Summer Fun Gets Gritty

Parents and educators agree that passion and persistence are critical to developing strong, resilient, successful students. While schools endeavor to support these traits, much of a student’s academic year can be an orderly, even overly prescribed pathway of structured learning.

Research backs up the premise that student learning changes when it happens outdoors. A recent article in Psychology Today explores how outdoor education leads to greater motivation and sense of competence. The article focuses on the work of Norwegian psychologist Ulrich Dettweiler, whose research shows how “the kids are more affected by the teaching in the outdoors than they are in the indoors.”

That’s where summer comes in. Students at SoundWaters summer programs get gritty. They explore outdoors. They get caught in a summer storm – and discover the freedom of running through raindrops. They rig, launch and navigate their boats – and develop confidence from their growing competency. Each year they master a new boat – with increasing complexity. They sail solo – and face their fears. They sail in teams — and learn to communicate. They read books in the shade – and discover how to settle in with calm. They sit and wonder – and let go of their screens.

In recent years educators have focused a lot on grit:  a mix of tenacity and motivation that leads to success. Angela Duckworth – a UPENN psychology professor and a leading expert on grit, (see her TED Talk), defines it as passion and sustained persistence applied toward long-term achievement.

Outdoor learning on the water is powerful, but also hard to find. In our community there is an opportunity gap for gritty summer fun – access to sailing on Long Island Sound is expensive and excludes most families. In a SoundWaters summer, we make it possible for over 500 local children to explore and learn and grow in the natural world.  Getting our students out on the Sound is about developing skills, grit and stewardship. At SoundWaters, summer learning is fun, and gritty.