The Ultimate Summer Camp Theme Book

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Content: The Ultimate Summer Camp Theme Book Volume I by Nathan Scott Brant 1
Dedicated to my Camp Family: Molli Davis, Dr. Eric Klinedinst, Andy Ulmer, John Carlson, Sonny Adkins Christine Steiglemen, Meredith Sexton, Marcia Drozdowski, Marc Wilson, Kyle Coley, Mike Ohl, Dale Kuntzman, Sheila Gowen, & Dan Reynolds 2
DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. The author does not recommend using themes in your summer camps. Please put this book back and step away from the book shelf. I mean it. Put the book down. Seriously. I'm not kidding. 3
The Whys & Why Nots of Theme Programming Why I DON'T think you should use themes in your camping program: 1. Themes are a spectacular waste of resources. They squander Program Supplies, staff time, and perfectly good camp hours that could be dedicated to much more worthwhile endeavors. 2. Themes are often used as a crutch when a camp's core program is weak and unable to stand on its own. If you're confident in your program design and schedule, why water it down? 3. Themes can rob a camper of valuable camp experiences. If you are a traditional camp that progressively introduces outdoor skills like archery and canoeing to campers, extensive theme programming may intrude on the basic experiences that make your program unique. 4. Themes are hard to do well. If you are confident you have a strong core program, your theme doesn't intrude on other valuable camp experiences, and you have the budget and staff hours to invest in a theme ­ it is still hard to do one well. Good themes may involve costumes, props, field trips, additional staff or volunteers, and a great deal of planning. Why I DO think you should use themes in your camping program: 1. They can release the imagination ­ your imagination, your staff team's imagination, and your campers' imagination! 2. They can provide necessary variation for the campers and staff spending multiple sessions in your program. 3. They can be used as marketing tools for you to attract new and returning campers, while differentiating between sessions. 4. They can provide opportunities for staff development if you, as director, assign different theme weeks or programs to your most promising recruits to develop and implement. 5. They can be fun! 4
DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. Okay. So you've got the resources to pull off a quality theme week. You do not believe theme weeks will cut into your core program or rob your campers of valuable camp experiences. You even think you can do them well. Then why are you reading this book? You're a camp person. You're creative. You're intelligent. You're resourceful. You don't need this book. Put it back on the shelf. What? You're exhausted? Overworked? Well, in that case, I hope you get something out of it. Read on! 5
Table of Contents
Smart-Aleck Stuff The Whys & Why Nots of Themes More-Smart Aleck Stuff Table of Contents When Should You Use Theme Programming? Theme Program Planning · Who is Responsible for Planning Themes? · When Should We Begin Planning? Camp as Theatre Parts of a (SUCCESSFUL) Theme Week · Narrative · Players · Audience · Costumes & Props · support programming · Climax · Denouement · Critics' Review Programming with a Purpose A Few Pesky Details · Theme Weeks or Theme Days?
Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 8 Page 9 Page 12 Page 14 Page 23 Page 25
· Camper Participation · Staff Participation · Camper Competition · Staff Competition · Teambuilding · How far is too far? A Love Letter to Day Camps How to Use This Book · Chapter Breakdowns · Our Generic Camp Schedule · This is a WORKBOOK! · Building Themes Year-to-Year · A Final Thought International Sports Week Sherwood Forest Week Western Week Safari Week Pirate Week Holidaze Week Beach Week Super Heroes Week Final Fling Week The Last Word
Page 30 Page 32 Page 37 Page 55 Page 72 Page 88 Page 98 Page 114 Page 128 Page 143 Page 164 Page 170
When Should You Use Theme Programming? 1. When the mission of your camp demands it. For example, you may work with a summer camp program that calls for greater international understanding. Offering an "Around the World" week to introduce broad concepts of new cultures would be a benefit. 2. When campers attend multiples weeks/sessions (i.e. a summer day camp where kids attend for 10 weeks). Themes can allow both staff and campers to differentiate from week to week in a long summer season ­ and everyone always has something new to look forward to each week. 3. When your core camp program is developed, sound, and successful ­ and you are ready for the next challenge. 8
Theme Program Planning Who Is Responsible for Planning Themes? You are. If you're reading this book, chances are you're responsible for planning the summer camp program. If this answer satisfies you, skip to the next section. If you need a little more convincing, read on. There is an on-going debate in camping: Who plans the summer? As camp professionals, we often want to have full buy-in from our staff teams. The short-cut to creating the buy-in we crave is to have the summer camp counselors and staff plan as much of the program as possible during their training week. We want to give our young counselors and staff the opportunity to "put their mark" on our organization's summer program. Whoa. There is a reason you are the camp director or program director. There is a reason you make the big bucks and drive the fancy car. Let me apologize in advance, in the next couple of paragraphs I will begin beating a drum on this subject. Just turn the page if it gets too loud. Your organization views you as both the guardian and gardener for the summer camp program. As guardian, you, and not your summer staff, are in charge of maintaining your organization's values and mission in the summer program. Your summer camp counselors already have quite enough going on, thank you. You have been hired to carry on the legacy of a program that may be 5 years-old, 55 years-old, or 105 years-old. In any case, you carry the torch. As gardener, you have been hired to nurture and grow young people, while implementing innovative programming that still delivers on the values of your organization. You design the program. You will get great ideas from your summer staff. The young adults that work in our camps each summer come with an energy and enthusiasm that can fuel your creativity all year long ­ but train your staff during staff training. Don't ask them to do your job and plan the summer for you. Can you hear that drum? 9
When Should We Begin Planning? Tomorrow. Today. Yesterday. Last Summer. Last Summer: If you've been fortunate enough to work in camping for more than one summer, you've probably got a list of things you'd like to do next summer. I recommend keeping a notebook or an open document on your laptop, entitled "Things to Change." Record all of your ideas for next summer. Use this as a way of knowing what you need to keep and what you need to change or drop. Then, and this is terribly important, make the time to go back and read what you've written. 10
There is never enough time to get ready for the summer. There is always one more thing you'd like to have ready by June 1. Don't put planning off. It drives everything else in your summer camp. Your program design determines the needs for staff, facility, transportation, and funds. Get on it.
Call your summer staff today and put together a planning meeting. Start meeting in September and continue meeting in person, on the phone, or via the web monthly until the summer begins. Collect the best ideas from your staff and put them down on paper. Share these ideas with camper families, volunteers, and your staff recruits.
Tomorrow: Writing your program design, themed or otherwise, does not end. Your program will evolve with your campers' needs and society's pressures. As long as you are in this field, you will be working on your program again tomorrow.
Get Back in the Box
I need you to brace yourself. Are you seated?
As camp staff and experiential educators we spend a significant amount of our time training program participants to think "out-of- the-box." There is an entire teambuilding industry designed, in part, on this idea. We, in turn, want our teams to think out-of-the- box, too. The truth is we've often been so focused on getting out of the box we've neglected to ever construct a box in the first place. Our staff has nothing to break out of because we've haven't built anything.
You have to be able to hear that drum now. You've stuck with me this long. Stay with me for four more sentences.
Create the box. Write the schedule. Write more programs than you will possibly be able to do. Then let your staff tweak it. Show them which boxes on your schedule are up for breaking and which are mission critical.
Camp as Theatre When I was a new summer camp director, I looked for ways to explain the inevitable cycles of a summer camp season through analogy. The absolute worst attempt I saw through to completion was The Sinking Ship Analogy (SSA). As you read this, know that I actually shared this with staff when I talked about summer camp. I was an idiot. The SSA ran like this: Summer camp is much like the Titanic. In the weeks, months, and years before the Titanic finally set sail, she was perfect. She began as a perfect idea in the minds of her designers and engineers. She was built sparing no expense. Though untested and still in port, she was perfect. A staff was hired and trained ­ the best men and women to be had at that time. A summer camp season is exactly the same. Camp starts as a dream the fall before. We plan, write our program descriptions, print our brochures and update websites. We hire and train our staff, and, at least on that first day camp opens, the young men and women are smiling and proudly wearing clean staff shirts and nametags. Then the passengers arrive to board the ship. There is frustration at the wait to board, but nothing to dim the smiles on staff or passengers. The dream is intact and the Titanic casts off. I think you can see where this is going . . . . Like I said, the SSA was not my best work, but for years I hung onto it. I felt it was inevitable that the dream that is the perfect camp season would begin to take on water and start to sink. I believed my priMary Job was to crash that ship into shore at the end of summer and unload the boat with as few casualties as possible. How bleak. More recently I have worked up the Camp As Theatre (CAT) analogy. This one, aside from a decidedly more positive tone, is a little more useful in the present context. The CAT analogy works like this: Summer camp is like cutting edge, interactive theatre. A playwright takes a simple idea and expands upon it until it becomes an entire show. A director chooses and rehearses a cast to present the playwright's work. There is an opening night where an expecting audience arrives ready to be transported, challenged, and entertained. The play, if it's any good, will utilize a plot that presents us 12
with a repulsive antagonist, a sympathetic protagonist, and a clown or two. The show builds to its climax and ends with a denouement, or an explanation of the action. If the show was good theatre, the audience members will leave with smiles on their faces, having grown from the experience. The next day favorable reviews will appear in the paper and on the web. Success begets more success. Like directors and playwrights in the theatre, our summer camp directors plan their programs, and then hire and train their staff. The opening day of the camp season arrives, parents drop off their children, and the show has begun. Counselors strive to deliver the program as the director planned it. If the plan was good, and the counselors and staff up to the task, our summer campers will return home giving their friends and families rave reviews ­ which should all be reflected in our evaluations, positive word- of-mouth and camper retention. This workbook is based on the Camp as Theatre analogy. Every theme week introduced in each and every chapter, utilizes this idea. I hope you find it as useful as I have. In the box below, take a stab at writing your own camp analogy. Once you take the time to write it, you'll have a better chance of describing your camp vision to those you work with. WRITE YOUR OWN SUMMER CAMP ANALOGY: 13
The Parts of a (SUCCESSFUL) Theme Week
As we get busy in our professional and personal lives, we need systems to help us stay organized. A large portion of this book is spent on providing you with systems to help you improve your summer camp program. In this chapter, we'll look at a system you can use to make sure you're prepared for each and every theme program you offer. There are several important components for every successful theme week. Not every component must be present during every theme week, but at least 5 of the 8 better be there. Using the Camp as Theatre analogy, the parts of a theme week include:
1. Narrative 2. Players 3. Audience 4. Costumes & Props 5. Support Programming 6. Climax 7. Denouement 8. Critics' Review
The Narrative is the plot or story that drives your theme week. Many themes require a cast of characters that show up throughout the program. In this interactive drama, the campers are your Audience. Costumes and Props will transport your audience to another time and place. support programs are everything done by campers that tie into the theme for the week. The Climax is our Big Theme Game (BTG). If the Climax is the BTG for the week, the Denouement is the Wrap-Up. Evaluation time. We need the opinions of our staff and campers.
Every theme week will have its own narrative. Some plots will be pretty straight forward ­ others will be delightfully, unnecessarily complicated. The first theme week outlined in this book is International Sports Week. It uses an uncomplicated narrative: Teams from across the world gather in spirit of sportsmanship to compete in the games hosted at your camp. Simple. On the other hand, if you take a look at Sherwood Forest Week, the narrative becomes more detailed. There is a cast of characters with histories of their own, challenges, double crosses, and more challenges. At the end of this week, our story concludes with Good overcoming Bad and people living happily-ever-after.
The theme's scenario, the story, is important for both staff and campers. For staff, the narrative can help them choose appropriate activities and topics for group reflections. For your campers, the narrative provides context to the week's events. The story of the theme is what kids will relate back to their parents and friends.
Players About half the themes in this book utilize a recognizable cast of characters (Sherwood Forest Week, Super Heroes Week, Pirate Week, and Holiday Week) that may recur throughout the week. The rest of our theme weeks may use characters during individual games that disappear as soon as that activity ends, never to return during the course of the week. While everyone in camp works hard, your actors/counselors will have the greatest burden placed upon them during the course of a theme week. The effort of staying "in character" can be exhausting. Warn your staff. Being Robin Hood during Sherwood Forest Week sounds great ­ until kids greet you as Robin Hood and expect you to be Robin Hood for six days straight. I should note, and perhaps even encourage, the use of volunteers as characters in your theme week. If you have camp and staff alumni who want to come back to your camp program for a week during the summer, consider using them in character roles. For that matter, you may have other volunteers from the community that want to be involved. Let them (after appropriate screening, training, and background checks, of course). It allows your staff to spend more time with their kids, and it allows you to use volunteers in a meaningful way in your program. Later, in the section entitled A Few Pesky Details, I'll spend some time talking about utilizing teen campers as characters in your theme program. Suffice it to say, it may make sense to do so in your program. Make sure you think of what roles are appropriate and not appropriate for your campers to play. Try and make camper involvement part of your progressive program. It may be a headache, but do it. Involve the teens. Audience Obviously, the audience is your campers. Less obviously, we're not presenting traditional theatre. We're providing an opportunity to participate in an interactive drama on a grand scale. If you're developing a new theme program and you can't see a way to involve your campers as more than passive observers, trash the theme. Your job is to engage the audience. Don't let them sit on their hands. Costumes and Props In themes, short cuts can be a good thing. Costumes and props can make up for a lot when the narrative is lacking. Costumes transport both staff and campers to another time and place ­ with or without a story. Props can suggest a story where none exists. Don't skip this theme component. 15
Let's talk for a moment about budget ­ you probably don't have one for props and costumes. No problem. You have a couple of options: 1. Don't buy any props or costumes. Have your staff and kids make them throughout the week. There are good reasons for doing this (more camper involvement, creative outlets for staff and campers, etc. . . .), but there are equally good reasons to avoid this approach (takes more time away from core programs, puts more burden on staff, etc. . . .). You could also choose themes which require very little in the way of costumes (i.e. International Sports Week or Beach Week). 2. Build one week at a time. In your first year of implementing theme week programming, do one week well. Purchase the eye patches, vests, and swords for pirate week. Make sure you collect these props and costumes at the end of the week, store them in a safe place, and you're ready to roll again next year. In year two, you can add all the props and costumes for a second full theme week. Build on the collection. 3. Choose themes that don't rely on props or costumes. I mentioned this above, but there are plenty of good theme week programs that don't require much in the way of props or costumes. Begin by developing themes that play to your strengths. 4. Look for sources to donate costumes. Visit thrift stores looking for theme-appropriate clothing and accessories. Call costume shops and see if they're retiring any costume elements that can be used in your themes. Send a letter to your camp families asking for donations. You will find the costumes you need this way ­ it just takes a little longer. Support Programming: Often, the main theme activity of the camp week is the Big Theme Game (BTG). Typically this activity occurs at the end of a session (usually a Thursday or Friday). If we're designing quality themes, there is more to your theme week than just the BTG. Your sessions schedule might include support programs like: · Breaking the Camp into Teams o Teambuilding for this new group o Creation of mascots, flags, cheers, chants, or coats-of-arms o Group assignments (for relays or other challenges) o Defining program boundaries (geographically, emotionally, etc . . . ) · Costume & Prop Creation o If you're lucky, raiding the costume closet at your camp for established theme costumes and props o Making hats, wands, capes, etc. in Arts-n-Crafts o Creating cardboard Pirate Ships, papier mache creatures, or flower leis 16
· Tournaments and Events o Archery Tournament during a week in Sherwood Forest o Special games or competitions during International Sports Week o Limbo games during Beach Week · Special Program Areas or Clinics o Animal Tracking during Safari Week o Map and compass work during Pirate Week o Building a Hoop Stick game during Holidaze Week · In-Camp Demonstrations o Fencing demonstrations for Pirate Week o For camps without target sports, an archery demonstration during Sherwood Forest Week · Field Trips o Visit the Zoo during Safari Week o Take a trip to a farm or petting zoo for Western Week Remember, these support activities help to weave the theme throughout your schedule. Avoid letting the theme's support programs overwhelm those core programs that define your camp ­ they are the icing on the cake. In the cake metaphor, which I will refer to repeatedly, your core programs are cake and your theme activities are simply icing. Tips for Making Teams 1. Whenever possible, allow counselor groups to be their own teams. 2. If you're making large teams (15-30), and pairing counselors up as co-captains (which you will for International Sports Week), don't put the same counselors together all summer. Make the theme week special for your kids and your staff. 3. For some theme programs, you will want to have a mix of ages and genders on each team. Pull the names out of a hat. Don't over-think it. When you break cabin or counselor groups for competition, make sure you are providing time in your schedule for those core groups to bond. Nothing is more important than the relationship between the counselor and her or her campers. Be careful not to compromise it. 17
Climax: Big Theme Games (BTGs) Next to the narrative and characters, the BTG is usually the most memorable part of a camp theme week. If we've done it right, our entire week of support programming has been used to build up to this point. Perhaps costumes have been assembled, talismans collected, and characters introduced. In my experience, there are four kinds of Big Theme Games. These games may be passed down from one generation of camp staff to another over many years ­ and certainly they evolve. I have identified the following four types of BTGs: 1. Capture the Flag Games 2. Scavenger Hunt Challenges 3. Station-Centered Role Plays 4. Hide-and-Seek Games What about tag games, you say? Tag games are not BTGs. At least, tag games are not BTGs all by themselves. Certainly tag may be a component in any one of the aforementioned BTGs. Now you may think there is a different kind of BTG out there, but I bet I can show you that it fits into one of these 4 categories ­ or a combination of 2 or more of the categories. For those of you that have been living under a rock, or are simply new to camping, I'll expand a little bit on each type of game below: Capture the Flag Games involve one team of campers trying to take something another team of campers is trying to protect. Many classic BTGs fall into this category. I am part of the Capture the Flag game culture. Please know I have tried to resist the compulsion to include a variation of capture the flag in every chapter. Scavenger Hunt Challenges send campers, in small groups, on hunts all over camp to locate, recover, or photograph various objects or sites. Station-Centered Role Plays ask staff or volunteers to become different characters. Each character is set up at a station around camp. Campers travel from station to station and often watch the characters act out mini-plays, or they receive assignments from these characters which they must complete before moving on (riddles, teambuilding activities, camps song performances, etc.). 18
Hide-and-Seek Games, such as Counselor Hunts and Sardines, have been favorites in camps for generations. Our concern for child safety dictates we take special care with these games today, but that does not mean we have to give them up. Most hide and seek games in this book call for staff or volunteers to be the folks hiding around camp ­ not our campers. Use common sense with these games. From a very unscientific study (simply asking camp friends), it seems that most camps have an established game culture that relies on one or two of these BTGs for all of its big games. I'm advocating a balance. Mix it up and use a different BTG each week. "Moderation in all things," as Poppa Brant used to say. Often a camp is unaware of its own game culture, using a station-centered role play game each week as their large, all-camp game. In the box below, figure out your camp's game culture. OUR PROGRAM'S FAVORITE ALL-CAMP GAMES ARE: OUR CAMP'S BTG CULTURE IS: 19
