Scott’s Presentation About 21st Century Skills To Camp Directors

As you may have read in Monday’s blog, the Camp Office was at the Tri-State Camp Conference in Atlantic City last week. Tri-State is the largest annual gathering of summer camp professionals in the world. It brings together speakers and thought leaders from the camp industry, academia, and the private and public sectors, for the purpose of sharing the latest ideas on everything from child development to programming to how best train and supervise staff. It’s quite an event. 

This year three members of the K&E team were featured speakers at the conference. Our Program Director David Walsh gave a presentation on techniques for integrating support staff (kitchen staff, maintenance and housekeeping staff) into a larger camp community. David is very passionate about making sure that everyone on campus knows that they are a welcome and included member of the Camp community, and he was eager to share his ideas with other camp professionals. 

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I ran a two-part series about one of my passions: helping to create a true sense of partnership between the Camp leadership team and our parents. This camp/parent partnership is the foundation for the entire K&E experience. Our mission is to provide the most developmentally impactful experience possible to our campers, and we try to extend that far beyond the 7 weeks of the summer. Throughout the year we post the latest research on child development, sports coaching, family dynamics, 21st century skills, peanut, tree nut and other allergies, and the impact of technology on the brain. As part of our parent parternship, and as hands-on camp directors, we are also happy to share any unique insights we have gained about our campers. We strive to build an independent, nuanced understanding of each of our campers. My sessions detailed how we do that each and every summer, and why it is so fundamental to the outcomes that we try to generate in our community. 

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Scott also gave a two-part presentation at the Tri-State Conference to what is called the VOCE group. These are the most seasoned, experienced camp owners and operators in our industry. Not surprisingly, his focused on helping other camp professionals understand why teaching 21st century skills at summer camp is so important to children, but also camps, themselves. He framed his talk with a very basic concept: what keeps parents up at night?

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And what keeps us all up at night are questions that are fairly ubiquitous for every American household: will my child grow up to be happy; will my child find academic and career success; will my child grow to become a good person? These questions comprise the constellation of anxieties modern parents live with, especially in such a rapidly changing society. How do you know that you are giving your child the tools and experiences necessary to prepare them for a world that already looks so different from the one in which we were raised?

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Scott presented a great deal of cutting-edge research and analysis, including the findings from P21.org. P21 is comprised of some of the biggest and most forward thinking employers in the nation, including Apple, Lego, CISCO, Intel and Ford. It’s purpose is to identify the skills which businesses most desire or require in their employees, and then find the institutions that best teach them. Below are the top 10 skills that these prominent organizations report wanting in their employees. 

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These attributes are not just what human resource departments desire. They also report them to be regularly missing from their applicants, especially those straight out of college. We are producing a workforce with a skills gap in what are called non-cognitive skills (also known as 21st century skills). It’s fascinating that so few of the crucial top 10 skills listed by employers include things like math and science. Those are clearly important, but place lower in their estimation than the ability to effectively communicate, collaborate in a group, and see projects through until completion. 

Amazingly, most of the top ten skills these employers are seeking are exactly what quality summer camps teach. Simply by living in a cabin away from home, participating in activities like team sports, theater productions and campfires, campers become more skilled at their oral communication, teamwork and collaboration, leadership, and learning to be an ethical person. At a full season summer camp, as you work on long term projects like making a movie, being on a traveling team, passing through swim levels, or living with the same people for 7 weeks, you also have a chance to become more adept at things like developing a work ethic, critical thinking and problem solving, and adapting to changing situations. These are the valuable life skills that every good camp is teaching, even if they aren’t aware of it. 

Scott took this idea further in his presentation to the VOCE group. He put forth the notion that by making 21st century skill building an intentional part of our programs, camps throughout the nation have the chance to help millions of children not just be better prepared for their future, but to have a competitive advantage over their peers. And what parent doesn’t want to provide their child with the tools to be a leader and innovator amongst their peers? 

Later this week Scott and I will be traveling to Washington, DC, where he will be presenting more of his ideas and analysis about how camps have the potential to help fill in the 21st century skills gap. He will also be discussing why summer camps are such a fabulous learning laboratory, especially for deeper learning and knowledge transfer. I look forward to sharing more about this fascinating topic with you in the coming days! 

Camps Kenwood and Evergreen is a 7-week brother-sister summer camp in Wilmot, New Hampshire. Through our innovative program we use traditional camper activities like sports, arts and swimming to teach campers vital 21st century skills like leadership, resilience and independence. 

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is Redefining Summer Enrichment