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Spark the Wave, Wave Week: Richard Fernandes

January 29, 2010

From time to time, I conduct interviews of camp directors to get their advice for parents. This week, I spoke to Richard Fernandes, the Program Director for Spark the Wave, which runs the leadership and community service camp, Wave Week.

There are so many camps available – how do you recommend parents find the right camp for their kids?

Think about the long term impact of camp. Summer is a great time to explore avenues that you might not get a chance to during the school year.  It’s a great chance to try something new – to spark an interest in another part of your brave. Kids can challenge themselves and expand who they are. It doesn’t have to be sports camps all summer long.

In terms of finding camps, the Internet, word-of-mouth and local groups are all great sources of camps.

What questions should parents ask a camp director about their camp?

Of course, there are the basics in terms of safety, ratios, and so forth. You do want to be sure that your child is safe at camp. But you can also get outside the box. Ask how this camp experience will change your child’s life.

How can you best prepare your child for camp?

This is especially important with younger children. You can really prepare them for the camp experience. Encourage them to challenge themselves at camp. Take themselves out of their comfort zone.  You can help by really valuing being brave. Encourage the kids to expand themselves by learning what they can do as a person and learning that they can do what they didn’t believe was possible.

What is unique about Wave Week?

We are a very unusual camp in that we teach leadership skills and community service. Students learn how to lead and do some community service at the camp. But they also design a community service project to take home with them, that they are expected to complete when they return home. This allows them to quickly apply the knowledge they’ve learned. In addition, kids are able to earn 40 hours of community service credits that they can apply towards high school graduation.

We’re a very hands on camp, so we make the learning as experiential as possible. Lectures are no more than 10-15 minutes at a time. The rest of the time is spent learning by doing. For example. we have a very popular motivation lesson with chocolate bars. It starts with the instructors asking the kids to do certain tasks (raise hands, sit down, stand up) in a very non-motivating way – a little condescending and definitely not inspiring. The kids are not enthusiastic and many just stop listening. The final request is to lift up their chair. By this time, the kids are not responding and typically don’t lift their chair. They are then asked if they would lift their chair if they knew that there was a chocolate bar taped to the bottom of the chair. With this information, the response increases dramatically. Motivation is about finding each person’s chocolate bar.

We are also big believers in youth teaching youth. Kids will respond to instructors nearer their age than to an adult. So many of the instructors are alumni of the program who are also rehearsing their leadership skills.

Is there anything else that you’d like to share with parents regarding Wave Week?

Yes. We’re delighted this year to have received a grant that allows children of military personnel to attend for free. We also have additional financial aid programs available. We don’t want students to not attend due to cost.

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