Denouement: The Wrap Up This is the most ignored part of any theme program. Usually, we make it through the BTG and collapse in a puddle of our own drool. We barely muster the strength to wave to the campers as they head home. Don't neglect the wrap-up. For International Sports Week, this might be your medal ceremony or a sharing of team scores. For Sherwood Forest Week, this might be King Richard pardoning Robin Hood or presiding over the marriage of Maid Marion and Mr. Hood. Your campers need to know the end of the story. They've come with you this far. Share the conclusion of the journey with them. Critics' Review Every camping program of quality is constantly collecting feedback from its campers, staff, parents, and volunteers. This feedback helps us grow as camps and better serve those we work with and for. When evaluating theme programs, there are several criteria you want to consider. Use the questions below as a checklist: 1. Camper Involvement Did the theme provide opportunities for all campers to get involved, use their imaginations, and express their creativity? Were campers involved in the planning of any activities? Were the theme games active or passive in nature? Was there balance between interactive and presentational programs? 2. Staff Involvement Did the theme provide opportunities for all staff to get involved, use their imaginations, and express their creativity? Was staff involved in planning any of the activities? 20
Did staff feel like the theme program intruded upon core programs or prevented them from focusing on their campers? 3. Relevance Was the theme program relevant to your mission? Were the programs relevant to your program goals? Was the theme still socially relevant? Did your kids know the characters?* 4. Asset Building What developmental assets did the theme programs provide for your campers? Did the theme activities increase your campers' understanding of your organization's values? 5. Fun-ness Was it Super Fun, Kind of Fun, Okay, or Boring? Was it more fun for the staff than the campers? Would your campers return to the same theme session next year? Did you have enough fun with the theme to do it again? *Important Note: I ask this question because I watched a staff put together a TV Show Blast from the Past game a couple years ago. Today's campers do not know who the characters from "Happy Days" or "Inspector Gadget" were. They don't get the Back to the Future jokes. Make the themes relevant and timely ­ or timeless. Timeless programs are based on stories that have been with us for generations (Robin Hood, The Wizard of Oz, etc.). 21
I am certain this is not the first time summer camp has been compared to theatre, and I am certain it will not be the last. The important thing to remember is that every summer camp director has the creative energy and drive to put together a good theme week ­ if she can tackle it in small bites. Looking at summer camp as theatre allows us to break it down into bite-sized pieces. In the later chapters of this book, each time a theme is introduced it will be in pieces, in components. Every theme week described will include a narrative, a cast of players, a word about the audience and their level of involvement, costumes and props, support programming, the climax (BTG), and the denouement. Not every section will be complete. Some will require you to finish them. Take one piece at a time and you will have no problem putting together a fantastic week for your campers. 22
Programming with a Purpose More than a decade ago, I heard Bill Hazel give a talk to a group of summer camp staff in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The thrust of the talk was that all staff should be aware of why they lead the activities they do ­ why they play the games they do. In short, staff should know the point of the programs they offer to their campers. The example I remember from this presentation was about the game of soccer. Soccer's a great game, but, developmentally, are its rigid rules appropriate for all ages or groups of participants? Is it fair to expect a group of 5 year-olds to maintain field position and all share one ball? Shouldn't we give each 5 year-old her own ball? This all comes back to the question of why we offer the activities we offer. What do we expect campers to get out of our programs? For most 18-22 year-olds, this question never enters their heads. It certainly hadn't entered mine back then. At the time I heard Bill speak, I was a brand new director and ran my camp the way I did because it was fun. I certainly did not plan my camp to deliver a set of pre-determined outcomes (the things we want our campers to get out of our programs). No worries, I'm not writing this book to talk about Program Logic Models, Inputs, Outputs, Outcomes, and Outcome Measurement, BUT that doesn't mean I don't think it's important. It is. I understand, though, you may just be looking to develop a few quality theme programs ­ not to learn about Outcomes. If that's the case, skip this next section: More Information on Outcomes and the 40 Developmental Assets In my opinion, the expert on this topic is the Search Institute. In 1996, the same year I heard Bill Hazel speak about programming with a purpose, the Search Institute published Making the Case: Measuring the Impact of Youth Development Programs. This piece had been commissioned by the YMCA of the USA and distributed to YMCAs across the country. I was fortunate enough to find one in my mailbox. This short piece outlined 40 Developmental Assets for children and teens. Each asset acquired by a young person raises the chance he will avoid high risk activities and develop into a successful adult. These assets include items like providing adult relationships, community valuing youth, community seeing youth as resources, providing creative activities, teaching conflict resolution, and sharing positive values. 23
I see each developmental asset is an opportunity to reach a child. When designing your summer camp, think about which assets you are providing through your activities ­ and make sure staff is trained to recognize and encourage your campers' adoption or awareness of these assets. In the language of Program Logic Models, these assets are the outcomes you hope each camper has as a result of your program design and their experience in your camp. As you continue in your career, you'll need to master this language to pursue funding sources. More importantly, when you want to explain what camping does for a child, the language of outcomes, specifically the 40 Developmental Assets, will help you convince the world's greatest camp skeptic of the potential power of your program. In each chapter of this book, I have suggested developmental assets that may be acquired by a camper participating in the activities I have outlined. Without taking too many liberties with the definition of each asset, I have assigned 30 different assets to programs listed in this book. Your camp could provide 30 of the 40 Developmental Assets to your campers, and you could do it this summer! If I've succeeded in getting you interested in developmental assets and how they can improve your program, please visit In addition to some amazing information and statistics, they have an on-line store your can use to order or download books on this topic. When you're picking your theme activities, ask yourself why it's important for your campers. Initially, if the only answer you come up with is "Because it's fun," that's okay. I am willing to bet that if you spent a little more time on it, though, you'd hit 3 or 4 assets your program provides on a daily basis. Being able to identify the assets your program offers will help you answer parents when they ask, "What will my child get out of your program?" It will also help you answer volunteers and donors when they ask, "Why is camping important to children in this day and age?" Now that you know why you've chosen the games and activities you have ­ go out and tell your staff! Those beautiful people implementing your plans and bringing life to your dreams need to know why it's important and what you hope the kids take away from your camp. 24
A Few Pesky Details Theme Weeks or Theme Days? This is a fine question. To be honest, there are pros and cons to both. In fact, until very recently I would have always answered in support of theme days over theme weeks. That was before I began working with a camp that was solidly entrenched in the theme week model. In preparing themes for the week-long approach I began to see shortcomings, as well as unique strengths, in both models. The primary question is, "What best fits your program?" Answer this question and you don't have to read the rest of this section. Positive Impact of Theme Days: 1. A single theme day each week allows a camp to focus all it resources on a single day of special programming. 2. A theme day allows you to pick the best of all possible programming ideas and cram them into eight hours. 3. Staff can stay in character for one day much easier than they can for an entire week. 4. Theme days rather than weeks provide less disruption to the traditional schedule and less distraction from the core program for both campers and staff. Negative Impact of Theme Days: 1. A single theme day does not allow for the same development of the narrative (the story) for a given theme. 2. If you use themes to market your programs, a single theme day per session may not prove to be enough differentiation between weeks. 3. You lose a lot of good support programs for the lack of time. 4. It may not seem worth the work you put into it. Camper Participation Every camp has a couple of kids that don't want to participate. I'm sure you have them in your program. What do you do with them? You've really only got 2 choices: 25
1. Let them sit out (I hope you don't do this. Don't give in and let them sit out, they could do that at home.) 2. Encourage, cajole, drag, and lift them up to participate (I hope you do this). If you've got a summer camp program you believe in ­ one that you feel is vital to every child's development ­ your choice is a simple one. Every kid must participate. Find a way for every camper to be involved and be flexible. Returning to our soccer example, if a child refuses to play, appoint them referee. If your theme program includes an art project, and a camper refuses to participate (i.e. "I don't do art"), assign her part of the project she can do. Ask the camper to organize or arrange the art show. Get creative. It's why you work at camp. Camper Theme Participation Okay. I took a job at a camp a few years back where campers' families were asked to pay more expensive camp fees for their campers to have character roles in the theme program each week. I was shocked. Needless to say, I stopped the practice. Every camper should have a role in the camp theme program ­ that goes without saying. Obviously I'm not advocating you use campers to fill all your character roles. Every child can't be Robin Hood or Santa Claus. In fact, a camper probably should not have a "lead role" at any point. You've got to find a balance, or, failing that, a system. I can suggest a system. A good camp has developed a progressive program for its campers so that each year they return to build upon the experiences from the previous year. Do the same with themes. Simply make them one more facet of your progressive camping program. Perhaps your teen program allows teen campers to be bandits during Wild West Week. If you do this right, it will be another reason for kids to stick with your program ­ they have something cool to look forward to. Staff Participation There are three truths in summer camping: 1. If your staff doesn't participate, your campers are less likely to participate. 2. If your staff members dominate the program, hog the spotlight, don't pass the ball ­ your campers are less likely to participate. 3. The more campers participate, the better the experience they have. 26
As Poppa Brant used to say, "Moderation in all things." Kids take their cues from their counselors. Your staff must be excited about your program (or they must be moderately gifted actors), but they must not dominate it to the detriment of the campers' experience. Staff must remember who the stars of your summer camp are: THE CAMPERS. Make sure the kids have roles in your skits, games, and theme programs. Make sure each child finishes the session with their moment in the spotlight. Camper Competition Do it. I'm serious. Don't avoid competition because you're afraid campers will be let down if they lose, or because you worry your campers won't win graciously, or because you're concerned you could harm counselor group unity. If your staff is trained to anticipate and facilitate competition: · It allows us to learn to pick ourselves up when we fall · It teaches us to be compassionate victors · It can demonstrate the value of a team · It puts a value on achievement · In short, it prepares us for life . . . Staff Competition Watch it. In sports settings, your counselors and staff can set a good example by playing hard and leaving it on the field. Your staff can also contradict their own verbal messages with their actions. Strive to remind staff that they lead by example. Their actions, expressions, and emotions are a far more effective means of modeling behavior to their campers than words will ever be. They should be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. Teambuilding Of the eight theme week Events Schedules presented in this book, only two explicitly ask you to do teambuilding with your campers. In each case, teambuilding is scheduled when a new group or team has been assembled, breaking counselor groups apart for certain activities throughout the week. 27
Please understand, I am assuming you are already doing teambuilding activities that develop your campers' communication, trust, and problem-solving skills with each counselor group. If you are not doing this right now, and you're worried your schedule won't allow the time for it ­ TEAR UP YOUR CURRENT SCHEDULE! TEAMBUILDING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR CAMPERS THIS SUMMER! If you are running a day camp, please dedicate at least the first hour a counselor spends with his or her campers to teambuilding. If you're a resident camp, blessed with twenty-four hours a day you can spend with your campers, schedule 5-7 hours a week of teambuilding with each counselor group. When you this book, all scheduled activities list the potential developmental assets a child can glean from your program. The two teambuilding periods presented in International Sports Week and Superheroes Week, have the longest list of assets. This is not a coincidence. There are a lot of good teambuilding books out there. Buy them. In fact, buy them before you buy this book. I think it's that important. How can our campers tackle problems like world peace if we haven't taught them how to interact, learn to trust in others, and problem-solve as part of a group? How far is too far? In my first years as a summer camp counselor, I worked for two dynamic camp directors who were very keen on theme programming. I am pleased to say that both these high energy leaders - John Carlson (J.C.) and Sonny Adkins - are still working with camps and developing the next crop of camp leadership. In the early 90s, these guys loved theme programs. J.C. would leave camp in the middle of the night and drive down to the main office to laminate animals for a theme plaque to hang in the dining hall. Sonny let us duct tape cardboard wings onto his truck and transform it into an alien attack ship. I don't know if you've every tried to pull duct tape off a vehicle that has spent the day in the hot sun, but let's just say Sonny probably made the greater sacrifice. It was the years I spent with Sonny and J.C. that got me interested in theme programming. Were it not for spending several summer working beside them, this book wouldn't have been written. Reflecting on those summers, I've come to ask the question, "How far is too far?" One of my clearest camp counselor memories is of filling water balloons at three in the morning for an impending alien invasion. This is a good memory, but I have to ask myself, was working all night on costumes and props making me a better counselor to my campers. Probably not. I was probably exhausted. 28
I have a couple of questions you can use to determine if your theme programming is going too far: Are campers still able to participate in all the traditional aspects of your camping program? Are theme activities significantly disrupting your staff and campers sleep? Are your theme programs still representative of your organization's mission and values? Is there room in your schedule for campers and counselors to socialize or discuss topics beyond the scope of the theme? Does your program allow a camper to make his or her own memories? Does the theme program still allow the free time necessary to develop and make friends? When I look back to my first years as a camp counselor, I honestly can't answer these questions. It's too far in the past; my perspective has changed so drastically since then. I can, however, answer these questions about last summer's theme weeks in my own camp. At least one of those weeks probably went too far. At many points in this book I will push you to "over-program." With more than a decade facilitating teambuilding programs, one of the most important lessons I've learned is to over-program. In camping, as in life, things happen and you need to look for a "Plan B." Over-planning means you're always prepared with another option when a program flops or plans change. Readers will also notice there is a tremendous focus on themes in your summer camp program (it is, after all, a theme book). Remember there is much more to your camp than the theme of each session. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. 29
A Love Letter to Day Camps Dear Day Camp Directors, I need to apologize. I approached this workbook as if I were designing a traditional, seven-day resident camp session. Clearly, there are far more day camp programs in the United States than there are resident camp programs. All trends point to the continued growth of day camps. Despite this, it still appears I am fixated on resident camps. The truth is, I know you're more important. I just thought resident camps needed more help. In most cases, theme programming is more valuable to day camps, and more "do-able", as well. Day camps often run 8-12 weeks in the summer and rely on theme programming to differentiate one week from the other. This is important for both your staff teams and your campers. I think day camps are positioned to get more from their theme weeks programs because: · Staff gets to go home and rest every night. Don't discount the value of sleep and solid time off. If staff is resting appropriately, you can push them harder. · Counselors and campers can bring props and costumes from home on a daily basis. · Parents can be your partners in offering theme activities. · Most day camps include field trips as part of their curriculum, which can be easily integrated into your theme. Now, I feel obligated to take a moment and give you some direction on condensing seven days and six nights of activities into five days. Trust me, this will go down pretty smooth. You are creative, intuitive, driven, hard-working, under-appreciated day camp staff. You've probably already figured this out: 30
1. On every schedule in this book, there are events planned for "dinner." Don't fear. Don't fret. Just move the events to lunch if you think they're important. If you think the events are unimportant ­ drop them. You won't hurt my feelings. 2. Because many resident programs run for a 7-day session or longer, theme activities in this workbook are spread out to allow for themes to weave through every day of the week-long program. Again, let not your heart be troubled. If you like all the activities and don't want your kids to feel left out, squish them all in. Special Note: "Squish" is a very technical term you can use after four-years of college education and several years of graduate study. Use this term sparingly. 3. More on squishing: Pick the activities you believe your staff team can do best. You have more activities than you need in this book so don't waste your time tackling games that prove too burdensome to adapt to your camp setting. I wish you the best of luck this summer. Know that what you do is important to the children and families you serve. You are appreciated. I hope you can make the most of this book. Sincerely, Nathan 31
How To Use This Book Sparingly. Use this book sparingly. You and your staff will have far better ideas than I've put in this book. More importantly, you and your staff will have the genius to take the ideas outlined in the coming chapters and redesign them to work in your program. Don't be afraid to change the rules of the games I describe. Don't worry about tearing the schedules apart and putting them back together in a way that makes sense to you. This is a workbook ­ more on that in a minute. Chapter Breakdowns Each theme in this book is its own chapter with four main sections each. It doesn't look like much, I know, but there is a lot of information in very little space. I'll break it down for you: 1. Events Schedule Each chapter begins with an Events Schedule. The Events Schedule gives you an overview of an entire week of theme programming (12-17 programs each week). Programs that fall in the "Optionals" block on the schedule will have a notation at the bottom of the table indicating whether the activity is intended to be an "all camp" event or a special activity campers individually sign up for. 2. Components of the Theme For each theme, 7 of the 8 components are presented and explained in far too much detail (Narrative, Players, Audience, Costumes & Props, Support Programming, Climax, and Denouement). I didn't spend anytime preparing your evaluations. I think you'll do a better job at it then I will. If you are pressed for time and must skip reading one of the 4 sections, I give you permission to skip Components of the Theme. 3. Notes Don't skip this section. Each Notes segment will give you ideas on Scoring competitions, Awards for competitions, Reflections topics, Cabin Time activities, On-Site Demonstrations, Packing Lists for campers and Field Trips. Few ideas found in Notes will appear anywhere else in this book. 32
4. Glossary of Terms This is the most important piece in each chapter. You could burn the Events Schedule and write your own in ten minutes. You've already read about the components of the theme, blah, blah, blah. Who cares? Sure, it would be nice to have the Notes, but if your dog ate it you would survive. You cannot live to see tomorrow without the Glossary of Terms. This section gives you the rules to every game. It describes every challenge in detail. It even gives you schedules for festivals, tournaments, and athletic competitions. Finally, after each activity I have listed Potential Program Outcomes derived from the 40 Developmental Assets produced by the Search Institute. If you are keeping track, you'll find 30 different developmental assets spread across these chapters. I bled for this section. I hope you appreciate it. The Camp Sunshine Schedule To present our themes and activities, we're going to need to imagine a camp ­ Camp Sunshine. For the following chapters, Camp Sunshine is your six-night, resident camp program. Using Camp Sunshine will allow us to look at a generic camp schedule and cover a couple of terms we need to look at to make sure we're on the same page. Camp Sunshine's typical day is presented in the table below:
7:00 a.m. 7:30 a.m. 8:00 a.m. 9:00 a.m. 9:30 a.m.
Activity Pre-Breakfast Activities Reveille Breakfast Camp Clean-Up Optionals 33
Explanation These activities are often called Early Bird Activities (i.e. Polar Bearing) "Optionals" refer to activities chosen by campers each day. Frequently in this book, theme activities are placed during this period as a means of minimizing any
10:30 a.m. 11:30 a.m. 12:30 p.m. 1:15 p.m. 2:15 p.m. 3:15 p.m. 4:15 p.m. 5:30 p.m. 6:30 p.m. 7:30 p.m. 8:00 p.m. 9:30 p.m. 10:00 p.m.
Activity Period 1 Activity 2 Lunch Rest Hour Cabin Time Store / Free Time General Swim Dinner Early Evening Activity Reflections Late Evening Activities Return to Cabins Lights Out 34
disruption to your camp's core program. Also called Clinics or Program Areas Also called Clinics or Program Areas This time in the schedule can be used by campers and their counselor to plan and do special activities together. Like Optionals, I've used Cabin Time as a spot in the schedule to place theme activities. Unlike Optionals, Cabin Time is part of your core program. When this time is taken for theme programming, make sure the counselor group still has an opportunity to gather at some other point in the day. Evening theme activities could be utilized at this point or later in the schedule. Reflections go by many names in camping (Chapel, Devotions, etc.). By any name, it is an opportunity for campers to reflect on their day, their friends, and the values or mission of your organization. Evening theme activities could be utilized at this point or during the Early Evening Activity period.
