Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer Camp Learning

Did you ever go to summer camp as a kid? Do your children now go to summer camps? Most camp experiences are fun and kids learn a lot. I often wonder why school can't be more like camp. Sometimes schools offer activities that are camp-like, for example, field trips and assemblies. Some schools even send their older students away to camp. But, more often than not, school just doesn't feel like camp.
What is it about summer camp that can be so great for kids? Often it involves choice - students decide what camp they want to attend, or what activities they want to do during the day. Camp is all about meeting new friends, learning about their interests, getting to know them better. Camp usually involves learning cool stuff in interesting, hands-on ways. At camp, kids sometimes go out of their comfort zones and take risks they don't normally take. Kids usually work in teams to achieve goals at camp. Kids sing at camp, and make lots of art projects. There is no homework at camp. There are no standardized tests or grades at camp. Camp is fun!
Why can't school be more like summer camp? It can be. Some schools are more like summer camp. I just read a book called, "A Good Little School" by Carole G. Basile about a school in Colorado called Jefferson County Open School. To order, here's the link: .

At this school teachers focus on three domains of their students - personal, social, and intellectual. This is a different approach from many schools that focus primarily on the intellectual, academic aspect of school, i.e., filling our students up with knowledge.
The goals of Jefferson County School are:
1. to re/discover the joy of learning
2. to seek meaning in life
3. to deal with what is
4. to prepare for what will be
5. to create the world that ought to be
How do they do this? They put students of different ages together for several years (K-2, 3-6, 7-8, 9-12), all students have advisors who follow their progress, students have a lot of personal choice in their learning, much of the learning is self-directed, students become a part of their community, all students have I.E.P.'s (individualized education plans), the focus is on global citizenship instead of global competition, teachers use portfolios instead of testing and grades. 
I believe that even if most schools are not exactly like this school, teachers, administrators and parents can work together to bring many aspects of this type of school and the joy of summer camp learning into our classrooms. Do you know of any other schools that are accomplishing this? If so, please leave a comment below because I'd like to learn about them.


  1. Love it! You wouldn't believe how many former High/Scope campers (and staff) I've connected with on facebook. They are coming out of the woodwork, almost daily, and many with powerful stories about camp.

    It's kind of amazing that any institution focused on learning would try to isolate cognitive development from social, emotional, physical, moral dev., but it's obviously happing all over the place, all the time. And to the credit of schools and teachers, it's happening mostly because of the accountability structures we've set up...

  2. You know it's so funny Kerry. You read my mind. The other day someone asked me why I was not a teacher (following one of our Tree Climb tours) and I said I would IF or WHEN we could figure out how to put school in the's our aim at Nueva Hoja School but we're still stuck in the books there too. I'm glad educators see this light and are moving towards it. Thanks for blazing the trail!

  3. thanks for the camp for the children, summer camp is very important for the child's health and entertainment.