This February, around 2000 camp professionals met to collaborate, learn from experts, and advance our shared mission of educating our youth at the 2019 American Camp Association National Conference in Nashville, TN. Paige, Sara, and I were inspired and energized by the conference and we want to share some of our takeaways with you.

Dr. Deborah Gilboa, MD, family physician and parent, led a session about generational differences intended to help us understand and connect with our campers and support our campers’ parents and guardians. Generation Z has never lived in a world without quality information at their fingertips and the ability to co-create their culture alongside their idols. This is wonderful in that it has created a generation of kids who know that they are valuable and appreciate empathy, mindfulness, collaboration, authenticity, and a diversity of ideas. This generation has also grown up with a recession and with parents who are expected to know where their children are at all times. This means that camp may be the only time kids are without their parents. Camp gives kids the space to grow their confidence through independence from their parents and from the social media world.

Dr. Wendy Mogul, PhD, psychologist and parent, gave a moving keynote address about the stresses and pressures kids and parents face today. She explains the anxiety-inducing reality of constant news updates and connection to what others are doing on social media.This affects parents’ decisions about what their child needs to be doing to be best prepared for the world. This is not a new endeavor, but it has never been more influenced and encouraged by media on a daily basis. This means that kids have full days scheduled with activities,test prep classes and organized learning. As Wendy points out in her speech and in her interview with CBS This Morning, these activities are wonderful and useful, but they do not allow space for creativity to spring from boredom. Kids need space to be alone without technology. This why Wendy believes that all children should attend summer camp.

In her keynote speech, Dr. Sonya Whitaker, educator and parent, addressed the importance of creating an inclusive community so that our camps cater to the children that make up our world. We accomplish this by examining our own culture and learning about other cultures. We give them the tools we know helps kids grow–nature, community, joy, compassion, and confidence–and they bring their personalities, the stories of their names, their skills and joys, and their unique outlook. We were eager to see Dr. Whitaker speak for a second year in a row as her message and conversations are integral to the forward progress of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative. Read more about our DEI Initiatives in the Spring 2019 Eagle Newsletter.

We are excited to use what we learned at the conference, and from our resulting discussions, this summer at camp!

By Anna Lauria