If you are a parent, or grandparent, or thinking of becoming either of those, or you work with children, or have children in your extended family, you should know about the Search Institute’s Developmental Assets.
The Developmental Assets® are 40 common sense, positive experiences and qualities that help influence choices young people make and help them become caring, responsible, successful adults.
– Search Institute
We’ve been using the Developmental Assets lists in our staff training for a few years. It’s incredibly helpful in communicating to staff the enormous potential we have to influence a child’s life.
Recently, though, as I was starting to revamp my staff training plan for the upcoming summer, I realized that the Developmental Assets could be a useful tool for me to use as a leader to my leaders-in-training and staff as well. After all, the assets go up to age 18, and most of my junior counselors are in the 16-18 age range while our LITs are in the 13-15 range.
So I’ve taken a look at the assets for adolescents, to see how many of these I can address as I am working with my staff. The following are the ones from each category that are camp-applicable, and it’s quite a list: 23/40, actually. My notes follow each one, in italics.
- Other Adult Relationships | Young person receives support from three or more nonparent adults. – Three non-parent adults: myself, my assistant director, their Sr. Counselor. Done!
- Caring Neighborhood | Young person experiences caring neighbors. – This could apply in the broader sense, if we accept neighbors as a synonym for members of the camp community.
- Community Values Youth | Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth. – Camp values youth: we give them the opportunity to show off their strengths & act as leaders.
- Youth as Resources | Young people are given useful roles in the community. – What is more useful than caring for our community’s children?
- Service to Others | Young person serves in the community one hour or more per week. – We include acts of service in our team building day, but we could make an effort here for this to be more ongoing.
- Safety | Young person feels safe at home, school, and in the neighborhood. – Safety for everyone at camp is always a priority.
BOUNDARIES AND EXPECTATIONS
- Adult Role Models | Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behavior. – Senior staff at camp do this every day.
- Positive Peer Influence | Young person’s best friends model responsible behavior. – While I certainly can’t control who their friends are, I can guarantee that their peers at camp will all be good models of responsible behavior… otherwise they wouldn’t be there!
- High Expectations | Both parent(s) and teachers encourage the young person to do well. – This refers specifically to parents and teachers, but at camp we also have very high expectations of our staff.
CONSTRUCTIVE USE OF TIME
- Creative Activities | Young person spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theater, or other arts. – Yup: all of our staff are involved in the arts daily.
- Time at Home | Young person is out with friends “with nothing special to do” two or fewer nights per week. – Although we obviously don’t impact this directly, we work so hard at camp I’m willing to bet that most of the time they’re too tired to get into trouble. Plus, we plan “staff recs” on some evenings to strengthen our bond as a staff.
COMMITMENT TO LEARNING
- I was a little frustrated by this category. Each of the assets referred specifically to school, which we are not. However, “Grow & learn” is one of our core values and we put a lot of time and effort into fostering a growth mindset. (For example, all staff are required to identify their own personal goal for the summer that camp will help them achieve.) So I think that should count for at least one!
- Caring | Young Person places high value on helping other people. – This pretty much sums up everything we do.
- Integrity | Young person acts on convictions and stands up for her or his beliefs. – We foster an environment of tolerance so that everyone feels safe doing this.
- Honesty | Young person “tells the truth even when it is not easy.” – This applies directly to our ACT system of communication for staff.
- Responsibility | Young person accepts and takes personal responsibility. – We let natural consequences occur: there are no bailouts. When mistakes are made, appropriate restitution is always involved in the solution.
- Planning and Decision Making | Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices. – The MKDC staff do this every time they complete their weekly program plans.
- Interpersonal Competence | Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills. – Although this is obviously a requirement for being hired, it is something we can all continue to work on.
- Cultural Competence | Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds. – Part of the magic of camp is forming new friendships with people you might not have met otherwise. I would like to expand on the diversity at camp.
- Personal Power | Young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me.” – Staff have a great deal of autonomy at camp compared to other jobs. They have the freedom to adjust their schedules and choose the activities they want to lead.
- Self-Esteem | Young person reports having a high self-esteem. – Staff have many opportunities to experience success and be recognized for their work, which in turn helps to develop their confidence.
- Sense of Purpose | Young person reports that “my life has a purpose.” – The entire premise of camp is that we have the power to change a child’s life.
- Positive View of Personal Future | Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future. – We focus not only on what staff are doing during the summer, but also how the summer will contribute to their “life after camp”.