Their brains become both calmer and sharper

Recently friend Bob Ditter sent me an article by Pico Iyer  titled “The Joy of Quiet” in the  New York Times.

The article dives into the emerging desire to take a break from connecting online.  “The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug.”

The highlight of the article was the following passage

Other friends try to go on long walks every Sunday, or to “forget” their cellphones at home. A series of tests in recent years has shown, Mr. Carr points out, that after spending time in quiet rural settings, subjects “exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory and generally improved cognition. Their brains become both calmer and sharper.” More than that, empathy, as well as deep thought, depends (as neuroscientists like Antonio Damasio have found) on neural processes that are “inherently slow.” The very ones our high-speed lives have little time for.

Today while at a summer camp fair (picture 40 camps in a hotel ballroom trying to explain why their camp is the best), I had a mother ask me “well, what’s the benefit to sending a child to a resident [sleepaway/overnight] camp?”  We talked about the social skills a child will develop in an environment where they would be living with 7 other campers and 2 trained camp counselors.  The independence that is fostered, the friendships that are made, and the responsibility of taking care of themselves were all discussed.  It’s becoming more apparent we can now add improved cognition and health to the list.

by Dan Weir: Jan 30, 2012

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

the Outage January 30, 2012 at 7:27 pm

I totally agree; summer camp introduces kids to desperately needed “time in quiet rural settings.”

Given this research, should camps be helping families integrate such quiet, natural experiences into their day-to-day lives, too? How can camps serve as a resource to people who want to unplug–whether just for a long weekend or as a lifestyle? Put another way, how do we help campers and their families bring the “good life” of camp back to the “real world”?


Dan Weir January 31, 2012 at 12:19 am

Matt, I believe camps should be promoting this lifestyle all year long, not just during the summer. Many summer camps have family camps, shoulder seasons, or are even year round camp facilities. My camp, Frost Valley YMCA is a year round camp, conference, & education facility. Every weekend outside of the summer is a family weekend where we encourage families not use their cell phones.

I earnestly believe that we have to promote the relationship building that happens during this time. This is the essence of Unplug At Camp.


Sandra Leu January 31, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I would love to unplug at your family camp. I think the adults need this more than the kids…and then we can be good role models!


Greg February 5, 2012 at 3:56 am

This is what i have been preaching all along about the camp experience. Camp needs to be a place outside the norm of society if we want it to be a place where kids can truly connect wih themselves and nature. You can’t do that via a cellphone or facebook or what have you…it’s the experience of being separate from the technology world that creates the foundation for true relationship building…where self esteem is developed, where social skills are learned…where kids can actually be kids and play! That’s what we can gain when we unplug at camp! Just my 2 cents.


Dan Weir February 5, 2012 at 4:17 am

Greg, I’m glad to hear that you agree. The camping industry has a long way to go in the efforts of explaining the power of Summer Camp experience. Still to this day, many people believe camp is only tag games and Arts & Crafts. We need more people to understand as you stated “where self esteem is developed, where social skills are learned…where kids can actually be kids and play!”


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