The Look for the Good Project (LFTGP) is a non-profit organization that uses gratitude to empower kindness in communities. Previously, Anne Kubitsky, the founder and CEO of LFTGP, went to schools to introduce the project and two-week gratitude campaign. Recently, LFTGP launched an online initiative that is accessible to any school who would like to participate in this program. So far, over 30 schools have signed up for the gratitude campaign kits, which will empower over 12,000 kids to lift up their schools with gratitude and spread kindness in a time where we really need it the most. The LFTGP has really skyrocketed this past year and has made a difference in the lives of thousands of kids all over the world.
As MVP (Most Valuable Player) at LFTGP, I have helped to write and edit a book that is included in the campaign kits, appeared on tv twice to promote the project, participated in packing the campaign kits, and raised over $800 for a yearly scholarship fund. Additionally, my sister, Emi and I were able to use the LFTGP’s message to lift up a little boy who was harshly brought down by bullies. 7-year-old Jonathan was severely attacked on his school’s playground by two older boys and was left with a broken arm and scarred heart. This little boy needed some love and to be told that he matters. Emi and I asked our school communities to help out, and we collected almost 1000 cards with inspiring and motivating messages to deliver to Jonathan. Jonathan is now wearing a smaller cast and is gradually starting to feel better after this traumatic experience. Emi and I both used gratitude and kindness to show this boy that love always wins, and no matter what happens people will always be there to support you and lift you up!
I am also currently working on my Bat Mitzvah project, for which I will be bringing the LFTGP to my temple to inspire my religious community and hopefully make it a more grateful and kind place.
At Eisner we are taught to “Be the One” and to be kind to everyone, which are some of the same ideas we promote in the LFTGP campaign. At Eisner, our differences do not polarize us, but bring us closer together. We embrace everyone, no matter their sexual orientation, the gender they identify as, or their personal beliefs. LFTGP also encourages students to be kind to everyone, despite their differences, and teaches that our differences make us stronger. Although Tikkun Olam, Gemilut Chasadim and B’ztelem Elohim are Jewish ideals taught at camp, they can also be applied to LFTGP, as repairing the world, performing acts of loving kindness, and living in the image of God are important values of the campaign, and are needed in order to spread kindness around the world.
We hear it all the time- “What’s with these young people? They can’t focus, can’t communicate, they’re entitled, self-centered, constantly staring at their screens!” Well folks, this is the generation we have fostered. Technology snuck up on us, we gave them all participation trophies, and now we have to work alongside of them for the rest of our lives. But, today’s parents are generally better at understanding what is lacking in their children’s development and are prioritizing differently for the children we are raising now.
For the past 150 years, our educational system has focused on “the 3 R’s”, hard skills, memorizing dates, formulas and vocab words, while in the 21st Century, the world suddenly changed. All of a sudden, millions of jobs have become antiquated and disappeared. To paraphrase the Global Markets Institute, as automation became cost-effective, the bulk of the workforce has shifted from ‘doing’ the work (HARD SKILLS) to organizing, coordinating and supervising the increasingly complex resources behind it (SOFT SKILLS). While there are currently an estimated 7.4 million unemployed workers, there are 5.6 million job openings. That’s a huge SKILLS gap, and according to employers, it’s not the hard skills that’s the problem, it’s the lack of soft skills of the entering workforce.
According to the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (p21.org), which is comprised of Fortune 500 business leaders and progressive educators, the top skills sought by today’s employers are:
1. Oral Communication (great texters and tweeters, but not great face-to-face)
2. Teamwork & Collaboration (great on their own, not so much when working with others)
3. Professionalism & Work Ethic (personal satisfaction reigns supreme- YOLO!)
4. Written Communication (most of today’s teachers have literally given up)
5. Critical Thinking & Problem Solving (Parents micro-manage their children to the point in which they can’t do things for themselves)
Add to this picture that 30% of students entering 4-year college programs DROP OUT after their first year, and only 56% graduate within SIX years. Why is this? Besides financial burdens, see the big five p21 skills above that our kids are lacking, especially #5 when Mommy or Daddy aren’t around to fix their problems!
So where can we help young people find these skills? Schools are focused on standardized tests, Families run their children from obligation to obligation, plus homework, and the allure of xBox, YouTube, Instagram and the DVR. Where can children experience a “Step Back in Time” to a more care-free environment like we experienced as kids, unencumbered by technology, where people interact by actually speaking to one another, face to face, outside amongst nature, in a supportive environment that fosters the development of skills that employers are looking for in the 21st Century,away from their over-loving and ever-hovering parents? At SUMMER CAMP!
Summer Camps have existed for over 100 years, but have become more important for the development of children than EVER before. Children work together in groups, led by energized staff who lead by example, forced to communicate and compromise with one another, conquering their fears, pushing beyond perceived limits, making and keeping friendships, and learning an abundance of new skills (hard and soft).
