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The Chinese educational system is heavily focused on teaching students the hard-skills required to succeed, particularly in the realms of math and science. Chinese students perform exceptionally well in these areas and have developed the discipline to excel in academics. Berkshire Happy Camp aims to supplement this educational system by providing meaningful experiences that allow students to develop the soft-skills to be strong and effective future leaders. To this end, Berkshire Happy Camp is focused on ‘social education’ and has three primary focuses:
Berkshire Outdoor Center operates the largest educational challenge course in the Northeastern United States, on 1,400 acres of historic, rustic conservation lands in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.
As part of their jobs, Berkshire Outdoor Center instructors put personal effort into creating individualized programs for each school, family and individual that attends our programs, resulting in each participant receiving a lot of individualized attention. While there is emphasis on group work, the focus is on how each individual plays into that group.
Unlike most education and outdoor education centers, Berkshire Outdoor Center programs are not cookie-cutter, but are specialized: tailored for each group that attends. Activities are jointly selected with group leaders, based on the goals of the group. Introductions and debriefs are tailored to each group and instructors plan based on group goals.
Berkshire Outdoor Center intentionally embraces experiential education, not formal education. Unlike formal education, which follows strict pre-developed curricula, our curricula are vastly adaptable. This format helps instructors reach all learners, in addition to those who do well in school. Additionally, in this form of education, the focus of education is on subject matter that is not taught or discussed in the formal education setting: social and emotional learning. Learning how to manage self-awareness, behavior and how to influence others and group behaviors are skills not focused on in the formal education system.
Being in a new physical location helps learning too. By participating in our programs, students have a new teacher and new activities that allow students to perform tasks and objectively look at why they do things the way they do, and explore their motivations. At Berkshire Outdoor Center, there is an emphasis on bringing these skills learned back to the community.
Berkshire Outdoor Center offers unique activities that bring students back to the beginning and then reach new levels of cohesiveness and self-awareness through students taking on new roles. The educational techniques used in our programs target more of Gardner's multiple intelligences (Multiple Intelligence Theory) than the traditional school setting can reach. Our approach allows kids who don't shine at traditional school to do really well, and then this allows the people around them to see these students in a new way, changing the relationship between them. This also allows students to understand the value of successful leadership, and that these skills are as important as good grades at school. Children often compartmentalize relationships with other kids and our programs allow students to DE compartmentalize these views and see others in a new way.
Berkshire Outdoor Center uniquely provides one instructor per group for the duration of the group's stay. This instructor develops a relationship with the group, and each instructor group relationship is unique. It allows the instructor to tailor the program, based on the group's performance and needs. These relationships develop quickly and provide a place to build stronger relationships between instructor and each participant.
Berkshire Outdoor Center instructors are the best in the industry. We are not lecture based, but inquiry and activity based. As an example, we don't have a raptor program. We are interested in lecturing your students about raptors. Instead we have students explore the bog or the meadows, using their hands: touching, feeling, building, creating, exploring and learning by doing.
Berkshire Outdoor Center's rustic environment encourages students from urban, suburban and rural communities to spend time without electricity, without technology and learn to appreciate that our accommodation is even more comfortable than other locations. To spend the night, together, in the woods, away from what have developed from creature comforts into perceived essentials, teaches students that social media and constant connection are not the only "fun" things to do with our time.
Berkshire Happy Camp additionally provides an opportunity for true language immersion, in a traditional camp setting, but in a way that is supportive and not overwhelming, especially when students have first arrived in a new culture. Language will not be taught, but will be lived through 1:1 relationships with natural English speakers.
Additionally, there will be an evening reprieve from the intense language immersion: the opportunity to debrief with other Chinese students, relaxing independently of the hosts. This is unique to this program and develops students confidence and relationships.
The programs that the children will participate in are experiential education based.
The program is an introduction to the American culture, without students being immersed too deeply, too quickly. They will meet real Americans who live in the Berkshires. They will meet Americans who are not focused on traditional education, but on education that is leadership oriented.
The program is intentionally not tourism focused. This is a rustic, 113 year old traditional camp, doing the same type of leadership education that we have provided for over a century. We have always maintained a rustic, technology-free, leadership program that focuses on building relationships through experiential education, with a strong international community focus built in.