Living in the Moment at Sleepaway Camp
Did you know that meaningful learning takes place at summer camp? There may be no books, no homework, no studying, and no teachers. But that doesn’t mean kids aren’t learning life skills as they unplug, connect with others, pick up new skills, develop confidence, and just have plain old outdoor fun. Rest assured, campers are learning something new every hour of every day at camp, even if they don’t realize it!
No matter your camper’s age, just being away from home, making new friends, and trying new things are essential building blocks for developing and honing crucial social-emotional skills. Experts agree that children who develop high social-emotional learning (SEL) skills are more likely to be successful in school and in their professional lives later in life. SEL skills are not always present in the classroom at school. The drive to complete curriculum and boost student achievement often makes it difficult for teachers to prioritize community building or problem-solving in the classroom.
Summer camps (particularly sleepaway camps), on the other hand, are the perfect place for kids to dive head-first into social-emotional learning. According to the American Camp Association (ACA), there is significant growth in children’s social-emotional skills after just a single session of summer camp. Camp staff, parents, and children reported increases in children’s self-esteem, independence, leadership, friendship skills, social comfort, and values and decision-making skills, from the beginning to the end of a session.
Here at Catalina Island Camps’, a Southern California sleepaway camp, our mission has an intentional focus on social-emotional learning, as we cultivate respect for self, others, and the environment. Our camp counselors are experts at coaching kids to become more independent, socially aware, and reflective.
CIC fosters relationship skills and social awareness by:
Introducing campers to diverse, new groups of peers.
Camp is likely the first time most kids have spent significant time with people whose background — home, race, or religion — is different from their own. This helps prepare kids for life in the world, well after camp ends.
Creating a space where it is okay to just be silly.
Camp counselors contagiously encourage songs, jokes, and general silliness that allow campers to relax and be themselves.
Technology takes a holiday.
Without phones, computers, or other electronics, campers are challenged to make friends and new connections without the help of social media or microchips, equipping them to learn how to navigate social cues to build and maintain friendships in “real life.”
Teamwork and sportsmanship set the pace.
Counselors at CIC are trained to foster cooperation and friendship between campers and to model those behaviors with each other. When campers are surrounded by positive role models, they learn how to get along with peers, including those who may be different from themselves.
Giving kids the skills to solve day-to-day problems on their own.
With appropriate input from counselors, campers are empowered to manage their own conflicts.
Offering kids the chance to set and accomplish daily goals.
The introduction of new activities makes it possible for campers of all ages to set and achieve goals, deepening their understanding of personal limits. One day a camper may be set on reaching the top of the climbing wall, and the next she may be determined to muster the courage to perform a song at a camp-wide talent show.
Helping kids uncover new interests and skills.
Kids who are usually swamped with homework may become aware of new skills or interests that only camp can reveal. For many campers, these opportunities are invaluable when it comes to increasing self-confidence.
Providing time for reflection.
In addition to all the activities at camp, there are also natural opportunities for reflection and introspection, allowing campers to consider the challenges they’ve faced, how they’ve grown, and what they’re excited to try tomorrow, or next year when they come back to camp a year older and wiser. These moments, rare in a typical school day, are critical to developing self-awareness and mindfulness.