Today’s children will inherit a complex world with rapidly changing technology and trends, and unconventional problems and goals. The work skills and social capabilities they’ll need to succeed are not the same as the ones we rely on now. This presents a challenge for parents and educators, but a surmountable one. At DEC Camp, we help children and young adults build skills for the 21st century. Our camp programme is streamlined to focus on four core skills, affectionately known as the 4Cs: critical thinking, creativity, communication and cooperation.
Critical thinking helps us make informed, unbiased decisions. It establishes our beliefs and influences our actions. According to the article Critical Thinking: How to Grow Your Child’s Mind, critical thinking skills don’t fully develop until adolescence, but the foundations for good thinking develop in children much younger. Consider this: the average age children start using the internet is three. At this time, they will already need to understand that not everything they read online is true. As they get older, they will also have to make choices to keep their online presence protected and themselves safe. In other words, they will need critical thinking skills.
We understand these realities. And so, at DEC Camp’s English summer camp there is a variety of activities that encourage campers to think critically about an issue or a problem and be open-minded when considering alternative solutions. These activities include our egg parachute challenge, two truths and a lie game, trivia track down and product invention sessions. Remember, in order to improve this skill, kids must believe that thinking is not just important, but fun, and want to be good at it.
As kids grow up, critical thinking skills will help them make mature, educated judgments without their parents, at work and in relationships. No matter where life leads your children, critical thinking will allow them to achieve the best possible outcome in any situation.
Some people consider creativity the opposite of critical thinking. This is partly because of the misconception that creativity is about completely letting yourself go, running around like a crazy person and pursuing the most impractical, extreme ideas. “Really, creativity is a disciplined process that requires skill, knowledge and control,” says creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson. It is a process of coming up with original ideas that have value.
Creativity should not be associated solely with the arts. Creativity is everywhere. In a scientist’s ingenuity when proving his hypothesis. In an editor’s support of controversial investigative journalism. In an architect’s design for a functional, yet beautiful, school. Creativity is even evident in the way teachers and counsellors prepare children to be our future movers and shakers.
Many countries’ education systems dismiss creative thinking. At DEC Camp, we do the opposite. Every child at our summer camps is encouraged to think outside the box. Whether it’s during English class, a football match or a dance party, new ideas are welcomed and celebrated. One moment during camp in which campers’ creativity never fails to amaze us is our talent show. Picture an adorable computer nerd, a teenager who originally showed up to camp with headphones on and eyes averted, and a mini ballerina joining forces to perform a concert with everyday household items rather than instruments. When kids are given the freedom to reinvent themselves and play off their strengths, magical things can happen.
Communication is a lot more than making speeches or having good table manners. According to Creation Ministries International, 87% of everything we do during the day is communication related. So “while you may manage to live your entire life without making a speech, you will not get through one day without communicating something to someone!”
The ability to effectively communicate is essential to forming better relationships, expressing ideas and being understood by people of different cultures, religions, professions, etc. Studies have even shown that people with strong communication skills are happier than their less eloquent counterparts. Communication skills are acquired early and grow as we do, from making new friends at summer camp and asking directions to the nearest ice cream shop, to leading a think tank or advocating for animal rights.
Unfortunately, there are times when communication leads to conflict. At DEC Camp, our counsellors are trained in helping children identify and control their emotions. Campers learn that they are responsible for their own behaviour. They become aware of their peers’ feelings by translating body language and interpreting the emotions of others. No matter what the argument is about, we enforce language as the supreme problem-solving tool. Not just explaining yourself clearly, but also listening to understand those involved in the situation, whatever that situation may be.
There are opportunities for kids to work on their communication skills outside of day care, school or summer camp, too. Here JoJo Tabares gives parents 10 fun ways to teach children active listening and the best ways to ask for what they want, and to increase their confidence speaking in front of an audience.
John Donne, a famous poet born in the 1570s, wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself.” Basically, as we are all part of the human race, we all have to rely on others. This is cooperation. And the more people cooperate and work together, the better off the world will be.
Working as a team starts early in life, from building Lego towers and sand castles, to classroom clean up and art projects. Or as one Twinkle Toes at camp said, “Cooperation is like Swan Lake. If all the dancers don’t cooperate, they will bang into each other. The ballet will be ruined and Princess Odette will never be with the Prince.”
At summer camp cooperation comes in many forms. We’ve seen teams support each other, rather than compete against each other, to get everyone to the other side of a ‘minefield’. Maybe a natural follower is asked to lead a hike through the woods, and although she hesitates at first, she steps to the front of the line and happily shares facts about wildlife along the way. Or an opinionated camper makes an effort to stop talking, listen and show respect for other people’s opinions…even though he’s certain his mom’s spaghetti is the best.
The best part of preparing children for the future? It’s fun! The 4Cs are interactive and occur naturally all day, every day at DEC Camp. Under the nurturing gaze of our counsellors, each child will grow in confidence as they meet new friends and tackle new challenges. As they have a blast in the present, their skills for the future will come on in leaps and bounds. And that, for us, is a job well done.