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Adventure/Outdoors Biology Camps Environmental Featured Posts Geology Hiking Marine Science Nature Programs Science Sleep away camps

Is Sleepaway Camp Right for My Kid?

Considering exploring overnight camps for your children this summer? Two directors share tips to prepare kids for the positive experience of a lifetime.

By Laura Quaglio

kids goofing off and having fun at overnight camp

If your kids haven’t tried sleepaway camp, you’re entering uncharted territory for your family. That, however, is not actually a bad thing. “Doing something outside of your comfort zone burns memories that last forever because it won’t blend into the background of life,” says Michael Richards, founder and executive director of Science Camps of America based in Pahala, Hawaii. When kids spread their wings, they can grow as a person — and become more the person they really are, not limited by the perceptions and history of their classmates or even their own family.

“Campers all enter on this totally equal basis, and they can express their personality without the backdrop of their whole life, their whole history,” says Richards, whose camps are for teens aged 13 to 17 who are interested in exploring volcanoes, rocks, forests, oceans, and skies of Hawaii to learn about related sciences like geology, climate, and astronomy. “You can’t come to school and reinvent yourself — or even be yourself,” he adds. “In the camp, kids can express their personality and no one is going to judge them or say, ‘Why did you suddenly change?’ I think that gives kids tremendous empowerment.”

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Being in a camp environment also helps prepare kids to function as positive and productive members of society during adulthood. At Camp Chrysalis, where kids aged 8 to 17 explore various outdoor environments in California, director Lee Tempkin takes pride in showing campers how “shared leadership” works. “Everyone calls me Lee, though it’s clear I’m the leader,” he says of his management style. “The staff and I have camp huddles, talk around the campfire, and discuss who would like to give the next camp talk,” he says. “Kids see that we are all part of an adult community. That we respect and work with each other and with them.” Being in a tight-knit group 24/7, even for a short time, helps kids build stronger teamwork skills and independence, all of which will serve them well when they eventually leave home as a young adult entering the workforce or college.

Still a bit hesitant? Worried if your kid will thrive and if you will survive? Here are some ways to tell whether you and your child are ready … and how to prepare them for a transformative, positive experience.

Think About Their Personality

Richards says that “the vast majority of kids love [overnight camp], even if it is their first time doing it.” The kids who do best, says Tempkin, are those who are open, flexible, and positive about new experiences. His camps expose kids to a variety of outdoor activities while living among redwoods, tide pools, marshes, and mountains and learning about ecology and our responsibility for our planet. Kids will get dirty and wet. They’ll sleep in tents with other campers and learn outdoor skills. Kids who are accustomed to spending most of their time in an urban area, indoors, or in solo activities may have a tougher time adapting. For them, as well as kids younger than age 8, he says it’s better to start with overnights or a weekend getaway at a friend or family member’s house. “Summer camp is not the time to have a kid be away from mom and dad for the first time,” he says.

Kindness, too, is key. “Kids who are mean to other kids may have a hard time,” says Tempkin. Campers will be interacting with each other in close proximity all day (and night) without breaks. Kids don’t have to like everything or everyone new, he notes, but they need to appreciate different experiences and different kinds of people.

In a way, this is good news, because it means that bullying is not generally a problem at either of these overnight camps, and probably many others. “Kids are amazingly open about it, and they won’t let anyone get away with the slightest bit of it,” Richards says. “Maybe because they’re not with their usual peer group. They think, ‘Let’s stop this before it starts.’ It’s really something to see.”

Let Your Child Choose the Camp

Richards says that telling a kid, “you’re going here” is one of the biggest mistakes parents make. Of course you won’t want to let your child have the only say-so: Sometimes kids don’t have the same concerns that you do. And if you aren’t comfortable with their pick, your child will sense that, and it might affect their stay. On the other hand, kids will be more invested in having a good time if they are allowed to select a program that excites them.

