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The Camp Experience

Opportunities for summer learning gains

The Camp Experience
March 2013

Much has been said about the effects of summer learning loss on the academic achievement of our children. How can we not only stem this learning loss, but actually make summer learning gains? Many of today's experts agree that skills gained at summer Camp — engagement, curiosity and stick-to-itiveness — are vital to a child's success.

In a recent interview, Madeline Levine, PhD, author of Teach Your Children Well, revealed that "Engagement with learning is the best predictor of academic success. You want kids who care, who are interested, who have fun, and who look forward to learning. I think camp is the ideal environment for allowing that engagement to unfold" (American Camp Association, 2013b). Camp teaches children to love learning by allowing them to explore their curiosities and think critically in a hands-on environment.

Engagement with learning might predict future career success for our children as well. As Thomas Friedman, author of The World Is Flat, wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed, those with successful careers in the future will need skills that cannot be replaced by our ever-advancing technology. In other words, according to Friedman, "The winners [in the future job market] won't just be those with more I.Q. It will also be those with more P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient) to leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime" (2013).

To learn for a lifetime, to innovate in the face of changing technology as Friedman suggests, one must be willing to make mistakes. Says Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed, "[Children] need to learn how to fail in a productive way — that failures are real and we don't all win every game, but that failures are not a disaster. Instead, they are often important stepping stones on the path to success" (American Camp Association, 2013a). At camp, children take risks, make mistakes, learn about community, fail and succeed in a nurturing environment.

I find it interesting that, indirectly, each expert — Levine, Friedman and Tough — is calling for the "learning and innovation skills" proposed by Partnership for 21st Century Skills — critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity (2011). These skills are thought to be requirements for success in the 21st century. With this in mind, I see that camp is critical for our children — to boost summer learning and become tomorrow's leaders.


American Camp Association. (2013a). Camp and character: An interview with Paul Tough. Camping Magazine, 86(2).

American Camp Association. (2013b). The value of camp experiences today: An interview with Madeline Levine. Camping Magazine, 86(1).

Friedman, T. (2013 January 29). It's P.Q. and C.Q. as much as I.Q. The New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html?ref=thomaslfriedman&_r=0

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2011). Framework for 21st century learning. Retrieved from www.p21.org/overview

With nearly three decades of experience as a change agent in youth development and transformation, Peg L. Smith is the chief executive officer of the American Camp Association® (ACA). ACA is the champion of better tomorrows — providing resources, research, and support for developmentally appropriate camp experiences. Learn more at www.CampParents.org or www.ACAcamps.org

Tags: Camp, In This Issue, Parenting

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