January 24, 2012

What are SKAAs?

Posted by Christopher Colahan, Managing Director at Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp

What are SKAAs? Music characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the upbeat popularized in the US by bands like The Toasters and The Uptones? No! Not ska. SKAAs! SKAA is an acronym for skills, knowledge, attitudes, and awareness.

Every parent wants his or her child to grow up to be happy. That’s why parents try to provide their children with every opportunity that they think will help their child grow. Growth is usually measured in small successes, like learning how to tie one’s shoes, or memorizing the multiplication tables. Parents understand that each successive challenge, resulting in either success or failure, adds another brick to their child’s foundation of skills, knowledge, attitudes, and awareness. SKAAs are achievable, short-term outcomes with research-based connections to long-term outcomes that every parent ultimately wants for his or her grown child: employment, healthy family and social relationships, and community involvement.

A lot of people don’t know this, but Peconic Dunes uses a research-based, evaluation-proven curriculum that our counselors and instructors follow to help each camper achieve about a hundred short-term outcomes each week. The most critical outcomes come from The Search Institute's 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents. Our program’s short-term outcomes (SKAAs) were chosen because of research showing their connection to long-term outcomes.

Every Sunday, not long after check-in, our counselors sit down with your child to discuss what needs to happen for everyone in the cabin to have an enjoyable week. One item that always comes up is chores. You’d think that given the choice, most kids would opt out of chores for the week. Not so. Kids like a relatively clean place just as much as anybody. The kids then discuss what chores need to be done and how to fairly distribute the responsibilities. (This is also influenced by the fact that cabins are inspected with rewards going to the cleanest cabins and penalties to the very worst.) Some kids turn out to be better at making a bed or sweeping, so they work together, teaching and supporting one another. This silly situation, sometimes motivated by ice cream, other times motivated by a desire to be the best...in anything, yields positive peer relationships, responsibility, and high expectations. Your child gets 3 of the 40 Developmental Assets before they’ve even had breakfast.

This curriculum spans the entire Peconic Dunes program, from every activity, to meals, chores, and the Thursday night dance. At Peconic Dunes we’re creating amazingly fun experiences… memories… that will benefit our campers today and the day they teach their children to fish, sing out loud, and make new friends.

When most people think of camp they probably think about fun, outdoors, friends, and activities. Peconic Dunes is fun because we believe that fun is the best way to learn.

If you're jonesing to get out of the classroom sooner than later, check out our Spring Break Camp. As always, you can continue the conversation on Facebook.

January 14, 2012

The Ultimate Peconic Dunes Guest!

Posted by Sarah Marcus, STEM Director/Educator @ Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp

(STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)

Do you think science textbooks are dry and boring? Are you starting to daydream about Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp while your teacher is lecturing about Mendelian genetics?

Well then you should tell your science teacher about the The Ultimate Peconic Dunes Guest!

No…it’s not the Camp Director, Chris Colahan, or the Camp Ranger, Roger Martin or the CIT Director Ryan Frazer….No, the Ultimate Peconic Dunes Guest travels in a tank and likes to eat worms.

Cornelius II and Webster are two frogs that live all year at Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp. You may have seen them in the tank in the Nature Den last summer and if you were lucky enough, you got to witness them devouring thick slimy earthworms. In the summertime, these two adorable amphibians provide entertainment and education for everyone that walks into the Nature Den. But what do these underwater air-breathers do during the winter and spring? Cornelius II and Webster may be curious to watch as they prey upon earthworms and hide under rocks, but they don’t just hang around Peconic Dunes to keep me company during the long cold off-season when you all are in school. They actually have the important job of traveling around to Long Island science classes so that students can get a taste of the outdoors right in their classrooms. That’s right, science class isn’t just about dissecting dead frogs that reek of formaldehyde, it is also about fun! Fun includes experiencing live frogs. After all, dissecting dead frogs can only offer you facts about the placement of their internal organs. Observing live frogs offers insights into their behavior like mate choice, habitat preference and fight or flight instinct.

Observation is the most important part of scientific discovery. Every science study, theory and law started with observation. When Cornelius II and Webster come to your school, you may notice something unusual about them and you may wonder how those unusual characteristics arose. This thought process is what makes science so cool. So, if you’re getting bored of memorizing your science textbook and can’t seem to figure out how the difference between animal cells and plant cells relate to your daily life, consider having Cornelius II and Webster make a guest appearance at your school. They’ll open your eyes to what science is really all about.

Peconic Dunes, this is your mission: All 5,000 of you, tell your science teachers about Peconic Dunes…tell them about our school programs…tell them about Cornelius II and Webster!

We hope to see you in your classrooms. If you're jonesing to get out of the classroom, check out our Spring Break Camp. In the meantime, check us out on Facebook.