childhood hold. When they were preschoolers and interrupted our disagreements with concern, my husband and I would smile and reassure them with our special code: I held my fingers an inch apart and reminded them that the fight was this big, but that the love was this big—and I held my arms wide open.


Conflict Tips


Courtesy of Sheri Glucoft Wong.
1. Lead with empathy: Open the dialog by first letting the other person know that you see them, you get them, and you can put yourself in their shoes.
2. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt: Assume the best intentions and help yourself remember that you love each other by adding an endearment.
3. Remember that you’re on the same team. Deal with issues by laying all the cards on the table and looking at them together to solve a dilemma rather than digging in on opposing sides. Then problem-solve with one another.
4. Constructive criticism only works when your partner can do something about what happened. If the deadline for soccer signup was already missed, remedy the current situation as best as possible and talk about how to do it better next time. Blaming won’t fix anything that’s already happened.
5. Anything that needs to be said can be said with kindness. Disapproval, disappointment, exasperation—all can be handled better with kindness.


At Swift Nature Camp we understand conflict is a part of life not only at home but at camp. Our goal is to use the above conflict tips when addressing those disagreements that are bound to arise when you have 8 children living together.


Camp cabin


At Swift Nature Camp we believe the camp community can teach our children valuable lessons that stay with them long after their days at camp. Dr. Cris Thurber agrees, here are his thoughts on how children can be challenged to think and live differently.


Conflict, Camp, and World Peace


Conversations online and off have focused recently on stopping violence and conflict. From Ferguson to France, people have discussed, debated, and demonstrated more passionately than ever. When human rights are in question, we speak of “ridding,” “routing,” “crushing,” and “eliminating” the scourges of terrorism, extremism, and racism.

Forgotten has been any consideration of coaching people through conflict. And although the civilized world agrees that peace is paramount, it is an oversimplification to believe that extrication from cultural blights requires a single, destructive method. Or simple resolve. As much as any snuff metaphor has appeal, the path to peace requires construction, not destruction. We must renew our commitment to teach empathy, emotion regulation, and forgiveness. Summer camp is the best way to do that.

More than 150 years ago, summer camps were founded in this country by progressive educators who clearly saw the limitations of the traditional classroom. They created a complementary institution to fill in the gaps. To do that, they brought young people from inside to outside; from sitting and listening to running and playing; from memorizing to creating; and from dependence to inter-dependence.


Today, research has validated the intuition of camp’s founders and the hope of all parents who have laid down their hard-earned money for an experience that is ostensibly recreational: Young people grow in self-reliance, social skills, physical and thinking skills, and sense of adventure faster at camp than at school. And now it’s time to apply camp’s power to accelerate positive youth development to the worldwide problem of violence and conflict. Ironically, that process begins by embracing the notions that disagreement and fear of differences are human.


Endowed with an understanding of our nature, camps have shed the zero tolerance policies that have failed at schools and have begun training their staff to recognize bullying, intolerance, poor sportsmanship, and harassment. Then, instead of kicking kids out of camp, these professional youth leaders teach new skills to campers and praise incremental improvements in their behavior.

There will always been some egregious misbehaviors that will get children expelled from camp, but today’s enlightened approach is about recognizing youngsters’ underdeveloped skills and coaching them to win-win outcomes with their peers and caregivers. With compassion and creativity, there are ways for everyone to get their needs met. And just as an addict can abstain from substances when sobriety is reinforcing, so can young people abstain from cruelty when kindness feels so good. There is no such thing as a bully with a secure attachment to a reliable group of friends.

Terrorists justify the elimination of life and liberty—in the form of murder—in the name of an idea. The rest of the civilized world sees the flip side of the same coin: We begin with the ideas of liberty and justice for all and remove it—in the form of imprisonment—only after a crime has been committed. This is a timeless dialectic, but it does not portend our destiny.