Some camps offer a range of activities that can include athletics, crafts, survival skills, and so on. Others center on a particular theme, such as a single sport, academic subject, or interest (like soccer, science, or computer coding). “Kids find us because they’re interested in science,” says Richards. “So they’re going to be in a group of like-minded kids. All of a sudden, these kids have that shared enthusiasm, and that makes it a very good social experience.” On the other hand, kids who don’t have a specific interest may prefer to dabble in a variety of activities, which can help them find a new hobby they’ll love. Either way, discuss these different options and be sure your child knows what “their” camp offers.

child exploring a creek on a hike

Encourage Their Independence

At Camp Chrysalis, kids learn to keep track of their gear, their toothbrush, their fork, and so on. They will spend 8 to 12 days at Big Sur, Mendocino, or Sierra. They will hike, swim, and hang out. They also learn camping skills like “how not to damage a tent,” “how to sterilize drinking water,” and “how to whittle safely.” You can help set them up for success by encouraging them to take more responsibility for such items and actions at home. Let them start packing their sports bag or packing their lunch for school. When preparing for camp, have them help you pack their labeled camp gear, too, so they know where everything is located.

At Science Camps of America, Richards likes to give kids as much choice as possible throughout the day, such as which bed to sleep in, which van to ride in, and what topic to debate that evening. If you don’t already do so, start encouraging your kids to make more of their own choices when it’s feasible.

Another tip: Once they’re at camp, leave them be. Both camp directors agree that kids will have a better experience if their parents aren’t checking in all the time. In fact, many camps take away tech, though they’ll certainly allow phone calls if a child is particularly homesick.

If you miss texting your kids, remember this: Taking that away will free them up to interact with the kids at camp. Richards says he gathers up the cell phones after each camp’s orientation. “The kids know that it’s going to happen and they’re all horrified by the prospect of it, but within a few hours, you’ve got 20 strangers who are best friends. It’s amazing to see how fast they socialize and connect without cell phones to distract them.” You can both get accustomed to the idea by easing up on the tech connections at home a bit, too. And if they do phone home, Richards says make sure to tell them you’re excited and happy for them. You may feel like you should tell them how much you miss them, but both camp directors agree that this often makes kids feel guilty about having fun, which can inhibit their ability to immerse themselves in the experience.

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Do a Bit of Detective Work

Fear of the unknown can be powerful, but it’s easy enough to dispel some of it. Richards, for one, believes in finding information that helps kids and parents “envision the environment” and understand what a typical day or week will hold.

“I encourage parents to look at the camp’s website with their kids,” says Tempkin. “We also have a family night in June, where we show slides. I think it’s reassuring to have some of the basic information so it’s not so scary for them to go off on their own.”

If you like, call the camp and see if a director or staff member can answer your questions. What do the facilities look like? What food will be provided? What will the campers learn? Work with your kids to create a list of things you want to ask.

If you learn something you think the kids won’t love, don’t withhold the information from them, advises Tempkin. “I’m a believer that kids are people who need to be respected to handle information, especially regarding an experience that is going to be their experience.” The more a child knows, the better they can picture themselves there, having a great time.

Talking to other parents can be helpful, too. Ask the camp director for references. Also look for written reviews such as the ones on ActivityHero or on the camp’s website.

Ask About Staff Numbers, Age, and Experience

For parents who are worried about their kid getting lost in the shuffle, it’s important to look at the size of the camp, says Tempkin. “We divide our campers into four small groups of 8 or 9 kids with 2 staff members, and they eat together and doactivities together on a daily basis, so the staff gets to know the campers really, really well.” Richards, too, has a smaller camp, with just 20 kids and 5 staff members per session. “We try to develop a relationship with each kid, one-on-one,” he says. “Our motto is: Don’t treat them as a group. Treat them as individuals.”

kayaking counselor

Maturity of the staff is important too, says Tempkin. Half of his staff members are adults, not college or high school students. “The maturity of the staff is reassuring for families who have never done camp before,” he says. Younger staffers can serve as great role models or mentors, but there must be enough adults available to deal with larger concerns and keep campers on track.

It’s also a good sign if some staffers are former campers, since they will know the culture, and they obviously enjoyed their stay when they were kids. Tempkin says that most of his staff grew up attending his camp, and he has known them since they were 8 or 10 years old. “They act as mature mentors who can be a positive factor in the kid’s life,” he says. “Kids need adults in their lives who are not their parents, especially as they become teens. A good camp can provide those mentors.”

Last, ask how long staffers have been with the camp. A low turnover rate means staffers know what they’re doing — and they enjoy it enough to return summer after summer.

Talk About How Kids Can Share Their Experiences With You

Kids love to teach their parents, and attending a summer camp offers them a chance to learn new things and then pass them on. Your child can do this by keeping a journal. Kids at Camp Chrysalis write in a “Bear Book.” In fact, Tempkin says that this can also help dispel some homesickness because kids know they can always write a letter to home and share it later. They also send a postcard to parents midway through the trip. This is fun for kids, most of whom have never written out a postcard before, and for parents who feel better when they receive even a brief communication.

