Camp Woodland Blog

Game On: Real Over Robots at Camp

Posted by on March 5, 2024

It is conference season, and several of us have been traveling to meet other camp professionals in various locations for a chance to network and learn together. I happen to be someone who leads educational sessions at conferences, and while creating PowerPoint presentations for these opportunities, I found myself having the need to put a slide at the beginning that says, “This presentation was prepared for you by a real person.” Included with this is an image of “ChatGPT” with a giant “X” through it along with my bitmoji showing a fist in the air and the words, “Game On.” I then go on to challenge the people in the room to tell me at the end if they think that a robot could have put the presentation together to the same degree. Their response?! A resounding, “NO WAY!”

When people ask me what is it that do, my elevator “speech” is “I’m in the business of developing emerging leaders with the skills that robots can’t do.” It is super fun to see what kind of response this statement brings. It usually takes a moment for people to comprehend what I just said, and it is often accompanied by a quizzical look (the kind where someone stares off into space and is trying really hard to imagine what this looks like). This is in part because I didn’t answer with the typical, “I’m a camp consultant,” or “I do staff training for camps.” It is also in part because it may not be crystal clear what I do, but it sounds really cool. And, it generates a need for someone to want to know more!

Since I am a camp professional with a strong background in education, I can confidently say in my humble (and unbiased!) opinion that camp is hands down the BEST place for youth (ages 7-97) to learn and practice the people/life skills that will set them apart from the jobs that robots (AI) will and are already taking over. Not to say that schools don’t have their place; I just find that camp is better because of all the things that are missing in the summer camp experience that make room for opportunities to practice and learn the skills that are vital to us as people. This is largely in part because through subtraction at camp, we are able to employ addition. I realize this seems counterintuitive or even unlikely; however, camp is the perfect ecosystem for the skills robots can’t do to be nurtured and developed organically!

According to Forbes, there are 10 skills that robots can’t replace in the workplace (May, 2022). LinkedIn has its own list of 7 crucial human skills that AI can’t replace (March, 2023). If we look at the crossover from these (and other) lists, it isn’t a stretch to make the connection to camp as being the place where critical thinking, creativity, emotional intelligence, and collaboration/teamwork (just to name a few!) are an integral thread of the fabric for this unique (and real!) experience that is hard to replicate anywhere else.

By taking just one of Woodland’s traditional camp activities (I will use the annual Song Contest for illustration purposes), a line can be drawn to each of the skills mentioned above for both campers (and staff!). Song Contest is when cabin groups are tasked with changing the words to a popular song so that it tells a story about the current summer. The entire camp comes together on a Saturday evening to enjoy the highly anticipated performances of each individual cabin. There are special judges who have the honor of determining the “winner” and runners-up for this friendly, yet somewhat competitive (let’s be honest!), event.

Critical thinking shows up as each group thinks on their feet to rewrite the words, choreograph dance moves, and choose costumes to match the theme of their chosen song. Emotional intelligence can be found in the interactions between the girls from each cabin group; it takes self-awareness to take notice and monitor one’s own emotions and it takes empathy to pay attention to the emotions and feelings of others. It wouldn’t be unusual for someone’s feelings to get hurt when their idea isn’t incorporated; it takes resolve for a camper to be OK with that and to also support the other person for their contribution to the group.

Creativity is present from start to finish when taking on this challenge to put together an original entry for Song Contest. Imagination comes to life with the final performance! The week leading up to Song Contest is one giant exercise in teamwork and collaboration. Working together does not mean the absence of conflict; however, groups are able to move through and past any differences and disagreements in the spirit of having a unified effort towards a common goal.

This one example (and there are many more where this came from!) shows how camp fosters the development of REAL people skills in the normal day-to-day happenings that occur when immersed in an experience with peers when away from the typical distractions of home/school. So, when someone asks you why you send your child to camp, you can confidently say that you are giving your daughter the opportunity to develop the skills that robots can’t do! I’d love to know what response you get…you can email me at!


Now is a GREAT time to enroll your camper/s for 2024 and reserve your spot/s to give your daughter/s the opportunity to develop REAL people skills. Sign up HERE: