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Camp 2 Grow: Nurturing the Environment and Each Other Through the Camp Experience
One of the greatest issues our children will have to contend with is the environment, and what we are doing collectively to safeguard nature for future generations. How are we addressing global warming, pollution, or the carbon footprints we're leaving behind for our kids? What about education? Are we teaching our kids to navigate standardized tests in lieu of teaching the critical-thinking and leadership skills that will prepare them for the future? And what about the connection between nature and education? Are we paying it enough attention — using it to our kids' advantage? Perhaps not nearly enough, but camp can help change that.
Any camp experience that gets our kids in touch with the natural world is a valuable one. One that helps sharpen the senses and quiet the mind enough for children to really process what's going on around them. Even better, last year the American Camp Association partnered with the National FFA organization to customize the FFA's LifeKnowledge® Youth Leadership Curriculum for the camp community and launch Camp 2 Grow. This leadership and environmental stewardship program, funded by a Lilly Endowment Inc. grant, is geared toward middle and high school-aged campers. It focuses on activities specifically designed to develop skills for leadership, personal growth, and civic engagement. The program further gives participating campers a framework for using their newfound skills to "pay it forward," and be good stewards of the environment in their camps, homes, and communities. Camp 2 Grow teaches kids what it means to nurture each other and be respectful of the natural world. In other words, it fosters good citizenship all the way around.
ACA's observations from the pilot year of Camp 2 Grow show that youth in the program learn valuable lessons that directly translate into ongoing, positive life skills in the areas of teamwork, responsibility, friendship, community citizenship, independence, and social problem-solving. Need proof? A group of Camp 2 Grow participants from a handful of camps, ranging in age from eleven to fifteen, was asked to reflect on what they learned. Their answers spoke volumes about the value of the program and their camp experience, in general.
On leadership: One camper said, "It means stepping up to the plate whenever and wherever you are needed."
On communication: A participant said, "When a problem occurs, we learn to be polite about how we solve it." To this idea another camper added, "…you will get farther and more often get the results desired if you communicate well." Quite a change from the stilted communication of the texting world so many of our children are in danger of becoming slaves to.
On responsibility: A Camp 2 Grow camper said, "Responsibility will remind me constantly that the way my life is going is nobody's fault but mine."
On caring for the environment: One camper put it best, saying with new awareness, "Everything we do affects the environment."
It is ACA's wish that the Camp 2 Grow program will continue to thrive — that campers will continue to gain the knowledge needed to mold them into our leaders of tomorrow, and forge a new path to protecting all the treasures our natural world and communities have to offer.
For more information on the Camp 2 Grow program, visit www.ACAcamps.org/camp2grow.