Because ideas are so potent, let us further one idea we know works: Transporting young people from home into a beautiful natural setting to join a community of their peers and participate in supervised, unstructured play. High quality camps are both proving grounds and laboratories for civilization. The campers learn how to get along and the counselors learn how to coach the kids toward kind behavior. Only when they are combined can a classroom education and a summer camp experience tip the current cultural imbalance toward durable world peace. It’s time to sign up.


Dr. Christopher Thurber is a clinical psychologist and former chair of the American Camp Association’s Committee for Applied Research & Evaluation. He is the co-creator of and serves on the faculty of Phillips Exeter Academy. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

As summer camp owners, educators and parents, For the past 20 plus years we have dedicated ourselves to continuing our education in parenting and child development. What we have found is often the research we do to help counselors and camp kids becomes amazingly valuable in raising our own child. We gain our knowledge not only from reading but we attend conferences and workshops and constantly look online. Our goal is to be a part of your child's personal development not only during times of camp but all year round. This parent resource center is designed to be a place to share information about different ideas in raising children. So please feel free to read the articles and post comments or let us know of resources you may have found to share with others that have been extremely helpful in raising your children.







We always have a book on our night stand that is dedicated to helping us live a better life and be better at raising our children.  Often one of these becomes the focus of our staff training at camp. We have added a simple link to Amazon so you can read more about each book. 



What Skills Kids Need to Succeed

Parents today are all asking the same question: What will it take for my child to succeed in todays world?


Despite all the technology we live in, I was suprised to see that Americans still realize the need for the soft skills. The skills that are not taught in school. Sure, we need to stay competitiive with  science and math skills as the world becomes smaller and more competitive. Yet, we all see the need for the  less tangible skills in our kids, such as teamwork, logic and basic communication skills.

The Pew Research Center recently asked a sample of adults to select among a list of 10 skills: “Regardless of whether or not you think these skills are good to have, which ones do you think are most important for children to get ahead in the world today?”

The answer was clear. Across the board, more respondents said communication skills were most important, followed by reading, math, teamwork, writing and logic. Science fell somewhere in the middle, with more than half of Americans saying it was important.

So how does Summer Camp fit in to all this? We teach soft skills. We help children figure out what works and what dosent when dealing with peers. Teamwork prevades all of camp life. Children become independent and figure things out for themselves. Camp is so much more than just fun, games and songs outside. it is one of the best training grounds to ensure future success. Michael Eisner of Disney,  said it best,"But oh, the lessons I learned on those camp canoe trips. We could never survive the first day if we did not practice teamwork, show initiative, handle adversity, listen well and not least importantly, maintain a sence of humor:" 




A few years ago I was at a conference for summer camp professionals and we had a guest speaker, a 15 year old boy. He loved his camp experiences and had hoped to return the up coming summer to become a counselor in training where he would assist in the supervision of the younger children. However, a few weeks earlier he had been told by his High School Guidance Counselor that he was now of the age that he needed to begin thinking about resume building and Summer Camp clearly was not on the list. The boy and his family were devastated but decided to make plans to follow the given advice. I had only wish that I  had the below CNBC Article for the family. All guidance counselors need to read the below article and encourage children to keep learning at summer camp

Summer camp may improve college admissions odds

CNBC logo.svg | CNBC -Sunday, 27 Apr 2014 | 10:00 AM 


How you spend your summer vacation isn't just fodder for first-day-back-in-school essays. It could provide a boost on college or job applications—especially if you went to camp.

Colleges have been getting more selective in recent years. In 2012, the average four-year college accepted 63.9 percent of applicants, down from 69.6 percent in 2003, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Many are even more selective. This year, Yale University accepted just 6.26 percent of applicants, down from 6.27 percent a year ago and 11 percent in 2005, according to educational consulting company IvyWise. Cornell University accepted 14 percent, versus 31 percent in 2005.

Grades and standardized test scores are still the top factor for admission, but educational counselors say colleges are starting to take a harder look at extracurricular activities, particularly those over summer vacation. "Parents assume their kids need to be even more competitive on grades," said Eric Greenberg, founder and director of education consulting firm Greenberg Educational Group. "What has happened, ironically, is the opposite."

