MARTINSVILLE, Ind. – The national organizationthat accredits summer youth camps, the American CampingAssociation (ACA), firmly believes in the value of year-roundlearning for children. It’s year-round schooling that has many inthe organization concerned.
“It is a complex issue facing the child andyouth development profession,” states Peg L. Smith, ACA’sexecutive director. “However, the time has come to bringtogether two great American traditions – public school andorganized camping – to create a new model for learning.”
Year-round schooling typically involves arestructuring of the traditional 180 day, nine-month schoolCalendar to provide the same number of academic instructional daysin 12 months. According to ACA, this approach fails to address thetotal social, emotional, psychological and spiritual developmentof a child and the concept of improved learning is absent.
Year-round learning, on the other hand,emphasizes the process through which educational development takesplace. It is as much about academics as it is about experience. Asan adjunct to the 180 days spent in a formal classroom, year-roundlearning adds time spent in a non-traditional learningenvironment, such as camp, to practically demonstrate the use ofknowledge and behavior. In addition to applying skills learned inschool, children acquire skills that will help make themproductive and healthy adults, such as self-confidence and teambuilding skills.
Youth development research conducted by theSearch Institute, Minneapolis, supports ACA’s position. Aftersurveying thousands of children, the Search Institute identified40 “developmental assets” that, ideally, each youngperson should experience every day. According to Dr. Peter Scales,senior fellow with the Search Institute, “The biggest plus ofcamp is that camps help young people discover and explore theirtalents, interests, and values. Most schools don’t satisfy allthese needs. Kids who have had these kinds of (camp) experiencesend up being healthier and have less problems.”
Already, the nation’s largest school district isputting year-round learning to the test. In July 1998, the NewYork City Board of Education inaugurated Break-Aways: Partnershipfor Year-Round Learning. This unprecedented public school systemreform adds up to 28 extra days of non-traditional academicprogramming to the regular school year. In a structured,supportive camp environment, students and teachers engage in athree-hour literacy based academic component, as well as severalhours of traditional camp activities, such as hiking, archery andarts and crafts. According to the pilot proposal, “at theheart of the program is the belief that young people will meet thehighest level of achievement if they continue the learning processin substantive ways during the summer and school-yearbreaks.”
Founded in 1910, the American CampingAssociation is a national community of camp professionals and isdedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults throughthe camp experience. ACA recognizes the camp experience as asignificant contributor to positive child and youth development.In addition, it is the only organization that accredits all typesof camps based on 300 standards for health, safety and programquality. ACA encourages camps which serve communities that haveadopted year-round schooling to work with the school district tohelp meet the educational and developmental needs children havethrough camp experiences. For more information, visit their website www.ACAcamps.orgor call 1-800-428-CAMP.