Another option might be to revisit the locations your child explored and ask them to serve as your tour guide. Richards says that one mom and her son spent a few days in Hawaii after his camp ended, and she phoned a few days later to share how much her son enjoyed showing her around the island. Richards adds, “It gave that boy an opportunity to take what he had learned and teach it to his mother. And as we know, when we teach something, that’s when we really learn it.” Tempkin has similar stories of campers who became “great tour guides of the areas they’ve learned about.”

As for parents, knowing that our children have surpassed us, even in a small area of expertise, is tremendously rewarding. So when they share, listen closely and ask questions.

In the meantime, go ahead and start making your own list of what you want to do — or where you’d like to go — when your kids are at sleepaway camp. Who knows? Their getaway might be a transformative experience for you, too.

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Computer Animation Computers Programming

Put Coding Camps on Your Kids’ Must-Do List

Our kids are growing up in a digital world. Here’s why a coding or programming camp can help them get ahead — and how to find one they’ll love.

children learning to program computers at camp

Attend any college open house, and you’ll hear plenty of talk about the careers of the future. The common theme? Today’s high school kids need an education that will prepare them for jobs that already exist, but even more so they will need to be ready to step into jobs that haven’t been dreamed up yet. If that’s the case for kids in their late teens, it will be even more of an issue for those who haven’t left middle school yet. That’s why Mallika Thoppay, founder of TechSmart Academy in the San Francisco Bay Area, says that all kids — even those who aren’t really interested in coding or programming — may benefit from trying a coding camp at least once in their lifetime.

“Technology is playing a huge role in our lives,” she says. “The child is using apps on their phone, playing video games, visiting websites. They’re doing these, even if they’re not a technology-oriented child. These camps give them an idea of what goes on behind the scenes to make these apps, games, and websites look and work the way they do.”

Even if your child finds that they don’t want to make a career of programming, they may develop a peripheral or related interest. For instance, they may want to explore digital art or graphic design. They might try digital editing of music or video. Or they may want to conceptualize game characters or design the story and structure of the levels. Whatever you do, don’t wait until your child is shopping around for college to start them exploring! “There are so many careers that span off of programming,” says Mallika. “It’s important for every child to get a taste of it, and then decide if it is something they want to do.”

Bay Area parents can check out TechSmart Academy, which provides summer coding camps, after school enrichment programs, and programming workshops to children of all ages in subjects that include (but aren’t limited to) game programming, app development, web design, and understanding of algorithms and program logic. Recently ActivityHero asked Mallika a few questions to help all parents make a good choice for their child’s first computer camp experience. Here are a few things to think about when comparing coding camps near you.

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What programming language should my child learn?

What they choose as their first language is based more on the age of the child. For younger kids, obviously a better choice would be something that requires less typing and uses more “drag and drop” features, which allow kids to select commands from a menu of programming options (rather than typing instructions in code). Scratch is definitely the best program for these kids. It helps them think algorithmically, which will prepare them for more complicated programming later on.

If your child is 10 or older, even if they haven’t done any programming, they shouldn’t have to start with Scratch. They should be able to enroll in a program that teaches Java or Python. Python requires less typing, so that may help you make a selection that best suits your child.

At TechSmart Academy, most of the audience we teach is higher elementary and middle school. These kids need a lot of visual stimulation. We teach programming fundamentals such as use of conditional structures (if-then statements) and iterative statements (loops) and also core concepts such as object-oriented programming. The kids can then apply these to more-complex programs as they move into high school.

What should I ask when choosing a coding camp?

Parents may want to find out what will be included in the curriculum each day and what the child will be able to do by the end of the camp. This can help you ensure that your child will not be under-challenged or overwhelmed. If they are taking a web design camp at TechSmart Academy, they will build a website by the end of the camp. They will begin by using drag and drop, creating something that looks cool visually. But they also will learn what actually goes into making the site look like that. We talk about html and Java script so they will learn the coding that goes behind the drag and drop tools to power those technologies. A camp director or instructor should be able to explain the camp’s goals in terms like these, which can give you and your child a better idea of what will be offered and whether it is a good fit for them.

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How do kids coding camps differ from classes and workshops for adults?

We strongly believe that the curriculum needs to be delivered in a way that makes kids want to learn. Our programs are extremely kid-centric. A child learns differently from an adult. Ultimately we want a child to want to return to camp — not just because the parents signed them up for it.

