Five Things I've Learned from Camp Clover [Recap]

It's been a week since Camp Clover and today is the first chance I've had to sit down and really write about the camp. There's so much to say, so many stories to tell, and so much learned. I'll try to condense a week's worth of experiences into five lessons learned, YouTube links, and lots of great photos.  

The Camp Clover Community Explorers (aka the best small children I could have asked for)

The Camp Clover Community Explorers (aka the best small children I could have asked for)

1. Planning ahead is a glorious thing...until it isn't. 

We spent WEEKS leading up to Camp Clover planning and re-planning things. For our morning Community Explorers, we changed their project at least three times before settling on iPads and making movies with an interview component. I know I spent many nights thinking and re-thinking the camp. What would happen if X happened? What would happen if the kids didn't like what we were doing? What would happen if it rained on the day we were suppose to go on a walking field trip? We came up with a million possibilities and I know I stressed out way more than I should have. HOWEVER, once we got to the actual week of camp, that insane amount of pre-planning paid off. We were confident and relaxed and ready to roll with the flow when we veered off course. 

And veer off we did. But we were prepared and took the changes in full stride. I doubt that sometimes the kids even knew our plans had changed. 

Below, the video trailer for Super Wendall, our Camp Coordinator. This was an unplanned project, but was one way to keep the kids busy on Friday (while I finished our final video), and also allowed them to do something fun about someone they cared about. 

2. Kids are NOT digital natives 

I run into this argument with so many people. People of my generation and younger should be considered "digital natives" aka have the ability to navigate technology without any guidance or formal teaching/training. That give a baby an iPad and they will instinctively know how to use it. 

This. Is. Not. True. 

The kids loved the concept of using iPads but didn't always know how to use the applications on these iPads. And some of those applications were not intuitive to use and needed the problem-solving abilities of both the kid and the teacher. 

One of my favorite moments of the camp was on Friday when we said that each kid would get a flash drive with all the content they had created during the week. Several of the kids asked about how a flash drive worked and we launched into a convo about moving files, saving files, and the proper way to eject a flash drive. This not only showcased the lack of understanding (aka they are not digital natives) but also their willingness to ask questions to better understand how technology worked. 

3. Field trips are KEY (overall theme: balance)

This should be a no-brainer, but kids need to do physical activities. You can't keep them inside doing stuff with technology for three hours and expect them to have fun. They won't. 

Instead, giving them breaks, aka taking them outside, is crucial. Especially during the summer, when the weather is nice. Let them run around, play Red Rover Red Rover, give yourself a chance to breathe, and then jump back into the camp. 

We also took two field trips and the 15 minute walk there and back was helpful in letting the kids move out and about, see something cool, and then have some inspiration for the projects they were working on.  

The Peoria Heights Observation Tower at Tower Hill Park. It's 200 feet up and boy, is it an adventure to take 11 children up to the top. 

The Peoria Heights Observation Tower at Tower Hill Park. It's 200 feet up and boy, is it an adventure to take 11 children up to the top. 

4. Make partnerships and use them to everyone's advantage

This was part of our drive to do the field trips and one of our purposes of the camp: make community partnerships. After a little bit of work, we got in touch with some OUT OF THIS WORLD community members who were willing to share their time with our Community Explorers. The kids were attentive and asked some really great questions. 

My favorite part of this lesson came on Thursday, when we were visiting local businesses to learn more about the importance of a local chamber of commerce. Before we took off for this field trip, the kids asked if they could take their iPads with them to record the interviews. We were pleased with this question and of course said yes. As we walked into the first store, a handful of kids got their iPads out, opened up the Recorder app and as soon as the women of the store started talking, they hit record. Many asked questions they had asked earlier in the week for their personal interviews. And some of the interviews in our final video came from these businesses we interviewed. 

And it's important to praise the strengths of the community. These partnerships were key in doing that. 

5. Never doubt the creativity and expression elementary and middle school students have. 

Throughout the week, I kept coming back to why I was so invested and excited to work with this age group. It all sort of became clear during the final video presentation. This is the perfect age group because they are so imaginative and creative. No one has told them yet to NOT be creative, no one has really tried to stifle their imagination. To them, anything is possible. And it should be possible for them. 

Which is why this camp worked. We gave them an iPad, told them a few things, and then said, try making their iMovie trailer. They wove stories and created trailers that look stunning and feel so real. The work they created is something we should all be proud of. It makes me excited for teaching more kids and makes me excited for what these current kids could do in the future. 

These kids are curious. They are all about a good adventure. They are willing to try something new, and willing to become invested in something new. They can ask questions and also work together to make some amazing digital content. These kids care about what they are doing, and we can't forget that. We must find ways to keep that creativity happening and encouraging them to keep it up. 

One boy asked mid-way through the week, "Why can't this camp be a month long?" I'll take that as a compliment but boy, much more planning would have to happen for a month of Camp Clover. But I'm not against it. 

And so to end this post, I'll showcase our final video. It's 20 minutes long but (at least in my opinion), worth watching.