Camp bunk meetings teach leadership, collaboration and problem solvingJuly 6, 2015
Sunday’s are an important day at our brother-sister overnight camp. After recharging our batteries by sleeping a little late, our campers then spend the morning working together in their cabins. First, everyone changes their sheets, and then we hold bunk meetings. These meetings are a time for each person living in the bunk to share their thoughts on the week. Our counselors, who have been trained to facilitate these conversations, asked each camper their opinion on the week. They used phrasing that hangs all around our community: What Went Well…Even Better If. The idea behind this is to help them frame their thoughts constructively, either identifiying what went well this week (so that it can continue) or articulating that something would be even better if it changed in a particular way. As a summer camp that teaches children 21st century skills like collaboration, effective communication and creative problem solving, these meetings are at the core of how we help our children learn and grow.
I spent time in a number of bunks, lodges and huts today watching and listening to these meetings. I heard campers give feedback on the dining hall menu, on their favorite and least favorite activities, and on just about every facet of life here. Campers engaged in dialogue about what they thought of their bedtime rituals, how they used rest period and free play, and even how they hoped to use their Gold Rush money (should this event be coming soon). As you can see, these meetings were not contentious at all. They were extremely positive, and gave each camper a chance to share his or her thoughts about our first week at camp.
The weekly meetings also gave our campers a chance to work on one of the most important skills that we focus on here at Kenwood and Evergreen: leadership. In many of the bunk discussions that I saw today campers take an active role helping the counselors understand why an issue was important to them and the rest of their bunkmates. Giving children genuine, organic opportunities to try being effective leaders is critically important in our community.
Our campers spent the rest of the morning down at the lake swimming and boating. The weather is hot and sunny, and everyone seemed quite happy to be cooling off in the water.
In the middle of lunch there was a sudden commotion at the boys’ end of the dining hall. Two counselors dressed up in their best rural attire walked in screaming that they had found gold somewhere on campus. The campers and counselors began screaming right away, as this meant that one of our favorite annual special events was happening today: Gold Rush. Suddenly a villain came in and pretended to steal the gold. They ran around the dining hall putting on a very fun skit that had both the boys’ camp and girls’ camp laughing.
If you’d like to see the silly skit that they put on please watch the video clip below. You won’t be able to hear the dialogue but I think you’ll understand the gist of it…
Our surly bunch of bandits
The ever-helpful Gold Rush sheriffs
After lunch, while campers were in their cabins, our maintenance crew scattered gold colored rocks all over the campus. When milk and cookies concluded Jacki Mitchell brought our junior campers together for instructions on how Gold Rush would work. Essentially, they would run as fast as they could around the property collective gold. By bringing it to the bank in the center of camp they could redeem the gold for Camp money, which they could then use at a Casino tonight (run by our senior campers), and then at an auction later in the evening. Our Junior Boys and Girls would serve as bandits and sheriffs, working to either disrupt the collection of the gold, or help it safely reach the bank.
Campers rushing to get their gold!
Gold Rush is a ton of fun, but it also becomes a great exercise in 21st century skills. Rather than having individual campers spend their money, they have to work together with their entire bunk to figure out which prize or experience to bid on. It requires them to use so many of the skills that we work on here: collaboration, adaptability, effective communication, and leadership. As I mentioned before, even in some of the bunk meetings today campers were negotiating with each other about how they could use their Gold Rush dollars — and they didn’t even know that it would be happening today!
After Gold Rush both camps had more relaxing time at their waterfronts. Kids were swimming, jumping off of the docks, riding surfboards, and just enjoying a perfect weather afternoon. As you can see, we were having a whole lot of fun in the sun today!
The prizes at tonight’s auction were all experiences and adventures, rather than tangible items. On the auction block was dinner and a movie at Scott’s house, dessert and a dance party (with lasers and a smoke machine) at my house, a campfire and dinner at Jacki and Bob’s, a trip to New London with Walshy, an afternoon on the waterski boat for copious amounts of tubing, and extra night camping out, cooking lessons with Salvador, and so much more! The kids were so excited about the prizes and we can’t wait to spend extra time with these bunks.
As if we hadn’t packed enough into today, after the campers went to bed we had our weekly counselor meeting. We still had two staff members watching each bunk area, but all other counselors and specialists joined the camp leadership team for some in-service training in the dining hall. Like the bunk meetings earlier in the day, we discussed what was working and what we’d like to see be different in the coming week. Most importantly we had each age group of counselors break up into groups, and then help us understand about the social, emotional and physical health of every single child here this summer. It’s an incredibly important part of our quest to make sure that we have detailed knowledge about every camper’s summer, both in terms of their triumphs, and their ongoing social and emotional development.
Please note that there will be no Camp blog Tuesday morning. Thanks!