Of course, there is bound to be variation in schedules from camp to camp. For the purpose of this book, we'll assume all our schedules look something like Camp Sunshine. If you are part of a resident camp program, you may also do some sort of opening campfire on the first night of each session, as well as a closing ceremony or parent show before your campers head home. I have chosen activities to compliment these moments in your schedule, as well. If your sessions don't allow for these activities, work them in wherever you deem appropriate ­ or not. You're the boss. As we've noted before, you're creative and flexible ­ or you wouldn't have this job. This is a WORKBOOK! Remember workbooks from elementary school? There was something very satisfying about filling in the blanks. Do that in this book. Treat it like a workbook. For each theme, there are blanks on the events and activity schedules for you to add your own theme program activities. Fill them in. We'll begin with a little warm-up. You won't even break a sweat. Let's get started: WRITE YOUR CAMP'S OR ORGANIZATION'S MISSION: WRITE YOUR SUMMER CAMP'S GOALS BELOW: 35
I hope you were able to quickly answer the two questions above. Make sure you share those answers with the rest of your summer camping staff. This will not be the last time you're asked to complete a section in this book. The last theme in this book, Final Fling Week, is completely blank. Yep. You bought this book and now you have to finish writing it. Many thanks. Building Themes Year-To-Year At some points in this book you'll be asked to spend some of your precious budget on costumes, props, and other supplies. You may not have the capital necessary to launch all of these themes in your first year, but there are a couple of ways you can stretch your dollars. 1. Pick themes with no costume or prop expenses. International Sports Week and Beach Week are great for this. 2. Start with only one theme this summer and add more in future seasons. 3. When you do purchase theme supplies, save them from year to year and guard them jealously. If you buy a dozen cowboy hats and bandannas for Western Week, place them in a labeled storage tub and hide them when the session is over. Do not pull them out for Halloween or other events that come up throughout the year. Protect them. Every hat you hold onto is one you won't have to buy again next year. 4. Call costume shops and beg for retired costumes. Particularly after Halloween and Mardi Gras, costume shops assess damaged costumes and decide whether to repair them or haul them to the dumpster. Try and get your hands on these "vintage" costumes. You'll find superhero gear, medieval garb, and much more. A Final Thought I did not spend two months of my life writing this so you could put it on the bookshelf and forget about it. Use it. Write in it. Photocopy or scan pages you want to share with your staff. Add your own thoughts in the margin and pass it on to a younger staff person who needs it. Good luck next summer ­ and the summer after that. 36
International Sports Week Let's get something out in the open from the beginning: very few camps currently using this theme call it International Sports Week. Nearly everyone calls this some form of "Camp Olympics." All OlympicsTM identification, including the rings, is owned and protected by the International Olympic Committee. As such, I recommend finding a different name for your theme week. Under any name, an International Sports Week is one of the oldest and most used of all theme week programs, and it's easily understood by both your parents and your campers with very little explanation. That is a definite plus. There are lots of events described in this chapter. Some are traditional track and field events, some are wacky events, and some are camp classics. You can program the entire week to track and field or wacky events. You decide the tone of your events ­ but make the choice on purpose, and know why you are offering your campers the experience you have selected.
Events Schedule
Optionals Clinics Cabin Time Evening Activity
Sunday Opening Ceremony
Monday Team Sports/Plaque* Teambuilding Color Wars
Wednesday Thursday Decathlon Track & Field Plus Prep.*
International Stations
Team Sports/Plaque United Nations
Team Sports/Plaque
Friday Swim Meet The BTG: Decathlon Plus Relay
Parent Show
Team Introductions & Medal Ceremony
* These are "all camp" activities. These are intended to be optional activities. Campers should sign up to participate in the Track & Field and Swim Meet events if they have an interest.
Components of the Theme:
Athletes have been assembled from all over the world to compete in Camp Sunshine's International Games. Athletes will meet their teams and compete in a variety of events culminating in a medal ceremony.
There are no designated "roles" for this theme. Camp Leadership Teams will want to act as referees, umpires, or judges. Counselors may want to dress as mascots for their teams. Make sure your international staff, if you are lucky enough to have them, have high profile roles this week and that their native countries are represented when you create your teams.
Our campers this week are our athletes, and this week you'll be creating teams. Keep team sizes under sixteen. Down to about ten team members, smaller is better. For the purpose of this chapter, we will assume Camp Sunshine has six teams with sixteen campers each. When you're assigning teams, please make sure to evenly distribute campers by age and gender. Make the teams as fair as you can (In the NFL, this is a dirty word called "parity"). Have those team rosters done by check-in because teams are introduced on Sunday night.
Costumes & Props Support Programming
This is a great week on your budget. No need for extensive costumes. You can pull out togas for the opening ceremony ­ or not. The same can be said for decorations. There's no need for extensive decorating. It's nice to have flags for your teams, but these can be either hand-made or purchased. There are more support programs in the schedule than you need. You've got all-camp games, relay races, swim meets, track and field events, cultural activities, and more. But, I'm sure someone out there would like a few more. In addition to the programs listed on the Events Schedule, consider including: 1. Make your own Olympic torch. There are probably a million ways to make one of these. Have your craft counselor experiment a little. I recommend a cone of white construction paper with streamers of red and orange paper (preferably tissue paper) coming out the wide end of the cone. 2. Assemble a "coiless flag pin". I can't claim this idea, but I like it. Visit This is a flag craft made of beads and safety pins. Your campers can wear them home. 3. Make a Popsicle stick gymnast. I saw this style of craft years ago, but it wasn't used in this way. Construct a piece of gymnastics equipment out of Popsicle sticks (i.e. uneven bars or a balance beam), and then make a gymnast out of pipe cleaners. Bend the gymnast any way you want on your equipment. 4. Create a Team Jersey. In resident camps, ask athletes to bring a white t-shirt to decorate as a team jersey. In day camps, you may want to ask every member of Team 1 to wear blue each day of the session and Team 2 to wear red. Feel free to add your own support programs to the week. Thirty minutes on-line and you will have more ideas than you can possibly use. You can also make your Track & Field events silly (i.e. toilet seat discus or water relays).
Climax Denouement Notes: Scoring
International Sports Week climaxes with the Decathlon Plus. This station-centered relay is designed to include every camper in your program and has nothing to do with the stuffy event Olympians compete in. Wrap up your International Sports week with a medal ceremony or trophies recognizing your campers' individual and team accomplishments. During International Sports Week, someone should keep score. Humble winning and graceful losing should be part of your curriculum. Keep the scoring simple and make our campers aware of how it works. I recommend awarding three points for first place, two points for second place and one point for third place. 40
Awards Reflections Cabin Time On-Site Demonstrations Packing List
It's also acceptable to bestow at least a point to every team that completes a given event. At Camp Sunshine, there are six teams. Therefore, first place receives six points, second place scores five points and so on. This is a decision to make with your staff and volunteers. I advocate for medals and trophies if your budget will allow for them (make sure they're branded with your camp name and include some indication of the event won). These are mementos that wind up in sock drawers and on shelves for years. They are the keepsakes alumni bring back to camp fifty years later. Use reflections or chapels this week to talk about sportsmanship, honesty, integrity - as well as discussing other cultures. Cabin times are crucial this week. Campers are bonding, and feeling loyal, to their International Sports Team. It is important to be intentional about bringing the counselor group together. When you have your counselors facilitate teambuilding with their campers, focus on communication and trust skill building. If you have the time, invite local track coaches to bring their teams to camp to demonstrate track and field events. The same could be done with local high school soccer teams (who are already practicing through the summer). These are only two examples of Olympic events you could bring to camp. Use your imagination and your contacts. Schedule these folks early! To help your campers and staff develop cultural awareness, invite an African or Irish dance troupe to perform for your camp. A quick internet search will reveal a wealth of music, dance, and storytelling diversity in your community. For resident camps, ask parents to send a plain, white t-shirt for every camper. Day camp families can do the same, or, after creating teams on the first day, they can send their campers dressed in their team colors each day.
Field Trips
If you choose to use a field trip this week, stick with the theme. You can make the trip a cultural enrichment activity or a sport program. Take in a minor league baseball game. Enjoy!
Glossary of Terms:
Opening Ceremony
International Sports Teams captains are introduced and each team processes to light the opening flame. If you follow this event with a campfire or opening ceremony of your own, include the "team colors" or flags for each team.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Caring School Climate, Youth Programs, Cultural Competence
Teambuilding Challenge
In our example, Camp Sunshine has six teams with sixteen campers a piece. Therefore, in the Teambuilding Challenge we'll need six stations. Start each team at a different teambuilding station, and have them rotate every twenty minutes or so. Don't be rigid with the timing between activities. The important thing is that each team work through each challenge. If it takes thirty minutes, so be it. Each problem-solving initiative should utilize the entire team (12-16). I suggest the following activities:
1. Pipeline For this event, each camper will need a one-foot section of PVC pipe. For 16 kids, you'll want to place two cones 30 feet apart. One cone will be your start point; the other will be the finish. The goal of this challenge is to successfully deliver a marble from the starting cone to the finish point. All participants must start behind the first cone. The rules are pretty straightforward: 1) the marble may never stop, 2) the marble may not roll backwards, 3) the marble may not drop to the ground, 4) the marble may not touch any camper, 5) when the marble is in a camper's pipe, she cannot move her feet, 6) if
any of these rules is broken, the team starts over. When the marble has been successfully delivered across the finish line, past the second cone, the task is complete. 2. stepping stones Once again, we're looking at your basic "get from Point A to Point B" activity. Like Pipeline, we'll want two cones 30 feet apart. The team will gather behind the starting cone. Each participant will be given 1 rubber dot (a paper plate is a nice substitute). Using the dots, the team must move from the starting cone to the ending cone without touching the ground in between. The rules are as follows: 1) participants cannot touch the ground between the two cones, 2) the dots must be touching a camper at all times, 3) if a dot is thrown, forgotten, or dropped, the group loses use of the dot, 4) only 2 feet can touch a dot at once. Success is achieved when all team members safely reach the second cone and cross the finish line. 3. Toxic Waste To set this activity up; make a circle of cones with a diameter of 8'. In the center of the circle, place an empty bucket. The circle is a containment center. No campers may touch the ground or bucket on the inside of the circle. Outside the circle, place an identical bucket full of tennis balls. This bucket is full of toxic waste your campers aren't allowed to touch (well, they can touch the bucket ­ just not tennis balls or whatever you place inside the bucket representing the toxic waste). Additionally, you want to give the team an assortment of bungee cords, ropes and/or webbing. The goal of the activity is for campers to move the toxic waste to the bucket inside the containment center. This is a great teambuilding activity. Your campers will come up with all kinds of creative solutions. 4. Pit Falls This is a fantastic communication exercise. It has gone by many names over the years, including Minefield. I recommend using a 10'x20' playing field. Inside the playing field place rubber dots (or substitute paper plates) as obstacles. Have a "sighted" camper 43
stand at the far end of the field and verbally direct a blindfolded camper through the field. The object is to get the blindfolded participant to the far side of the playing field without stepping on a dot. If he steps on a dot, send him back to the start. While you are only able to have two participants playing the game at a time, I strongly recommend you have everyone on the team do the exercise. Hint: Flat obstacles like rubber dots or paper plates prevent sprained ankles or knees! 5. Water Works This is my new favorite teambuilding challenge. By no means is it a new game. Take one large plastic bucket, or small plastic trash can, and drill 30 holes all over it (not in the bottom). Place a ping pong ball in the bucket. This challenge should be set-up within 5' of a water source (spigot, cooler of water, etc.). Give the team a dozen cups. Using the cups, the goal is for the team to fill the bucket (with holes in it) and float the ping pong ball over the edge. Your campers will love this. It's wet, silly, and appropriately frustrating. 6. Bull's Eye I started using Bull's Eye a couple of years ago after my good friend and fellow camp director, Steve Kuhn, introduced it to me. I use it often. If you remember the children's game Operation, you understand the concept of Bull's Eye. To do this activity you need a section of metal or PVC pipe approximately 8" long. You'll need to create a stand or support structure so the pipe section can stand vertically on the floor. If you walk the plumbing aisle of a home improvement super store, you will find exactly what you need. Next, you need a solid ring that will fit around your section of pipe (look for the ring in the same aisle ). Tie sixteen pieces of string 10' long to the ring. Place the pipe section on the floor in the center of a circle of cones. The diameter of the circle should not exceed 20' (otherwise your strings will be too short). Each team member will hold the end of one length of string. Without stepping inside the circle, 44
lower the ring over the pipe. The ring cannot touch the pipe until is has been lowered completely to the floor. If the pipe touches the ring, the team must start over. ADD YOUR OWN TEAMBUILDING GAMES (FOR 12-16 PLAYERS) HERE: For more teambuilding challenge ideas, I recommend Silver Bullets by Karl Rohnke or Teamwork & Teamplay by Jim Cain and Barry Jollif. I have run this challenge as a timed and scored event, as well as a straight-up teambuilding session. In either case, teammates receive a crash course in one another's communication styles and leadership skills. If you choose to score this event, time each station. Cumulative time denotes standing/places in the event. Introducing scoring to these teambuilding activities may help your campers take the task more seriously, but that decision I leave to you. Obviously the points and standings are not the primary reason for this event. Your campers have the opportunity to reap the benefits of a huge number of assets. If you allow for thirty minutes per challenge, this is a three hour event. Important Note: The teambuilding challenge is primarily an opportunity for the team members to learn about one another. If you feel like timing the events will take away from building communication, trust, and problem-solving skills ­ don't time the events. Don't score them. 45
Color Wars
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Caring School Climates, Youth as Resources, School Boundaries, Youth Programs, Caring, Equality and Social Justice, Integrity, Honesty, Responsibility, Planning and Decision-Making, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
Color Wars is a battle of team colors and team pride. Teams appoint two guardians a piece that protect the flag. Each flag is a white sheet attached on each end to a pole (broom stick, handle, stick, whatever). The guardians must hold the flag up between them in the field for the duration of the game ­ but they may remain mobile. In the center of the field are six buckets of color (paint that washes out of clothes, please). All athletes are given a cup. The goal is to put your team color on every other team flag ­ while trying to keep your flag white. Have judges determine which flags have the least color. It is fine if this activity ends in a tie. With introductions, this is a thirty minute game.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Creative Activities, Youth Program, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
Team Sports/Plaque Time
During this period, four teams are engaged in alternative sports competitions (i.e. Striker, Tug-of-War, Ultimate Frisbee). The final two teams will work on a craft project that is part of International Sports Week (i.e. Popsicle stick boats for a Regatta, Team Plaques). For each sixty-minute period, teams will
compete for thirty minutes and then rotate. For scoring, assign a point per score ­ or a point per win. See below:
Tuesday Optionals / 1 Tuesday Optionals / 2 Wednesday Cabin Time / 1 Wednesday Cabin Time / 2 Thursday Evening / 1 Thursday Evening / 2
Team 1 Striker Craft Craft Tug-of-War Tug-of-War Striker
Team 2 Striker Striker Craft Craft Tug-of-War Tug-of-War
Team 3 Tug-of-War Striker Striker Craft Craft Tug-of-War
Team 4 Tug-of-War Tug-of-War Striker Striker Craft Craft
Team 5 Craft Tug-of-War Tug-of-War Striker Striker Craft
Team 6 Craft Craft Tug-of-War Tug-of-War Striker Striker
Striker Striker is the game of soccer ­ played on a soccer field ­ but athletes play with their hands. Using a beach ball, players move the ball down field by striking it with their open hands. Points are scored when the beach ball gets by the goalie and enters the goal. Simple. I recommend limiting the goalie to his or her hands, as well. This can be played with two, fifteen-minute halves. The point of this activity is to introduce a team sport that no camper plays back home in an organized league. Everyone arrives at the field feeling equally ridiculous. Any game that meets these requirements could be substituted for Striker (i.e. Ultimate Frisbee).
International Stations Track and Field
Potential Program Outcomes:
Creative Activities, Youth Program, Honesty, Responsibility, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
You have a lot of options. For example, each International Sports Team could host a station that shares a game, food, or craft that is representative of their nation. Teams visit each others stations. Another option is to have each team do a presentation prepared on their nation and its traditions to the camp community. Try and ensure that all team members participate. Be creative.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth as Resources, Creative Activities, Planning and Decision-Making, Interpersonal Competence, Cultural Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
On the events schedule, the Track & Field event is scheduled for Wednesday morning. With the emphasis on teamwork this week, I recommend making this activity an "all camp" program for your International Sports Teams. This could also be used as an "optional" activity where campers sign up for events they want to participate in. Events could include:
Traditional Events 50 Meter Dash Basketball Shot Put 100 Meter Relay Long Jump 50 Meter Hurdles Hammer Throw * Javelin (Arrow Toss) Add you own events below:
Wacky Events 3-Legged Race Toilet Seat Discus Potato Sack Race Vertical Jump 50 Meter Hurdles (crawl under) Hammer Throw* Rubber Chicken Toss Add your own events below:
United Nations
For the vertical jump, mark a wall with hash marks and record who jumps highest.
Hint: Give the athletes a chalk bag (like rock climbers use), and have them jump and slap the wall with the chalk. This eliminates doubt.
*Believe it or not, there is actually and track and field event called the Hammer Throw. I recommend throwing something that is less likely to inflict an injury than your average carpenter's hammer. Another way to make this event safer is to dictate the method of throwing (i.e. all throws must be underhand).
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Program, Honesty, Responsibility, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
This is a game of strategy and intrigue, as well as good ol' capture the flag. In an open field, create a giant ­ I mean giant ­ circle of ropes or cones. Divide the circle into 6 sections (think slicing a pie). Each section is "home" for one team. The team keeps their flag is kept at the back of their slice of pie on a chair with a safe zone around it. The jail is a smaller circle at the center of the playing field. Players can be tagged whenever they cross out of their zone (their 1/6 of the pie). The players cannot release one another from the jail. Only the Olympic Judges can call "JAIL BREAK!" When "jail break" is called, all players from all teams are released back into the game simultaneously.
Decathlon Plus Prep. Swim Meet
Those are the rules. The game is played by making alliances and breaking alliances. A single team cannot take on the other five. Each team will form alliances with their neighbors, allowing one another to cross their zone safely and take on a hostile nation. The game ends when one team is left standing. You can score it by the order in which teams fall.
To make the game easier to look at and play, have each team dress in a single color (i.e. Team 1 all wears red shirts).
