Do you know kids & teens looking for a fantastic, good ol' days, totally hip & fun summer adventure that's reasonably priced?

Delighting both girls and boys, Swift Nature Camp has been a favorite childhood experience for my boys each summer since 2003. I trust the directors, I adore the counselors, I appreciate the outside active fun, and I love the gorgeous setting. And, I love that it's cheaper than my daughter's camp! Swimming, canoeing, fishing, tubing, riflery, archery, crafts, camp fires, camping trips, clowning, & good ol' capture the flag in the woods are some of what my kids love about Swift. The break from school kids, family life, and electronics gives them the awesome experience of pursuing new and different activities with fresh, friendly kids that just want to have fun without the drama. Not once in our 12 sessions did I receive a letter from the boys feeling down at camp. In fact, when they came home, they always said they wanted to stay longer next time. I'd love for you to learn more about this camp in Minong, Wisconsin. It has been a key factor in shaping my kids into the people I love today. Check it out.

The above note was taken from a camp families facebook page. At SNC our goal is to be part of your childs development and help your child be the best person they can be and get ready for life filled with self confidence and independance. Please see our other Parent Testimonials.

Like most parents you’re concerned about your child’s academic growth during the long summer break
Recent Research  by  Harris Cooper, Auniversity professor in associatio with the National Summer Learning Association, found that kids do forget information when school isn’t in session. “At best, students showed little or no academic growth over summer. At worst, students lost one to three months of learning,” the study reported.
For years teachers have noted that the beginning of the school year is a time to refresh the work that was done the previous year and that those students who recall the previous year more easily will do better at the current years studies. 
Recall when you were a kid—what was better than being a kid in the summer? For me I was one of those overnight summer camp kids so I recall the warm breeze on the lake, making leather crafts, playing capture the flag, and making new friends. Traditional Summer camps do provide children with fun learning opportunities that engage their brain and can lead to academic success when classes resume in September. 
Parents should look for opportunities to keep your child engaged and learning throughout the summer. This will allow them to continue building on their skills and foster their joy of learning.  It is important for parents to keep this goal in mind when picking a summer camp program. Selecting a summer camp that  immerses campers in experiential learning opportunities is a good choice. At Swift Nature Camp we provide just such an environment. 
At SNC we work with children not in memorizing facts about science and nature but on the process. We create an atmosphere were children have fun and want to learn.  When we guide them through the process, instead of simply giving them answers we fosters creativity, giving children skills to be critical thinkers and develop their own solutions to a problem.
The benefits of Experiential learning start at self-discovery by giving the children the tools to complete a task at hand, but leaves the steps to complete the task up to them. Children learn better and find more joy in learning when they do it themselves. When campers do this they better remember te experience.
In addition to learning traditional camp activities along with science campers build upon the social and emotional skills. Communal living helps children become more sensitive and caring toward others. Teamwork is what happens everyday at Swift Nature Camp.
Many of SNC parent avail themselves to the tutoring program offered. This program is more of a refresher class that keeps children "where they are" rather than teaching new concepts,  slowing down the learning loss that happens during the summer. Maybe it might be an option to consider this summer.
ACA Accreditation means that the summer camp you are considering has voluntarily agreed to undergo a thorough review of over 300 standards &emdash; from safety procedures to staff trainning and qualifications. The American Camp Association does not stand alone but works with experts from The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth service agencies to assure that current practices at that summer camp reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation. Camps and the ACA form a partnership that promotes summers of growth and fun in an environment committed to child safety. Bottom line, when you send your child to a summer camp that is ACA accreditied you know the owners and directors are doing everything possible to provide a safe and positve growing experience for your child.

ACA works with accredited camps to provide:

* Healthy, developmentally-appropriate activities and learning experience
* Caring, competent role models
* Service to the community and the environment
* Discovery through experiential education
* Opportunities for leadership and personal growth

What are some of the 300 ACA standards ?

* Staff to camper ratios are appropriate for different age groups
* Goals for camp activities are developmentally based
* Emergency transportation available at all times
* First-aid facilities and trained staff available

What's the difference between state licensing of camps and accreditation by ACA?

Accreditation is voluntary and ACA accreditation assures families that camps have made the commitment to a safe, nurturing environment for their children. Licensing is mandatory and requirements vary from state to state. ACA standards are recognized by courts of law and government regulators as the standards of the camp community.

How do ACA standards exceed state licensing requirements?

ACA goes beyond basic requirements for health, cleanliness, and food service into specific areas of programming, including camp staff from director through counselors, emergency management plans, health care, and management. ACA applies separate standards for activities such as waterfront, horseback riding, and adventure and travel.

How can I verify that my child's camp is ACA accredited?

