March 19, 2010

Summer Camp & Summer Learning...

Camp is fun…campfires, friends, songs, skits, The Dance, the games…it’s pretty much a fact. What’s not talked about as much is camp’s role in developing life-long learners. Good camps give their campers opportunities to be curious, creative, explore, and develop new skills. Good camps increase campers’ exposure to the world, get them outside, introduce them to new people, and encourage them to try new ways of doing things. Simply put, good camps are fun AND help people learn.

On October 22, I attended a speech by Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan and asked him a question, "What are your ideas or possible plans for partnering with summer camps…?"

"I am all for camping," he said. "I am a city kid, and I think anything that promotes getting out and increasing exposure to the world is important" (Transcript 10/22/2009). Secretary Duncan's support for camps and other out-of-school time learning programs aligns with the recent wave of support from the White House. And just this past summer, The Johns Hopkins University National Center for Summer Learning announced the President's proclamation declaring July 9, 2009, as "National Summer Learning Day" (Ozier, 2010).

But don’t kids learn enough in school? Aren’t they pushed hard enough already? Don’t they deserve…need…a break? Isn’t that what the summer is for…to chill?

I’m not advocating for year-round school, but as a youth development professional I have to acknowledge a well-documented phenomenon known as “summer learning loss.” Children routinely lose over half a year of learning, especially in math and science, when they are not challenged over the summer (Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., and Greathouse, S. 1996). In suburban schools, literacy is also lost, but not to the degree math skills are, mostly thanks to required summer reading lists. Camp, family vacations, summer programs…they have all been linked to hindering summer learning loss (Rothstein, 2005). FYI-Peconic Dunes opened a camp library in 2007...all campers are encouraged to grab a book at rest hour and free times.

Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp offers an environmental science program that incorporates math, science, and literacy. It’s called ECO (pronounced ii-coh). ECO will be sponsored by the NYS DEC from 2010-2016. Every year will be a little different because our campers will be conducting actual research. In Years 1 & 2 they will collect data to obtain a baseline. In Year 3 they will develop a conservation plan that will require approval from the DEC. In Years 4-6 they will implement the plan and continue collecting data to observe and document the intended and unintended outcomes.

ECO campers focus on our campus' 4 distinct ecosystems: LI Sound, Great Pond, woodlands, and dunes. They’ll measure our pond’s pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and use GPS and GIS. They’ll take trisects of our woodlands and dunes, identifying species, photographing them, and testing the soil. In the LI Sound campers will snorkel and seine, identify species, measure wind speed, and erosion. The data our campers collect will be real and valuable.

And ECO has all the fun our Basic program has, plus a whole lot more. ECO campers are also in small groups, no bigger than 10 campers, and everyone is 12-15 years old. And to give you fair warning, ECO instructors are a little goofy, love what they do, and make it their mission to ensure their program is better than everyone elses.

Click to learn more about ECO

-Christopher Colahan, Managing Director


Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., and Greathouse, S. (1996). The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 66, 227-268.

Duncan, Arne (October 22, 2009). Transcript of Major Policy Address. Columbia University Teachers College.

Ozier, Lance (2010). Camping Magazine. Volume 83 Number 2. March/April.

Rothstein, Richard. (2005).


Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp, Long Island, North Fork, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Suffolk County, summer learning, youth development, outcomes, research, conservation, environmental science, biology, chemistry, ecology, peace education, community, children, kids, nature, outdoors, art, fishing, professional development, lifeguard

February 13, 2010

2010 Brochure Available for Download...


New programs to look forward to:
  • 2 Rookie Camps
  • Arts House (dance, music, theater, crafts, drawing)
  • Videography/Photography
  • DEC sponsored ECO
  • Extender Weekend trips to Shawnagunk Mountains, Connetquot River and more!
  • High Adventure trip to Green Mountains, VT

January 8, 2010



Online registration is now open! We are working feverishly to get our new website and brochures up and out. In the meantime, here are some program improvements to look forward to in 2010...

1. "Arts and crafts" and "ECO Art" will expand into the new Expressive Arts House. There will be 6 activities in the new house: drawing, crafts, music, dance, theater, and videography/ photography. The last, videography/ photography, will require pre-registration and an additional fee. Campers will learn how to make a short video which will be screened at the Friday Campfire.

2. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is sponsoring ECO. ECO projects will include Great Pond, Long Island Sound, Shellfish Aquaculture, Dune Ecology, and Sustainable Design. Pre-registration is required to participate. The DEC is offering funding, curriculum and training to our staff. The DEC's generous support has created full, need-based scholarships for this program. We encourage you to apply.

3. the afternoon, from 2pm-4pm, campers will be able to choose a "House". The Houses are Sports, Waterfront, Outdoor Life, and Expressive Arts (ECO is also a House, but those campers will have pre-registered). Once a camper has chosen a House, s/he'll be able to choose from any of the activities within the House. The will ensure campers receive more choice, and more opportunities to do their favorite activities with their friends.

4. New Staff...this summer we've created several new positions to serve our community even better. We've already filled our two newest positions: Camp Programs Director and Camp Life Director. The Camp Program Director will be responsible for overseeing all camp activities, evaluating program curriculum, and giving staff feedback for improvement. The Camp Life Director will be responsible for working with campers and staff on quality of life issues. We're excited to announce that our Camp Programs Director will be returning staff member, Matt Larsen, who possesses dual degrees in Physical and Outdoor Education. Our Camp Life Director will be new to P Dunes, Moana Kerr. Moana hails from New Zealand where she works as a student counselor and possesses a degree in counseling.

5. Food...we're bringing in 2 new cooks this summer. Both will be attending the North American Camp Food Service Conference. Our goal is to improve the quality of food. I'm meeting with our new cooks 1/12/10 to discuss challenges from last summer and the menu for 2010. The new cooks are Larisa Parsley and Jeremy Martin. Both bring years of experience to the professional kitchen, working in both high volume kitchens and high end restaurants. Larisa and Jeremy are both excited about the opportunity to use more fresh vegetables from our garden and have opportunities to work with the campers and staff to create meals that everyone will enjoy.