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Program, Honesty, Responsibility, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
This is the time in the schedule to review the Decathlon Plus events and assign roles to campers. You can even have athletes "try out" for their roles (i.e., make sure the person assigned to singing a whole camp song can, in fact, sing an entire camp song).
Again, I recommend the swim meet as an "optional" activity for those interested campers. As with the Track & Field schedule, you can choose traditional events or wacky events.
Traditional Events 25 Yard Free 25 Yard Back 25 Yard Breast 25 Yard Fly 100 Yard IM 200 Yard IM Relay 200 Yard Free Relay Add your own events below:
Wacky Events 25 Yard Dog Paddle 25 Yard Backward Swim (on your stomach) 25 Yard Backwards Swim (on your back) Life Jacket Sprint 3-Armed, 3-Legged Swim Inner Tube Relay Kick Board Relay Add you own events below:
Decathlon Plus Relay
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Program, Honesty, Responsibility, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
This is the climax, the BTG, of International Sports Week. Team members carry a baton around the course. Remember the movies Meatballs and Indian Summer? In each of these camp cinema classics campers engaged in a race and test of skills around camp. That is the kind of event we're talking about here. Events can include:
Event Foot Race
Athletes Needed 1 per team
Canoe Race Sing a Camp Song Dribble a Soccer Ball Make 7 Free Throws Shoot a Bull's Eye Alpine Tower Climb Mountain Bike Ride Saddle a Horse Build a 1 Match Fire Eat a Cracker and Whistle Dixie Team Leap Frog 52
2 per team 1 per team 1 per team 1 per team 1 per team 1 per team 1 per team 1 per team 1 per team 1 per team Entire Team
Add your own event below:
Add your own events below:
**Referees should be brutal on keeping campers in the leap frog position (no standing and running over team mates). Add your own events below:
Use the "Location" column of this chart to record where you would hold each event.
The Decathlon Plus event is designed for twelve people. If your teams are larger than twelve, add more runners between each event. This will easily increase the event design to utilize sixteen athletes.
Obviously you camp may not offer the programs you see above. In fact, if you're a day camp, there may be as many as four or five of the events described in the Decathlon Plus that are not possible in your program. Make use of the resources your unique camp provides you. Additional events may include: carrying an egg on a spoon, rolling an orange with your nose, reading Shakespeare, playing 1 song on the guitar, or throwing a Frisbee for accuracy. Make them up, they're fun.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Program, Personal Power, Self-Esteem, Sense of Purpose
Medal Ceremony / Team Introductions Introduce Olympic Teams at campfire, present medals or awards, and announce team scores. Be sure to make every team "the star" at some point. Every team has a highlight we can share.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Family Support, Caring School Climate, Parent Involvement in Schooling, Community Values Youth, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Self-Esteem
A Final Thought International Sports Week is one of my favorite themes ­ it's why I chose to start with it. If done well, this will become the week your campers talk about for the next fifty years. Make it special. Award trophies or medals ­ something kids will keep and be proud of. Record the times on the Decathlon Plus and post it on the wall year after year. Put the plaques of the winning teams on the wall of your facility with the names of the campers. Do it right and create a legacy. 54
Sherwood Forest Week Welcome to Sherwood Forest, home of the famous bandit Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men. The story of Mr. Hood provides us with a lot to work with as camp professionals. The concepts of justice, service to others, and standing up to a bully resonate today just as they did 500 years ago. Because we're asking our staff and campers to travel to a "long ago and far away" place, they have the opportunity to work with new crafts unique to this theme and learn about new activities that may not be repeated during the entire summer. This week has it all. We've got royal banquets, festivals, dinner in the lair of the Merry Men, archery tournaments, and action- packed games that the most cynical teens should enjoy. If you're doing it right, you will be exhausted by Thursday and still have your BTG to power through.
Events Schedule Sunday Optionals Cabin Time Dinner
Monday Costume Project
Tuesday Presentation & Introduction to Fencing*
Thursday Archery Tournament (7-10 year- olds)*
Friday Archery Tournament (11 & up)*
Feast of the Merry Men 55
King Richard's Court
Evening Activity
Robin Hood Wacky Campfire
May Day Festival
Hunt for the Merry Men Camp Out
The BTG: Captured!
Parent Show
Introduce Archery Tournament Winners
*All activities scheduled this week during the "Optional" period on the schedule are truly intended to be optional. Let campers sign up to be in the tournament if they desire, or to learn about fencing ­ but don't make these "all camp" events.
Components of the Theme:
Here are the CliffsNotesTM: King Richard the Lionheart is off battling the Moors for control of the Holy Land during the Crusades. The King has left his brother, Prince John, in charge of the Kingdom. Prince John is a lousy ruler. The people of the Kingdom are starving and oppressed. Locally, the Sheriff of Nottingham is a despot. Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men live in Sherwood Forest, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Along the way, Maid Marion (variously described as King Richard's cousin, niece, or ward) falls in love with Robin Hood. In the end, the King returns. John is punished. Robin is pardoned. Marion and Robin are married. Everyone lives happily ever after.
If you want to learn more about the mythology around Robin Hood, read a book or rent a movie (Not Men in Tights. Pick a different Robin Hood movie, please).
This is a tough one. Robin Hood will probably need to be Robin Hood all week. This requires a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Your characters should be prepared for the kids to talk to them as if they are that character all week long. Characters should include: · King Richard 56
Audience Costumes and Props
· Prince John · The Sheriff of Nottingham · Maid Marion · Robin Hood · Will Scarlet · Little John · Friar Tuck · Assorted Merry Men & Women Your counselors and staff sell this theme ­ you need to prepare them for the resources it will require. For God's sake, remind them that it's fun to play dress up. They are the STARS of this week's show! They need to be full of spunk! Special Note: "Spunk" is a very technical term only to be used by those qualified with at least four years of college education and several years of graduate study. For those readers from England or Australia, this word does not mean what you think it does. For those readers from other parts of the world, do not use the word "spunk" in casual conversation in England or Australia. There are no "teams" created this session. The campers this week can be peasants sympathetic to Robin Hood and loyal to King Richard. Hopefully, they will be aspiring Merry Men and Merry Women. Be prepared to spend money on this one. Costumes will transport both campers and staff to a different time and place. Call costume shops and ask for costumes they want to retire. In general, this week requires cloaks, crowns, swords, quivers of arrows, a monk's brown robe, and some pretty dresses for the ladies. Go Big or Go Home! Special thanks to Marc and Bugsy for giving me that phrase. Hint: For the sake of your staff, define when they are to be in costume. Utilize the schedule to help with this. If possible, have a special spot for characters to store their costumes (some place other than 57
Support Programming
in a cabin with campers). Superman wouldn't leave his cape sitting in a phone booth; Robin Hood shouldn't leave his tights and bow lying in the foyer of the dining hall. If you are lucky enough to have an outdoor facility your need for decoration may be minimal. At most, a camp boasting an outdoor facility may want to do some decorating at the dining hall. Flags and pageantry are nice to create a "king's court" atmosphere. On evenings it's indicated in the Events Schedule, have the royalty sit at a long table at the front of the dining hall (King Richard, Prince John, the Sheriff, etc.). For those camp programs operating in urban or institutional environments, decoration could be more intensive. Think large paper cut-outs of trees in one room to create the lair of the Merry Men. Have the campers create these spaces on the first or second day of the session. This theme provides a variety of support programming options including crafts, tournaments, scavenger hunts, and on-site demonstrations. In addition to the activities appearing on the Events Schedule, other options include: 1. Arrowhead Necklaces. They're a staple craft in many camp programs. If you're doing them already, make sure you plan for them this week. If you're not already using this craft, consider adding it for this theme session. 2. Robin Hood Play. If you don't already do so, implement a drama program this week. Let campers write and perform the play at the end of the week. 3. Archery Crafts. Visit and you'll find all the materials you'll need to make a complete Robin Hood costume including arrows, quivers, and bow. 4. Coats of Arms or Heraldic Shields. This is a classic activity; very appropriate for the theme and also used by many facilitators as a teambuilding activity. While there are many great websites on heraldry, I'm sending you to If you campers have access to computers, they can create their own coat of arms (complete with mottos and values) and print it
out to take home. Otherwise, you can use the material on this website as a template and guide campers through the process as they create their coat of arms by hand. ADD YOUR OWN SUPPORT PROGRAMMING IDEAS HERE:
Climax Denouement Notes: Cabin Times
Sherwood Forest Week climaxes with the BTG, Captured. Captured is a variation on hide and seek. Maid Marion is captured by Prince John and hidden away. In retaliation, Robin Hood captures the Sheriff of Nottingham and is holding him deep in the forest. Half of the camp joins the Merry Men to search for Marion, the other half of camp is deputized to locate the missing Sheriff. We wrap up Sherwood Forest Week with an appearance of King Richard for our final dinner. The King announces the arrest of his brother and the sheriff, pardons Robin, and presides over the wedding of Mr. Hood to Marion. In the pageantry of a theme week like this, it is easy to lose a quiet child. Use cabin times as an intentional "escape from the theme." Touch base with the campers to make sure their "core camp experience" is intact. Make sure they're getting cake as well as icing. 59
Reflections Awards On-Site Demonstrations Packing List Field Trips
For counselors acting the parts of Robin, Marion, etc., it becomes critically important to carve out times to relate to the campers beyond the roles they are playing for the theme week. Robin needs to put away the bow and sword and let his campers know he is there for them as a friend, mentor, and guide. I will say this in every chapter and you will become very tired of reading it, "Use cabin times for teambuilding!" The story of Robin Hood presents many positive messages that can be shared in reflections and chapels throughout the week. Focus can be given to helping those less fortunate than ourselves, standing up to bullies, and not losing hope. Consider giving awards for the Archery Tournament. At the very least, a certificate with calligraphy and an arrow painted gold make nice awards (take the point off the arrow, please!). As mentioned above, this would be a great week to invite a college fencing team or club to do a demonstration. It would also be an ideal time to invite experts to camp for an archery demonstration. Now, if you are truly going for the gold, contact your local SCA Chapter (Society for Creative Anachronism). These folks stage medieval battles with swords and armor. Wow. As of 2009, the media relations contact information for the SCA was: Stephanie Drummonds 513-403-3301 email: [email protected] If it's not a requirement for your resident campers, have them bring sleeping bags for the campout this week. Both day and resident campers should be invited to bring their own costumes if they wish. Our travel this week is via our imagination. No road miles are necessary. If you choose to add a field trip, let the theme guide you (e.g. a renaissance faire).
Glossary of Terms:
Robin Hood Wacky Campfire
For this campfire, the "cast" arrives in character. We introduce Robin Hood, Marion, Little
John, Friar Tuck, Prince John, King Richard, the Sheriff of Nottingham, etc. You can do an introductory
skit that gives the basic story.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Creative Activities, Interpersonal Competence, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
Costume Project
Boys, we'll be doing bandit hats. Girls, we'll be doing Maid Marion hats. For instructions and material lists on these crafts, visit and search for "Robin Hood Hat" and "Fairy Princess Hat." I'm betting your craft instructor will only need to see the picture to make these lovely creations, but instructions and material lists are also provided.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Personal Power
May Day Festival
May Day ­ it's a medieval party. While I have provided you with a list of events for the May Day party, please feel free to get creative and add your own. This is a great night to have roaming characters (Robin, Marion, Merry Men, etc.). In the chart below, don't forget to complete the "Location" column. I left if blank especially for you. Activities can include:
Event Log Toss Competition
Location 61
Materials Needed A big log (but not so big your campers can't lift it)
May Pole Face Painting Bon Fire Pall Mall Bocce Card Games Add your events below:
Long pieces of fabric, a flag pole, & music Face Paint
Add your events below:
Croquet Set Bocce Set 3 Decks of Cards Add your events below:
Log Toss This is a time-honored Scottish tradition. Competitors heft up a large log and toss it as far as they can. It's the medieval version of carnival strong-man games. 62
May Pole From the top of a pole (e.g. a flag pole), hang twelve to twenty-four streamers to the ground. There should be plenty of left-over streamer touching the ground ­ as much as 15'. The streamers should be fabric ­ paper will not last through the event. Traditionally this is a girls' activity, but don't mention this fact to the guys and they may still do it. The goal of this dance is to braid the streamers around the pole. Make sure you have music playing, preferably someone playing guitar and singing. Have each camper hold the end of one of the streamers. Next have every other camper face the opposite direction. For simplicity's sake, we'll say that half the children are facing forward and the other half are facing backwards. This is a dance. We'll describe each move as a pass. On the "first pass," the campers facing forwards will take their streamers and duck under the streamer in front of them. On the second pass, the children facing backwards will take their streamers and duck under the campers facing forward. Have kids continue until there's nothing left to weave. Unwind and repeat. Pall Mall Pall Mall or ground billiards can be played with a modern croquet set. We'll be using six of the wickets instead of the nine used in croquet. Wickets will need to be marked, one in each of the six colors matching the balls. A "Starter Stake" is placed at the beginning of the course. A "Midway Stake" is placed at the end of the course as the "turn-around point." The object of the game is for a player to traverse the course passing his or her ball through the wickets in the correct color order. After striking the Midway Stake, players then traverse the course back to the Starter Stake. 63
While there are a number of archaic, yet interesting, ways to score this game, I recommend approaching the game like golf. To determine a winner, count the strokes needed for each player to complete the course. The player with the fewest strokes wins.
Bocce is played with eight large balls and one smaller ball (called the pallino). The game can be played with 2, 4, or 8 players. Divide the bocce balls evenly between the players. The "referee" or facilitator of the game can choose a player to throw the pallino (the little ball). After the pallino is thrown, the same player will throw his first bocce ball. The purpose of the game is to get your bocce balls as close as possible to the pallino. The other players will take turns throwing their bocce balls attempting to get theirs gets closer to the pallino. After all players have thrown their bocce balls, the player that is closest will be awarded a point. A game is won when a player reaches 13 points.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Positive Peer Influence, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
Fencing Presentation
Search for a local fencing club (start with local college instructors). Ask them to come to your camp and do a demonstration as part of your Sherwood Forest Week. Begin contacting instructors over the winter. With any luck, they will do the demonstration for free!
To get started, go to On this site, you'll find a listing of states with fencing programs. Click on your state and it will list fencing contacts you can email to come to you camp.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, High Expectations, School Engagement, Youth Programs
Hunt for the Merry Men
In counselor groups, campers will go on a scavenger hunt for clues to the lair of the Merry Men deep in Sherwood Forest. At the start of the search, you'll present the first clue to the first group. After that, characters along the way will ask riddles or questions for the counselor group to answer. For the
correct answer, the character will give the campers the clue to the next location. Not knowing your site, I can't put this one together for you, but I'll give you some medieval riddles and a chart to fill in.
Hint: Complete the "Location" column first. Then you'll be able to craft the clues to present each counselor group that will lead them to the next location and character. The clues you provide should be written down for each group (they may need to look over a clue again while they're on the hunt).
Characters Needed
Will Scarlet asks this riddle:
"Oft I must strive with wind and wave,
Battle them both when under the sea
I feel out the bottom, a foreign land.
In lying still I am strong in the strife;
Ask me my name!"
Answer: Anchor
Will congratulates them on their success and
gives them the second clue.
Merry Woman asks the counselor group:
"What gets wet when drying?"
Answer: Towel
The Merry Woman congratulates the group and
gives them their clue.
Merry Man asks the group:
"At night they arrive without being summoned,
And by day they are lost without theft."
Answer: Stars
The Merry man presents the counselor group
with the clue.
Little John asks the riddle:
"Explain the miracle water becomes bone."
Answer: Ice
Little John shares the next clue. Merry Man asks the counselor group: "What is it that becomes larger the more you take away?" Answer: A Hole Merry Man gives the group their next clue. Merry Woman asks: "Once there was a great green house. Inside the green house was a White House, And inside the white house was a red house, And inside the red house were many babies. What is it?" Answer: Watermelon Merry Woman gives the counselor group their clue. Friar Tuck asks: "What is it that you break even as you name it?" Answer: Your Silence. Robin Hood asks the counselor group: "What is it that holds water and yet is full of holes?" Answer: A Sponge Robin Hood gives the group their clue to the Feast of the Merry Men. This program design allows for eight counselor groups to do the hunt simultaneously (one station per group). If you have twenty counselor groups, I recommend having twenty stations. If you don't have the staff or volunteer support to have a character at each station, post clues at some locations for campers to find and follow. 66
Feast of the Merry Men
This design uses all anonymous riddles. If you'd rather insert challenges (i.e. twenty push-ups or shooting a bull's eye), feel free. Riddles are fine, but it will be a more interesting event with some activities that play to your facilities strengths.
If you need to determine how long this event will take, estimate 5 minutes per station (some will take longer and some will take less), plus the time it will take for campers to travel from one station to another. The more spread out the course, the longer the activity.
Remember to let the campers solve the riddles (even when they make some wrong choices). If you're starting all the groups at once, give them an initial puzzle or riddle to solve before presenting them with the first clue. This will space out your groups. Do not end the search with the lair ­ end the search with one final clue. On the following day you can use this clue to locate the "Feast of the Merry Men."
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Program, Planning and Decision-Making, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
This is a "hidden dinner" cook-out night. Campers and counselors arrive at the dining hall to find they must locate the hideout of Robin Hood and His Merry Men ­ dinner will be served in their forest lair. Using the final clue they earned the night before, every counselor group must work together to find dinner. This is a night for every character but the King, Prince, and Sheriff.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Service to Others, Safety, Youth Programs, Planning and Decision-making, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution, Personal Power, Sense of Purpose
Camp Out Archery Tournament Captured!
Enjoy a night under the stars after a dinner with the Merry Men. Interpret this in a way that makes sense for your program. Sleep under the stars if it's appropriate, or in a tent ­ or have a slumber party indoors.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Service to Others, Safety, Youth Programs, Planning and Decision-making, Interpersonal Competence, Personal Power, Sense of Purpose
I recommend having multiple archery tournaments for different age groups. Score the tournament and record winners.
If you don't have a target sports program, there are a number of fun substitutions we can make:
1. Suction-Cup Archery Set. If you take a look at, you'll find a "child-safe" archery set that is usable indoors. With two sets, you can have your own archery tournament in any camp setting.
2. Lasso Golf. If you would like to avoid archery altogether, you could build or buy a lasso golf set. This game is a competitive game of skill you can use all year long.
3. Bean Bag Toss. Like lasso golf, this can be a game you'll use beyond the summer. It's also a game of skill and a fine substitute for an archery tournament.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, High Expectations, Youth Programs, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
Here we go. Before the start of the game, Marion has been captured. In retaliation, Robin has taken the Sheriff deep into the woods and will hold him until Marion is released (also done before the game begins). The campers are gathered and told the rules of the game that will help them recover both the Sheriff and Marion. This large-scale game is a combination of capture the flag and a scavenger hunt.
