Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten…and at Summer Camp

Today’s blog post is by guest blogger, Luke Funk.  Luke teaches kindergarten at The Latin School in Chicago.  We are so glad Luke is returning for his 5th year on staff this summer as our waterfront director.


There is a saying that says something along the lines of “Everything I really need to know, I learned in Kindergarten.”  Someone even wrote a book about it. After a year of teaching and living in the “real world,” I have come to realize that there may be a lot of truth behind these simple words.  Play Nice, Take a Nap Every Afternoon, Say You’re Sorry, Flush…all great examples of what you learned back in the day. But what makes kindergarten the only ideal playground for these lessons to be learned? Is it the only place where the stuff you “really need to know” is taught indirectly?  Reflecting on the school year while packing for my fifth summer as a counselor at Deerhorn, I decided to alter the aforementioned statement as follows: Every Thing I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and at Summer Camp.  From personal experiences at both camp and in a classroom, I compiled a sampling of things I learned in Kindergarten…and at summer camp.


 How to Share

            When you enter the classroom those first years of your undeniably long educational career, sharing may not be the most familiar of concepts. But, it is a skill that will carry you through life.  Let your friend play with the block or go down the slide.  At Camp, we learn to share.  We learn to share the basics that come to mind immediately: living spaces, equipment, etc. However, we also learn to share ideas and opinions.


How to Make Friends

            This is not easy. Both Kindergarten and Camp are places where friendships are born and fostered.  The more friends you make the better you become at making them. I watched my classroom of timid 4 and 5 year olds blossom over time and make friends with those around them.  I watched the same thing happen to my Koogee 3 campers during their first few days at camp.   And remember, even at a young age, it isn’t about the number of friends but the quality of the friendship.

 How to Be a Friend

            Fishtailing of the previous point, you need to be a friend to have friends. Friendships should not be a one-way street.

How to Take Risks

My kids took risks all the time in the classroom.  Whether it was playing with a new toy, trying the two-wheeler on rooftop, or playing with a new friend, risks were made everyday. At camp, risks are taken daily as well: trying the blob for the first time, getting on a horse, shooting a rifle, or Slalom skiing in the murky water.  While the initial thought process may be scary, most of the time the outcome leads to something positive. Risk taking is a skill.  What better place to learn to take such risks then the loving and nurturing environments of summer camp and the classroom? Because when you fall, you know someone is right there to help you up.

How to Be the Best You Can Be

            At camp you learn how to be your best, and do your best. You set that bar for yourself. No one else can.  In kindergarten, your best comes through in your artwork, teamwork and simple day to day activities. Over time you learn that your best is good enough. No one can expect you to do better than your best. We can push you in positive ways but in the end it’s all you. You know what your best is. So believe in it and trust it.

 So you see, camp is important just like those carefree days of Kindergarten were. Not just because it’s fun. You learn things too, about yourself and about life. No matter how old you are, it never hurts to look back on those days at camp and in Kindergarten and think to yourself, “Everything I really need to know I learned then.”

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