Campfire Notes

How Camp Teaches 21st Century Skills

How Camp Teaches 21st Century Skills

“A profound gap exists between the knowledge and skills most students learn in school and the knowledge and skills they need for success in their communities and workplaces.”
-Partnership for 21st Century Skills

“Having started at Gold Arrow as a little seven year old, I have grown up here. Camp has become my home away from home, and I can honestly say it has shaped who I am today. It has given me confidence and taught me skills far beyond learning how to wakeboard or horseback ride. I am comfortable with myself, I am patient, and I have learned how to become a leader.”

-Katie “Rascal” Baral, 10 year Camper

Parents, educators, and youth development professionals are well-versed in the phrase “21st Century Skills.”  The phrase encompasses our current understanding of the urgent need for our children to be learning more than how to read, write, and do math.  There are many other skills needed to grow into productive, successful adults. As I look at the list of 21st Century Skills, I am struck by how many of the skills are intentionally modeled and taught at camp.  Following are five specific 21st Century skills that children learn at camp:

Working Creatively with Others

Campers learn to work creatively with others through working towards goals with their cabin group.  Even something as simple as collaborating on a skit, song, or dance requires being open and responsive to different perspectives and incorporating group input.  An important aspect of creativity and innovation is being able to “view failure as an opportunity to learn.”  At camp, with every new and challenging activity, campers are encouraged to challenge themselves and persevere past failure.  They learn that “creativity and innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes.”


From the moment they arrive at camp, campers have the opportunity to practice and hone their communication skills.  Gathered around the campfire on the first evening, campers talk about themselves in front of their small cabin group.  They also listen to others share about themselves.  At meals, campfires, and while walking around camp and participating in activities, counselors guide discussions about deeper issues and make sure all campers participate, even those who are less outgoing.  Listening skills are addressed and enhanced through practice.  Without the distractions and escape of technology, campers practice articulating thoughts and ideas and listening to the ideas of others throughout their time at camp.


When working together at Team Building, during cabin clean up, or while preparing for a performance, campers learn important collaboration skills.  They learn that they need to be flexible. They often learn another important collaboration skills, which is that it is often necessary to make compromises to accomplish a goal.  Counselors encourage campers to share responsibility for tasks and work together.  Campers are also encouraged to value and acknowledge each individual contribution made by team members.

Social and Cross-Cultural Skills 

Learning to interact effectively with others is an important social skill that doesn’t come naturally to all people.  At camp, counselors guide campers to learn when it is appropriate to listen and when it is appropriate to speak.  Counselors also require that campers respectfully listen to others’ opinions and treat others with respect.

For many campers, their time at camp is their first opportunity to meet and live with people from other cultures. Camp offers the opportunity for kids to form friendships with staff and campers from other countries.  Camp provides the opportunity for campers to gain a respect for and work effectively with people from a range of cultural backgrounds.  On International Day each session, we celebrate and learn about our international campers and staff.

Leadership and Responsibility 

Guiding and leading others is an important 21st Century skill.  In campers’ early years at camp, they learn basic responsibility for themselves and those around them.  Even our youngest campers have the opportunity to lead others in a song or game.  As they get older, campers gain more of an understanding of how their words and actions influence others, and they learn how to positively use their leadership skills.

While academics are important, children need other skills to be successful.  Camp offers an ideal setting for campers to learn and enhance many of the non-academic 21st Century Skills.  One line of our camp song says, “I sure did learn much more here than I ever did at school.”   And, when learning is viewed as more global than the subjects listed on the report card, that is an incredibly profound and true statement.

Read about all of the 21st Century Skills at 


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How GAC Has Influenced Our Five Year Campers

How GAC Has Influenced Our Five Year Campers


Friends. Friendship. Confidence. Independence.  Love of the outdoors. Outgoing. Social. Those are the words and phrases that show up over and over again in answer to the question, “How has your time at camp influenced you as a person?” on our Five-Year Camper survey.