Prior to the start of the game, you'll need to determine exactly where Marion and the Sheriff are being held. First, begin by dividing campers into two groups making sure to evenly break the age-groups and genders, (don't let all of the teens onto one team or the other!). The first team is deputized by Prince John to recover the Sheriff. The second team rallies to Robin to find Maid Marion. Mark each team with a big colorful sticker of the same color (i.e. Robin's Team with green stickers and the Prince's team with purple stickers). Office supply stores sell stickers in various shapes and in various colors, but you can also just use two different colors of masking or duct tape. The sticker is useful for telling who is on which team ­ but it also serves a larger purpose in the game. The field is arranged for capture the flag. There are multiple flags on each end of the field. To add way too much detail, you'll want as many flags on the field as you have clues. At the center of the playing field, the Prince and Robin each sit at a table. The game is played like capture the flag. Each time a flag is captured, the team wins one clue (could be a letter, part of a word, or an entire word) that will spell the location of Marion or the Sheriff. Flags are presented to the Prince or Robin ­ who will then present the clues. Additionally, each time a player is tagged, her sticker is collected and she is immediately released. When a team collects ten stickers 69
from their opponents, they will also win a clue. Again, the stickers are taken to Robin or the Prince to receive clues. Captured players must return to their leader for a new sticker upon their release. Perhaps this goes without saying, but the Prince's deputies take their captured flags and stickers to Robin to receive clues. Likewise, the Merry Men take their captured flags and stickers to the Prince. The game is won by winning ALL the clues to find Marion or the Sheriff (not just half the clues and a good guess). If the Prince recovers letters spelling "pool house," he leads his team to the pool house where the Sheriff is waiting. Yes, Prince John could win this round. Don't fret; King Richard will make it right tomorrow night. Important Note: Provide the same number of clues for each team. If Marion is being held at the beach (five letters), and the Sheriff is being held in the north pasture (11 letters), you'll need to determine a means of making it even. Perhaps every clue for Marion's team is a single letter and every clue for the Sheriff's team is two letters? I have faith in you. You'll work it out.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Programs, Integrity, Honesty, Responsibility, Restraint, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
King Richard's Court
We've arrived at our Denouement. All will be made clear and put aright. King Richard will arrive at dinner tonight and thank his subjects for their loyalty. The King will pardon and then knight Robin. He will announce the capture and imprisonment of John and the Sheriff. Finally, the King will call upon Friar Tuck to marry Robin and Marion. Everyone lives happily ever after!
Potential Program Outcomes:
Caring Neighborhood, Caring School Climate, Community Values Youth
Introduction of Archery Tournament Winners Introduce the archery tournament winners to the camp community. Present them with awards they can take home and show off to friends and family.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Family Support, Caring School Climate, Parent Involvement in Schooling, Community Values Youth, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Self-Esteem
A Final Thought Sherwood Forest Week demonstrates everything that is bad about theme weeks in summer camps. It can require tremendous resources draining you of capital, staff morale, and much more. It can quickly overwhelm your core program rendering it superfluous. Don't let it. Sherwood Forest Week also demonstrates the best a theme program can do for your campers and staff. It will release the imaginations of your campers. You'll have the opportunity to discuss charity, honesty, and loyalty ­ providing focus to your camp reflections. Perhaps most importantly, it will be a lot of fun. Remember Poppa Brant: "Moderation in all things." Find the balance and let the theme week programs be the sweet icing on the cake that is your core camp program. 71
Wild West Week Yee-Haw! Welcome to a little frontier town the locals call Sunshine. As it's written, this theme week is a glorified romp through the Old West. From square dances to bank robberies, this flight of fancy should take your campers and staff to a New World of possibilities. In its current incarnation, Wild West Week does not tackle any of the tough topics like the relationship between settlers and Native Americans. As such, it lacks a certain richness I believe you can add in your own programs if you choose to include Native American history, lore, traditions, and art. I encourage you to tackle this content in your camp. A quick study of your colleagues and their camps will reveal that everyone is doing a variation of this theme in their summer programs. Do it bigger and better than they do it!
Events Schedule Sunday Optionals Dinner
Monday Lasso the Bull*
Tuesday Horseshoe Tournament*
Wednesday Sharp Shooter Tournament (7-10 year- olds) * All Camp Cook-Out
Thursday Bike Rodeo*
Sharp Shooter Tournament (11 and up)* Sheriff's Dinner
Evening Activity
Wacky Western Campfire
Gold Rush! Bandits
Hoe-Down at the Ranch
The BTG: Bandits' Revenge
*All activities scheduled during the Optionals period are, in fact, intended to be optional. Have campers sign up for them during
breakfast each day.
Components of the Theme:
Welcome to our home on the range, a dusty little town the locals call Sunshine. Frontier towns like Sunshine, situated at the edge of civilization, can be dangerous places. Our particular town is often beset by outlaws. These bandits will roll into town taking gold, money, and food and riding back out to the range. The Sheriff needs to deputize a few good men and women to restore order.
This is an easy week on staff. The roles are not as developed and complex as they are in Sherwood Forest Week. For continuity, you may want to establish a Sheriff for the week. Beyond that, you can use your imagination. The camp store becomes the General Store or the Trading Post; your Chaplain may become Town Minister, etc.
This week, our campers need not be split up into teams. Everyone is being deputized by the Sheriff to help drive off the bandits.
Costumes and Props
I've said it before, but costumes will transport both campers and staff to a different time and place. Thankfully, these props and costumes are a little more accessible than some themes'. Splurge on an ample supply of cowboy hats and bandannas. Hit the thrift stores for vests, cowboy shirts, and boots. Toy six-shooters and holsters are a must, and make sure the sheriff has a badge. In fact, have a vast supply of deputy badges to give to campers throughout the week.
Support Programming
As for decorations: Hay bales. Need I say more? If you have the time, motivation, and artists, you can rename parts of your camp site with appropriate signage. If you are fortunate enough to have horses as part of your program, move them front and center. Have horses out during check-in (and have the staff in their hats!). Once again, day camps in urban or institutional settings can have a lot of fun creating Wild West spaces throughout their facilities. Picture cut-out saloon doors and cacti. There are a number of support programs in the schedule, but I encourage you to use your imagination and swap in a few of your own. In addition to the support programs scheduled, consider including: 1. A Stock Show. This is for day camp programs. Have campers bring their pets and enter them in a stock show. 2. Potato Brands. In the Old West, and in some places still today, livestock was branded with an identifying mark or symbol allowing ranchers to tell who owned what cows. Take half a potato and carve designs or brands that can be used with ink pads. Dull knives will work, enabling campers to do their own. Remember, the "raised" section of the potato is what will touch the ink. 3. Cowboy Poetry. If creative writing is not a part of you summer camp program design, add it this week. Let campers write short poems about their lives. Then, go for the gold. Have the kids read their poems around the campfire with some hot chocolate. 4. Cowboy Vests. Brown paper bags. Load up on full-size, brown paper bags from your grocery store. After you've cut holes in the side for arms, have your campers decorate their vest anyway they see fit. This is geared primarily to your younger campers. 5. Links. For more ideas that you can ever use, I recommend two websites:, or In both cases, these sites are for early childhood education, but I think you'll pull a lot of ideas for your camps.
Climax Denouement Notes: Cabin Times Reflections
Bandits' Revenge is our BTG this week. As far as game style, Bandit's Revenge is one part Hide-and- Seek and one part Scavenger Hunt. This is a keeper! The bandits are holding the town hostage. After their embarrassing defeat and capture on Tuesday night, the bandits have escaped. Around the town, they have placed dynamite. If you, the townsfolk, don't turn over your gold to them in one hour, the bandits will blown the town sky high! The Sheriff hosts a dinner for the town and thanks all the deputies for their hard work. Go back to the basics. Make sure you use this time and have your counselors work with their groups to develop trust, communication, and problem-solving skills with your campers. Do some teambuilding. The West was built on personal responsibility ­ an apt theme for our campers in this day and age, as well. This is also a good week to focus on respect, initiative, integrity, and service to others. 75
Awards On-Site Demonstrations Packing List Field Trips
Badges. Your kids need to be deputized and presented with badges. This week also includes a variety of contests and tournaments that would be a great opportunity to recognize campers with awards (Stick Horse Race, Horseshoe Tournament, Sharp Shooter Tournament, and the ever-popular Spitting Contest). At a minimum, I recommend providing certificates with an old west, wanted poster appearance. If you want to provide an award your campers will hand onto for years, present them with gold, silver and bronze horseshoes for different events. Real horseshoes are heavy and may seem hard to come by, but I bet your local craft store can get them for you. That same store probably carries balsa wood horseshoes you could use, as well. If you don't have horses as part of your program, no worries. Many horse owners and ranches will be willing to bring a horse or horses to you. Let your campers be awed and humbled meeting one of these big creatures up close. Don't laugh: you can also call in Native American and Cowboy re-enactors. For that matter, hire a cowboy poet or singer to visit camp. It will be memorable. Whether in day or resident programs, campers should be invited to wear their jeans, cowboy hats & boots, bandannas, etc. As above, if you don't have horses, take your kids to meet one this week. Organize pony rides and trail rides or visit a petting zoo with your younger campers.
Glossary of Terms:
Wacky Western Campfire Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-Haw! Have all staff arrive at the opening campfire in their cowboy-best.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Creative Activities, Interpersonal Competence, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
Lasso the Bull Gold Rush
This optional activity involves teaching your campers to make a lasso and practice their skills on hay bales. Carey Bunks has a great website on Lassos, Lariats, and Trick Roping ( Use it.
If this new skill is intimidating, call a professional and ask them to visit your camp and do a demonstration.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
There's gold in them-there hills! Each cabin or camper group has a claim already staked. It's time to pan for gold.
If you've got a shallow creek, you're in business. If you have a swimming pool and an understanding facilities director, you could do this in the shallow end of the pool. No water? No problem. You can do this is the middle of an activity field (a la Easter Egg Hunts). For the rest of this description, I will describe Gold Rush as if we're working in a creek.
Prior to the start of the event, you need to do a little prep work. 1) Take metallic gold spray paint and paint five to ten rocks per camper. 2) Using tall stakes and rope, literally stake claims for your camp groups in the creek. Each claim should be large enough to allow for a good search for ten campers (25' x 25'). 3) Hide the "gold" you've made evenly across the claims.
At the start of the event, have the Sheriff announce that gold has been found in the creek. Give kids old pots and strainers and direct them to their claims. They will enjoy panning for gold. Remember, this is an egg hunt. Make it age-appropriate. Be serious about hiding the gold from your teens, but make sure the little guys and gals are able to find theirs.
At the conclusion of the activity, have the Sheriff explain that he will guard the gold until the town fair and hoe-down on Wednesday night. Counselor groups will be able to spend their gold at the fair.
Horseshoe Tournament Bandits
Maximum run time will be forty-five minutes in the water, twenty minutes on the land (with introduction).
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Program, Caring, Responsibility, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
Horseshoes is played with two stakes, each stake being 40' across from the other. You can buy kids' horseshoe sets from most big retailers and toy stores. Two opponents, or two teams, then play against one another. Scoring is pretty simple. Each "ringer" (when a horseshoe rings the stake) is one point. You can either take the high score as winner after a set number of rounds, or you can play until one person reaches fifteen.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Youth Programs, Integrity, Honesty, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
Bandits have heard about your town's gold rush and have ridden in to clean you out. They take the gold and head for the hills. The townsfolk are deputized and rush off to reclaim their riches and capture the outlaws.
Special Note: Before you can have bandits run into your town and clean you out, you need to pick some bandits. If you were looking for an opportunity to allow your teen campers or CITs to take an actual role in a theme, this isn't a bad opportunity. Otherwise, select staff members to play the roles. I recommend having one bandit for every 10 campers.
This is a basic tag game, hence, not a BTG. Tag a bandit, and she gives up the gold. You can run this game as a small-scale activity on a soccer-sized field, or you can run this across 100 acres of wooded property. The basic rules are the same. Catch the outlaws and return the gold.
All Camp Cookout Hoe-Down
Make this a production. Have the bandits make a show of force and run off with the loot. The Sheriff should be prepared to formally deputize the campers and then explain the game. At the end of the game, have the bandits tied up and taken away to the town jail. Maximum run time is 60 ­ 90 minutes on this game.
Tomorrow night those bandits will escape, and then things start to get interesting.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Programs, Integrity, Honesty, Responsibility, Restraint, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
Have an "all camp" cookout this week, or, if you're feeling brave, do a pig roast or barbecue. Take dinner out of the dining hall!
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Service to Others, Safety, Youth Programs, Planning and Decision-making, Interpersonal Competence, Personal Power, Sense of Purpose
If you have accepted the challenge and taken dinner out of the dining hall, why not combine it with a good ol' fashioned Hoe-Down? Allow kids to wander around from activity to activity and participate in what strikes their fancy. I recommend having one event or activity for every 8-10 campers.
Event Horseshoe Tournament Bull Ride
Materials Needed 2-6 horseshoe pits and horseshoes Mechanical Bull
watermelon seed Spitting Contest Face Painting Bobbing for Marshmallows Inflatable or Stick Horse Race Pony Rides Square Dance Hayride Country-Western Band Add your events below:
Add your events below:
2 orange cones and a spittoon Face Paint Marshmallows and Dental Floss Stick Horses or Inflatable Horses Ponies Square Dance Music and a Caller Tractor and Hay Wagon Ummmm. A band? Add your events below:
Bull Ride If you've got the budget to handle it, rent a mechanical bull. They do not come cheap. If you do this, have a camera set up to take every camper's picture up on the back of the thing. Please note: Devices like this have minimum age restrictions. Make sure it fits in your program. If the mechanical bull is out, ask the rental agency to recommend a substitute. Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest Tell me this doesn't make you grin. It's worth the time you'll need to spend explaining it to parents. After all, you're taking a socially unacceptable activity that your campers are doing anyway and directing that skill and energy into a socially acceptable contest. What's not to love? Besides, presumably you're allowing the kids to eat watermelon as part of the activity ­ so it's healthy, too. I recommend going for distance and/or accuracy. Have kids spit seeds in a bucket from increasingly greater distances. Give an award for the most accurate boy and girl (their parents will be so proud ). If accuracy and distance doesn't do it for you, turn it into a target sport. Put up a target, or, better yet, a picture of the camp director, and let kids have at it. Watermelon seeds will often stick to your target (which the campers will appreciate). Bobbing for Marshmallows So, your campers won't be bobbing for anything. I mention this now because my sweet wife pointed out that the name of this activity makes no sense. You see, it's no longer sanitary to have kids sticking their faces into a large vat of water and drool to try and retrieve an apple. Bobbing for apples is deader than disco. Hygiene is taking all the fun out of the world. 81
As a substitute, have campers try and eat marshmallows off the end of a line of dental floss. DO NOT USE A HOOK. I'm not kidding. Some well-intentioned staff person will see that putting the marshmallows on a hook will be quicker than tying them on the end of the floss and we've got a very sad camper and a very unhappy parent. I hope this goes without saying, but use a new piece of floss for every camper. Inflatable or Stick Horse Race Stick horses (that is the term you want to use if you're searching for them on-line) are those kids' toys with the head of a horse and a simple stick body. They can be purchased for very little money. Otherwise, make them in crafts! You can do cardboard cut-outs of a horse's head and attach them to a dowel rod. This is an activity for "like-age" kids. Pull all your eight year-olds together and let them race on the back of their favorite stick horse. Then hold a race for all you nine year-olds. You get the point. Make sure the kids are galloping (skipping) ­ no running! Pony Rides If you aren't fortunate enough to have horses as part of your camp program, never fear! Many local stables will bring their ponies to you. If you can make it happen, this is a memorable addition to you Western Week. Square Dance The real question on this event is not, "Can we do this?" The real question is, "How far do we want to take it?" I'll give you a few ways to approach a square dance: 1. Low Stress / Low Return: Play country music over your sound system and have a dance. 82
Bike Rodeo
2. Moderate Stress / Moderate Return: Play a square dance album with pre-recorded dance calls. They make these for schools. If you visit a site like and search for "square dance" in the music offerings, you will find things like Square Dance Fun for Everyone with two cds and a booklet.
3. Moderate Stress / High Return: Visit the website for the United Square Dancers of America at They have a database of "callers and cuers." You can search the database by state and locate a square dance caller near you. Make sure you explain what your goals are for the evening and how long you'd require their services. With any luck, you will find someone passionate enough about square dancing to do it for you at no cost.
Country-Western Band
Google country bands in your camp's hometown. You will be amazed with the results. Call a few and tell them you'd like to have them come out for an hour or two and play for your kids.
Be up front, if you don't have any money ­ tell them! Most local acts will do it for the kids and some exposure. If you can pay them, let them know that, too. As of 2009, most local bands will play a show for kids for between $100 and $500.
So you've got the band. You've talked about pay, or the lack thereof. Please, don't forget to talk to these nice folks about lyrics. Chances are they don't have this conversation very often. Make sure the band is conscious of your values and is appropriate in language and dress.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Community Values Youth, Youth Programs, Creative Activities, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
Bike Rodeos are held all over the country and sample event schedules are well-documented. Below are five different events for a simple bike rodeo (there are plenty more on-line). Treat this activity as a Station Game. Set up five stations and have participants move in pairs through the course.
You can score this activity. For fun, make each station worth a maximum of ten points. Keep track of each kid's score and tally them at the end if you wish to award prizes to the top performers. Note that most of these events can be scaled up or down to fit the space you have available.
Event Safety Check & Helmet Inspection Zig Zag Course Balance Beam and Stop on a Dime Rodeo (Paper Boy) Slow Race Add your events below:
Explanation Have kids complete the check and inspect their helmets. Using cones, lay out a course for riders to "zig zag" around. Using chalk or tape, lay out a straight line for 25 yards with a dime at the end. After riding on the line, campers should try and literally stop with their front tire on the dime. Set up a 10 meter circle with cones. In the center of the circle is a basket. Riders try and toss a rolled news paper or other object into the basket while riding around the circle. Two riders compete on a 50 yard-long course. The slowest rider wins. Add your events below:
Bandit's Revenge
Potential Program Outcomes:
Safety, Adult Role Models, Youth Programs, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
This game originated under another name at the camp I grew up in, YMCA Camp Thompson. I hope its current incarnation is as popular with your campers as it was for me when I was seven years-old. Enjoy!
The bandits are holding the town hostage. After their embarrassing defeat and capture on Tuesday night, the bandits have escaped. Around the town (your camp buildings), they have placed dynamite (10" sections of broomstick painted red). If you, the townsfolk, don't return the gold to them in one hour, the bandits will blow the town sky high!
Important Note: Bandits should hide well and feel free to roam as necessary. The goal is not to be captured until the end of the game.
Campers are gathered in the town square (center of the playing field). They are told the bandits will return to the field in one hour. The Sheriff directs our younger deputies to find and diffuse the dynamite. Our older deputies will hunt down the bandits in the woods. In one hour, any bandit not captured will ride into the field. All deputies can try and capture the bandits by tagging them three times at the end of the game.
