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A View from the Woods.

The time is now. Not yesterday, not tomorrow -- but now. It is time to hold hands and encircle our children and youth within safe and nurturing environments. And we need not reach just for the hands of those in the camp community but extend our grasp to reach the hands of others who are committed to enriching the lives of children and youth. This is an important task, not for our benefit, but for the children and youth we see on a daily basis, as well as for those who have not yet had the opportunity to experience camp, those who do not attend due to economics, culture, or awareness.

Many of you have heard me speak of the need to advance the concept of a year-round learning calendar. I am not speaking of year-round school but year-round learning that integrates the best of two worlds: camps and schools. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids in D.C. recently published an article, "Fighting Tough, Fighting Smart," which states,

"The most powerful weapons in our anti-crime arsenal are the investments in children and youth that get them off to the right start and help them grow up with the skills and moral values to be good citizens instead of criminals and make investments like quality educational preschool care, the prevention of child abuse and neglect, good schools and after-school programs, and school-to-work and job training programs so all kids can look forward to making an honest living as contributing members of the community."

Now, one can assume "after-school programs," by implication, could mean us. However, I want the article to read "camps"! Camp should be recognized as a viable contributor to the development of children and youth.

To be recognized as such requires several things. Public awareness is certainly one, and our slogan "Camp Gives Kids a World of Good" has promoted our value. In turn, parent expectations and public demands for quality have grown. However, we must recognize that a major determinant of quality is developmental practice. Developmental practice includes curriculum (good programs), positive adult-child interactions, and partnerships with parents.

Our ability to demonstrate and articulate our commitment to quality is becoming increasingly important in today's environment. Not only do parent expectations and public demands create an atmosphere that challenges us to show evidence of developmentally appropriate programming, but the facts that we are dealing with younger and younger children, that day camps are extending their hours, and that diversity in ages and abilities are growing all require a renewed demonstration of quality. We need to recognize that accreditation has provided an exemplary foundation recognizing the primary responsibility to health and safety, but accreditation alone does not address quality as identified by the needs of children and youth. We must now begin to recognize and promote our best practices in the areas of curriculum development, adult-child relationships, and partnerships with parents.

We have issues of accountability, liability, and responsibility that are increasingly brought to our attention through public policy, ethics, and public relations. More importantly, we have an opportunity to set the stage by illustrating how the camp experience does add value to the development of children, youth, and adults. ACA and the camp community must continue to aggressively pursue research, best practices, and professional development, all designed to validate the quality of the camp experience and its positive impact on lives. Shame on us if camp is not included in the development of a year-round learning calendar. The time is clearly now.

Peg L. Smith

ACA Executive Director
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Title Annotation:camp can be important in child development
Publication:Camping Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2000
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