by Steve Purdum on July 11
I was in Walmart at 6 a.m. this morning picking up a few items for a project. (Sometimes I wish we were on an island and forced to plan better, or make do with what we have.), and I noticed something strange. Not the usual strangeness one might encounter at Walmart, but a shift in shelving that stopped me in my tracks. Right there where, just yesterday, shelves of BBQ accessories were displayed, there were canning supplies. I didn’t walk through all the sections, but I imagine if they haven’t already put out the back-to-school supplies, they will be coming very soon.
This was Monday, July 10th, just 3 weeks into the first 4-week session, and 6 weeks away from the end of our season. In many senses, our summer is just beginning. But this none-too- subtle shift in the way we are sold to, starts to shift the way we think about summer. It just arrived, and here we are pushing it out the door with boxes of crayons, #2 pencils and cases of Mason jars to preserve this year’s harvest. Some of our Arizona campers are only able to attend the first session, as they are called back to the classroom in late July!
Much has been written about the learning loss that has occurred in young people as the result of the pandemic, and though we don’t test math or English skills at Camp, I can attest to the learning loss we see when it comes to social and emotional skills. Kids of an age who would otherwise exhibit certain abilities and aptitudes are lagging behind. It hasn’t affected everyone to the same degree, but it’s noticeable. In the short 3-weeks that we’ve been in session, we have seen tremendous growth by kids of all ages.
I suspect that the effects of the pandemic, as it relates to academic learning loss, will be studied for years to come. And, I have no doubt that it is real, and will have ramifications for all of us. But to ignore the opportunity to re-build kids’ social and emotional intelligence- right along with their math and English skills is done at our own peril. Not every child is fortunate enough to have a camp experience that gives them this opportunity, but for those of whom that do, it’s helpful to realize the importance of what is learned. It frames our work in a larger context and gives meaning to the work we do each day. Each activity or interaction, whether it be as simple as a game of capture the flag, or as complex as learning to paddle and portage a canoe by oneself, kids are given the chance to learn and grow.
Our Girls Camp Director, Mary Jane, once shared that if childhood is a period of time that we want our youngest members of society to outgrow, it’s important that we allow them to inhabit it for a bit- with all its exploration, messiness, mistakes and maturation. They emerge from this time in their life ready to face age-appropriate challenges. As any grandparent will tell you, it doesn’t happen “just like that.” It needs to be an intentional and concerted effort. It’s all too cliche to say that it takes a village to raise a child, but the fact remains that it is also true. We’re grateful to be part of our parents’village and thank them for the trust they have placed in us by sharing their child with us this summer.