The American Camp Association estimates that 11 million children attend Summer Camp annually, which leaves another 30 million who do not. Why is this? What holds back the uninitiated parent from enrolling their children to Camp? After growing a successful program in an area with no prior culture of Camp, I present to you my top three excuses:
1. “Too much money.” Of course, this is a perceived belief, as there are camps in all price ranges, and if the camp experience was valued as much as “camp people” attest (priceless), these families could stay at a smaller hotel at Disney, or make other choices to give their children a summer camp experience. Many adults say that they learned more about life at Camp than they did at College, at a fraction of the price!
2. “I just want my kids to relax during the summer.” As they should, and boredom (without screens) is an important component of growth. After a couple of days immersed in a quality Camp program though, children find it very relaxing and enjoyable. They can play video games, stare at their phones and sleep late in the time they will still have at home.
3. “I want to spend time with my children.” That’s wonderful, but will you be providing meaningful opportunities that teach your children important character and life skills this summer, or just entertaining them? Camp can do both!
At Summer Camp, children take advantage of the unique “out of school learning environment” that is able to teach the vital life skills that traditional schools can not- Skills that allow children to grow into happy, successful, contributing members of society. In a world today that often seems to de-value virtues like kindness and acceptance, Camps create a culture that makes it cool to be kind. As parents, we do our best to provide a strong foundation for our children in our homes, like nutrient-rich soil for our little seedlings. Summer Camp provides an environment for our little flowers to flourish and bloom, outside in the fresh air and sunshine of the summer!
The response to our new collection of camp songs has been amazing, and we wanted to go “behind the music” to show you how it all came about and how it’s inspiring members of our camp community. We speak every summer about how each of us can be the one to stand up to bullying, to help feed the hungry, to protect our environment. Each of us has the ability to take action and do something, and to see the ripple effect that our action can have on others. This past Hanukkah, we released a new Eisner album: Be the One – Songs from the Bubble. Now we have an incredible song, as well an entire album, that will help us reinforce and spread this message during the summer and beyond.
Each song on the album shares this message of social justice and how we can help make the world a better place. It starts with our title track, Be the One, written this past summer at camp by Eisner campers together with singer/songwriter Alan Goodis. This song quickly became the unofficial anthem of the summer.
Some of the songs on the album are classics of the Reform Jewish camping movement (Lo Alecha, Im Tirtzu, Not By Might) while others come to us from the American folk tradition and remain popular at camp (This Land is Your Land, If I had a Hammer, God’s Counting on Me). Still other more recently written songs represent our continued commitment as a movement to social justice (Lo Yisa Goy, L’takein, Al Shlosha, What Makes You Glow) or come to us from the rich tradition of Israeli music that emphasizes a similar spirit of repairing the world together (Ani V’ata, Shir La’Ahava). Of course, no Eisner album would be complete without our camp song, Over the Rafters!
We learn and practice so many ways to be the onewhile we are at camp each summer. While we talk about the values that we want to live by as a cabin, unit, and camp-wide community, we also put our words into action. This past summer, for example, we participated in a 5K walk/run to raise awareness for different causes selected by our campers and staff, including support for the Jewish community of our two Ugandan staff members, Yonatan and Sam. We have continued to support Yonatan and Sam’s community of Namatumba through an organization called Kulanu this year. (If you’d like to make a donation, be sure to write “Eisner/Namatumba” in the comment field or check memo.) We just received thank you photos from them and wanted to share them with you!
We also raised money for a wide range of social justice organizations at the annual Ofarim Tzedakah fair. Our Ofarim campers (rising 7th graders) also participated in a special volunteer day, giving their time to organizations around the Berkshires to support our local community.
We hope that as you listen to these songs throughout the year, you will be inspired by what you have learned and done at camp to take action beyond the Eisner bubble. This album is a soundtrack for Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, something we know you each have the ability to do!
FREE FROM SCHOOL-YEAR DEMANDS, SUMMER CAMPS ARE A KEY VENUE FOR SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING
Summer camp: For so many kids, it signifies carefree days of swimming, playing sports, singing songs, and reveling in freedom from the demands of the school year. Camp means no homework, no studying, and no teachers.
But significant learning is still taking place at summer camp — even if the campers don’t necessarily realize it.
All those classic camp dynamics — being away from home and parents, making new friends, being part of a team, and trying new things — are building blocks to crucial social-emotional skills.
Social-emotional learning (SEL) can encompass a variety of practices, but most experts agree that a child with high SEL skills is successful in five core areas: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. These skills are increasingly understood to be central to success in school and in professional life beyond, but schools don’t always have the time or capacities to teach them explicitly. Obligations to complete curriculum and boost student achievement often make it difficult for teachers to prioritize community building, goal-setting, or problem solving in their classrooms.
Unconnected to the commitments of the school day, summer camps (particularly overnight camps) can dive head-first into social-emotional learning — and many do. These opportunities are especially importance for low-income students, many of whom already have fewer opportunities to gain these skills outside of school.
