As spring moves towards summer, I recommend we make school more like summer camp. For me, eight weeks of camp every summer was something I looked forward to and cherished. It was a magical place where I learned new skills, grew as a person, and made strong friendships. Here are three ways teachers can draw upon some of what makes summer camp wonderful to bring into classrooms this spring.
1. Empower kids to make choices. My favorite time of the camp day was called “hobby hour”. After participating in scheduled activities we had an hour each day before dinner in which we could choose an interest to pursue for an hour. Why not incorporate this into the classroom? Set aside time, even if just a few minutes each day, once a week, or as homework, in which students designate something they want to learn more about.
2. Get outside. Take advantage of spring weather and find ways to incorporate the local environment into studies.
3. Encourage students to take risks. Camp was the place I tried sailing, water skiing and performing in a musical. At school, encourage students to take risks with their ideas. Wait longer before calling on students, and maintain neutrality when students contribute. Rather than responding with “good” or “not quite” simply thank students for their contributions, and watch how that impacts students’ participation.