Mrs. Rachel Kornfeld Camp Director, will be leading a weekly seminar with every bunk. She will be teaching our campers “The Great 8 Skills.”

  1. Character
  2. Communication
  3. Creating Optimism
  4. Collaboration
  5. Creativity
  6. Critical thinking
  7. Leadership
  8. Self Control

Below is some research regarding the importance of these skills for our campers.

Recent research suggests a deficit in children, of many critical skills necessary for success and contentment. These are not the academic skills in which we invest so much time, energy, and attention. Rather, leading educators, researchers, and employers are all focusing on “non-cognitive skills” like communication, collaboration, creativity, grit and empathy. If some children truly are lacking in certain critical skills, then we can help them to learn and become more successful.

We deeply believe that a child who develops the “The Great 8″ skills will be primed for success and happiness in life – from the home to the college campus to the workplace. The sections below describe the recent research that helped us create this list of outcomes for your child.

Before we describe the research, it is worth noting two aspects of Camp Gan Israel Hunterdon County that makes us a rich environment in which to learn these skills.

First, we are a tech-free community.

As their screen-to-screen time grows, kids spend less time cultivating face-to-face skills. At camp, we reconnect without the electronic umbilical cord. In fact, camp is the only place I know where 8 year-old boys will put down their game consoles and teen girls will put down their phones AND be happy about it!

Second, we hire our counselors for their ability to care about your child, connect with him/her and be a powerful mentor. In other words, we hire for character and caring above all else.


Journalist Paul Tough wrote the bestseller (rare for books on education) book “ How Children Succeed”, which became a national phenomenon. The book focuses on a simple question: “What skills do children need to be successful, particularly in college?” The conclusion of the research was unexpected and remarkable and is goes as follows:

We, as a society, have placed too much emphasis on the “cognitive theory” that holds that success in college is a function of IQ, academic skills and SAT scores. These measurements have some relationship to collegiate success, but not as much as certain “non-cognitive skills”, including grit, self-control, optimism and gratitude. Tough also calls these “character skills”.

Schools spend most of their time and effort on academic skills and not as much time on character skills. Camp Gan Israel of Hunterdon County, on the other hand, strives to focus on character skills 7 hours a day. In fact, it is our passion to hire extraordinary role models and have them model resilience, love, optimism, gratitude, self-control and other valuable character skills to impart to our campers.


Roughly a decade ago, some of the leading employers and educators in the US realized that high school and college graduates were entering the workforce with a deficit of critical skills. These groups (which include Apple, Intel, the Children’s Television Workshop and Cisco) decided to do something about it. They came together to form the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21). The purpose of the partnership was simple:

  • Determine what skills are the most important for success after school.
  • Identify where there are deficits among recent graduates.
  • Develop plans to address these skill deficits.

The conclusions are powerful and surprising. In particular, the “skills critical to success” were not what most people would anticipate. The most important skills are not math, science or reading. Instead, they are as follows:

  1. Oral communication
  2. Collaboration
  3. Work ethic
  4. Written communication
  5. Critical thinking

Simply put, this is a love letter to summer camps. With the exception of written communication, we believe that Camp Gan Israel of Hunterdon County fosters these skills better than even the best schools. Oral communication and collaboration are difficult skills to teach in a classroom. When teachers need to teach algebra or verb conjugation, they must focus on transferring their knowledge to students, not creating active collaborative environments.

At Camp Gan Israel of Hunterdon County, we focus on developing these skills. Every day, campers work on their communication and collaboration skills – heck, that is the essence of a good bunk dynamic. They work on these skills 7 hours a day.

Few parents of elementary school children worry about the workplace, but isn't it exciting to think that camp is not just fun, but also a rich learning environment.


A group of psychologists led by Martin Seligman (including Shawn Achor and Mihaly Csikszentmihaly) have spent the past several decades studying “Positive Psychology”. In short, Positive Psychology studies how “typical” individuals can become highly effective, content, and successful individuals. According to their research, the most important aspect of both happiness and success is “optimism”.

By optimism, they do not mean “the glass is half full”. Rather, an optimist is someone who believes, 1) that problems are temporary and 2) effort can reduce or eliminate problems. In contrast, a pessimist believes that problems are permanent and nothing he or she can do will minimize them. While everyone is born with a certain level of optimism or pessimism, the Positive Psychology research has revealed something incredibly exciting: individuals can engage in certain activities to increase their “baseline” of optimism. These activities include:

  1. Writing about or discussing positive experiences everyday at snack time
  2. Doing acts of kindness
  3. Exercise & physical activity
  4. Expressing Gratitude

People who engage in these and other similar exercises develop increased optimism that remains in place even if they stop or reduce the exercises. Since we are always looking for ways to help our campers grow at Camp Gan Israel of Hunterdon County, this research has been quite inspirational to us.