A 2005 study of 80 camps by the American Camp Association (ACA) found significant growth in children’s social-emotional skills after a session of summer camp. Camp staff, parents, and children reported increases in children’s self-esteem, independence, leadership, friendship skills, social comfort, and values and decision-making skills, from the beginning to the end of a session.
It’s not just the new environment and flexible schedule that builds kids’ social-emotional skills. Many camps have an intentional focus on social-emotional learning. YMCA camps, for instance, explicitly discuss their four values — honest, caring, respect, and responsibility — constantly, through songs, skits, and rallies. And most camps train staff to coach kids on becoming more independent, socially aware, and reflective.
In particular, camps foster relationship skills and social awareness by:
Camps also nurture self-awareness, self-management, and responsible decision making by:
For 80 summers, parents have been entrusting the care of their campers to Watitoh, and that trust is something we do not take lightly. For our camp staff, the ones that are on the front lines making sure your child is having the best and safest summer possible, the camp season begins at least one week before our campers arrive. During our Staff Orientation we are setting expectations, participating in workshops related to child development, inspiring staff bonding and team building, reviewing camp policies and learning what it means to be a part of the Watitoh Family. We spend time reviewing each camper with their counselors and preparing them to be the most successful they can be. By the time the campers arrive, our counselors are ready to welcome them with open arms and create the best summer experience possible.
The below article was written by Audrey Monke and posted on the American Camp Association’s website. It is one that we have shared with our staff for 2016. Enjoy!
Hey, you! I know something about you. You want to be a great counselor this summer. You really do. And you can one of the best, most memorable counselors your camp has ever seen.
But this job is going to be a lot harder than you thought. It will tax every part of you mentally, emotionally, and physically. Some days there will be hurdles — lots of them. There may be one kid in your cabin who doesn’t appear to hear any instructions you give, or the entire group might be in chaos because they didn’t get the memo that you are their counselor and the one in charge — and therefore are to be respected and listened to. One camper may forget to visit the restroom and have multiple accidents daily. A staff member you really like might start dating someone else. Or your supervisor seems to only see what you’re doing wrong instead of what you’re doing well. Stuff will go wrong this summer at camp, I promise. In fact, that’s the one thing you can be sure of. Your cabin groups will not fit the picture-perfect mold you envision. You’ll make mistakes and need to fix things.
So, how can you still do a great job despite the challenges you’re going to face? Here are a few simple tips that will make you stand out at your camp this summer — in a good way!
Until this point in your life, you’ve probably had to focus on taking care of only one person — yourself. Maybe you’ve had siblings you’ve helped with or you’ve done some babysitting, but, for the most part, when you’re at college or home, you look out for number one: You make sure that you are fed, clothed, safe, and happy. You haven’t had to worry about taking care of other people. Well, this summer you’ll have to do a big 180 — a huge one. Seriously. You’ll need to start and end each day thinking about your campers, what they need, and how you can best support them. And the rest of the time? You’ll need to show them, through your words and actions, that they are what you’re thinking about most.
What specific actions can you take to show your campers that they are your number-one priority?
You might think of meeting and talking with parents as an annoying side aspect of your job. Don’t. Those parents are trusting you with the thing that’s most important in their lives, and they don’t even know you. You also wouldn’t have a job if those parents weren’t willing to send their children to camp. Think about that. Whether you have a few minutes to interact with parents at the beginning or end of sleep-away camp or if you see parents daily at day camp, use those minutes to wow them.
What specific actions can you take to wow your campers’ parents?
If you tend to think, “No one needs to tell me what to do,” you’ll need to give up that notion this summer. To do a great job at camp, you will need to seek the training and support of those who are more experienced than you. Believe it or not, your supervisors know a thing or two after working at camp for many years. This job is one in which you can build some important life and career skills, but you must be intentional in doing so. Even if you think you’re doing a great job with your campers, make sure you also nurture your relationship with your supervisor or camp director.
What specific actions can you take to impress your camp director?
How do you want to be remembered by your campers? Fellow counselors? Your camp director? Write it down now. Post it in your trunk or on a mirror or somewhere you’ll see it each day. Keep that in mind all summer so you’ll stay on mission and focused on why you’re at camp. It will help you make wise choices with your campers and when you’re on time off. Always keep in mind your over-arching reason for being at camp.
What specific actions can you take to stay on mission all summer?
I know I told you to focus on your campers as your top priority, but as every over-tired, at-rope’s-end parent knows, you won’t be able to take great care of your campers if you don’t take care of yourself too. Make sure you figure out the habits and routines that are going to work for you at camp this summer. Camp is a fresh start and a great time to change any bad habits. In fact, some habits you’ll be forced to change by the camp schedule and policies. You might as well embrace this opportunity to take great care of yourself.
How can you take great care of yourself this summer?
These are five simple ways for you to be a counselor who stands out to your campers, your campers’ parents, your camp director, your co-workers, and yourself this summer. And while they are simple and straight-forward, they each require you to make smart choices and take specific actions.
You can have a life-changing, positive impact on your campers this summer, and you can also create a life-changing, positive experience for yourself.
Have a fantastic summer!