Tech-connected kids know they have the answer to any question and instant access to their “friends” right in their hands. But research and anecdotal evidence is starting to show all this access – plus an intense focus on test scores in school and excellence in extracurricular activities – means they are missing out on a few key skills they need for a brighter future.
One place to counteract their social media-saturated world is summer camp, a place where they completely disconnect in favor of hands-on learning and real-time connections.
To determine the best benefits of summer camp, we checked in with camp expert Ari Farley, assistant director and creative director at Cub Creek Science Camp in Rolla, Mo. Cub Creek features more than 300 animals, a six-element ropes course, archery and riflery ranges and courses in animal care, photography, chemistry, crime science, entomology and more for campers ages 7-17.
Here is her list of the top five perks of unplugging at camp.
1. Communication skills.
Without the crutch of a cellphone, kids learn to be part of a conversation and make eye contact when talking with someone as well as other social cues, she says. Plus, if they are not speaking, they learn how to be present during a conversation, she says. “If you feel uncomfortable, it’s easy to recluse back to your phone,” Farley says, adding this is something common for both adults and kids these days.
Learning how to communicate with others is vital, she says. “It’s important that kids are able to speak to their peers and eventually supervisors in a job situation, where they can speak for themselves and speak up for others.”
An added benefit for moms and dads: At the end of the summer at Cub Creek, parents have reported back that their kids are less interested in being on their phones and more interested in talking at the dinner table or when out and about with their parents, Farley says.
2. Confidence and self-worth.
More studies are under way on kids’ mental health and how social media negatively impacts their self-value and self-worth.
“Camp is a counteraction to that. The community that camp builds for people, a sense of belonging, with supportive counselors, is something that maybe not all kids get in school,” she says. Summer camp helps kids feel valued and appreciated naturally, she says.
Plus, it’s not hard to imagine the confidence boost kids get when they can sing a silly camp song in front of the entire camp, she says.
3. Hands-on learning.
There’s certainly a difference in learning something first-hand rather than simply Googling the easy answer. At Cub Creek, for example, campers and instructors work together over a shared love of animals to learn how to best care for them, she says. In the science tracks, questions are answered through experiments and hand-on exploration, rather than the internet.
Summer camp helps kids make friends who are different than them but with similar interests that they wouldn’t likely meet in another situation. In fact, Farley says, camp helps kids bond together more quickly than in other situations they might find themselves.
At the end of camp, those friendships continue through letter writing and yes, sometimes social media, she says.
5. Passion building.
Summer camps help kids focus on their true passions. At Cub Creek, for instance, kids fuel their passion for animal care and science, but also get the hands-on skills to make it part of their lives. They meet people who encourage and share their passions and may one day help them get a job in the field, she says.
About Cub Creek Science Camp
Visit cubcreeksciencecamp.com for more information. Also available by phone at (573) 458-2125 or email email@example.com and on all major social media platformsCub Creek Science Camp is an American Camp Association accredited summer camp with a passion for giving children the chance to learn about and interact with some of this world’s amazing animals. Dedicated to growing leadership, building confidence and encouraging passions, it is not your average science camp.