I recently read a great New York Times article. where author Barbara Rowley asks a great question- why can’t school be more like summer camp?
I can totally relate to this article. At Huawni, we definitely have kids that get “camp sickness” when they leave and they immediately begin to count down the days until camp next summer.
Camp Huawni is an outdoor summer camp established in 1965 by my grandparents, Earl and Retha Adams. Both had a passion for teaching, and Daddy Earl served as a teacher, coach, principle, and eventually superintendant in the Henderson School District. Education is something I’ve grown up with all my life.
So, after a bit of pondering, I’ve come up with 5 ways schools can be like outdoor summer camps. This list is particularly for you teachers, coaches, principles and administrators out there that are wanting to make your classrooms something special.
Part of what makes outdoor summer camps, and in particular Camp Huawni, so special is that we believe in fun. In fact, it’s our first core value. Learning can be especially fun. Tip to teachers- make games out of lessons or have you or a student play a character for the day and relate it to your lesson plan. A little extra planning adds miles of fun.
Learning is way more fun when you actually get off our feet and do something. For instance, at Camp Huawni, we don’t just tell kids to be responsible, we give them a broom and dust pan and say, “Hey…you’re in charge of cleaning up. Let’s do a great job so we can bond with our cabin and win that pizza party.” You’d be surprised how creative campers get. Not only do they clean, but many times they’ll act out a short skit or music video to wow the inspector. In fact, learning by doing coincides nicely with #1- making it fun.
There are a lot of talented people out there, but not everyone is passionate about the same thing. A mentor of mine taught me a long time ago that people are your #1 asset. Further, that’s why finding people (for school that’s teachers, principles, administrators and coaches) who genuinely care about kids is so critical. At Camp Huawni, having a passion to change the next generation is a must; if they’re not on board with our mission of LTK (love the kids), that’s okay, but Huawni just isn’t the right fit. When you hire the right people, beautiful things begin to happen.
This might be the most underutilized tool in any organization and one I’m trying to improve upon. Be spontaneous for goodness sake. Teachers, take your class outside or to some peculiar spot on campus to learn. Dress up like an 80’s rockstar. Do something strange and your kids will think they’re at summer camp and learn while doing it! You can even bring your class to our school day camps- contact us
What happened to it being about the kids? This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Whether it’s clearly defined in your mission statement, highlighted in team meetings, or just part of your school culture, reminding everyone that we’re here for the kids is maybe the most critical message that needs to be communicated on a regular basis and lived out. So many decisions in schools forget the end in mind, which should be all about the kids’ well being.
I hope these tips help make your school just a little more like summer camp this school year. The good news for you Huawni campers- come June, no matter what school you go to, you’ll get to come back to the place where all of these things are celebrated minute by minute.
Here’s to loving the kids!