To colleges, summertime is like the hiatus between jobs a prospective employer would ask about, said Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president and publisher at Edvisors Network. "Colleges want to understand, what have you been doing with yourself?" he said. "What happened during that gap?" The answer can be telling of what a student will do on campus.

Campers: Sylv, Hannah and Talia.
Source: Talia Rodwin,
Campers: Sylv, Hannah and Talia.

Parents shouldn't immediately race for the nearest camp sign-up sheet. While there are surely college admissions officers with fond memories of lake swims and archery, the camp experience that is more likely to stand out is a specialized one that speaks to a student's interests, experts say. Summers at soccer camp can help show a would-be college athlete's dedication, for example, while theater camp can be an edge for someone applying to the acting program—especially if the high school's drama program is so-so (or nonexistent). 

Focused camps aren't that difficult to find. Half of day camps have some kind of academic activities or areas of study, and one-third offer a STEM (i.e., science, technology, engineering or math) program, according to the American Camp Association. 

"By being stronger on the extracurricular activities, you can actually make up somewhat for weaknesses academically," Kantrowitz said. It's no slam dunk, though. "Not everyone is going to yield a benefit, but it's something that distinguishes you," he said. (Considering, however, that some camps can cost upwards of $1,000 per week, it's worth pointing out that extra experience in a student's areas of interest could just as easily come from a summer course at a local college, volunteer experiences or work, he said.) 

Steven Infanti, associate vice president for admissions at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, said a STEM camp experience is something that makes him take a closer look at a student's application. "When I look at an applicant who has a 2.5 [GPA], which would be kind of a borderline admit for us, but I see on his application, I participate in this camp…that shows a lot of initiative and someone who has a passion," he said. 

For higher-achievers, relevant camp experience may put them in the running for the university's fellowship program, which pairs 15 incoming freshmen with faculty for research projects, among other advantages. 

Colleges may also find longer camp relationships interesting, even if the camp isn't academically focused. "The regular camper who becomes a counselor is a good type of continuity," Greenberg said. That kind of camp experience can indicate positive qualities such as leadership, resilience and good social skills, he said. 

That's the kind of story Oberlin College freshman Talia Rodwin expressed in her application essay. Rodwin, 19, has been attending Habon Dror Camp Moshava in Silver Spring, Md., since 2006 and plans to return this summer for her second year as a counselor. (The youth movement camp emphasizes sharing, leadership and communal responsibility.) "I wrote about my camp experiences and community," she said. "I explained how I think of myself as a community builder…and I think that had an impact." 

Simon Solis-Cohen (R), whose camp experience led him to become a chef.
Source: Simon Solis-Cohen
Simon Solis-Cohen (R), whose camp experience led him to become a chef.

While camp as an application booster isn't a guarantee, it could have other benefits for a college-bound student. Overnight camps can offer a taste of independent living (or at least, living away from mom and dad). The right camp could even help solidify a career path, reducing the chance of a five- or six-year stint at a four-year college while an undeclared student explores options. 

"If you go to summer camp and you decide because of the camp that this is what you want to be, you're going to be much more focused as a student," Kantrowitz said. 

When he was in middle school, Simon Solis-Cohen, now 23, signed up for a magic camp through Julian Krinsky Camps & Programs in Pennsylvania. He liked it so much that the next year, he tried one of the group's business camps. Then, in the summer leading up to his freshman year of high school, he discovered cooking camp. "It really opened my eyes," Solis-Cohen said. 

He was so enamored with cooking that he started working weekends during the school year at the camp chef-instructor's restaurant, then attended college at the Culinary Institute of the America. "I ended up using this as my launching pad," said Solis-Cohen, who is currently with Grgich Hills Estate in Rutherford, Calif., after a stint at renowned Napa Valley restaurant The French Laundry. 