In counselor groups, our younger deputies search each building exterior for the dynamite. When it's found, the Sheriff (or another staff member) can diffuse the charge and carry it back to the center of the playing field. There should be one or two sticks of dynamite per bandit ­ and the youngest deputies should know exactly how many are out there to find.
In counselor groups, our older deputies can search the woods around town. To capture a bandit, they must tag her three times. When tagging a bandit, all three touches should be administered by the same camper ­ at roughly the same time. Captured bandits should be escorted to the jail in the center
of town. As in the previous game, there should be about one bandit for every 8-10 campers. Maximum run time is 90 minutes for the entire activity (introduction & game).
Another Important Note: Bandits should be told to be caught at the end of the game. They can put up a good chase, but in the end a child should catch them. Consider giving prizes to the kids who capture bandits (sodas, candy, certificates, etc. . . .).
The Last Important Note: You may need to pre-arrange a signal with the bandits to let them know it's time to return to town (ringing a bell or blowing a car horn).
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Programs, Caring, Integrity, Honesty, Responsibility, Restraint, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
Sharp Shooter Tournament Don't flinch or roll your eyes in disgust. Some camps still teach riflery. If you do not have target sports as part of your program, try water guns. Why not? Additionally, you can look back to Sherwood Forest week for alternatives to target sports (page 68).
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Youth Programs, Personal Power, Self- Esteem
Sheriff's Dinner
This is an opportunity for the Sheriff to thank the deputies for their service.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Community Values Youth, Youth as Resources
THIS THEME COMPLEMENTS OUR MISSION AND GOALS IN THE FOLLOWING WAYS: A Final Thought I haven't said this anywhere else, but now is as good a time as any. Make sure you have waivers for your campers to participate in programs that are beyond your normal scope of camp activities. For example, I assume most readers of this book do not normally offer mechanical bull riding as part of their program. If a camp chooses to offer mechanical bull riding as part of the theme program, that camp needs a supplementary waiver from parents for their campers' participation. 87
Safari Week Welcome to Voyager Safaris, home of the Wild Ones Animal Sanctuary and Zoo! You have decided to take your campers on an adventure of epic proportions. This theme program will keep your kids active and interested while introducing animal tracking, an appreciation for the environment, and teambuilding through shelter construction. But the strength of this theme week is not the programs that appear on the Events Schedule, it's all the possibilities spelled out in the On-Site Demonstrations and Support Programming sections. The opportunities are endless. If you are an ACA accredited camping program, or you are seeking accreditation, don't forget PD-12 ­ Environmental Practices. This particular ACA standard involves introducing campers to nature, environmental education, and exposing young people to the principles of minimum impact on the natural world. Particularly if you are a camp operating in an urban setting, you must seek out programs that bring the natural world to your campers. Using the Safari Week will provide your campers with these crucial opportunities.
Events Schedule Sunday Early Morning Activities Optionals
Monday Tea, biscuits, & an early hike* Animal Tracking*
Tuesday Tea, biscuits, & an early canoe* Lake Trail Bushwalk*
Wednesday Tea, biscuits, & an early hike* Camera Hunt*
Thursday Tea, biscuits, & an early canoe* Bog Trail Bushwalk*
Friday Tea, biscuits, & an early hike* Bike Tour*
Build your
Build your
Cabin Time
Cookout at
their shelters
The Zoo Visits Survival
Camp ­
Shelter Sleep-
Animal Show Out
*These activities are intended to be campers' choice and not all-camp activities.
The BTG: Baboon Breakout!
Zookeepers Dinner
Components of the Theme:
Welcome to Voyager Safaris, home of the Wild Ones Animal Sanctuary and Zoo! The staff is pleased to welcome you to our resort and base camp. This week, you'll have the opportunity to track and hunt animals, fish, canoe, hike, bike, and much more. We hope you enjoy your stay.
If you play this to the hilt, very few of your staff roles or titles may change, but your location may have moved very far away indeed. For instance, while this theme week may take place in Kenya or Zimbabwe, your safari resort will be staffed with directors, program directors, and guides. Characters for the week may include: 1. Resort Director (your director should probably play this role )
2. Program Director (can you guess what I would recommend?)
3. Zoo Keeper
4. Guides (played by your counselors, of course) 89
Audience Costume & Props Support Programming
This week your campers are world travelers on a safari vacation in Africa. In many ways, our roles as campers and staff remain intact this week. In keeping with the theme of resort travel, make sure your campers have options and choices on the activities they participate in this week. How far do you want to go? Put your staff in khakis and give them safari hats (technically called Pith Helmets). If you use the BTG, Baboon Breakout, you could rent animal costumes for the animals that have escaped from the Wild Ones Animal Sanctuary and Zoo. Mosquito netting is a great safari decoration. You could also make "big game" trophies out of papier mache and display them around camp. Okay. I'm going to be honest with you. There are a lot of items I'm listing here as potential support programs that you will never be able to do, but they may fuel your imagination. I surfed the websites of a dozen companies that actually do safaris and recorded some of their activities. Three of these activities (camel rides, bungee jumping, and balloon/helicopter rides) are big ticket items, and any one of them would make this the most memorable week of your campers' summer. Enjoy. 1. Camel Rides. Yes, if you can find a service provider, bring someone in to do camel rides at your camp. I realize how it sounds, but it's possible you have a camel in your area. 2. Bungee Jumping. This is a pretty routine program offering for safari companies. You may not be able to do exactly this, but if you have a few dollars in our program budget (or a generous, fun- loving donor) you can get pretty close. Rental companies that supply inflatable bounce houses and obstacle course also rent something similar to a bungee jump, commonly called a "bungy trampoline." 3. Late Night Snack and Stories around the Campfire. If you're part of a resident camp program, you should be doing this anyway, but this is a great excuse to start the practice if you're not. The campfire and storytelling tradition are a large part of the safari program. Do it and enjoy it. Let the
kids tell their own stories. Ask each person to tell one TRUE story, and you'll be surprised where the storytelling journey takes you. 4. Fishing. If you are fortunate enough to have a camp with close proximity to a stocked lake, pond, river, or creek, then I hope you are already taking your kids fishing. If you're not using these resources, I promise you that you will be amazed how many of your campers are interested in the patient art that is fishing. If you're not near a body of water with fish in it, make it a day trip. Yes, I think it's that important. 5. Golf. Like most resorts, safari packages usually include golf outings. Golf is pretty popular with all ages. Try setting up your own mini-golf course. If that's not your thing, go with Frisbee Golf! 6. Helicopter / Balloon rides. No one will forget their week at camp if you manage to land a helicopter or hot air balloon ride. This will not be in your budget. Ask your camper parents if they can help you with contacts. Check your donor database for contacts. Check your alumni database. If you are part of a non-profit, ask your board of directors for help in making contacts. I guarantee you know someone with access to helicopter or balloon rides. Make some magic this summer. Work the phones and make the calls. ADD YOUR OWN SUPPORT PROGRAMMING IDEAS HERE: 91
Climax Denouement Notes: Cabin Times Reflections Awards On-Site Demonstrations
The BTG for the week is Baboon Breakout. The baboons from the Wild Ones Animal Sanctuary and Zoo have escaped and released all the other animals. The zookeepers need our campers' help. Find the animals. The Zookeeper returns to camp to thank you for all your help. As a reward, banana splits for everyone! You have a fantastic opportunity to build a counselor group's sense community this week. If cabins build a shelter together, cook a meal together, and camp out together you will not need to worry about programming teambuilding activities. Your cabin or counselor groups will have improved their communication skills, developed trust, and tested problem-solving skills ­ and they'll have fun and make friends in the process. While this week is about novelty and fun ­ it's also about the planet and the creatures we share it with. In some very substantial and real ways, this theme is about the appreciation of the environment. Take your devotions or reflections in this direction. This week is light on competition. So forget trophies, medals, or certificates. Go for commemorative photographs or other trinkets. For the love of all that is good and right, if you bring a hot air balloon into your camp, you better hire a photographer to stand there and take the kids pictures as they climb into the basket! There are a lot of great possibilities this week. I encourage you to do a little home-work in your community and make one or two of these suggestions a reality: 1. Have the Zoo Visit You. Most zoos have outreach programs that bring some animals to you and your kids. Contact you local zoo and see what they can do for you. If you schedule a visit to the zoo for your camp as a field trip, they may be more willing to help out.
Packing List Field Trips
2. Animal Rescue Presentations. There are also a number of animal rescue operations that may be able to bring you birds of prey or other wild creatures that are being rehabilitated with the aim of returning them to their natural habitats. 3. Scuba/Snorkeling Demonstrations. Another great option this week is snorkeling and scuba. If your camp has access to a pool or lake, this could be a great demonstration for interested campers. If you are part of the YMCA, you have an established scuba movement with the YMCA of the USA. Start there. Otherwise, there are a couple of national contacts you can use to locate presenters: National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS) 1-800-521-NABS National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAIU) Pith helmets. You've seen Pith helmets before ­ it's your traditional safari hat/helmet. Have kids bring them. In both day and resident camps, if you are utilizing the fishing program, consider allowing kids to bring their own fishing rods. The same could be true for the camera hunt ­ you may want to invite campers to bring their own camera to participate on the camera hunt. Go to the Zoo! The bigger the better.
Glossary of Terms:
Tea & Biscuits
Safari tradition begins the day with tea and biscuits. If your camping program does early morning activities throughout the summer, start a little earlier. Campers that choose to participate in this
Animal Tracking Bushwalk Build a Survival Shelter
activity can do tea and biscuits before an early morning hike or canoe trip. Consider hiking or canoeing a destination where the snack will be waiting. Tea and biscuits become your destination.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Community Values Youth, Interpersonal Competence
So you have no experience in tracking animals ­ so what? There are a number of animal tracking websites floating around the net. I recommend Kim Cabrera's Beartracker's Animal Tracks Den at She's got mammal, bird, amphibian, reptile, insects, and human tracks for you to look at and use in your programs. Even if you are in an urban setting, why not create cut-outs of tracks and put them around your camp ­ then have the kids learn to identify them. If you have an outdoor setting, you can still do what I suggested above with the silhouette tracks, or ­ if you are feeling brave ­ you can use the materials Kim Cabrera has provided to actually go out and identify some natural animal tracks.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Youth Program, Achievement motivation, School Engagement
Whether you're in town or miles away from cell phone service, identify a good trail or two this week for your campers to hike.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Youth Programs, Interpersonal Competence, Self-Esteem
There are at least three ways to approach this program. I'll rank them by degree of difficulty.
1. Build a shelter from scratch and have the campers sleep in it. This is not for everyone, but it could be the most rewarding option for your kids. This is a teambuilding challenge with real consequences and a real goal.
The Zoo Comes to You Camera Hunt Cabin Cookout
2. Have campers select a campsite, assemble a tent or two and have the campers sleep in it. Again, this is geared towards camping programs that have at least one night as a sleep-over. If you're a day camp that doesn't offer a sleep-over, consider doing it next summer. Your kids and parents will both love it
3. Build a fort. Build it out of sticks. Build it from blankets and pillows. Build it out of anything you have on hand, but build it!
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Achievement Motivation, Personal Power, Sense of Purpose
Whether you have the local zoo bring you its mobile outreach program, or you work with an animal rescue and rehabilitation program, bring animals to camp! Day camps: If this doesn't work for you, have you considered a camper pet show?
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Community Values Youth, Youth Programs
There are animals everywhere. I don't care if you're in the city or the Great North Woods, make a list of animals your campers can find near your camp and send them off with a digital camera. Let them photograph real animals, animals on billboards or signs, whatever they can find. It's a different kind of hunt, but one you can easily do in your program.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Youth as Resources, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Personal Power, Sense of Purpose
The campers have built their shelter, let them cook a meal there. If you are a day camp program, treat lunch like a picnic and allow the counselor group to share a meal in the fort they've built.
Survival Sleep-Out Baboon Breakout Bike Tour Zookeeper's Dinner
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Service to Others, Safety, Youth Programs, Planning and Decision-making, Interpersonal Competence, Personal Power, Sense of Purpose
Okay, the kids have built their shelters or assembled their tents. Now, let's camp out under the stars.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Service to Others, Safety, Youth Programs, Planning and Decision-making, Interpersonal Competence, Personal Power, Sense of Purpose
The baboons from the Wild Ones Animal Sanctuary and Zoo have escaped and released all the other animals from the zoo. The zookeepers need our campers' help. Find the animals.
This BTG is traditional hide-and-go-seek. The animals (your staff or teens dressed as animals ­ please put them in costumes, please!) are hiding around your camp. It's the campers' job to capture them by tagging each animal three times. Return the animals to the Zookeeper.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Programs, Integrity, Honesty, Responsibility, Restraint, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
Like many of the activities described this week, bike trips are often part of a safari package. If biking is part of your program ­ fantastic. If you are not in an area where biking is a safe option, substitute any of the support program suggestions that strike your fancy.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Youth Programs, Personal Power
The Zookeeper and all the Voyager Safari staff want to thank you for your help. As a token of their appreciation, they present the campers with banana splits.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Community Values Youth, Youth Programs, Interpersonal Competence, Self-Esteem
A Final Thought (more than one, actually) I said this at the end of Western Week, but, as an ACA site visitor, I feel compelled to repeat it: make sure your have provided parental notice and secured parental release to have your campers participate in some of the more exciting support programs listed in this chapter. If, for instance, you are lucky enough to be able to bring bungee jumping or balloon rides to your camp, make sure your parents are informed and provide their consent in advance. Day Camps: While at first glance you think this theme is not for you, look again. Safari Week is made for day camping programs. You can do this one. Go wild.
Pirate Week
Arggh. Yo-Ho-Ho. Ahoy. Welcome to Pirate Week! The last decade has proven to be a fantastic run for pirate theme weeks in both resident and day camps. I believe pirates have staying power. Don't turn your back on them simply because Johnny Depp is finished playing Captain Jack Sparrow. Working with pirates allows you to introduce skills as common as swimming and as rare as cartography or compass work. Pirates also provide us with strong positive messages, as well as potentially negative messages. Make sure your campers leave the session with the values and lessons you intended them to learn.
Events Schedule
Clinics Cabin Time
Monday Pirate Costume Creation Pick Your Pirate Lair
Tuesday Sailing 101*
Wednesday Lake Swim*
Demonstration* Kayak Race*
Build Your Pirate Shelter
Find the Pirate King's Dinner
Pirate Silent Dinner
Evening Activity
The Pirate King Challenge
Pirate Camp The BTG: Pirate
Treasure Hunt Out
Balder Grant
Parent Show *All activities presented in the Optionals period are, in fact, optional activities.
Kids come in their Pirate Best! Introduce Teams.
Components of the Theme:
Well, buckaroos, it seems your parents thought they were dropping you off at summer camp, but when they signed all those waivers, they accidentally signed you into servitude with the Pirate King. No worries. The Pirate King is a fair man. Find him his treasure in the next 5 days and he'll release you to your families. At least you know where you stand, even if one foot is on the plank!
Every camp counselor this week is a Pirate Nanny, responsible for the care and training of our new recruits. Make sure all staff members have pirate names and at least one tooth blacked out. If possible, keep the counselors in character all week!
This theme week rests squarely on the shoulders of your Pirate King or Queen. For simplicity's sake, I will refer to this character as the Pirate King for the rest of the chapter. This individual will introduce most of your games and activities for the week. The King should be a charming tyrant. Enjoy!
Director's Note: The character of the Pirate King is stolen form the incredible comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance. Kevin Kline starred as the Pirate King in a film version of this opera - RENT IT.
This week our campers are being pressed into service with the Pirate King. They will be trained to become pirates themselves. As P.I.T.s (Pirates-In-Training), they will need to learn and practice the 99
Costume & Props Support Programming
most important piratical skills: shrinking heads, making maps, hunting buried treasure, climbing the rigging, tying knots and much more.
Eye-patches, anyone? You'll need vests, baggy pants (think pajamas), bandannas, belts and swords. Black some of your teeth out. The Pirate King should be impressive ­ flowing coat, knee-high boots, saber, pistols, etc. The Pirate King should make Captain Morgan look shabby.
More important to the average counselor is that this is also the week you can let your staff wear their earrings and show their tattoos.
While there are a number of support programs listed in the Events Schedule at the top of this chapter, I have listed five more excellent programming ideas below:
1. Pick a Pirate Name. Don't skip this time-honored tradition. In counselor groups, have kids pick their own pirate name. Have campers pull one name from each of the two hats. Hat 1 provides our P.I.T.s with their first name, their given name follows, and Hat 2 provides them with their last name.
Hat 1 Big Dirty Red Calico Gunpowder Long Royal Captain Black King (Boys) Queen (Girls) Fancy (Girls)
Hat 2 Dancer Sparrow Fortune Silver Revenge Gold Blade Charm Grace Hook Coin Ring
Bonney (Girls) Add names below:
Hawk Add names below:
For example: I pull "Calico" from the first hat and "Revenge" from the second hat. My given name is Nathan, but I become something like Calico Nathan Revenge. Feel free to add your own names to each hat. The more the merrier. If your campers have ready access to the internet and you're interested in providing them with a more sophisticated pirate name generator, visit Pirate Quiz Disclaimer: Pirate Quiz is not for 7 year-olds, but it should be fine for your teens. 2. Make a Pirate Shrunken Head. This is a very cool project that I can't claim. I found it on If you visit the website you'll see pictures of the finished product. Take a large apple (one per child), and peel it. Have kids carve a nose, mouth, and eyes. Soak the apple in a salt water and lemon juice solution for 24 hours. Dry your apples in an oven on the lowest temperature for 3-4 hours. Next, we can begin to decorate. Cloves can be used for eyes, rice can be hot glued in the mouth for teeth, and you can add the decorative eye-patch. Go wild. Add a bandanna or creepy hair. Have fun. Important Note: Even after the oven treatment, the shrunken heads will need to continue drying out. String a length of fishing line through the head and have kids hang them in a dry place. 101
3. Make a Pirate Spyglass. Using the cardboard tubes found inside paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, or wrapping paper, create a pirate spyglass. The key to this project is decoration. Let your kids use paint and get messy! 4. Make a Pirate Eye Patch. I recommend black felt and shoe laces. Paper eye patches will not last the week. Make these so they can take them home at the end of the session. 5. Make a Pirate Ship Flag. Buy a bolt of black felt from your local fabric store (you can use it for eye patches and your flags ), as well as a healthy supply of white felt. Let kids cut designs out of the white felt and hot glue it onto their flags. 6. Make a Pirate Treasure Chest. I wrote this whole chapter and then decided I needed to come back and add the Treasure Chest. There are a lot of things in this chapter that your campers can create and take home at the end of the session ­ give them something to store these keepsakes in. Make a Treasure Chest. I recommend shoe boxes or something roughly that size. Paint them. Close them with straps and buckles. ADD YOUR OWN SUPPORT PROGRAMMING IDEAS HERE: 102
Climax Denouement Notes: Cabin Times Reflections
Our BTG for the week is Pirate King Balder Grant. This is the opportunity for our campers to buy their freedom from the Pirate King. Balder Grant is a variation of Capture the Flag created by the staff of YMCA Camp Thompson in the 1990s. In Balder Grant, each team is protecting multiple flags rather than just one. When a flag is captured, the team must display it (to be stolen again) for the duration of the game. No team is victorious until they hold every flag. I have seen this game played every night for an entire week with no winner. Use it. In Pirate King Balder Grant, multiple teams of rogues are fighting against one another to protect their own treasure chest while stealing the treasures from the chests of other teams. After the game of Pirate King Balder Grant, our young P.I.T.s (Pirates-In-Training) present the stolen treasure to the King. In his largess, he releases all of the campers from their servitude and wishes them well. Of course, if any of the P.I.T.s are interested in signing up for a tour of the seven seas, the Pirate King is always looking for a few good hands . . . . Like Safari Week, Pirate Week provides counselor groups with ample time together. Tackle some new teambuilding challenges, but also take advantage of the camp out! For devotions and reflections, let's look to the pirate code for inspiration! Historically, there were many pirate codes. The one listed below was found on and is by Bartholomew Roberts. For the full list, visit the website. I recommend starting with the following points: · III. No person to game at cards or dice for money. · VII. To desert the ship or their quarters in battle, was punished with death or marooning. 103
· VIII. No striking one another on board, but every man's quarrels to be ended on shore, at sword and pistol. [The quarter-master of the ship, when the parties will not come to any reconciliation, accompanies them on shore with what assistance he thinks proper, and turns the disputant back to back, at so many paces distance; at the word of command, they turn and fire immediately, (or else the piece is knocked out of their hands). If both miss, they come to their cutlasses, and then he is declaired the victor who draws the first blood.]