Look for the ACA logo on camp website. Visit the ACA website at or by calling 1-800-428-CAMP.
To learn more about how to choose a summer camp visit

Directions - View the full report (PDF - 2.8MB)

Between 2001 and 2004 the American Camp Association conducted national research with over 5000 families from 80 ACA-Accredited camps to determine the outcomes of the camp experience as expressed by parents and children.
Parents, camp staff, and children reported significant growth in:
  • Self-esteem
  • Peer relationships
  • Independence
  • Adventure and exploration
  • Leadership
  • Environmental awareness
  • Friendship skills
  • Values and decisions
  • Social comfort
  • Spirituality
The findings from this national study indicated that camp is a unique educational institution and a positive force in youth development. The camp experience can benefit children by increasing:
  • confidence and self-esteem
  • social skills and making friends
  • independence and leadership qualities
  • willingness to try and adventurousness
  • spiritual growth, especially at camps focused on spirituality.
No differences were found based on the camp type (day, resident) or session length.
For more information on the actual instrumentation, please visit the Camper Growth Index site where details about the instrumentation developed and used in the ACA National Outcomes Study are discussed. Free access to the instruments are also described along with the access process.
By  Derrick Ho, Special to CNN
August 16, 2010 8:06 a.m. EDT
Experts advise parents against picking up their children from college if they complain about homesickness.


  • Homesickness is a distinct adjustment disorder with identifiable symptoms
  • Expert: Homesickness is an emotion that comes in waves
  • Age can make a crucial difference in coping with homesickness
(CNN) -- There was nothing but excitement for Keila Pena-Hernandez when she first stepped onto the grounds of the University of Missouri.
New school. New city. A new phase of her life. "It's just like wow, wow, wow! I was just excited that I'm in new surroundings," she said.
By the third week, the novelty of her new surroundings had worn off. The then 27-year-old health informatics doctoral student from Puerto Rico found herself lying on her bed after classes with the lights turned off and gazing out the window into the sky. All she could think of were the faces of friends and family.
"I started feeling homesick," she recalled. "This is nice, but this is not really home. The gym is awesome, but I didn't know anyone here."
This month, as thousands of freshmen and graduate students flock to colleges to begin a new academic year, many will be leaving home, some for the first time.
As routines are replaced with new social and academic pressures, and home by a dormitory full of strangers, homesickness -- the longing ache for the familiar, friends or grandma's cooking -- sets in. Pena-Hernandez knows all about that; she's felt it since she left home in 2004.
Homesickness is nothing new. It is mentioned in the Bible's Old Testament book of Exodus and Homer's "Odyssey," and happens to just about anyone away from home -- athletes and actors alike. ("Twilight" star Robert Pattinson reportedly told a U.K. magazine he misses home badly.)
Even so, only lately has there emerged a clearer sense of what homesickness is -- a distinct adjustment disorder with identifiable symptoms -- and what causes it.
In a paper co-written by Chris Thurber and Edward Walton published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, homesickness is defined as "distress and functional impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects such as parents."
Those who suffer from the condition feel some form of anxiety, sadness and nervousness, and most distinctly, obsessive preoccupation with thoughts of home, Thurber said.
After Keila Pena-Hernandez came to the University of Missouri, she began missing friends and family in Puerto Rico.
Pena-Hernandez craved the tropical fruits of Puerto Rico and the cool sea breeze.
"Lakes or rivers in the Midwest do not compare to the Caribbean Sea," she said.
Also troubling was the sense that her loved ones had moved on without her.
"A lot of my friends got married, had children and I'm not part of that because I'm not physically there, so you feel like you're losing out."
Yet despite the way it's coined, homesickness isn't necessarily about home. And neither is it exactly an illness, experts said.
Instead, it stems from our instinctive need for love, protection and security -- feelings and qualities usually associated with home, said Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama's School of Public Health. When these qualities aren't present in a new environment, we begin to long for them -- and hence home.
"You're not literally just missing your house. You're missing what's normal, what is routine, the larger sense of social space, because those are the things that help us survive," Klapow said.
He offered another way of approaching homesickness: It's merely an emotion that comes in waves. "Very few emotions stay with you all the time, they come and they go," he said. But when it strikes, both children and adults often get caught off guard by it, he added.
"They think something's terribly wrong. But it's normal and adaptive to feel homesick for some period of time. It's just your emotions and mind telling you you're out of your element."


Parents, here's how not to make matters worse: 

1. Avoid expressing anxiety.Your homesick freshman is not your sounding board. Instead of saying how much you miss him, express optimism about the experience your child is going through. 

2. Write instead of call.Phone calls can backfire. "Parents hear their children sobbing, children hear their parents sobbing," says psychologist Chris Thurber. "That real-time contact with home exacerbates homesickness." 

3. Find a friend. Encourage your child to look for friends and the support of a trusted adult. This can help ease the transition. 