Conducted over the past two years, we’ve had almost 200 current and past campers respond to this and other questions about their time at GAC.  Here are some of the many ways camp has influenced their lives:


“Having started at Gold Arrow as a little seven year old I have grown up here. Camp has become my home away from home and I can honestly say it has shaped who I am today. It has given me confidence and taught me skills far beyond learning how to wakeboard or horseback ride. I am comfortable with myself, I am patient and I have learned how to become a leader.” – Katie Baral



“It has helped me to extend myself and make new friends. At GAC I have made life long friends.” – Maddy Benfield


“Gold Arrow camp has always been my happy place, during the rest of the year, I would always look forward to camp!” – Haley Gross


“It has encouraged me to try new things.” – Eva Shuster-Arechiga


“It has made me just enjoy life better because I know that wherever one goes, as long as you are yourself you can influence others to enjoy life.  Camp taught me to just enjoy life as it is and not worry about things.” – Hosanna Kessler


“I feel that it has transformed me into a better person because I have learned the true meaning of friendship. It has pushed me to try new things and push my comfort levels.” – Alicia DeMartini


Quailman“GAC has helped shape the person that I am today. I take the core values of camp and bring them into my every day life. One thing that has really stuck with me after my time at camp has been the use of electronics in my life. When around others I do my best to never use my cell phone. The biggest way that I practice this as well as try to get my friends to take part in what I do is when I go out to meals with friends. I always make everyone stack their phones and we are not allowed to touch them until the bill has been paid. The other part of GAC that has influenced me the most is the simple idea of trying to always smile. It not only makes my day better but when giving a random person on the street a smile people tend to first seemed shocked and then return a genuine smile.” – Eric Bader


“Being at Gold Arrow gives me this sense of belonging that I’ve never felt anywhere else. I know that I can be myself and that my cabin mates will love me for who I am, and I’ve brought that to my life outside of camp. thank you for helping me become the person I am today.” – Hannah Leigh




“It has influenced me to try new things even if they seem difficult.” – Robert Leigh


“It has made me see the glass half full in everything I do.” – Scout Brown




“GAC has completely and totally made me the person that I am today. Being in an environment with the most positive people in the world helped me understand that it is ok to be silly, crazy, and absolutely ridiculous, and most importantly that it is okay being yourself. It also made me into a leader, having the best role models as my counselors to look up to.” – Reilly Barry


“Gold Arrow Camp has taught me to live in the moment and truly enjoy everything good in life. It influences me to truly be myself, and embrace who I am. Gold Arrow Camp is the time of year where I can truly have fun, and it has changed my life in an extremely good way.” – Megan McGlothlin




“Gold Arrow Camp ignited my love for the outdoors. If I hadn’t been a camper here, I would not be where I am today.” – Allison Muench


“It has influenced me to better a better version of myself and to be who I am on the inside.” – Henry Yeary


“Camp has made more outgoing and appreciative of all the opportunities that I have.” – Haley Davis


“It has influenced me by learning knew things and making new friends. I really enjoy how close you get with your cabin and counselors, it makes you have a whole new look on life, especially being away from social networking.” – Cassandra Cohen


“It has taught me to be a great friend.” – Garrett Reilly




“Gold Arrow has taught me friendship skills with people of all ages and how even a small amount of time with wonderful people can create amazing memories.” – Reid Bryan


“At GAC I have learned to be a better version of myself. I learned how to work with others through difficult situations, support someone else when they are having a hard time, encourage others to be the best that they can be, be more positive, and, most importantly, pack well.” – Elizabeth Zigrang


“Gold Arrow made me realize that there is so much more to life then just electronics. It is a lot more fun to socialize with the people who are around you.” – Maddy Knight


“It has made me make new friends and learn to work better together in groups.” – Erin McCarthy


“I’m more open to trying new things. I never would have had the opportunity to try many of the activities at camp if I didn’t go and now some of my favorite actitivities are rocks and ropes, sailing, and waterskiing.” – Elizabeth Kroger


“GAC has shaped my life in so many ways… the people and the immaculate environment are what have drawn me back year after year. GAC has taught me tolerance, patience and has provided me with an ability to be more accepting of everyone, young and old, no matter their walk of life.” – Cam Russell


“Overall GAC has made me become a better and more warm-hearted person. Normally I am very shy around people but at GAC I know I can act crazy because I feel less insecure since everyone else acts wildly and it has made me a more fun person to be around.” – Aaron Crasnick


“It has been like a dream I never want to wake up from.” – Paige Warmington


“It has taught me how to make new friends, and how to have a good time without electronics.” – Garrett Caddes


Sail“My experiences at GAC have made me into the person I am today. Camp taught me to be responsible and mature, yet at the same time taught me to be optimistic, positive, fun and confident. GAC and the community of people in it, have been so influential in raising me from childhood to adulthood.” – Stevie Goodrich

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