Awards On-Site Demonstrations Packing List Field Trips
These particular parts of the code are pretty easy to work with: 1) Avoid the unnecessary conflict cards and dice might encourage, 2) Never leave your cohorts in their time of need, and 3) No unsanctioned, physical confrontations (instead, have a duel). During reflections, ask campers to relate these ideas to camp, home, and school. There are few opportunities this week for awards, but the Pirate King's Challenge is the exception. Give awards for each challenge. Beyond awards, campers should be returning home with a treasure chest of pirate booty (maps, eye-patches, spy-glasses, and shrunken heads). I've mentioned fencing demonstrations in the chapter on Sherwood Forest Week. If you didn't take me up on it then, do it now. All the contact information you'll need is listed in the Glossary of Terms for Sherwood Forest Week. Invite the campers to bring their own pirate costumes. If you are planning to do the campout activity, remember to have campers bring sleeping bags to camp ­ sheets and a pillow just won't cut it. If your camp is located in a coastal state, take advantage of the pirate museums dotted around the country or visit a harbor with a tall ship. For camps in land-locked states, visit a water park!
Glossary of Terms:
Pirate Costume Creation
Don't stop after you make an eye patch. Get your campers in bandannas (ask them to bring them for the week), vests, sashes or belts for swords, and good baggy shorts. Give them temporary tattoos. Make sure you get pictures of these young rogues!
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
Pick Your Pirate Lair
In counselor groups, pick a pirate lair in camp. This lair is important. If possible, you'll want to have your campers sleep out in their lair one night this week. After you find your spot, have the campers make maps to their lairs. When the maps are completed, dip them in tea and get a good tea-stain going to age them. This is another great item to send home with your campers at the end of the week.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Planning and Decision-Making, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
Pirate King Challenge
The Pirate King Challenge is an opportunity for our P.I.T.s to show their stuff. While the evening should be presented to the campers as a competition, staff should remember their first duty is to act as guide and mentor. From arm wrestling to knot tying, staff should first work to teach the skill before challenging the campers.
Event Canoe Race
Materials Needed Canoes, Row Boats or Sailboats & a Lake
Arm Wrestling
Greased Watermelon Peg Leg Races Rope or Net Climb Swimming Race Knot Tying Spitting Contest Reading a Compass Map Making Add your events below:
Add your events below:
4-6 Watermelons & Crisco 8-10 Bandannas Climbing Wall or Tower Pool or Lake 8-10, 3' lengths of Rope A Bucket. 8-12 Compasses Paper, Permanent Markers, a Bucket of Tea, and a Clothesline with Clothespins to hang the maps on while they are drying. Add your events below:
Canoe Race If you are fortunate enough to have boating, canoeing, or sailing as part of your program ­ use them now. Personally, I think sailing and rowing are more in the spirit of pirate week, but anything involving a boat will work. Have contestants race out to a buoy and back. If your campers are interested, set up a round robin tournament. If you do not have boating in your program, don't fret. If you have a pool, substitute a kick board or inner tube race. If you find yourself without water, break out the kiddie pool and race rubber ducks! Arm Wrestling You can approach arm wrestling in two ways: 1. Have a staff member arm wrestle every camper (allowing them to win, of course). 2. If you're feeling saucy, you could actually hold an arm-wrestling tournament. Again, you may want to do it as a round robin with the winner advancing to the finals. Of course, have the campers arm wrestle kids their own age! Greased Watermelon To make this event reasonably safe, work with groups of 8 to 10 campers at a time. Cover a watermelon in Crisco and toss it in your pool or lake (after checking with the appropriate authority figures). Have the campers walk the plank and chase that melon. The camper to emerge from the lake or pool with the melon wins. You can also do it in teams with four campers racing another group of four to get the watermelon out of the water. Either way, you have to try this ­ do it with your staff first. 107
Peg Leg Races The safe way to approach this event is to run three-legged races (someone out there will try and attach plungers to their knees . . . good luck). For a three-legged race, two campers work as a team to run the race with one of their legs tied together with a bandanna. Rope or Net Climbing If you've got a ropes course with a cargo net or a climbing rope ­ use it. If not, check your gym and see if you've got a climbing rope tucked away or attached to the rafters. Have the P.I.T.s climb to a tape mark 10'-12' in the air. Please make sure you spot this activity appropriately, and that you have mats placed beneath the climbing area. Currently there is no standard for how high a camper can climb with without being on belay (supported by a rope and belay device). Don't be your ninth grade gym teacher. Don't push your kids to climb 25' in the air with a tumbling map beneath them. Most climbing gyms allow climbers to boulder up to 12'- 14' without a belay system. To be safe, I suggest you limit your climbs to 10' with at least 6" of padding underneath the climbers and two staff to serving as spotters. Swimming Race Every good pirate should know how to swim. In your pool or lake, run any kind of swimming race your little heart desires . . . make it a dog paddle event! Knot Tying Teach your P.I.T.s to tie a knot used in sailing or paddling. I recommend learning to tie the bowline. Visit for instructions and excellent pictures of the bowline and other good knots. 108
Spitting Contest
Pirates spit, right? Let's go for distance and accuracy. Set up a bucket and have competitors spit from increasing distance. The P.I.T. who hits the bucket from the furthest distance wins. Give that kid a prize. Her mother will be proud!
Reading a Compass
You can find compasses in the outdoor section of your local super store. They are not pricey. In groups of eight or so, teach kids to orient themselves using a compass. Begin with finding north, south, east, and west ­ this may take all your time. Next, teach your campers "out-and-back" orienteering (this is my own special little term).
In "out-and-back" orienteering, start by having each camper stand on a marker (rubber dot, coin, sheet of paper, etc.). Next, have your kids pick a degree (say 80 degrees) and walk 20 paces maintaining this bearing. To find their way back, they need to add 180 degrees to your original bearing (80 + 180 = 260 degrees) and follow the compass home for twenty paces. How close did they come to their starting point?
For more information on compass work, visit I can also recommend a book I've had on my shelf for years, Be Expert With Map & Compass: The complete orienteering handbook, by Bjorn Hjellstrom.
Map Making
At this station, have your campers make a map of your camp facility. Dip it in tea and give it a good, aged look. Hang them to dry on a clothes line to dry
Potential Program Outcomes:
Creative Activities, Youth Programs, School Engagement, Planning and Decision-Making, Personal Power
Sailing Demonstration
If you already do sailing programs with your campers, plug one of the support programming options into this spot on the schedule.
If you don't currently have a sailing program, I think you should try and arrange a demonstration, but I don't have a slick recommendation with a web-link for this section. I just think it would be really cool to have an individual with a sailboat visit your camp. If you don't have water, don't worry. Ask your local sailing enthusiast to bring his or her boat to your parking lot on a trailer. Let the kids see the boat, show them how the rigging, sails, and rudder work. Have you ever seen how a sailboat works? Chances are your campers haven't either.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Youth Programs, School Engagement
Build Your Pirate Shelter As I outlined in Safari Week, there are at least three ways to approach this program. Again, I'll rank them by degree of difficulty.
1. Build a shelter from scratch and have the campers sleep in it. This is not for everyone, but it could be the most rewarding option for your kids. This is a teambuilding challenge with real consequences and a real goal.
2. Have campers select a campsite, assemble a tent or two and have the campers sleep in it. Again, this is geared towards camping programs that have at least one night as a sleep over. If you're a day camp that doesn't offer a sleep over, consider doing it next summer. Your kids and parents will both love it
3. Build a fort. Build it out of sticks. Build it from blankets and pillows. Build it out of anything you have on hand, but build it!
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Achievement Motivation, Personal Power, Sense of Purpose
Pirate Treasure Hunt: Pirate Silent Dinner Pirate King Balder Grant
X marks the spot. Remind your campers, treasure is what sets them free at the end of the week. This is important stuff. Each counselor can develop their own hunt for their group. They will be in charge of making the map, hiding the treasure, and accompanying their campers on the hunt. Make sure the maps are vague enough to allow for camper guesswork, and the treasure is something sweet they can share.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Youth Programs, Planning and Decision-Making, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
At YMCA Camp Manito-Wish in Wisconsin they have a tradition of eating a silent, lumberjack breakfast once a session. Legend has it that the lumberjacks were so ornery and ill-tempered that the logging bosses made them eat silently in the mess hall to prevent fights from breaking out. It seems to me the same legend could apply to pirates. Try a dinner or lunch during which no one speaks and feel the relaxation spread throughout your body.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Programs, Personal Power
The Pirates can't help themselves. It's every Pirate for him/herself (well, not quite). The Pirate King divides the players into four teams, evenly distributing ages and genders. The object of the game is simple: Fill the Pirate King's treasure chest and win your freedom. This goal is accomplished by stealing treasure from the other three teams and taking it to the King. All the while, each team will need to try and protect its own treasure from other pirate teams.
Divide a large, square playing field into 4 quadrants. Each team of Pirates has their own treasure chest full of pirate booty (tennis balls or a suitable substitute that is easily held in a camper's hand). The game should begin with the same amount of treasure in each box (1 piece of treasure for every camper). Around each chest should be a suitably large "safe zone."
Pirate Parent Show
At the center of the playing field, where all four quadrants meet, is a large "safe zone" and one large treasure chest. This is where teams will be bringing booty to the Pirate King. The Pirate King stands next to the chest and "officiates."
Outside of the playing field is the pirate jail. When a player is tagged in a quadrant that is not their home quadrant, they head to the jail. Pirates are released from the jail at the Pirate King's whim. When the Pirate King wants all players back in the game he will yell, "Jail Break."
When a pirate team runs out of treasure in their chest, they are out of the game. This game ends when the Pirate King decides he has enough treasure. The winning team is the group with the most treasure still in their chest.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Programs, Integrity, Honesty, Responsibility, Restraint, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
Have campers arrive at the parent show in their pirate best (eye patches, bandannas, vests, etc.). It will create quite a stir.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Family Support, Caring School Climate, Parent Involvement in Schooling, Community Values Youth, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Self-Esteem
A Final Thought There are a lot of positive lessons and skills to be learned from a pirate, as well as a lot of negative ones. Make sure the lessons your campers are taking home at the end of the week are the lessons you intended them to learn. If you read the various pirate codes that exist, you will see the positive messages sparkling through the grime of piracy. The codes stress loyalty, service to others, fair treatment of those weaker than you (women and children, in particular), and the value of keeping equipment in good working order. Stick to the positive messages; down play the negative. Savvy? Arghh.
Holidaze Welcome to Camp Sunshine, where every day is a holiday and every meal is a feast. This week we've taken the best days of the entire year and put them in a single week. Like Safari Week, the strength of this theme program is not what's on the Events Schedule, it's all the possible programs suggested in the Support Programming section. While being huge commercial holidays in the United States, Easter and Christmas are also distinctly Christian holidays. Independence Day, as I describe it, is a uniquely American tradition. These themes may not work in your program for a variety of reasons. Replace them with a suitable choice that fits your organization's mission and values. There are literally hundreds of holidays that could use a little recognition (Earth Day, anyone?), and our campers could spend a little time thinking about them.
Events Schedule
Holiday Schedule Early Morning Activities
Cabin Time
Monday Easter Coloring Eggs Easter Egg Hunt
Tuesday Independence Day
Wednesday Halloween
Christmas Stocking Creation
Costume Preparation 114
Thanksgiving Hoop Sticks
Christmas Christmas Stockings Making Christmas Cookies
Thank You Notes
Saturday New Years New Year's Resolutions
Dinner Evening Activity
Egg Drop
Capture the Flag: The Colonies versus the British Empire.
Trick-or- Treat Trail
Thanksgiving Dinner Christmas Carols
Christmas Dinner or Desserts After Closing Campfire, New Years Eve Party and Countdown
Components of the Theme:
Holidaze Week is about condensing the best parts of the year into five or six days. Lucky for you, Camp
Sunshine believes that every day in camp should be a holiday and every meal a feast!
This is a great week for costumes. If you want to do it right, you may be renting a couple of critical costumes. Characters this week could include:
· Easter Bunny · Uncle Sam or famous figures in U.S. History · Pilgrims & Native Americans · Santa Claus · Father Time Halloween should take care of itself. If you have the ability to have campers bring their own Halloween costumes, this can be a great addition. Otherwise, you'll want to provide the time for kids to create their own costumes for Trick-or-Treating.
Like the narrative this week, the role of our audience is lacking in some ways. Our campers' job as an audience is to experience and participate in every one of the holiday celebrations.
Costume & Props Support Programming
This is a great theme for the arts & crafts program at your camp. Kids can make Christmas ornaments to decorate the trees ­ not to mention stockings! You'll need candy for your trick-or-treaters. Don't forget decorating eggs for the big Easter Egg Hunt. As for costumes, you'll need your main characters in costume (Santa, Easter Bunny, Uncle Sam, etc.). What this theme week lacks in narrative, it more than makes up for in costumes and props! This week is all about support programming. In addition to the activities in the Events Schedule, there are more than a dozen crafts, games, and projects listed below for your campers. Easter 1. Egg Toss. This is a camp classic ­ but a little on the messy side. Have campers get in pairs. Each pair is given one egg. Pairs pass the egg back and forth without breaking it. With each pass, have the partners take a step away from one another. The team that successfully passes the egg from the greatest distance wins. Hint: If you don't want to do this with eggs, try water balloons! 2. Egg Roll. This relay event you can do with your entire camp or just a single counselor group. You'll need a flat and relatively clean surface to make it work (i.e. a basketball court or hallway). I recommend using hardboiled eggs and avoiding the mess and heartbreak that necessarily accompany a raw egg. Divide your campers into teams (preferably even numbers, but someone can always go twice). Campers run the race on their hands and knees pushing the egg with their noses. Remember, it's a relay race. Each camper crawls for his leg of the race and passes the egg to the next camper. 3. Egg Walk or Egg on a Spoon. This is an old camp favorite you can use as its own relay race, or as part of a larger activity. Again, we're looking at a relay race you can do with your entire camp or just one cabin or counselor group. While you can do this race on any surface, I like hard 116
surfaces and hardboiled eggs. Divide your campers into even teams. Campers run the race carrying an egg on a spoon. Since this is a relay race, each camper runs her leg of the race and passes the egg and spoon to the next camper. The object is to finish fast, but finish with an unblemished egg. Independence Day 1. The British Are Coming. Okay. The British Are Coming is just another name for "Mice, Mice, Cross My Field" or "Fishy, Fishy, Cross My Ocean." So what? It's still fun. The best part of this old game is that you can play it with ten campers or one hundred. In a gym or on a large field, create a starting line and a finishing line. All the campers line up on the starting line. Ask for one or two campers to volunteer to be the British. For the duration of the game, the two players picked to be the British are the only two people who can move and tag other players. When the British yell, "the British are coming," all the campers must try and run from the starting line to the finish line without getting tagged. If a camper is tagged, he or she must freeze. That was the first pass; presumably not every camper was tagged by the British. On the second pass (technically campers will be running back to the starting line); the two campers you picked to play the British will try and tag the remaining campers. The "frozen" campers are, while keeping their feet firmly planted, permitted to try and tag those running across the field, as well. The game continues until everyone has been frozen. The last camper or two remaining unfrozen can start as the British in the next game. 2. Firework T-Shirt. I recommend you ask campers to bring t-shirts (preferably black) for this quick craft. Grab some sparkly, puffy paint from your local craft store and have your campers design their own fireworks display on their shirts. Make sure you stock up on red, white and blue sparkly, puffy paints. 117
3. Star-Studded Door Hanger. Alright. I was going to suggest you do red, white and blue door hangers with your campers this week, but I just felt too lame. Instead, I will say this: take your favorite camp crafts and do them in red, white, and blue. Make red, white and blue lanyards, or red, white and blue candles. Whatever your campers enjoy. If you want to make the door hangers, knock yourself out. I recommend using sheets of foam cut to any fantastical shape your kids can imagine. If that sounds too pricy, go with paper plates. They work fine, too. Halloween 1. Ghosts in the Graveyard. This is a great game to follow-up your trick-or-treating or haunted house program. I'll give you the bare bones (pun intended). One player, the ghost, hides in the boundaries you have determined before the start of the game. The ghost can be a camper if you're playing in a relatively small area (if you want to conduct a game with a large playing field, or an area you can't see all your campers, you may want to have the ghost be a staff member). The remaining campers stand at the base or in the safety zone with their eyes closed and count from noon to midnight (one o'clock, two o'clock, etc.), before taking off in search of the ghost. The camper who finds the ghost yells, "Ghost in the Graveyard," and then races back to the base or safety zone. The ghost tries to tag as many campers as he can before they make it back to the base. Variation 1: The first person the ghost tags becomes the ghost in the next game. Variation 2: Every person the ghost tags becomes a ghost. Campers keep replaying the game until only one camper is left standing. 2. Haunted House. Turn your facility, or a room of your facility, into a haunted house. Please be age-appropriate in the scares you plan ­ and always be prepared to take your mask off and give a camper a hug if you scare them too much. For several years my camp has run a haunted 118
hayride for our community. There have been many lessons I have learned doing this event, but the one I need to pass on to you is this: You can never tell what will scare a person. Something you see as harmless could terrify a child. I've met people scared of clowns (isn't everybody?); helicopters, motorcycles, and men with beards (don't tell me Santa never scared you when you were little). Be prepared to let kids pass on this activity. Be prepared to stop what you're doing and talk with a child who is scared. Remember you're a counselor or camp staff member ­ not a vampire. Thanksgiving 1. Turkey Hunt. This is so simple and so fun. Hide a turkey (stuffed animal, cut-out, whatever) around your camp. Let the entire camp hunt for as long as it takes. Don't be afraid to let this game last all week. The counselor group that finds the turkey wins a special prize (I always favor ice cream for a special prize). 2. Mayflower Construction. Build a boat. If you want to have an entire counselor group build a single boat together, stock up on refrigerator boxes! If you have campers build their own boats, I recommend Popsicle sticks. Don't forget the sails. Christmas 1. Have a Snowball Fight. Dodgeball! Use foam or fleece balls and you can let kids throw as hard as their little hearts desire and no one gets hurt. 2. Bad Elf. The bad elves are trying to take the presents from Santa's Workshop. Protect the toys and retrieve the ones that have already been taken. This is classic capture the flag ­ do it in costume! 3. Decorate a Tree. As part of a craft session, or perhaps cabin time, have the campers create ornaments and decorate a tree ­ any tree will do. 119
Climax Denouement Notes: Cabin Times
For Holidaze Week, there isn't just one BTG. In a way, each day has its own climax. Monday has an Easter Egg Hunt and an Egg Drop. Tuesday has an all-camp capture the flag game. Wednesday has trick-or-treating. Every day has a BTE (Big Theme Event). As a holiday, New Years is an opportunity to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. Your wrap-up this week is creating New Years Resolutions with your campers before heading home at the end of the session. If we've designed and run our programs well, our organization's values should be reflected in those resolutions. Take time to have campers share them with their group, and encourage them to share them with their parents. This week is all icing ­ as far as the theme is concerned. Make sure you focus on your core programs. Use the cabin time for teambuilding initiatives and focus on communication skill building, as well as trust development. 120
Reflections Awards On-Site Demonstrations Packing List Field Trips
What's not to discuss? Reflections or devotions pretty much do themselves this week. If you are a camp with Christian heritage and values, you have easy topics on Easter and Christmas. In general, we can talk about rebirth and sacrifice on Easter. We can talk about service and justice on Independence Day. You get the idea. No holiday comes without its own message. Incorporate those messages in your devotions this week. This week the theme programs do not include the type of competitive programs that would necessitate awards, but don't forget all the cool things your kids have made this week. Please, make sure these items make it home to your campers' families at the end of the session (colored eggs, stockings, hoop sticks, etc.). This is a different kind of on-site demonstration, and I'm directing it at day camps. Invite your camper parents to milk and cookies (Christmas or holiday cookies) on Friday afternoon, and then make sure the campers give their parents the "thank you" notes they wrote on Thursday. Of course, you'll need to ask campers to bring their Halloween costumes. Don't forget to ask families to send a plain, black t-shirt if you want to do the Firework T-shirt project. Seriously, do you have any time for a field trip this week? If so, make it a week to go to a minor league baseball game. Nothing is more American than hot dogs, baseball, and apple pie ­ which makes baseball a good fit for Independence Day.