4. Don't make a deal. Promising to pick your child up if homesickness sets in only decreases your child's likelihood of success in the new environment.
That homesickness is a spontaneous emotion also means both adults and children will feel its effects, Thurber said.
"If you look at an 8-year-old boy or girl at summer camp, and an 18-year-old university freshman, you would see very similar symptoms," he said. "The same would be true for a 28-year-old going to medical school in a different country."
Thurber said he has observed few differences in the length and intensity of homesickness between males and females.
While the cloud often lifts after a few weeks, "the distress and level of impairment among some homesick persons can become extreme," according to Thurber's report published in 2007.
In his study of homesickness among children, about 9 percent have it so bad that "it is associated with strong feelings of anxiety and depression, maybe even clinically significant symptoms," Thurber said.
"When homesickness is really bad, it's hard for people to eat, sleep or interact with others. That's terribly rare, but it does sometimes happen."
Age can play a crucial difference in coping with homesickness.
When you're 8, you don't have a lot of formal operational thought nor hypothetical thinking, said Thurber, so being away a month can seem like forever. But an 18-year-old is more likely to be able to translate that into a more manageable time frame.
"You'd be making comparisons in your head: That means if I do laundry once a week I do it four times. That changes and as people's concept of time becomes more sophisticated, so does the quality of their coping," Thurber said.
Experience counts, too.
"It turns out, [homesickness is] the very thing that inoculates against a future bout of homesickness," Thurber said. "By living through a difficult separation, your mind forces itself to cope."
It's this reason why experts advise parents against helicoptering their children out of college if they complain about homesickness.
"It's kind of like a bailout," said Ruperto Perez, director of the Georgia Institute of Technology's counseling center. Students end up being robbed of picking up problem solving and time management skills.
If there's any sort of deal parents can make, it is to agree to stop communicating -- be it text messages or via e-mails -- with their freshmen every five minutes.
Instead, Klapow said, parents should schedule a specific time, once a week, to contact their children. It also allows space and time for college students to make strong social connections among their peers -- perceived absence of social support was a strong predictor of homesickness, according to Thurber's report -- and gain much-needed independence.
Perez said this can be crucial in this day and age in which children have become more and more reliant on their parents. "There is more of an uncertainty of how to be independent. Probably because parents have provided more for them, for a longer period," he said.
While homesick kids at summer camp have the supervision of counselors, college students have less of that.


Here are tips that might help if you're experiencing homesickness: 

1. Stay engaged. Take part in college activities or even freshman camps to forget about homesick feelings and make new friends. 

2. Establish a personal routine. "If you are someone who goes to bed early and everyone's staying up late, it's OK to go to bed early," says psychologist Josh Klapow. 

3. Do something to feel closer to home. Write a letter, look at a family photo. 

4. Talk to someone. Seek out people who either understand what you're going through or have similar feelings. Pity parties in this case aren't a bad thing, says Klapow. "It's sort of like a grief support group." 

5. Time flies. Think that time is actually pretty short to make time go by faster.
Colleges have been hypervigilant for signs of depression and anxiety particularly after the Virginia Tech shootings. Counseling centers such as Perez's are taking steps to increase the awareness of the help students can turn to by promoting their services at orientation sessions and working with faculty and residential staff.
While there is still a stigma when it comes to approaching a counselor, Klapow said not doing so is as foolish as not consulting a doctor when a student is suffering from, say, stomach cramps.
"For college students, hey welcome to the big world. And the big world says, sometimes your emotions need to be dealt with," he added.
While homesickness can be dealt with, can it be prevented?
Not quite, Thurber said, despite the title of his study, "Preventing and treating homesickness."
"But what you're able to do is change its intensity," he said. Allowing teens and young adults to be active in deciding which college to go to helps.
Then there's practice and preparation.
Practice time away from home, Thurber recommended. Parents, too, can help by working with their freshmen to learn about the new environment by visiting campuses and talking to alumni. "They increase familiarity and, thereby, reduce anxiety," Thurber wrote.
Pena-Hernandez, who is finishing her Ph.D, makes a trip home once a year. She still misses home occasionally, but has the support from more friends and church as well.
We get homesick because "there are things that we love," said Thurber. "It's the byproduct of the strength of our attachment. If there were nothing in the world we were attached to, then we wouldn't miss them when we're away."

Sleep-away camp signup season is upon us, so any rational parents even considering the possibility will begin by asking themselves one question above all else: Really. They want over $1,000 a week now?

For many parents who went to overnight camp and have enough money, it’s not a close call, even if it requires a fair bit of belt-tightening. You’ve probably been talking about it for so long that your 7-year-old may well be annoyed about still being under the qualifying age of attendance. Everyone else should keep in mind that many of the expensive camps dislike their reputations as places for the affluent to get dirty and play outside. They raise money and provide some scholarships, so there is no shame in asking about how to qualify. Meanwhile, Y.M.C.A., religious and other less expensive sleep-away camps are far from rare.

When you’re considering camps, besides costs, you’ll want to ask baseline questions about food, safety, staff training and facilities. But when assessing value, what you really want to know is this: Is this a camp that changes lives? Sending the little people away is no small thing. You want it to mean something.

This week I reached out to camp experts and asked them for the single most important question that a parent should ask before committing. My favorite response came from my seventh-grade English and journalism teacher, Roger Wallenstein, who, with his wife, Judy, owned and ran Camp Nebagamon in Lake Nebagamon, Wis., from 1988 to 2003. He noted that limiting parents to a single question is a pretty good reason not to send your children away to camp, since the decision requires a lot more thought than that. O.K., Wally, I’m clearly still learning here 30 years later! Let’s go with five essential questions then.
Where are the other children going? This is a trick question. One natural default is to send a child off with a close friend, for familiarity’s sake, preferably a friend who has already been to the camp or is following in an older sibling’s or parent’s footsteps.

But your child may not be like that other child, even if they are good friends at school. And you may not share all of the friend’s family’s values. Plus, part of the point here is for a child to meet new people.

What are the retention figures? Go deep on this one. What percentage of counselors return each summer? How does that compare with national benchmarks? What percentage of counselors were campers?