As Solis-Cohen discovered, camp can even be a kick-starter for jobs down the line—provided the experience backs up other bona-fides. "Camp is about the social experience of working with other young people in a group setting that's outside your comfort zone," said Chad Oakley, president and chief operating officer of executive search firm Charles Aris, Inc. "That in itself is 50 percent of success in a business environment." 

But it's no job shoe-in. "You might get the interview because you went to math camp, but you'd actually get the job because of your ability to interface with people during the interview," said Oakley. 

Showcasing a camp experience during the college admissions process can be done in a handful of ways. It might be listed as extra-curricular activities on the college application, or a particularly meaningful experiences worked into the essay portion. 

"If you had a transformative experience at the summer camp or a big impact on others, that tells them more about who you are as an individual, especially if you can write about how it set you in a particular direction," Kantrowitz said. "If something is of interest to you, you're more likely to write a passionate essay." 

Favorite counselors or camp directors should also be considered for letters of recommendation. "Relatively few students submit letters from outside [school] or that are job-related," said Greenberg. "That can be enormously valuable." 



Reprinted from the 1965 Chicago Tribune, Camp Minoqua is featured in the article andis the summer camp that Jeff went to when he was a boy from 1966-1972.


Television, telephones, and mother-love are all great things In the winter, of course, but next summer, more than 4 million school age youngsters will trade them for tents, rain, poison Ivy and unforgettable times,


IT GETS COLDER and colder. The rain comes down like the sky is broken. The tent leaks all night and break- fast is bread and rain water eaten under the Dicnic table.

Is this "Ah, Wilderness!" or "Aaarg, Wilderness!"? Only the boy or girl scrunched damply under the table can tell you. But chances are [even tho it had to be said thru chat- tering teeth] he d say it was GREAT! For this wet, cold, shivering youngster is one of 4 million school-age American children who look forward ea- to camp every summer. Why should a child be so anx- ious to go to camp that he s willing to go without six months' allowance to help foot the bill? Or get up at a snowy 5:30 a. m. to deliver the morn- ing papers so he can buy a new snorkel for camp?

It's not the creature comforts he s seeking-that s for sure. For comforts such as television, telephones, and five-course din- ners are better provided at home than on a 100-acre tract of trees and bushes.

Actually what this child is seeking, even if he s not con- aware of it, is a sense of adventure. A chance to be a conqueror rather than a spec- tator. An opportunity to create

his own security in a strange atmosphere. And where, in to- day s chrome-plated world, can a child find such an opportu- nity except in the wilderness?

As an American, he still has something of the early pioneer in his bones-the pioneer who slew his own dinner, stitched up his britches, and then fought off the enemy before he went to bed.

A note from a city-bred 14- year-old to his parents last year states proudly, "Besides clearing three campsites out of the bush, setting up a compass course, and assisting the sur- veyor map the boundary lines of camp, we got to help skin a 125-pound bear and cut logs for a new kitchen floor." This glowing letter was written by a lad who lived 10 stories up in a plush apartment where a maid laid out his clothing every morning!

There have been camps of one kind or another almost from the beginning of America -even the first settlers were campers of a sort The first organized camps began to ap- pear on the east coast as early as the 1860s, but it wasn't un-til the very late iBO0s that camping grabbed a really firm foothold for itself. It was evi-dently firm enough, for today there are more than 13,500 organized camps scattered thruout the United States.

The first organized camp in the midwest was started by a young doctor. [just graduated from Northwestern university medical school] following the worst typhoid fever epidemic Chicago has ever known. Dr. John Perley Sprague had been raised in the lumbering coun- try of Maine and had never quite got used to the ways of the city. It bothered him that so many children were growing up with no intimate knowledge of nature, so in April, 1903, he set out for upper Wisconsin be- fore the ice was even out of the rivers and lakes to find a spot to set up a camp.

What he finally settled on was a point on Lake Toma- hawk near Minocqua, which still stands today and is still in operation under the direction of his daughter, Helen, and son-in-law, Jack Broomell. Boys who go to Camp Minocqua today board the train at Chi- cago s North Western station

and arrive at camp about eight. hours later.