What makes for a great instructor at a coding or tech camp?

It’s important that an instructor has technical expertise in what’s being taught, but beyond that, we look for someone who is patient when working with kids. Ultimately what happens is you go through instructions, and the kids will ask, “What was that again?” They do that over and over. That’s how they learn. You need to be patient when explaining concepts, and sometimes you need to explain them in a different manner. A good instructor also needs to know when to hold a child’s hand and when to let go and let the child handle it, so as to allow the child to figure things out. And the instructor should make learning fun and engaging so the kids will be excited to come back the next day … and next year.

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Adventure/Outdoors Camps Overnight/Travel Sleep away camps Uncategorized Wilderness

10 Media Choices for Kids Going to Sleepaway Camp

These books, movies, and TV shows offer a glimpse into the magical world of overnight camps — and can help ease kids’ minds before packing their bags.

By the Kids’ Media Experts at SmartFeedchild sitting at a campfire, happily

Overnight camp can be an exciting adventure; however, going for the first time can cause some jitters for parents and kids alike. Soothe the nerves of your camper by sharing these interesting camp experiences — some completely silly, some true to life. In the media choices below, we explore nontraditional camps like spy camp and roller derby camp, as well as the more common sleepaway camp in the woods. Share them with your soon-to-be campers and see their excitement grow!

Books for Kids Going to Overnight Camp

rollergirlRoller Girl
Ages 8+
This terrific graphic novel tells the story of a young teen learning to work hard and become a good teammate at roller derby camp one summer. Her ideas of friendship are tested outside of camp, but she comes through strong and inspired to do her best.

 

spy-camp-bookSpy Camp
Ages 8+
This sequel to Spy School reports on spy summer camp. A thrilling adventure awaits the main character as he heads to camp for high-stakes survival training camp, but encounters much more. Please note that while there is violence in this book, it is cartoon violence.

 

lumberjanesLumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy
Ages 10+
Supernatural creatures run the show in the wacky summer camp portrayed in this comic book series. Five girlfriends band together and have a great time dealing with strange critters and a tough camp counselor. Ultimately, they empower each other to have a summer full of adventure.

 

blessBless the Beasts & Children
Ages 13+
This classic novel tells the difficult but poignant story of boys sent away to camp because of challenging home lives. Set in the West, it shares how the boys unite and defy authority to do what is right. Beautifully written, this story will be best for enthusiastic teen readers.

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Movies for Kids Going to Overnight Camp

parent_trapThe Parent Trap (1961)
Ages 5+
Whether you prefer the 1961 original or the remake, the story is funny and engaging. Twins are separated by their parent’s divorce and raised as singletons. They rediscover each other at summer camp, scheme to reunite their warring parents, and chaos ensues. Quaint and old-fashioned, the actors in the original will charm you.

girls_rockGirls Rock!
Ages 7+
Girl power is the message in this documentary set at the Rock and Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon. Several girls from differing backgrounds are featured as they learn to play an instrument and build confidence through their performances. These girls share their feelings and their creativity. It’s an empowering movie, at times infuriating and sad, but with a powerhouse of a message.

moonrise_kingdomMoonrise Kingdom
Ages 13+
This movie shows a stylized world like no other. It’s a quirky movie with laughter, sadness, and hilarity. The pair of runaway tweens are decent and devoted. Not your usual camp experience, but entertaining and lovely.

 

campCamp
Ages 15+
Great love for the theater supersedes any differences that this group of campers discovers about each other. Every two weeks, campers put on a Broadway show. Personalities are strong but, always, the show must go on! Be aware that there is strong language and situations in this PG-13 rated movie.

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TV Shows for Kids Going to Overnight Camp

bunkdBunk’d
Ages 5+
A spin-off from the popular Disney series Jessie, this fictitious camp experience is full of pranks, silliness, and friends.

 

camp_lakebottomCamp Lakebottom
Ages 7+
Completely imaginary, this camp is run by monsters, with very few rules and regulations for the campers. Bathroom humor is popular and frequent. Obviously, this is not what overnight camp will be like, but it’s funny to imagine.

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Computers

Code Like a Girl: Female-Friendly Computer Classes

Does your daughter love STEM subjects? Enrolling her in a computer coding class may preserve her confidence. Here’s how to find one she’ll love.