And what percentage of campers who have not aged out return each summer? Does the camp track down all those who are not returning to find out why? If not, why not? If so, why are the former campers not coming back? And what percentage of children are related to alumni, particularly ones from a previous generation? This may seem pushy, but so what? This could cost $8,000 or more. Ask away.
What can they do here that they can’t do at home? A computer lab need not be a deal breaker, but it should give you pause. One comment that has rung in my head in the 16 months since I first heard it came from Richard Deering, the alumni and community director at Camp Birch Rock in Waterford, Me. Camp should be more about soul than stuff, he said.

Jill Tipograph, who helps families choose good camps, wanders their grounds herself looking for signs of stuff. “The things most parents want their kids to shed and leave behind physically and emotionally at home,” she said by way of explanation. Fashionable clothing. Electronics. (Especially electronics.)
What are the camp-only activities that beget soul? Canoe and hiking trips are classics. All-camp, multiday games and festivals. Crafts. Doing without electricity, or air-conditioning and heated pools at least. Or walls, if the children live in tents.

What makes the camp unique? This question comes from Mr. Wallenstein, who likes it because it encompasses so many of the other questions. It ought to be easy to answer for anyone selling an experience in a competitive marketplace. But it never fails to trip up some people and places.
Ms. Tipograph suggests several alternative ways to get at this one: What values do the director or camp support daily, say through a system of recognition during meals or lineups or flag-raising when a camper helps a peer? And what does the camp specifically stand against?
Barb Levison, a camp consultant, says that directors, in particular, love to talk about their camps, or they ought to at least. So ask about their philosophy. “If they lead with better baseball skills or improved theatrical ability, it will feel very different than if they answer with thoughts about good values, respect or being a good friend,” she said. Can you tell me about the ties that bind? Not every child will make lifelong friends at every camp. Still, it’s worth asking: How many reunions take place each year or decade? Can I take a peek at the alumni Facebook page, if it’s closed to outsiders? What percentage of alumni donate to the scholarship fund? How many pictures have you received in the last year of camp friends posing at one another’s weddings, a decade or more from their last camp experience?

In the summer of 2012, I happened to be at a camp when two young adults were called forward to mark a particular occasion. The pair, who had met there years ago, had become engaged the night before. It wasn’t the first time it had happened at that camp either.
This summer, my daughter will be back there for her third session.
Ron Lieber is the Your Money columnist for The New York Times. He is the author of the forthcoming “The Opposite of Spoiled,” about parenting, money, values and raising the kinds of children all parents want to push out into the world, no matter how much money they have (Harper Collins, February, 2015). He hosts regular conversations about these topics on his Facebook page and welcomes comments here or privately, via his Web site. The Opposite of Spoiled appears on Motherlode on alternating Thursdays.
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Self Realization is a part of grown up. It's the "fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one's character or personality. As parents we all strive to help our children to be the most be their best. This is not only seen in how we value schooling but life experiences as well . It is a knowing that we are not alone that we are connected. Swift Nature Camp is one way that you give your children a head start on the right road.
Below Annie gives her thoughts.
WRITTEN BY:Annie Shultz- THE Mama Dweeb 
It is Summer camp time!!! Are you signing your children up? There is still time! What is holding you back? Some of my most treasured memories are from camp. I remember the friends, the crafts, the food, and especially learning how to be just myself, away from my family and comforts of home.
Summer camp encourages interpersonal growth in a way that few other experiences can.  When you find a Summer camp that is the perfect fit for your child and family, you can rest assured that your child will learn and grow about themselves. And they will also have fun. So much fun!
Here are 7 ways Summer camp encourages self-realization.  Share in the comments other ways you think it can help children grow and mature! 
  1. Stepping out of their comfort zone - At Summer camp, children learn how to make decisions without relying on parents or their go-to comforts. This can be incredibly empowering – or super scary. If your child is ready to experience independence, then taking them out of their routines and comfort zones creates the perfect environment for reflection and growth.
  2. Structured independence – When you find a camp that fits your child perfectly, s/he will have structure – a very important key to growing and maturing.  The boundaries of camp and the trained staff are all tools that will help build self-confidence, assertiveness, and courage in your child.
  3. Social Situations – Summer camps place kids in group situations that teaches them a plethora of social skills including team work, trust, judgement and conflict management.  There are team games, social living quarters, and various interactions that lend to this.  Some kids will learn how to work with others, some will discover parts of their personalities that don’t lend well to social situations, others will discover how much they enjoy working in groups.  Above all, this experience is unmatched in how it brings self-awareness.
  4. Team work in activities – Just like above, the activities they will partake in will teach the child how to best work as a team.  Some of my favorite memories include the cabin games – the friendly competition that helped us all work together. What is wonderful about this is the staff is trained to help the children learn about themselves and how to work through whatever is holding them back from enjoying camp and the other kids.
  5. Encouraged to be who they are by the trained staff – leaders are given the chance to lead! The staff of a camp really does make a huge difference in how much your child enjoys the experience.  A quality trained staff will notice the qualities of each individual child and do what they can to encourage them to be who they are.  Leaders will get a chance to lead, encourages to cheer them on, creators to create and thinkers to analyze.
  6. Feeds their hunger for adventure, sparks interest – At camp, kids learn what they love and what they really don’t care for (ok, what they really despise!).  I learned how much I didn’t enjoy arts and crafts at Summer camp. To this day I don’t really do them, even with my kids (oh my poor kids).  But I learned how much I loved leading team activities.  And if you find a camp that is geared to a specific interest you can help them have an even fiercer hunger to learn more about it!
  7. Emotional muscles grow and stretch –  Children are all so different- from shy to extremely extroverted.  Camp lets them grow these muscles! The trained staff will be there to talk through situations – like home sickness at night or hurt feelings from friends during the day.  As the child works through these rough patches, they will be so much wiser, stronger, and more confident the next time they encounter it.
For many years at Swift Nature Camp we have been teaching our staff to be on the look out for Mean Girls and Boy Bullies. New research says that both are areas of concern.  But what is most important is enlightening to us at camp is that one of the best ways to reduce bullying for boys or girls is to” Increasing positive interactions”. At SNC we constantly have expectations that reinforce positive interactions… The bottom line is we Believe in KINDNESS.