The 15 campers who went north with Doctor Sprague in 1903 were not so fortunate; but when this story is told, many a boy declares he d give his right arm to have been in that first group.

We took a train from Chicago," Doctor Sprague wrote Conrinued CAMP For City-Dwellers: A Place in the OpenIn camp craft classes such as bowl-making, boys can create with their own hands.

in his notes, "and when we woke up in the morning, we had only gone about 200 miles be- cause a bridge had washed out. It seems there was a lot of flooding that year. There was no diner on the train and they took the sleeper off, too. During the afternoon they fixed up the bridge and we went on, only to be stopped again when the tracks disappeared under water at the Wisconsin river. But they decided to try it and we got across and kept right on going to Mosinee, where the tracks were under water again. And we had to stop once more."

At 4 the next morning, Doc- tor Sprague got everybody off the train and they got up a game of baseball in the grass beside the tracks. Hungry to the desperation point, they finally found a boarding house cook who fixed breakfast for them for a hatful of coins that had been collected. The rest of the trip was made partly by box car and partly by hand-car.

"Finally," Doctor Sprague said, "an engine came down from the north and picked us up and on the third day we finally got there."

Camp Alinocqua is much the same today in spirit as it was 60 years ago; the ultimate aim of its directors always has been to provide the child with a natural atmosphere in which he can grow in all directions. This is the aim of all good camps today.

"There was no 'baby-sitting' in those days," Helen Broomell says. "It was primarily an op- portunity for boys to spend the summer out-of-doors . . . it wasn't even supposed to be a 'character-building' experience

except as the good influence of the men rubbed off on. the boys."

Minocqua would be classified today as an "all-around" camp with a good solid emphasis on individual growth, altho the program includes a liberal choice of everything you might consider important to camping: riding, sailing, crafts, archery, etc.

There are so many camps to- day which, altho they main- tain social orientation as the ultimate goal, are highly spe- . A few examples: folk- singing camps, language-of- your-choice camps, all-sports camps where a child chooses one major and one minor sport and works on proficiency in these areas all summer long. There are pioneer camps, camps for the psychological- ly disturbed, riding camps, and tours-of-Israel camps.

The rivalry between different types of camps is much like the rivalry between competing high schools. One group of boys came back from a visit to a neighboring camp with these words of disgust: "It's a chicken camp. Everybody wore identical T-shirts, and there were these 'Gung ho' loud speakers that blasted out in- structions all day long - just like in the movies. All the '' had to do was sit on their duffs while 'big brother' told them what to do over the loud speaker."

The kids often compare other camps they ve attended, too.

"All I got out of camp last year," said a pony-tailed girl of 12, "was saddle sores.""I was in this one camp," said a teen-. 'where it


CAMP-The Counselor Must Love Children. Nature

was like downtown New York. Everything was paved! You couldn't get dirty if you want- ed to."

For some children, being able to get good and dirty with a bunch of other guys is reason enough to go to camp. They come from big cities where they have no close companions, even in their own family group; often they don't even sit down to dinner with their parents, but eat in the kitchen with the maid.

This was a real revelation to one of the foreign-exchange counselors who came to this country thru the efforts of the Committee for Friendly Rela- tions Among Foreign Students. He was surprised at the bad table manners of some of the boys from wealthy families. He referred to the children in his cabin as "small gang- sters," but this was a term of real affection for he was com- pletely charmed by their warmth and maturity.

"An American camper is not as well disciplined as the Swedes," the counselor later observed. "He is less bashful and somewhat more matured than his Swedish mate. But you very soon get acquainted with him and after two hours he de- clares he likes or hates you more than anybody in the world."

He was judging only boys from a small segment of Amer- ican life, however, because un- less a child has a wealthy ben- or well-to-do parents, he can t afford a summer at

a private camp. Rates begin at about $575 and go on up.

Private camps are only a small part of the organized camp picture, tho. Only 3,000 of the nation s 13,500 organized camps are privately owned and run. Most of the rest are agen- cy and day camps. A "season" is more flexible at these camps, running from one day to sev- eral weeks and costing as little as $15 per week.