By Laura Quaglio and Reesa Lewandowski

Code Like a Girl: Female-Friendly Computer Classes

Many young girls who love STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects may wind up abandoning these interests before high school or college, according to a recent study from Florida State University. That’s a shame, because it means that many highly-intelligent women are not bringing their talents to bear in these fields—ones that typically offer excellent job security and higher-than-average salaries.

The study reveals that part of the problem lies in a tendency among high-school girls to underrate their abilities in subjects like math, which may lead them to pursue other interests instead. “I think the real issue, which research supports, is that girls need extra encouragement regarding STEM interests,” says Jessie Arora, Founder and CEO of Embark Labs, a company that is dedicated to inspiring diversity in the field of computer science. And the sooner the better: Arora says that she sees girls begin to drift away from their STEM-related interests as early as fifth or sixth grade.

“Parental support is vitally important to children, regardless of the content area,” adds Arora. One way to champion their efforts? By helping kids find classes and camps that will invite them to explore these (and other) areas of interest. “I would encourage parents to introduce their children, both boys and girls, to a variety of STEM-related activities at various points in their lives,” says Arora. “The more exposure to different learning opportunities kids receive, the more likely they are to find the right fit for them.” Computer science, she adds, is a good subject for every child to explore at some point. “At Embark Labs, we believe computer science is the ideal vehicle to teach kids how to think, focusing on creative problem-solving and critical-thinking skills,” she says.

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Here, Arora offers a few suggestions of what to look for when shopping around for a computer science class or coding camp.

Find a Program That’s Engaging

If you pay a visit to the classroom, you shouldn’t see kids just staring at computer screens, says Arora. This approach can become dull, and it doesn’t help students understand how science and technology relate to the world outside the classroom. “Engaging programs give kids a chance to build something that they are interested in,” she adds. “We’ve seen equal enrollment of boys and girls in our programs, which we attribute to our project-based, student-centered approach.”

Ask About Learning Goals

Before signing up, request an overview of the curriculum and the materials that will be used, such as programming tools. Also find out what tasks the students will be performing, and what projects they will tackle. “Look beyond the buzzwords,” advises Arora. “Ask what the learning goals are. What will your child be able to do after the program is over? What do the instructors hope the students will take away from their experience?”
Inquire About the Approach

Teamwork and problem-solving both hold a strong appeal for girls. “As we’ve seen with Embark Labs, the more that computer science programs focus on problem-solving and working in collaborative teams, the more girls will participate in—and enjoy—their experiences.” Again, the program’s director should be able to tell you if these components exist within their curriculum.

Find the Right Level

You might think it’s best to put your child in a program based on her grade level or age, but that’s not always the case. “Often times, students fall across developmental stages, rather than right at their age, so being in a mixed-age group is better,” says Arora. “If possible, look for programs with an age range, such as 7 to 10 year olds or middle school students.” Also remember that it’s never too late—or early—to begin. There are some great kindergarten-level STEM programs that work on skills such as logical thinking, patterns, and sequencing, which form the foundation of computer programming.

Continue to Support Girls’ STEM Interests at Home

On November 1, 2015, a new documentary called CODEGIRL is being released. It follows the journeys of a number of real high-school girls who are competing internationally to develop meaningful and useful apps (codegirlmovie.com). Set up a time to watch this with your daughter, and do some additional research on women who are currently successful in STEM careers. This gives you some great face-time with your child, shows your support of her interests, and provides role models to inspire your daughter to pursue her dreams.

“Girls showing other girls that they can be successful in STEM fields in extremely influential,” adds Arora. “At Embark Labs, our goal is to inspire the future generation of innovators and creators. We hope that in the future, women will be more equally represented in all fields, not just STEM.”

Learn more about classes and camps offered by Embark Labs > >

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Martial Arts

How Martial Arts Training Breaks the Cycle of Bullying

Parents expect that learning self-defense techniques will keep their kids safe from bullying. But that’s only one of the benefits of martial arts.

By Laura Quaglio

Martial Arts Helps Kids Build Confidence
Learning self-defense techniques in martial arts class can certainly help kids feel stronger and more confident, while providing them with the skills to protect themselves if need be. But this type of after school activity can also help kids who are not typically the targets of bullying. First, martial arts training often includes life-changing skills that can help the bullies themselves transform into “good citizens.” And it can help kids who may be bystanders (observing others being bullied) by teaching them how to react when they see someone else being targeted.

