Why a Good Summer Camp Experience Matters for Your Child’s Development

Why a Good Summer Camp Experience Matters for Your Child’s Development

As we approach the end of the school year and finalize plans for our children’s summer, I would like to share my perspective on the importance of a good summer camp experience.

 

As an elementary school principal at Blue Mountain Wild School, I see firsthand the effects of our student’s lengthy time away from school. Every September, our students return slightly below the academic level they achieved before the summer, with some students worse off than others. This phenomenon, known as the “summer slide” or “summer learning loss,” refers to the regression in literacy and mathematics skills over the two-month summer break and is quite common across North America.

 

A landmark 1996 review of summer slide research found that students can forget up to one month of learning over the summer break. Over the 12 years that Canadian students attend school, this equates to spending 12 months simply relearning forgotten skills. Canada has one of the longest summer breaks in the world, a throwback to when hot, one-room brick school buildings were intolerable during the summer months and children were also needed on the farm.

 

These are critical years in our children’s development; indeed, the ages of 9 to 14 represent the second largest brain growth period in a human’s life.  This is an opportunity to literally ‘root’ a variety of behaviours and skills for life.  A small subset of pioneering schools acrossCanada have introduced “balanced” calendars, shortening summer vacation in exchange for longer spring and Christmas breaks. At Wild School, we are considering a similar approach. If school is fun and physically engaging, as it is at Wild School, why not continue over the summer months? However, in the meantime, there is summer camp.

 

We are fortunate to have many summer camps in our area, ranging from mountain biking to art-focused programs. While fun is abundant at these camps, what is also critical is a focus on skills development.Fun is easy and essential, but it is possible to have your cake and eat it too.In other words, you can and should have a fun as well as an enriching summer camp experience. Regardless of their focus, the key aspect of any camp should be on skill development to keep the brain sharp and mitigate some of the effects of the summer slide. Camps should be more than just daycare; they should provide opportunities for social and mental development. Ideally, camps would incorporate elements of numeracy and literacy, but above all, they should offer learning and development opportunities. They should push students out of their comfort zones and open their horizons, providing them with greater perspective and confidence.

 

At Wild Camp, we have designed a multi-faceted, curriculum-based program that exposes campers to a variety of adventure sports and skills while ensuring a meaningful, productive, and fun experience. Wild Camp serves as a gateway for young explorers to immerse themselves in nature, fostering a love for the outdoors while developing self-confidence. We creatively incorporate academics through activities such as making field journals, orienteering (lots of math!), and STEM-based problem-solving—bridge building anyone!?  Our skills-based merit badge program allows campers to progress through the learning of a myriad of opportunities from canoeing to mountain biking, botany to orienteering. And our students have a ton of fun learning. Wild School stands as a testament that learning can be fun and in fact it's far more powerful and impactful if it is. Learn more about our program at http://www.wildschool.ca.  

 

So, if you haven’t already, book a summer camp experience for your child, but choose your camp wisely as not all camps are created equal and give your child the gift of continued brain development this summer!

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