Summer Camp for Lead Learners

Massachusetts principal tells us why the 2017 National Principals Conference will be the ultimate summer camp experience.

By Liz Garden
June 2017, Volume 40, Issue 10

I know tons of students who get to attend summer camp every year. I also know many adults who reminisce about their experiences at summer camp when they were younger. Unfortunately, I never went to summer camp though I think I would have enjoyed packing my bags, waving goodbye to my parents, meeting new friends, and participating in all sorts of new experiences.

Last summer, I was fortunate enough to attend the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Conference at National Harbor. I realize now that this was the summer camp experience that I missed out on as a child! I packed my bags, kissed my husband and daughter goodbye, then flew off to the conference. Instead of a cabin, I had a great hotel room; I also had an amazing roommate, a fellow Massachusetts principal, who even welcomed me with a surprise “Kids Deserve It” T-shirt left on my bed! While we did not stay up late telling ghost stories by flashlight, we did enjoy swapping stories about our presentations and other sessions that we had attended.

The nervousness of not really knowing anyone at the conference quickly disappeared as friends from all over the country, whom I had connected with through Twitter and Voxer and was now finally meeting in person, greeted me. I imagine this was what it was like for those who attended summer camp. Each year you are reunited with friends who you have not seen all year. And, magically, you pick up from where you left off. We were able to pick up from our last Twitter chat and Voxer conversation.


This year, NAESP and NASSP have come together to plan the National Principals Conference for principals from Pre-K through grade 12. This conference has the potential to be the ultimate summer camp experience! Last summer was a great experience, learning from other elementary principals, popping in and out of the Innovations Lab, and being inspired by keynote speakers. Now that both NAESP and NASSP are joining together for the first-ever joint conference, we are going to have the opportunity to connect with early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school leaders. This approach makes sense since we may lead different grade levels, but we share similar struggles and successes in leadership.

What to Expect

This year, I am looking forward to learning from leaders at all levels. I know there will be some amazing sessions, but I am even more excited about the new unconventional learning opportunities that will be happening each day, including Connectathons (I’ll be facilitating one of these!), Edcamps/Hackathons, and ContinueOn sessions. It seems to me that the organizers of the National Principals Conference have certainly taken adventurer Norman Vaughan’s advice to “Dream big and dare to fail!” They are going all out to make sure that everyone who attends the conference will be able to maximize their learning time.

The National Principals Conference will be the ultimate summer camp experience. While you might not get to make s’mores, swim in the lake, or create camp crafts, I guarantee you will absolutely make connections, be inspired, and take your leadership skills to a whole new level.

If you haven’t completed your camp application—I mean conference registration—yet, what are you waiting for? Register today and get excited about what I know will be an unforgettable experience. I can’t wait to see all of you there!

What are you most looking forward to at the National Principals Conference?

Liz Garden is principal of Florence Roche Elementary School, a K–4 school in Groton, MA.

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