People often focus on the benefits of Camp Yes And for teens on the autism spectrum. Rightly so! We love our teens, and we're thrilled when they tell us that improv has helped them to feel more confident with making friends or being successful in the workplace. Supporting youth with ASD is a critical part of our mission, but it's only half of the equation.
Camp is for educators, too.
Our camps and workshops also provide educators with flexible, practical, and effective strategies for engaging youth in social, emotional, and academic learning. We know that we'll see large-scale and lasting impact when educators bring improv techniques into the classroom. A single educator touches the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands, of youth – many more than we can serve directly through summer camps and classes. And when educators support their colleagues to change their practice, the impact is exponential. That's the ripple effect.
Educators need permission and support to be learners.
Consider the story of Tami, a Special Education Behavior Consultant with over two decades of experience, who attended one of our camps in 2017. After registering for camp, Tami almost withdrew because she had no improv experience and was feeling nervous about taking this risk. She couldn't shake the feeling, though, that camp would be a good way to challenge herself and learn new skills, so she decided to attend. At camp, we work hard to create a safe and supportive environment for educators to learn and practice new skills. Our efforts helped Tami to jump in and participate with enthusiasm, despite her nervousness. She took risks, asked questions, and ultimately fell in love with improv as a practical and effective tool to support her students.
Passionate educators share new ideas and strategies.
Tami has been sharing her newfound enthusiasm for improv with her colleagues. For instance, she applied to offer two improv workshops at her school corporation's EdCamp, an educator-led event that empowers professionals to design their own learning experiences. Through the generous support of AWS Foundation, I was able to act as a coach to Tami as she stepped into a new role. Educators don't often get this level of professional learning support, even though we know it's necessary.
More than 30 educators attended our sessions, including general and special education teachers, school counselors and psychologists, teaching assistants, and administrators. We had planned to offer two 45-minute sessions, but word leaked out about this fun and effective workshop, and we were asked to add a third session! Then, a principal who had participated asked that Tami facilitate an improv workshop for a group of 25 educators at his school. According to Tami, these educators are interested not only in supporting youth on the spectrum. They want to explore ways that improv can help their English Language Learner population to develop greater fluency.
We multiply our impact by investing in educators.
Take a moment to think about the impact. One educator came to Camp Yes And, which resulted in over 50 educators beginning to transform teaching and learning through the power of improv. Thousands of young lives may be changed. We'll never lose focus on serving youth with ASD in our programs, but we also won't forget the ripple effect.