Many find it hard to under- stand why anyone would choose to work at a summer camp, but the conclusion can only be heartening to any par- ent considering sending his child.

Because the pay is poor, the hours are bad, and working conditions sometimes - nable [such as an "overnight" in a leaky tent], it can only be assumed that counselors take these jobs out of a love for children and nature.

One of the toughest jobs a director has is selecting good counselors. At one time these young people were chosen be- cause they possessed some spe- cial skill, but today directors seek well-rounded, emotionally mature persons. In addition to counselors, the director hires cooks, kitchen boys, stable boys, a camp-mother, a doctor and/ or a nurse. Each staff mem- ber is selected with infinite care, because it takes a special kind of person to be able to live so intimately with so many children or young adults for such a length of time. U


A PARENT interested in finding the best camp for his

Achild should consider the following points:

1. A good ratio is one counselor for every eight campers; an ideal ratio is one to four.

2. A good director will ask for a personal history of your child. U he doesn't, forget him, because if he doesn't feel he needs to know such things as the fact that Sally still wets her bed or is afraid of the dark, he isn't very interested in her.

3. A good camp has a rigid code of safety and health, but a flexible and adaptable daily program of recreation.

4. Fees alone do not make a camp bad or good, and in no way indicate what a camp is really like.

THE HYBRID MIND: The More High-Tech Education Becomes, The More Nature Our Children Need


I once met an instructor who trained young people to become the pilots of cruise ships. He described the two kinds of students he encounters. One kind grew up mainly indoors, spending hours playing video games and working on computers. These students are quick to learn the ship’s electronics, a useful talent, the instructor explained. The other kind of student grew up spending a lot of time outdoors, often in nature. They, too, have a talent. “They actually know where the ship is.”


He wasn’t being cute. Recent studies of the human senses back that statement up. “We need people who have both ways of knowing the world,” he added.

Currently, the force of economics is on the side of technology and standardized efficiency.

Optimistic researchers suggest that multitasking is creating the smartest generation yet, freed from limitations of geography, weather, and distance—pesky inconveniences of the physical world.

Others are skeptical, if not hostile to technology. In his book The Dumbest Generation, Mark Bauerlein, a professor at Emory University, reels out studies comparing this generation of students with prior generations, reporting “they don’t know any more history or civics, economics or science, literature or current events”— despite all that available information. Other researchers believe that people who experience too much technology in their formative years experience stunted development of the frontal lobe, “ultimately freezing them in teen brain mode,” as Maclean’s magazine put it.

Here’s a third possibility, what I call the hybrid mind. The ultimate multitasking is to live simultaneously in both the digital and physical worlds, using computers to maximize our powers to process intellectual data and natural environments to ignite our senses and accelerate our ability to learn and feel—combining the resurfaced “primitive” powers of our ancestors with the digital speed of our teenagers.

Want Students to Learn? Ignite the senses now

Scientists who study human perception no longer assume we have only five senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing. The number now ranges from a conservative 10 to as many as 30, including blood-sugar levels, empty stomach, thirst, and proprio­ception (awareness of our body’s position in space).

Ever wonder why you have two nostrils? Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley did. They fitted undergraduates with taped-over goggles, earmuffs, and work gloves to block other senses, then set them loose in a field. Most of the students could follow a 30-foot-long trail of chocolate perfume and even changed direction precisely where the invisible path took a turn.

The subjects were able to smell better with two functioning nostrils, which researchers likened to hearing in stereo. And they found themselves zigzagging, a technique employed by dogs as they track. “We found that not only are humans capable of scent tracking,” said study researcher Noam Sobel, “but they spontaneously mimic the tracking pattern of [other] mammals.”

In 2009, researchers at Madrid’s University of Alcalá de Henares showed how people, like bats, could identify objects without needing to see them, through the echoes of human tongue clicks. According to the lead researcher, echoes are also perceived through vibrations in ears, tongue, and bones—a refined sense learned through trial and error by some blind people and even sighted individuals. It’s all about hearing a world that exists beyond what we normally mistake for silence.