Here’s how two ActivityHero providers say today’s martial arts programs are tackling the topic of bullying — and why all kids can benefit from this type of after school activity.

Parents who feel their kids are “bully-magnets” have long sought the martial arts to help their children gain the skills and self-confidence they need to stand up for themselves. And with good reason. “Whether on the bus, in the playground, or at school, bullies pick on kids that look like easy targets,” says Victoria “Tori” Navarrete, an instructor and co-owner of Navarrete’s Black Belt Academy in San Francisco, California. Tori and her husband, Master Fernando Navarrete, have more than 30 years of experience in martial arts, are members of the American Taekwondo Association, and are certified in the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. “We believe that teaching kids the skills needed to defend themselves both physically and verbally will make them a less likely target, and help them act when they see bullying going on.”

Bill Soto (“Mr. Soto” to his students) — who has been owner and chief instructor at Soto’s Martial Arts in Appleton, Wisconsin, for more than 28 years – agrees. Further, he asserts that kids are often first taught one of the least effective strategies for preventing bullying: avoidance. “In my experience, trying to avoid a bully doesn’t solve anything,” says this fifth-degree black belt in American Martial Arts. In bullying situations at school, he explains, the kids are showing up at the same place as the bully every day. “So the bully usually continues to track them down,” he says. To help combat this very real problem in a more effective way, Bill’s school hosts free bully-prevention seminars for both his students and the local community. “Some martial arts schools focus on what to do during a fight,” he says. “But we need to talk about what kids can do beforehand to prevent the fight.”

Here, some details on how these ActivityHero providers are enabling kids to stop bullying in its tracks.

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They’re Building Physical Strength

Training in martial arts typically involves a variety of exercise, including cardio and strength-training. Students also build endurance by participating in class. Perhaps just as important, though, martial arts students learn how to carry themselves in a way that discourages bullying. “The bully will prey on the child that seems to be walking with their head down, shoulders slumped,” says Mr. Soto. “Putting a child in a martial arts program where they can be constantly encouraged and in a place where they can achieve success – this can help them hold their head high outside the martial arts program,” says Mr. Soto.

The Navarretes agree: In fact, they begin by teaching students to make strong eye contact and walk “tall and strong” before they progress to showing kids how to respond to verbal, then physical attacks. “Taekwondo teaches you to be strong in your body and your mind, and this gives students a certain air of confidence that is evident to those who would mean them harm,” says Tori.

They’re Learning How to Be Good Citizens

“In our school, you are expected to treat others with kindness and respect, help those in need, and do the right thing, no matter what,” says Tori. She’s proud to report that one of their students recently stepped through a circle of kids to put her arm around a boy with physical disabilities who was being bullied. “She told them that he was her friend and not to pick on him, and then led him away,” says Tori. “He told her this was the first time that anyone stood up for him. We could not be more proud.”

Mr. Soto refers to this type of intervention as being an “upstander” instead of a “bystander.” “The problem with a being a bystander is that you’re standing by, doing nothing,” he explains. Instead, kids need to know how to recognize bullying and report it to an adult. But telling kids is not enough, he says. That’s why, during bully-prevention workshops, Bill has two kids role-play a verbal bullying situation, then instructs another child to stand up and tell the bully to stop. Then he has another do the same. And another. “Saying those words can be harder than throwing a punch or a kick,” he says. “Kids have to role play this over and over so they will be able do it when necessary. Knowing what to do isn’t enough: It’s not in the knowing, it’s in the doing.”

They’re Learning to Be Good Leaders

erase-bullying

“The biggest misconception is that martial arts training will make students more aggressive and more likely to engage in physical fights,” says Tori. “While it may seem counter-intuitive, the opposite has been true in our experience.” In fact, Tori says that counselors have referred many “physically aggressive” kids to their school to help the kids channel their energy in a positive way. What’s more, martial arts instructors pride themselves on showing former bullies how to become a positive role model and leader. “We actually have several black belts who were once bullies who now help teach the younger kids,” says Tori.

In fact, a big focus of the curriculum at Soto’s Martial Arts is on “leadership life skills.” “Whether it’s discipline, confidence, courage, focus … those are skills that kids can use every day,” says Bill. “Sometimes people ask me if martial arts is a seasonal sport. I say, ‘Is confidence seasonal? Is attitude?’ Kids are not going to use their self-defense moves every day, but the leadership skills, they will.”

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Start Bully-Proofing Your Kids Today!

Find a martial arts or bully prevention program in your area.