UGA researchers: Boys meaner than girls at school

© Copyright 2014 Henry Herald
University of Georgia professor Pamela Orpinas co-authored a new study on relational aggression which shows boys are ‘meaner’ and more manipulative than girls in school. (Photo courtesy of the UGA/Paul Efland)
 ATHENS – Researchers at the University of Georgia have confirmed what many students have probably suspected for years while simultaneously proving a Lindsay Lohan movie wrong.
Their conclusion: boys are meaner than girls at school.
Debunking the myth of the “mean girl,” new research from UGA has found that boys use relational aggression — malicious rumors, social exclusion and rejection — to harm or manipulate others more often than girls.
The longitudinal study, published online in the journalAggressive Behavior, followed a cohort of students from middle to high school and found that, at every grade level, boys engaged in relationally aggressive behavior more often than girls.
A team led by UGA Professor Pamela Orpinas analyzed data collected from 620 students randomly selected from six northeast Georgia school districts. Students who participated in the study completed yearly surveys, which allowed the UGA researchers to identify and group them in distinct trajectories for relational aggression and victimization as they progressed from grade six to 12.
“Overall, we found relational aggression to be a very common behavior. Almost all of the students surveyed, 96 percent, had passed a rumor or made a nasty comment about someone over the course of the seven-year study,” said Orpinas, a professor of health promotion and behavior in the College of Public Health.
Experiences of victimization were found to be universal as well. Over 90 percent of the students reported that they had been victims of relational aggression at least once.
The analysis found that students followed three developmental trajectories of perpetration and three similar trajectories of victimization — low, moderate and high declining (that is, very high in middle school and declining in high school).
When examining how these trajectories differed by gender, the data revealed some unexpected results. Significantly more boys than girls fell into the two higher trajectories for relational aggression perpetration, while more girls than boys fell into the two higher trajectories for victimization.
 “We have books, websites and conferences aimed at stopping girls from being aggressive, as well as a lot of qualitative research on why girls are relationally aggressive,” Orpinas said. “But oddly enough, we don’t have enough research on why boys would be relationally aggressive because people have assumed it’s a girl behavior.”
Studies on relational victimization are uncharted territory in scientific literature, Orpinas explained. Much more research is needed to understand why girls are more likely than boys to be targets of relational aggression or to perceive certain acts as aggressive.
While the study may call for more scholarship on “mean boys” and why they behave the way they do, Orpinas said, the findings ultimately emphasize a need to include boys and girls equally in programs aimed at reducing relational aggression.
“In the end, I think we need to ask how we can focus on increasing the positive interactions among kids rather than the negative ones,” she said, “because the kids that students admire are often the ones who are fun and positive about others.”

The article was co-authored by Caroline McNicholas, a doctoral student in the UGA health promotion and behavior department, and Lusine Nahapetyan, an assistant professor of kinesiology and health studies at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Recently we were wondering why our environmental program at SNC has such an impact on children. We thought it might be how we taught or because kids are with others who values nature. Then I found this article which talks about Ecoliteracy and how we can promote this among children and use these skills better at SNC.


Five Ways to Develop “Ecoliteracy”

