Education reform is in the news encouraging a nationwide move to extended days and year-round school.

Education reform is in the news encouraging a nationwide move to extended days and year-round school.

Is it possible that our children are beginning to lag behind other nations in academic achievement because we are focusing on the wrong aspects of a child's education?

Camp is critical to the education and development of the whole child, and must be part of the education reform conversation. We need to think beyond traditional education and recognize that opportunities for growth and development exist in natural settings that promote experiential learning, improve social skills and physical fitness, teach kids to take calculated risks in a safe environment and expand the creative mind.

According to Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association (ACA), "Teaching children to pass standardized tests doesn't necessarily teach them to think for themselves. Education is about more than teaching answers; it's about equipping our kids with the ability to develop the art of seeing the possibilities."

Camp teaches values such as self-esteem, teamwork and caring - skills needed to become successful adults and leaders in the 21st century. And camp allows everyone, not just the "A" student and the athlete, to thrive and enjoy the process of learning. According to Dr. Stephen Fine, academic and camp owner, "Kids who find it difficult to learn in another setting will often succeed at camp."

Camp also prevents children from losing what they've already learned. All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer, and these losses can approximate two to three months of grade equivalency. Camp is a summer engagement experience that can reduce these effects.

There are thousands of summer camps across this country, and each one of them is a piece of the solution to education reform. Kids learn at camp - they are learning the life skills needed to become successful adults. There is a camp for every child.

Families who agree with ACA's position that camp is a vital component to the education of the whole child are encouraged to visit ACA's family resource page at www.CampParents.org for more information, and to use ACA's advocacy tool to promote child-focused education reform.