Long before the lines were painted on the courts, or our first canoe set sail from the shores of Lake Massapoag, Everwood’s founding team was talking about what camp would look like. Their first conversations, however, weren’t considerations about the color of the buildings on campus, or even the toys they’d fill it with. Rather, they were about the broader outcomes that building a supportive community could provide for their campers.
Namely, they were interested in how Everwood’s community could help campers build character skills, like integrity, self-reliance and grit. From a combination of their own experiences as camping veterans, as well as the research of influential child psychologists, they knew that these are the kinds of traits that largely define a young person’s trajectory as they head towards adulthood. The most successful young adults, who come out of college and become stars in the workforce–they have these skills in spades.
Wanting more of that kind of character in the workforce was also the driving force behind the founding of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a collection of some of our nation’s most successful corporations and thinkers (including the likes of Marriott, Microsoft, Apple and PBS). The Partnership’s purpose is to address the critical lack of preparedness that today’s young people have for tomorrow’s workforce; jobs that will demand broad, interpersonal skills, rather than the mastery of narrow ones. To put it plainly, the Partnership thinks our kids’ future–and all the success we wish for them–is in jeopardy.
How did we get here?
Well, traditional schooling, with its overwhelming emphasis on preparing students for standardized tests and STEM skills, doesn’t have time left for much else. Technology, which parks our kids in front of a screen (and keeps them from being fully present with one another) isn’t helping matters. And plenty of well-intentioned parents, who groom their kids from an early age to stand out, by specializing in specific activities–often at the expense of their adaptability to other ones–well, they’re not always doing their kids any favors, either.
So our founders set out to design a camp that could fill in some of the gaps. They imagined a place full of activities that would challenge children to step outside their comfort zone, and become more resilient and flexible. And they made sure that Everwood’s community would always be staffed by role models, who exhibited the very character skills they wished to encourage.
It was then, after they’d decided on outcomes for Everwood, that our founders turned their attention back to all the fun stuff that makes camp’s deeper learning possible. They painted the lines on the basketball court, selected a color scheme for the campus, and smiled as those canoes finally set sail. Knowing this too: that regardless of how rough the water ahead might be, they were also giving their campers an internal compass, to guide them safely back to shore.