By Daniel GolemanZenobia BarlowLisa Bennett 
Daniel Goleman, Lisa Bennett, and Zenobia Barlow explain how we can teach kids to care deeply about the environment.The following is adapted from Ecoliterate: How Educators Are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence. Ecoliterateshows how educators can extend the principles of social and emotional intelligence to include knowledge of and empathy for all living systems.
For students in a first-grade class at Park Day School in Oakland, California, the most in-depth project of their young academic careers involved several months spent transforming their classroom into an ocean habitat, ripe with coral, jellyfish, leopard sharks, octopi, and deep-sea divers (or, at least, paper facsimiles of them). Their work culminated in one special night when, suited with goggles and homemade air tanks, the boys and girls shared what they had learned with their parents. It was such a successful end to their project that several children had to be gently dragged away as bedtime approached.
Amber Antozak
By the next morning, however, something unexpected had occurred: When the students arrived at their classroom at 8:55 a.m., they found yellow caution tape blocking the entrance. Looking inside, they saw the shades drawn, the lights out, and some kind of black substance covering the birds and otters. Meeting them outside the door, their teacher, Joan Wright-Albertini, explained: “There’s been an oil spill.”
“Oh, it’s just plastic bags,” challenged a few kids, who realized that the “oil” was actually stretched-out black lawn bags. But most of the students were transfixed for several long minutes. Then, deciding that they were unsure if it was safe to enter, they went into another classroom, where Wright-Albertini read from a picture book about oil spills.
The children already knew a little bit about oil spills because of the 2010 accident in the Gulf of Mexico—but having one impact “their ocean” made it suddenly personal. They leaned forward, a few with mouths open, listening to every word. When she finished, several students asked how they could clean up their habitat. Wright-Albertini, who had anticipated the question, showed them footage of an actual cleanup—and, suddenly, they were propelled into action. Wearing gardening gloves, at one boy’s suggestion, they worked to clean up the habitat they had worked so hard to create.
Later, they joined their teacher in a circle to discuss what they learned: why it was important to take care of nature, what they could do to help, and how the experience made them feel. “It broke my heart in two,” said one girl. Wright-Albertini felt the same way. “I could have cried,” she said later. “But it was so rich a life lesson, so deeply felt.” Indeed, through the mock disaster, Wright-Albertini said she saw her students progress from loving the ocean creatures they had created to loving the ocean itself. She also observed them understand a little bit about their connection to nature and gain the knowledge that, even as six and seven year olds, they could make a difference.
It was a tender, and exquisitely planned, teachable moment that reflected what 
a growing number of educators have begun to identify as a deeply felt imperative: To foster learning that genuinely prepares young people for the ecological challenges presented by this entirely unprecedented time in human history. 
“Ecoliterate” is our shorthand for the end goal of this kind of learning, and raising ecoliterate students requires a process that we call “socially and emotionally engaged ecoliteracy”—a process that, we believe, offers an antidote to the fear, anger, and hopelessness that can result from inaction. As we saw in Wright-Albertini’s classroom, the very act of engaging in some of today’s great ecological challenges—on whatever scale is possible or appropriate—develops strength, hope, and resiliency in young people.
Ecoliteracy is founded on a new integration of emotional, social, and ecological intelligence—forms of intelligence popularized by Daniel Goleman. While social and emotional intelligence extend students’ abilities to see from another’s perspective, empathize, and show concern, ecological intelligence applies these capacities to an understanding of natural systems and melds cognitive skills with empathy for all of life. By weaving these forms of intelligence together, ecoliteracy builds on the successes—from reduced behavioral problems to increased academic achievement—of the movement in education to foster social and emotional learning. And it cultivates the knowledge, empathy, and action required for practicing sustainable living.
To help educators foster socially and emotionally engaged ecoliteracy, we have identified the following five practices. These are, of course, not the only ways to do so. But we believe that educators who cultivate these practices offer a strong foundation for becoming ecoliterate, helping themselves and their students build healthier relationships with other people and the planet. Each can be nurtured in age-appropriate ways for students, ranging from pre-kindergarten through adulthood, and help promote the cognitive and affective abilities central to the integration of emotional, social, and ecological intelligence.

1. Develop empathy for all forms of life

At a basic level, all organisms—including humans—need food, water, space, and conditions that support dynamic equilibrium to survive. By recognizing the common needs we share with all organisms, we can begin to shift our perspective from a view of humans as separate and superior to a more authentic view of humans as members of the natural world. From that perspective, we can expand our circles of empathy to consider the quality of life of other life forms, feel genuine concern about their well-being, and act on that concern.
Most young children exhibit care and compassion toward other living beings.
This is one of several indicators that human brains are wired to feel empathy and concern for other living things. Teachers can nurture this capacity to care by creating class lessons that emphasize the important roles that plants and animals play in sustaining the web of life. Empathy also can be developed through direct contact with other living things, such as by keeping live plants and animals in the classroom; taking field trips to nature areas, zoos, botanical gardens, and animal rescue centers; and involving students in field projects such as habitat restoration. 
Another way teachers can help develop empathy for other forms of life is by studying indigenous cultures. From early Australian Aboriginal culture to the Gwich’in First Nation in the Arctic Circle, traditional societies have viewed themselves as intimately connected to plants, animals, the land, and the cycles of life. This worldview of interdependence guides daily living and has helped these societies survive, frequently in delicate ecosystems, for thousands of years. By focusing on their relationship with their surroundings, students learn how a society lives when it values other forms of life.

2. Embrace sustainability as a community practice

Organisms do not survive in isolation. Instead, the web of relationships within any living community determines its collective ability to survive and thrive.
This essay is adapted from Ecoliterate: How Educators Are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence (Jossey-Bass), which draws on the work of the Center for Ecoliteracy.
By learning about the wondrous ways that plants, animals, and other living things are interdependent, students are inspired to consider the role of interconnectedness within their communities and see the value in strengthening those relationships by thinking and acting cooperatively.
The notion of sustainability as a community practice, however, embodies some characteristics that fall outside most schools’ definitions of themselves as a “com- munity,” yet these elements are essential to building ecoliteracy. For example, by examining how their community provisions itself—from school food to energy use—students can contemplate whether their everyday practices value the common good. 
Other students might follow the approach taken by a group of high school students in New Orleans known as the “Rethinkers,” who gathered data about the sources of their energy and the amount they used and then surveyed their peers by asking, “How might we change the way we use energy so that we are more resilient and reduce the negative impacts on people, other living beings, and the planet?” As the Rethinkers have shown, these projects can give students the opportunity to start building a community that values diverse perspectives, the common good, a strong network of relationships, and resiliency.

