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Summer camps: Sign up to build a foundation for learning, fun, future

Summer camp helps promote learning skills that will stay with a child.
Summer camp helps promote learning skills that will stay with a child. Observer fil photo

Summer break is just a few months away for tens of thousands of area students, and many parents are planning how to fill those long summer days for their children.

Whether your child needs full-time summer care, or just wants try out a new hobby or learn more about an existing one, there’s sure to be a camp or class to match.

While kids view summer camps and classes as great fun, experts say summer adventures also play an important role in a child’s intellectual and emotional development.

Camp is a really wonderful place to promote 21st century learning skills of communication, creativity, collaboration and conflict resolution. I would also add the skill of contribution to that list — giving more than you receive.

Tom Rosenburg, American Camp Association

When school is out, regular classroom routines – including engaging in regular reading, writing and math – is suspended until the bell rings again in August.

Kristen Beach, associate professor with UNC Charlotte’s Department of Special Education and Child Development, says if a child doesn’t practice academic skills over summer break, those skills will start to fade.

“As students are learning new skills and strategies in reading and math during the academic year, if they aren’t continuing to practice those skills, they will have to relearn them when they go back to school,” Beach said.

“In sports you practice during the season and get better and better. But when you stop, you lose some of your skills and have to remember and relearn how to make that basket or score that goal. It’s the same in the classroom. You have to spend time remediating instead of growing during the first couple months of school.”

Beach says if parents are interested in supporting their child's reading over summer, regardless of whether they attend a camp, they should encourage reading by helping their child select books that are within his or her reading level and finding books that interest them. Ask the teacher for your child’s reading level at the end of the year if you are not sure.

“It’s all about having access to books, people to read with, and enrichment activities over the summer,” Beach said.

Digital and media literacy begins with the ability to access and navigate the vast information available to us on the Internet. However, digital citizens will need to be able to create and interact with that information as well.

John A. McArthur, James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University

Summer is also a great time to help improve your child’s digital literacy. Even though they may to know more about computers than you do and spend great amounts of time on their electronic devices, John A. McAr thur, associate professor in the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University, says that doesn’t necessarily mean they are digitally literate.

“Digital and media literacy begins with the ability to access and navigate the vast information available to us on the Internet. However, digital citizens will need to be able to create and interact with that information as well,” McArthur said.

“In an age of digital gaming, we can learn not only how to play well, but also how to problem solve, troubleshoot and design games of our own. Instead of simply watching and consuming digital videos, we can learn the steps to conceptualize, script, shoot and edit videos on our own devices.”

There are a number of summer camps and classes designed to help reinforce reading and math skills and increase digital literacy, but your children will likely be having so much fun, they won’t realize they are learning.

In addition to being prepared for the next school year and becoming savvy digital citizens, Tom Rosenburg, president and CEO of the American Camp Association, says summer camp helps promote learning skills that will stay with a child long after the last camp fire is extinguished.

“Camp is a really wonderful place to promote 21st century learning skills of communication, creativity, collaboration and conflict resolution. I would also add the skill of contribution to that list — giving more than you receive,” Rosenburg said.

“These learning skills are super powerful. They are real tools that kids can use for the rest of their lives.”

Rosenburg says many traditional camps have incorporated STEM (science, technology, engi neering and math) and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activities into the curriculum so children are not only reaping the benefits of being outdoors, they are growing academically as well.

“Camp provides unique learning opportunities that kids don’t have in a classroom situation in school. It is considerably less structured than most schools. There are more choices and more opportunities to interact with peers,” Rosenburg said.

“My dream is that each kid gets to go to a week of residential or day camp each year where they get a chance to really communicate, develop friendships, learn to share and learn to listen. I encourage parents to try to find a time in their children’s young lives to send them to camp.”

Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: m.johnston@carolina.rr.com

Find a camp

Summer break is just a few months away and now is the time to enroll your children.

To help your search in finding the perfect camp or class, the Charlotte Observer has created an online Summer Camp database that lists summer camps and classes offered throughout the area. The directory may be found at www.charlotteobserver.com/living/article136999808.html.

Camp sponsors will be adding classes and camps to the database. The database will remain open and accessible through May.

Here’s how to enter a summer camp offering into the database

Want to add your camp or class to the Charlotte Observer’s online camp database? Go to https://tinyurl.com/ObserverCampsEntry2017 and enter the requested information. The directory will remain open to new camp submissions and be updated every Wednesday through May. Visitors to the published database site will be able to search by category, age, date or ZIP code to find the camp or class that matches their criteria.

Questions to ask

Tom Rosenburg, president and CEO of the American Camp Association, suggests you ask some questions:

▪ Is the camp accredited by the American Camp Association?

▪ What is the camp’s philosophy?

▪ What is the camper to counselor ratio?

▪  How is staff selected? How old are counselors? What training do they have?

▪ How is homesickness handled?

▪  Are scholarships available? Rosenburg says 93% of ACA accredited camps offer scholarship opportunities based on the parent’s ability to pay.

For information visit www.acacamps.

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