What else can we do that we’ve forgotten?

The U.S. military has studied how some soldiers seem to be able to use their latent senses to detect roadside bombs and other hazards. The 18-month study of 800 military personnel found that the best bomb spotters were rural people—those who’d grown up in the woods hunting turkey or deer—as well as those from tough urban neighborhoods, where it’s equally important to be alert.

“They just seemed to pick up things much better,” reported Army Sergeant Major Todd Burnett, who worked on the study for the Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. “They know how to look at the entire environment.” And the other enlistees, the ones who’d spent more time with Game Boys or at the mall? They didn’t do so well. As Burnett put it, they were focused on the proverbial “screen rather than the whole surrounding.”

The explanation may be partly physiological. Australian researchers suggest that the troubling increase in nearsightedness is linked to young people spending less time outdoors, where eyes must focus at longer distances. But more is probably going on here. Good vision, acute hearing, an attuned sense of smell, spatial awareness—all of these abilities could be operating simultaneously. This natural advantage offers practical applications. One is an increased ability to learn; another is an enhanced capability to avoid danger. Still another, perhaps the most important, is the measurement-defying ability to more fully engage in life.

Today, students (and the rest of us) who work and learn in a dominating digital environment expend enormous energy to block out many of these senses, in order to focus narrowly on the screen in front of the eyes. That’s the very definition of being less alive.



Who among us wants to be less alive? What parent wants their child to be less alive?

I believe that a central goal of modern education should be to encourage such flexible thinking, to nurture the hybrid mind — to stimulate both ways of knowing in the world: digital and direct experience.

Screens and Streams: The river of knowing

Research in this area remains a frontier in the academic world, but evidence is growing. Schools that do use outdoor classrooms and other forms of nature-based experiential education report significant student gains in social studies, science, language arts, and math. Students in Finland lead the world in math and science scores; in that country, it’s an article of faith that the best education includes time spent in the classroom — with lots of recess and learning time outdoors.

Children are more likely to invent their own games in green play spaces rather than on flat playgrounds or playing fields. Green play spaces also suit a wider array of students and promote social inclusion, regardless of gender, race, class, or intellectual ability. One study found that so-called at-risk students in week-long outdoor camp settings scored significantly better on science testing than in the typical classroom. At the Human-Environment Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois, researchers have discovered that children as young as 5 show a significant reduction in the symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder when they engaged with nature.

Cognitive and behavioral benefits accrue well beyond school boundaries. In inner-city housing projects in Chicago, investigators found that the presence of trees outside apartment buildings were predictors of certain behaviors: less procrastination, better coping skills, greater self-discipline among girls, better social relationships, and less violence. Educators benefit, too. Canadian researchers found that teachers expressed renewed enthusiasm for teaching in schools that engage their students in natural settings.

Maximum learning usually takes place when more of our senses are engaged. Yes, tight digital focus is often needed, but the healthy brain — the learning brain — also needs to pay a different kind of attention, an attention that researchers have called “fascination,” which often happens in more natural settings. This kind of attention restores the parts of the brain fatigued by too much “directed attention.” This is true for students, for teachers, for all of us.


Is education moving in this direction? Some schools are. They’re creating natural play and learning spaces, school gardens; they’re using nearby nature in cities and wilderness beyond them to connect the young to the world of knowledge. Often, they’re incorporating new technologies into these experiences.

But too many school districts are putting all their eggs on one computer chip, while reducing recess, canceling field trips, and demanding that students spend ever more time at their desks, staring at screens.

Few today would question the notion that every person, especially every young person, has a right to access the Internet, whether through a school district, a library, or a city’s public Wi-Fi program. We accept the idea that the divide between the digital haves and have-nots must be closed. But all children also have a right to develop a wider spectrum of their senses and mental abilities, to know the real world, and to be fully alive.

By  on March 30th, 2015 



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