3. Make the invisible visible

Historically—and for some cultures still in existence today—the path between
a decision and its consequences was short and visible. If a homesteading family cleared their land of trees, for example, they might soon experience flooding, soil erosion, a lack of shade, and a huge decrease in biodiversity. 
But the global economy has created blinders that shield many of us from experiencing the far-reaching implications of our actions. As we have increased our use of fossil fuels, for instance, it has been difficult (and remains difficult for many people) to believe that we are disrupting something on the magnitude of the Earth’s climate. Although some places on the planet are beginning to see evidence of climate change, most of us experience no changes. We may notice unusual weather, but daily weather is not the same as climate disruption over time.
If we strive to develop ways of living that are more life-affirming, we must find ways to make visible the things that seem invisible.
Educators can help through a number of strategies. They can use phenomenal web-based tools, such as Google Earth, to enable students to “travel” virtually and view the landscape in other regions and countries. They can also introduce students to technological applications such as GoodGuide and Fooducate, which cull from a great deal of research and “package” it in easy-to-understand formats that reveal the impact of certain household products on our health, the environment, and social justice. Through social networking websites, students can also communicate directly with citizens of distant areas and learn firsthand what the others are experiencing that is invisible to most students. Finally, in some cases, teachers can organize field trips to directly observe places that have been quietly devastated as part of the system that provides most of us with energy.

4. Anticipate unintended consequences

Many of the environmental crises that we face today are the unintended consequences of human behavior. For example, we have experienced many unintended but grave consequences of developing the technological ability to access, produce, and use fossil fuels. These new technological capacities have been largely viewed as progress for our society. Only recently has the public become aware of the downsides of our dependency on fossil fuels, such as pollution, suburban sprawl, international conflicts, and climate change.
Teachers can teach students a couple of noteworthy strategies for anticipating unintended consequences. One strategy—the precautionary principle—can be boiled down to this basic message: When an activity threatens to have a damaging impact on the environment or human health, precautionary actions should be taken regardless
of whether a cause-and-effect relationship has been scientifically confirmed. Historically, to impose restrictions on new products, technologies, or practices, the people concerned about possible negative impacts were expected to prove scientifically that harm would result from them. By contrast, the precautionary principle (which is now in effect in many countries and in some places in the United States) places the burden of proof on the producers to demonstrate harmlessness and accept responsibility should harm occur.
Another strategy is to shift from analyzing a problem by reducing it to its isolated components, to adopting a systems thinking perspective that examines the connections and relationships among
the various components of the problem. Students who can apply systems thinking are usually better at predicting possible consequences of a seemingly small change to one part of the system that can potentially affect the entire system. One easy method for looking at a problem systemically is by mapping it and all of its components and interconnections. It is then easier to grasp the complexity of our decisions and foresee possible implications.
Finally, no matter how adept we are at applying the precautionary principle
and systems thinking, we will still encounter unanticipated consequences of our actions. Building resiliency—for example, by moving away from mono-crop agriculture or by creating local, less centralized food systems or energy networks—is another important strategy for survival in these circumstances. We can turn
to nature and find that the capacity of natural communities to rebound from unintended consequences is vital to survival.

5. Understand how nature sustains life

Ecoliterate people recognize that nature has sustained life for eons; as a result, they have turned to nature as their teacher and learned several crucial tenets. Three of those tenets are particularly imperative to ecoliterate living.
First of all, ecoliterate people have learned from nature that all living organisms are members of a complex, interconnected web of life and that those members inhabiting a particular place depend upon their interconnectedness for survival. Teachers can foster an understanding of the diverse web of relationships within a location by having students study that location as a system.
Second, ecoliterate people tend to be more aware that systems exist on various levels of scale. In nature, organisms are members of systems nested within other systems, from the micro-level to the macro-level. Each level supports the others to sustain life. When students begin to understand the intricate interplay of relation- ships that sustain an ecosystem, they can better appreciate the implications for survival that even a small disturbance may have, or the importance of strengthening relationships that help a system respond to disturbances.
Finally, ecoliterate people collectively practice a way of life that fulfills the needs of the present generation while simultaneously supporting nature’s inherent ability to sustain life into the future. They have learned from nature that members of a healthy ecosystem do not abuse the resources they need in order to survive. They have also learned from nature to take only what they need and to adjust their behavior in times of boom or bust. This requires that students learn to take a long view when making decisions about how to live.
These five practices, developed by the Berkeley-based Center for Ecoliteracy, offer guideposts to exciting, meaningful, and deeply relevant education that builds on social and emotional learning skills. They can also plant the seeds for a positive relationship with the natural world that can sustain a young person’s interest and involvement for a lifetime.

Posted by Jud Millar
It's the time of year when we all take time to reflect on all the things in our lives we have to be thankful for. This may include being grateful family, health, friends, and the little things in life that make every day better.  In the following article, Stephanie and Mitch Reiter explore all the things that families and parents appreciate summer camp!
Many parents ask us about the benefits of sleep away camp, how much they can expect their child to grow and mature in a summer, and whether the changes will last beyond August.
Any veteran camp parent will tell you that camp is not just good for the child, but it's good for the family! If you are a new parent considering camp for the first time, or nervous about whether your child is really ready, we wanted to share some of the changes you can expect after just one summer away from home! It's amazing what seven weeks will do. We of course notice the change in our campers, but we love getting dozens of letters from first-time families who want to know "What's in the bug juice, because we can't believe this is our kid!?"
Here's some of what you can expect even after just one summer at camp.

