What Makes NxJ Summer Camp Different?
The challenges that we noticed that kids (and sometimes their parents) are facing in school lives:
- Slow progress in academics
- Social challenges
The challenges that 2018 NxJ Summer Camp are focusing on:
One of the biggest challenges students face as they develop is frustration. Frustration can arise because tasks are too hard or too easy. It can also arise out of a fear of inability or looking bad in front of peers and adults. We saw this in several children in our camp. This can happen before a task, during, or after.
What we did well in order to help kids to overcome the challenges:
- Instructors guided kids to see their own progress. In this way, kids were able to know their improvement, which got them going.
- Instructors divided older kids and younger kids into two groups and assigned them to two separate rooms. It prevented some kids to feel bad in front of their peers.
- Instructors assigned two groups different tasks and different tools(smaller basketballs and lower basket). Therefore, the tasks that each group got were not too easy or too hard.
- Offering kids Jedi lessons is a great way to help them build grit and resilience. The course itself requires kids to have self-control and be able to focus.
- Push through for the longer day.
- Built a triangle of consistent support between the important adults in each child’s life – parent, teacher, and nanny. This is not often achieved in school as all adults inevitably operate individually to support the child and it can be a challenge to get on the same page. Having adults present or aware of all activities allowed for clear lines of not just communication but also actual support.
- Empowered the students through assignment of meaningful work (jobs) contributes to a kids’ sense of responsibility and belonging within a group. Because the community was depending on them, the students were less likely to give up or get frustrated.
What we didn’t do well:
We did not create a systematic way to identify how/when this challenge arises for each child and did not give them ways to see their progress. It was more teacher/adult-centered than child-centered.
How do we build grit/resilience in children without ‘fixing’ the problem of frustration?
Grit has been identified as a top character trait that will lead to success. Children who do not possess grit are held down by frustration, fear, and embarrassment. That is not to say that these feelings are not par for the course, neither should we strive to completely eradicate them. It is how children react to those feelings that gives us a look into their capacity for grit. Life will inevitably provide inumerable circumstances that will cause fear and other negative feelings, so we shouldn’t seek to eradicate the feelings, but rather to give kids opportunities to practice reacting to these feelings and seeing their progress over time.
|What do we want to foster
in our kids?
|What holds kids back?|
|Grit/Resilience||Fear (of not looking good, of taking risks, of failing)
Challenging tasks and situations
Difficulty with self-control and focus
Ideas for strategies:
- Create tasks/situations that will instill fear, frustration, etc. in a systematic way across a given period of time for students to practice grit
- Give kids opportunities to identify what grit looks like (videos of peers, etc.)
- Explicitly teach strategies for dealing with frustration, fear, etc.
- Create a way to document progress (visual wall, board, etc.) for students to visually see
- Video children in situations for them (good and bad moments) to watch and reflect upon
- End of day reflection meetings as a group to share progress(best part & worst part)
- Spiral learning (step out of your comfort zone, come back in)
- Little experts (assign)
Examples of Schedule:
For example, frustration can be injected into the following activities each day, recorded, and reflected upon:
Kids can reflect and see which activities or situations are most difficult for them. Perhaps one student shows grit during gardening on Tuesday. Kids can have a discussion – how do we know he has grit? What did he do? What did he not do?
Example of Schedule 2:
For example, frustration or fear can be injected into the same activity each day with increasing/varying levels:
Kids can document how they reacted each day after reflecting on the video.
Things to keep in mind: this will look different for each child. Children can use each other as models in this process and will also understand that different situations/tasks feel differently for each child.