Let Them Learn – A Letter From Summer Camp

Dear Mom and Dad,

Camp was AWESOME!  I had a chance to decompress.  Reconnect with old friends, meet new friends and (re)learn so much.  I learned that people’s creativity and capacity for learning is way more amazing than we can imagine.

We started the week out in the forest with literally nothing.  Campers had to build everything on their own.  They made their own furniture out of wood and rope.  They dug holes and fitted grates onto them to make their own wood burning BBQ/stove top.  Then they cooked all of their own food. They took such pride in their creations and cooking!

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After the first few days all of the leaders started to do less and less teaching/showing and really pushed campers to work together/rely on each other.  At the beginning this was difficult.  By the end of camp though, they would ask each other for help and figure out their own solutions to problems.  Often their solutions were WAY better than anything we would have suggested.

My group also got to plan an amazing evening for the whole camp.  The best part was that they got to do things their way.  It was refreshing for them to have a real say in how things went.  While campers worked, leaders would touch base with them and ask questions to make sure that they had considered things, but we really tried to stay out of their planning and executing.  After their event, they got a chance to talk about it/debrief.  During the debrief, we (leaders) smiled a lot while they talked, but never said “I told you so” or patronized them. 

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Summer has a cool way of putting things into perspective for me.  There’s a lot of talk these days around Genius Hour and 80/20 Time and Inquiry-Based Learning.  I wonder how much of this in fashion teaching/learning can be distilled to one idea: let kids learn.  Be a teacher and teach them, but let them try things.  Let them succeed and fail.  Don’t drag them through their learning; walk with them.

-step.

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