1. A willingness to try new things

They say the magic happens when you are pushed outside your comfort zone. And that is why they say camp is a magical place. There are activities kids LOVE and activities that may not be "their thing." There is food that they can't wait to eat (pizza day!) and meals that they can't stand to see on the table. Because campers live and operate as a group, they learn to accept their differences, try new tastes and experiences, and learn they may actually like them! One mom shared that her picky-eater used to only eat plain bagels, plain penne pasta, pizza from a particular shop, salad and Hershey Bars. Seven weeks later, she can give him waffles for breakfast (hey -- they have protein), any shape of pasta, any kind of pizza, and whole apples -- not peeled and cut up in slices. She was also amused by his expanded choices at 7-11 (which is like the canteen at home), including Milky Way, Twix and Mug Root Beer. Now while that may sound like a sugary mess... you have to realize that this child seriously expanded his taste palette, made independent choices and may just be ready for Sloppy Joes next summer!
When children experience the reward of trying new things, it makes them want to try more. So many campers look at our climbing wall, and shiver at the thought of reaching the top. After a few weeks of watching their friends and being cheered on by their counselors, most of them will give it a go! The rush and excitement of making it half way, or climbing to the top, or even better, getting to ride down the zip line, is so exhilarating... it makes them more open to trying new things in the future.
What parents are thankful for: Less time spent as short order cook; more time planning new and exciting activities for your child.

2. Pride in taking care of themselves

For seven weeks our campers actually brush their teeth (at least before Visiting Day!), comb their hair, shower and dress themselves. All of these things involve surprisingly very few reminders, negotiating and reluctance. Why? Because they know it's on them to get it done and "everybody is doing it." They also live in close quarters and recognize that good hygiene is important and socially necessary. What a realization! Without mom or dad there to nag them into these responsibilities, it's on them to stay clean and look presentable. Of course there is a learning curve for our younger campers to successfully care for themselves. But once they get it, they feel good to know they can do it themselves! When they come home from camp, they actually find it FUN and empowering!
What parents are thankful for:Shower hour for them is now rest hour for you!

3. Respect for their home and family

We talk a lot about the magic of camp, but we also know there is the magic of home. It's a different kind of magic. The kind where kids drop their dirty clothes on the floor and they magically disappear. The kind where dirty dishes are left on the kitchen table and poof they get cleaned. Does this sound like your home? At camp, nothing magically disappears. Campers are responsible for clearing and stacking their plates, recycling, cleaning their bunk, organizing their belongings, folding their clothes and making their beds. They are held to standards during inspection and feel pressure from their camp family (aka their bunkmates) to uphold their responsibilities. If not, there are consequences. No one wants to let down his or her bunk.
There is also a deeper love between siblings at camp. If your kids are together at camp, they feel more connected in taking care of each other while mom and dad aren't there. Even a couple minutes of sibling time a day at camp increases their love and respect for each other. New campers also enjoy feeling looked after by their camp big brother or sister, and they are more likely to pay those actions forward to their siblings at home. They have a deeper appreciation of what it means to be a big brother or sister.
What parents are thankful for: A child who contributes to the overall tidiness and order of your home. They also may walk their sibling to class, check on them during the day or read them a book at night. And it costs you nothing...unless you want to reward them with allowance!

4. Appreciation for rest time

One of the reasons so many parents say they can't wait for camp is that their child will be unplugged for seven weeks. At camp we are 100 percent disconnected from technology and 100 percent connected to each other. Rest time doesn't equal playing on the iPad, DS or watching television. When your camper comes home, you will be amazed at the activities they gravitate towards during down time. New hobbies like reading, playing cards, making bracelets, writing in a journal, playing ball are a refreshing change for you and them.
What parents are thankful for: Good old-fashioned fun like the old days, such as family game night, bringing a deck of cards to dinner (instead of the iPad) and maybe even a love for books. Imagine a world where you don't have to nag your child to read? Also, your child may enjoy more quiet time in their room... an escape from the hustle of daily life.

5. Awareness and connection to life around them

A few months ago there was a powerful viral video called "Look Up". It was a harsh reminder that many of us (and our children) spend our time looking down at our devices, texting, watching videos, hiding behind technology and living disconnected with our world. At camp we always look up. We look into each other's eyes. Our hands are free for holding, playing and creating. At camp we connect. We are plugged into life. We live in the moment.
Kids learn to really listen to each other at camp. They understand what moves them, what scares them and what it means to be a true friend. They learn the implications of their actions on others, how to resolve differences, how to lead and how to be a part of a group. Because they are forced to live in a bunk with the same people for seven weeks, they understand it's not all about them anymore.
What parents are thankful for: A better child. A better son or daughter. A better sister or brother. A better friend. A better student. A better community member. A better teammate.
And all of that growing can come from just one summer at camp! Imagine what your camper will be like after two summers, five summers, ten summers!? There really are a lot of benefits of summer camp.  Talk about potential!


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