Camp and Emotional Intelligence

Now that school is in full swing, so are the academic demands of class work, homework, quizzes, tests, reports, and presentations. Participating in class and hitting the books definitely gives students an edge when it comes to academic success, but success in school, and in life, involves so much more than studying alone.  The ability to succeed also involves the ability to manage our emotions. And how we deal with our emotions in any area of our life can directly reflect on our work, and our overall success.  Marc Bracket, senior research scientist in psychology at Yale University, notes that “emotions can either enhance or hinder your ability to learn”  That may be why so many schools are developing programs in raising students Emotional Intelligence.Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand, use and manage our emotions.  It’s our level of ability of self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy and social skills.  Many experts believe that a person’s emotional intelligence (EI) quotient may be more important than their IQ and is certainly a better predictor or success, quality of relationships and overall happiness.  Teaching Emotional Intelligence in schools, a strategy known as Social Emotional Learning, has gained popularity after studies concluded that emotional skills are crucial to academic performance.  Jennifer Kahn, teacher at the University of California, writes that SEL has gained traction in recent years, not only in relation to academics, but in part by concerns over school violence, bullying and teen suicide.  The goal of SEL is to give students the tools to help them regulate their emotions.  By being aware of our emotional state and our reactions to stress, we can better manage stress and maintain good health.

Overnight camps have been teaching emotional intelligence forever.  Camps may not have a formal program put in place, but they naturally provide an environment that allows campers to develop their social and emotional skills.  Living side by side allows campers and staff to constantly learn from one another and improve their abilities of self-awareness, self-management, persistence, empathy and social skills.  In addition to the wonderful activities campers participate in, camp also provides children with a natural setting to learn about themselves, understand different personalities, and resolve conflicts.  Trained camp staff act as role models by validating feelings and helping campers explore options in response to those feelings.  Counselors teach conflict resolution with a cooperative approach to problem.  Camp is a learning environment that encourages motivation by teaching and developing skills to improve and achieve.  Camp provides teachable moments in empathy, and encourages friendships and connections to one another.  Camp teaches children to use their strengths and supports their challenges by encouraging participation in a variety of activities.  Campers take these skills home with them and apply them to a school setting to have greater success throughout the school year. And if the findings are true, that better emotional intelligence is a great predictor of success, quality of relationships and overall happiness, campers are headed for a great life!