Camp is an Adventure

Outdoor Adventure StruggleCamp is an adventure! It is because it gets girls outside for all kinds of exciting activities. Climb high up a real rock! Paddle a raft down through whitewater rapids. Sleep in the woods far from the “comforts of home.” These, and other outdoor activities, are just plain thrilling.

But why is that? What makes something a thrilling “adventure?”

The answer might be a little surprising, but it actually boils down to danger. It’s true; an adventure activity always carries a degree of risk. It’s an activity where we “take a risk in the hope of a favorable outcome” (as my dictionary puts it). So for example, rock climbing includes the risk of falling. Whitewater boating has the risk of capsizing, and when camping in the wilderness there’s always a chance of horrible weather (among other things!).

But of course adventure isn’t about getting hurt or experiencing some disaster (there’s safety training and equipment to help with that). It’s about avoiding danger despite the threat of it. Adventure is about overcoming the difficulty and conquering the fear associated with an activity.

Adventure activities are thrilling because we can actually do them despite the risk. Through our own efforts, applying specialized knowledge and skills, we succeed in the face of possible failure. Sure it might be a struggle, but it feels great. Yes, an adventure activity can be difficult, but also really exciting to face it and win!

That’s why, incidentally, adventure activities are so good for boosting kids’ confidence.

Being at Rockbrook provides so many great ways to be adventurous, opportunities to try activities that may look a little scary, but then with the right instruction, encouragement and role models, to also manage the risks and cope beautifully with the challenges involved. Very cool stuff!

Clyde Wins Outstanding Teacher Award!!

Clyde Carter Outstanding Experiential Education Teacher

We’re so pleased and proud to announce that Clyde Carter, our amazing Outdoor Adventure Director, has been named the Outstanding Experiential Education Teacher of the year by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE). This is an international award recognizing that Clyde has “demonstrated an active passion for experiential education principles and theories,” has “practiced innovative, experiential educational methodologies,” and has consistently shown “the highest ethical standards in working with students.” We knew Clyde had been nominated for this prestigious award, and recently that he had won. In late November, he accepted the award at the AEE International conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In addition to working full time in the summer as Rockbrook’s Adventure Director, Clyde is an Associate Professor of Recreation/Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education at Brevard College. In 1989, with encouragement from Jerry Stone, Rockbrook’s Director at the time, Clyde came to Brevard to establish the College’s Outdoor Leadership major, one of it’s most popular offerings. He helped develop Brevard College’s Voice of the Rivers (VOR) program in 1997 and led expeditions in 1999 and 2008.  Throughout the year you can find Clyde teaching courses on Risk Management, Experiential Education, Wilderness Leadership, as well as Rock Climbing and Kayaking.

Congratulations Clyde!

A Longer School Year?

Camp Learning Outdoor Wonder

The issue of summer learning and “student achievement” has popped back up in the news. Yesterday, President Obama gave an interview and said he favored lengthening the school year (and of course, shortening the summer break from school). He suggested American kids were falling behind because other developed countries go to school more of the year—the assumption here being we all would be smarter and achieve more if we stayed in school for more classroom learning.

Apparently quoting his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, Mr. Obama also cited studies showing students “losing what they learned” after taking the summer off, with the effects being particularly significant for poorer children who don’t have opportunities to learn when away from school. “A longer school year makes sense,” he concluded. Here’s an article where you can read more and see the video.

Of course, it’s impossible to convey the full complexity of this issue in a 30-second answer, and while easily debatable, it’s clear that making a “longer school year” the centerpiece of education reform is a direct threat to the American tradition of summer camp. The American Camp Association was quick to say as much and question the President’s opinion. According to the ACA, children receive crucial educational benefits from their experiences at camp; they learn things they can’t learn at school, and if we are concerned with educating the “whole child” we shouldn’t extend classroom learning, but instead broaden the opportunities for all children to benefit from camps and other summer experiential programs.

Many questions are yet to be answered. Should we model our school calendar on the values and assumptions of other countries and cultures? Should we sacrifice the benefits of non-classroom learning that can occur in the summer for the enhanced academic/intellectual learning gained from more school time? Do we really value science knowledge over resilient self-esteem, and mathematics over caring, compassion and teamwork? Could the expense of extending the school year be better applied to fund summer camps and experiential outdoor programs?

In education reform, let’s not be too quick to adopt this kind of simple solution that carries too many negative consequences for our children. Instead, let’s be creative with the whole child in mind. Let’s start by recognizing “multiple intelligences,” and from there seek to encourage every child to explore all of their talents and hidden abilities. Let’s remember that education is so much more than what school provides.