Developmental Progression

Date published: August 16th, 2016 | By Matthew


Update 08/31/16: Changed Class of 2021 to Class of 2022.

Developmental Progression

Next year you'll notice a change at Longacre Leadership Camp.

We're calling this change "developmental progression", and we'll phase it in over three years.

We've always been age-integrated here. And we always will be, because there are significant benefits to age integration.

But there are a few drawbacks to age integration, and developmental progression is an attempt to address those drawbacks.

Keeping Age Integration

To be clear, age integration is not going away. On the contrary, we'll spend most of every day age-integrated.

We'll live in the campsite together, do our activities together, eat our meals together, do our crews together, and have Group together.

The benefits of age integration are fundamental to our process. Here are the top three benefits:

  1. Older farmers act as role models for younger farmers
  2. Older farmers can more easily take on leadership roles and develop leadership skills when younger farmers are involved
  3. No farmer is wedded to her chronological peer group. She can float up or down, in appropriate ways, depending on her maturity

We are committed to age integration because the benefits above are so significant.

Leadership Project

Three Phases

We'll phase this in over three years. That way it will impact as few returning farmers as possible, i.e., to "protect" them from additional restrictions (like a structured rest hour).

The one class that will feel a difference is the Class of 2022 (in 2016 they were Rising 7th, in 2017 they'll be Rising 8th). There are six farmers in this class eligible to return. (There are another nine farmers in this class from MiniCamp, but they haven't been to Leadership Camp before so they won't notice the difference.)

Phase 1 / 2017

We are projecting 12-14 farmers per class per session: 6-7 boys and 6-7 girls.

In 2017 we'll put the 7th and 8th graders together into four cabins — two for girls, two for boys — and each cabin will have its own CIT.

These farmers will have structured rest hours: sometimes playing, other times resting in their bunks.

On Saturday night they'll stay home and watch a movie together, probably up in the quilt room on the couches, stuffing themselves with popcorn and squealing with delight.

With a few exceptions, they'll go to bed at 9:00 o'clock, and lights out will be around 9:30.

Phases 2 and 3 / 2018 and 2019

Over the following two years after that we'll phase in the rest of the developmental progression as we work toward the table above. We'll announce the specifics next year, maybe with a tweak, after we've had a summer to see how staff respond, how farmers respond and how parents respond.

Why Developmental Progression

There are three reasons we've decided to add this developmental progression.


The first reason is self-advocacy. Younger farmers are still learning to advocate for themselves, i.e., they still rely heavily on adults to advocate for them, and care for them.

Part of the value of the Longacre experience is the trust and independence we give our farmers — but in ways maybe more appropriate for a 16-year-old than a 13-year-old.

With developmental progression, we'll be able to keep a closer eye on our younger farmers, touch in with them more frequently, and make sure they're caring for themselves in some basic but important ways.

Premature Exposure to Mature Conversations

The second reason we'll call "premature exposure to mature conversations".

Parents of younger farmers have legitimate concerns about exposing their children to certain discussions too early.

For example, let's say a group of 16-year-olds are sitting around. No adults are within earshot. The conversation turns racy. It's a conversation that is appropriate and common for their age and maturity level.

It would not be appropriate for a 13-year-old to sit in on that conversation. Parents know this, and are right to be concerned.

Mature conversations tend to happen when older farmers are left alone. Rest hour is an easy example: we supervise the farmers, make sure they're accounted for, make sure they're safe — but we do not listen in on their conversations.

Mature conversations tend not to happen (or are cut short) during meals, activities, crew or Group — because adults are around. And we'll be age-integrated when adults are around.

I want to be able to tell a parent that her 13-year-old is unlikely to find himself in the above situation. Of course we cannot guarantee it, and parents understand that, but developmental progression will cut down on the exposure.

Babysitter Trap

The third reason I'll call the babysitter trap. In the current structure, older farmers sometimes have to play the role of babysitter or older sibling.

That's not exactly the role we want them to play. Yes we want them to be role models. Yes we want them to take on responsibility. Yes we want them to develop their patience for and acceptance of their younger counterparts.

But we also want them to have fun. And for older farmers, part of having fun means getting an occasional break from younger farmers.

In Closing

Developmental progression is something Louise and I have been talking about since November, when we were at a Learning and the Brain conference in Boston. 

Initially we felt opposed to the idea, probably out of fear that it would CHANGE US (!) in some fundamental way.

But over the following six months we were able to work through the various implementation options and find solutions that felt consistent with our mission and values.

This summer we worked hard to visualize the specifics; we walked around and imagined the farmers, the spaces and the programming. Today I feel proud of where we've landed. It feels like we're growing.

My first step was to contact the parents of the six farmers in the Class of 2022 who were at the Leadership Camp in 2016. My second step was to contact the parents of the nine farmers in the Class of 2022 who were at the MiniCamp in 2016.

And now I'm emailing you. You're welcome to tell us what you think. As always, you can direct your comments to me, Matt Smith, at 717-567-3349 or Thanks for reading :)