Kids all over the country are getting ready to answer the question: What did you do this summer? If you ask my kids, they’ll say, “Nothing.” In fact, that is their answer to most questions these days… However, they would tell you they had a great summer, the highlight of which was a one-week camp in Telluride, CO. That week, they came home every day with huge smiles and actually wanted to tell me about what they had done.
What made this camp so unique? I suspect it had a lot to do with the adventure and freedom of it all.
The kids spent the week rock climbing, paddle boarding, biking, and swimming—trying things they had never done before. All the while, being allowed to take risks—even if it meant they might get scratched up a bit. My son, Tucker, laughingly told me about when he went head over heels over the handlebars of his bike while going down a mountain trail for the first time. My six-year-old daughter, Olivia—who went into the camp decidedly refusing to do anything requiring a climbing harness—ended up climbing higher than any of her fellow campers and loving every minute of it. Throughout all of this, the counselors were certainly ensuring the kids’ safety. But, they were also (just as importantly) letting the kids lead the way and discover new paths for themselves.
After that week in camp, my kids were more energized, talkative, and confident—less dependent on “screens” to avoid being bored, bored, bored. For example, when they saw a climbing boulder in the center of town, both immediately began scaling it. In the past, we would have had to coax them to even consider it. Now, they were the ones jumping to do it, confident they could make it up and back down with ease.
It left me wondering: What if all learning experiences (not just those that happen in camps) left kids feeling this same level of empowerment, ownership, and excitement? In this issue, you’ll read about a network of learning environments that bring this sense of freedom, adventure, and closeness to nature to life every day, all year long: Teton Science Schools in Wyoming and Idaho. You’ll also learn about a national summit that took a district by storm, hear from five learners who got to share their thoughts on education with a group of 40 attentive superintendents, and walk down two different state paths toward competency-based education.