Glossary of Terms: Assuming you and your camp are from a Western nation dangerously immersed in Consumer Culture, one of the beautiful things about Holidaze Week is that you are familiar with most of the activities described below. Because of that, I will be skimping on the level of detail I provide. 121
Important Note: With the exception of Independence Day, none of the supplies needed for Holidaze Week will be in stock in your local mega store in mid-July. Plan ahead. In all likelihood, you will need to order supplies for coloring Easter eggs or making Halloween costumes.
Coloring Eggs
Knock yourself out. Go wild. For a variety of reasons, make sure you boil your eggs ahead of time. Have the kids sign their eggs ­ they may want to take them home at the end of the day if you are running a day camp.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Youth as Resources, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Personal Power
Easter Egg Hunt
Make it hard. Hide the eggs so campers have to work for it. Feel free to make this a counselor group activity or an all-camp event.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Programs, Interpersonal Competence, Personal Power
Egg Drop
If you haven't done this activity, you are missing something. In counselor groups, have your kids construct a means of catching an egg without breaking it as its dropped from increasingly greater heights. If you have a flair for the dramatic and a high tolerance for mess, use raw eggs. If you don't want to spend your evening scrubbing egg yolks, use hard-boiled eggs.
If you have a need for fairness, provide the same materials to each group (100 sheets of paper, a shoe box, 100 straws, plastic tape, etc.). If you really want to see creative solutions, don't make any restrictions. The camper who decides he can catch the egg on his open-faced peanut butter sandwich will win!
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Achievement Motivation, Planning and
Decision-Making, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
Christmas Stocking Creation
Make sure every kid in camp makes a stocking for Christmas morning, and make sure they have
the campers' names on them. Because we're doing this on Tuesday (Independence Day), feel free to
make the stockings red, white, and blue with sparkles. The easiest means of making a stocking is
probably construction paper and a stapler, but ­ whatever you do ­ don't let campers use their own
socks! You know where those socks have been.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Planning and Decision- Making, Personal Power
The Colonies vs. the British Capture the Flag, baby! One team will represent the colonies; one will represent the British. If you are ready to go for broke, use a British Flag and a U.S. flag the way Betsy Ross designed it with thirteen stars.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Programs, Integrity, Honesty, Responsibility, Restraint, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
Costume Preparation
If you can, have campers bring Halloween costumes from home. Then you can fill this spot on the schedule with a better activity. If that's not possible, use this time for kids to design and make their Halloween costumes.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Planning and Decision- Making, Personal Power
Trick or Treat Trail
Take your kids out for some treats ­ in costume, please! If you're in an urban setting, visit your organization's administrative staff in their offices (give those folks the candy ahead of time). If you're
Hoop Stick Thank You Notes
in a resident camp, have a snack or treat ready at every cabin. You're smart, you'll figure out the best way to do this at your camp.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Caring Neighborhood, Caring School Climate, Community Values Youth, Creative Activity, Youth Programs
Hoop sticks is a traditional Native American game. Even if you have not played this version of the game, you have played games like it. The traditional "cup and ball" toys, where a ball on a string is attached to a cup on the stick, are a variation. In cup and ball games, the object is to swing the ball up and catch it in the cup. In the hoop stick game, the object is to swing a loop of twine up and catch it over the stick.
Each camper will need a 12" dowel rod or straight stick, as well as 18" of yarn or twine. Having tried this game, the lighter the string, the harder it is to do. Heavier cords make it easier to complete. Tie a loop into one end of the 18" piece of string, and tie the other end to the stick or dowel rod. Done. Now have fun.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Personal Power
There are two parts to this activity. First, have your campers write thank you notes to someone they appreciate. Second, mail them to that individual! Don't forget the second step. Next, I want you to have your campers repeat the process specifically for their parents or guardians (you'll want to present these to families at the end of the week).
Potential Program Outcomes:
Service to Others, Creative Activities, Youth Program, Personal Power
Thanksgiving Dinner
If you're at a resident camp, do this right. Serve turkey and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. It will be a nice change of pace from chicken or corndogs or whatever food your staff eats too much of each summer. If you're in a day camp, bust out the pumpkin pies at lunch time.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Caring School Climate, Community Values Youth, Adult Role Models, Youth Programs
Christmas Carols
Thanksgiving transitions directly into Christmas Eve ­ almost like it does in the real world. At lights out, have a few staff with good voices and even better intentions serenade each cabin with three or four Christmas carols.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Caring Neighborhood, Caring School Climate, Community Values Youth
Christmas Stockings
Its Christmas morning and Santa has visited each cabin and left something in the stockings that you made and hung with care. Give each camper something special (a piece of chocolate, an orange, a Red Ryder BB Gun, etc.), but consider giving some staff a piece of coal. Honestly, the campers will get a kick out of seeing counselors get coal, and you can use it as a mid-season performance evaluation for your staff.
Hint: Charcoal is easier to come by than a lump of coal, but it can be terribly messy.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Caring Neighborhood, Caring School Climate, Community Values Youth
Making Christmas Cookies Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but inside you can make Christmas cookies. Go all out. Use holiday cookie cutters, decorate with sprinkles, and then eat them!
Potential Program Outcomes:
Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Personal Power
Christmas Dinner New Year's Eve Party New Year's Resolution
Two amazing dinners in a row?!? If you work at a resident camp, all you campers and staff will demand this theme week again next year. Again, at a day camp I would recommend serving those Christmas cookies with lunch.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Caring School Climate, Community Values Youth, Adult Role Models, Youth Programs
It's the end of another camp session. No one, especially your campers, wants to sleep. Have a New Year's Eve party! Have music, dancing, and a countdown to midnight. It's a great way to wrap up the week.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Community Values Youth, Youth Programs
Don't let the campers leave your camp without creating a New Year's Resolution. If possible, have the kids share them with their parents.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Personal Power, Sense of Purpose, Positive View of Personal Future
A Final Thought The structure for Holidaze Week is often used by camps doing "Blast from the Past" programs, in which every day becomes a decade (50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s). In either case, the danger of these theme choices is that staff can get so wrapped up in the program they fail to notice it isn't relevant to their campers. Not every household celebrates these holidays. Not every household celebrates these holidays in the same way. Make sure counselors are prepared to process this with their campers. 127
Beach Week
Welcome to Club Sunshine! It's the middle of the summer and nothing is like going to the beach to beat the heat. Congratulations! You have chosen to bring your campers to the finest all-inclusive resort on the beach. The resort's talented program staff, your counselors and staff, will be challenging the campers with a wide variety of wet and wild activities. They'll be water relays, limbos, sandcastles, boat races and much more! Events Schedule
Optionals Clinics Cabin Time Dinner
Evening Activity
Parent Show
Monday Tie-Dye*
Tuesday Kayak Race*
Build-a-Boat Prep.
Resort Talent Show
Wet-N-Wild Capture the Flag
Wednesday Lake Swim*
Thursday Beach Games* Popsicle Boat Prep.* Build-a-Boat Prep.
Pig Roast Carnival (games, band, bounce house)
Camper Swim Meet, Boat Regatta & Beach Party
Friday Rubber Duck Regatta* Popsicle Boat Race*
Saturday Recognize campers who won events or participated in special programming.
*All of these activities are intended to be the campers' choice.
Components of the Theme:
"Welcome to Club Sunshine! As your resort director, we'll make sure this week is non-stop fun in the sun. Your parents have decided to send you to the finest resort in town. This week we'll be giving you a break from both the heat and regular programs to offer you a wide variety of wet and wild activities." Thus begins beach week.
There are no designated roles this week. Staff can look the part of resort staff ­ but chances are this will not require much deviation from the normal dress code.
Your campers are visiting you at your beach resort. This is probably not a great stretch, either.
Costume & Props
A good friend of mine, and summer camp director in Texas, Marc Wilson, would not attempt a beach theme week without a closet full of Hawaiian shirts and a tub full of leis. I also recommend Tiki Torches and grass skirts, as well. You really can't go wrong.
Support Programming
The entire week is support programming. Enjoy the break from BTGs. In addition to the activities already listed on the Events Schedule, feel free to give a few of these a try:
1. Sand Castle Building Contest. This is a fantastic activity all your campers will love. Don't have a beach? Use your beach volleyball court. Don't have a beach volleyball court, either? Call a local gravel company and see if they would be willing to donate a truckload of sand.
Very, Very Important Point: Clear this with your boss before you haul in a truckload of sand. Make sure you have an out-of-the-way spot to create this giant sandpit.
For the big sand castle building event, make sure you have plenty of water on hand. Don't forget buckets and spatulas and anything else you can steal from the kitchen! Very, Very, Very Important Point: Food service providers are your life blood. When I said "steal" buckets and spatulas from the kitchen, what I really meant was "ask very nicely and beg if necessary." 2. Beach in a Bottle. I like baby food bottles for this one, but any old bottle with a lid will work just fine. In addition to the bottles, you'll need to purchase tiny sea shells from a craft store and have a bag of sand on hand. The campers will take the bottles (clean them if necessary), fill them with sand and shells, and be able to take the beach with them all year. Make sure the kids decorate the lid of the bottle with your camp name! 3. Go Fly a Kite. Seriously. Go fly a kite. When was the last time you flew a kite? When was the last time your campers flew a kite? Go out and buy eight or ten kites and have them on hand for counselor groups all week long. 4. Make a Surfboard. You'll need refrigerator boxes ­ lots of refrigerator boxes. Have your campers take an ironing board and trace the shape on the cardboard. Cut out the "surfboards" and your kids can decorate them to their hearts' content. Lacking cardboard, you can use butcher paper, but it's not as sturdy. Helpful Tip: Use bright colors of paint on the surfboards and then lacquer them the next day. They will shine like the real thing! 5. Volleyball. You know that neglected volleyball net you have? Use it. 130
Climax Denouement Notes: Cabin Times Reflections Awards
The Regatta and Beach Party will be the Climax for this theme week. There is no BTG this week. Dry those tears. There will be another BTG next week! There are many activities and races held during this theme week that involve awards. Share those award-winning moments with parents. This is another great week to go back to the basics. Focus on developing trust, communication, and problem-solving skills through teambuilding this session. There isn't a narrative in this theme week that lends a moral lesson for your reflection time. I recommend re-focusing on your organization's values and mission. Be prepared to award small prizes and trinkets throughout the week. There are almost 2 dozen events that are prize-worthy. It's beach week. I can envision beach towel awards with the campers name in puffy paint. Make sure you send kids home with something. 131
On-Site Demonstrations Packing List Field Trips
I haven't planned any on-site demonstrations for you this week. If you look back at Safari Week, you'll find a number of support programs that you could import as on-site demonstrations for this session (hot air balloon rides, etc.). This week the campers need t-shirts for tie-dying. While campers don't need to pack much more than swimsuits and sunscreen, you may want to consider asking parents for a little help this week. Consider asking parents to send in used (and washed) baby bottles for the Beach in a Bottle craft. If you've got a camp program that frequently travels on field trips, this is your water park week!
Glossary of Activity Terms:
I imagine this requires no explanation. If you run a day camp, you may want to push this event later in the week. It would give you time to ask parents to send white t-shirts. For resident camp programs, you will either need to buy the shirts, or request that parents pack white t-shirts for their campers when you send out parent information prior to the start of the session.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Personal Power
Resort Talent Show
Whether you call it a talent show or Camp Idol, this is a great opportunity to make your kids the stars. Have a karaoke machine on hand to help your singers. Be prepared for magic tricks, music and more.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Caring School Climate, Adult Role Models, Positive Peer Influence, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
Kayak Race
If you are fortunate enough to have kayaks, canoes, or sailboats, this is a great opportunity to hold a race.
If you are in an urban setting, or a camp site without natural bodies of water, substitute the Rubber Duck Regatta or Popsicle Boat Race. Use your pool. Have kids place their ducks or boats in the water and then blow, push, or kick them across the pool. First one to the other side wins!
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Programs, Integrity, Honesty, Personal Power, Self- Esteem
Build-A-Boat Prep.
The idea here is for each counselor group to build a boat ­ one that the counselor will have to ride on during the Boat Regatta on Thursday night. Give every group identical items with which to build, and discourage cheating (hiding a kayak or boat underneath their construction). This event can ultimately be held on a lake or in a pool.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Planning and Decision-Making, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
Wet-N-Wild Capture the Flag
Divide the players into two teams. All of the normal rules to capture the flag apply (i.e. flags are
in a safe zone, if you're tagged while on your opponents side of the field you go to jail, your team
members can free you from jail, etc.). In this game of capture the flag, however, there are three flags
on each side ­ we're back to Balder Grant. Each flag is stored in a bucket of ice water (complete with ice cubes ). The game is won when a single team holds all six flags . . . or when the director decides
it's time for bed.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Programs, Integrity, Honesty, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution, Personal Power
Lake Swim
If you are fortunate enough to have a lake or other natural body of water, this could be an opportunity to do something unique. Have campers swim beyond the normal boundaries (appropriately guarded, of course). Some camps allow campers to swim across the lake in activity periods like this. Other
Pig Roast Carnival
camps have kids swim a certain distance (in a pool), or to a buoy (on open water). Give kids a patch, medal, or certificate for accomplishing a task that few attempt.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Programs, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
If you can do it, do it. It will be a lot of fun.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Community Values Youth, Youth Programs
Read this paragraph and then close your eyes and picture it at your camp. A live band is playing music in the distance. Kids are playing beach games. You can smell the snow cone flavors wafting in the air. You better open your eyes ­ quick ­ a water balloon may be coming your way!
Event Beach Volleyball Face Painting Message in a Bottle Parachute Games Water Balloon Toss
Materials Needed & Instructions Volleyball and Volleyball Net Face Paint and Brushes 1 pop bottler per camper Parachute and Balls 1 water balloon for every 2 campers
Snow Cones Balloon Squat Relay Beach Ball Volleyball Wet T-Shirt Relay Bounce House or Slide Live Band Add your events below:
Add your events below:
You'll need enough shaved ice for each camper, flavoring (could be as simple as soda), and cups and spoons for each camper. 1 water balloon per camper 1-6 Beach Balls and a Volleyball Net For each team, have 1 XXXL shirt. Rent an inflatable bounce house, slide, or obstacle course. One of your staff knows a band that will jump at the chance to come and play at your camp. Give them that chance, but screen their lyrics first. Add your events below:
Message in a Bottle This occurred to me as I was working on this section. You could be the first camp to do it! The idea is this: Each camper will write a letter to their "future selves" with the 5 things they hope they won't 135
forget as they grow up (5 things that are important to them). Each camper puts his or her letter in a bottle. They should decorate the bottle and mark it with the year it is to be opened. I recommend waiting five years. I hope every kid takes their bottle home and puts it on a shelf ­ and then remembers to open it and look at it every now and then. It's a mini time capsule. Water Balloon Toss Allow campers to pick a partner and get a water balloon. Then start all partners facing one another. The object is to pass the water balloon back and forth without popping it. After each pass, the partners take a step further apart. The duo that successfully passes the balloon the greatest distance wins. Balloon Squat Relay Divide campers into even teams anyway you desire (keep teams under 40). The field of play is set in traditional relay style. Each team has a starting cone where they are lined up, and an ending cone 25 yards away. Each runner heads to the ending cone where they must pop their water balloon by sitting on it. After popping the balloon, the runner returns to the start and the next runner takes off. Beach Ball Volleyball This is a great alternative to beach volleyball. Set two teams up for traditional volleyball. Have them play with a beach ball instead! What? Not exciting enough? Not different enough? Well, that's why I asked to you have 1-6 beach balls on hand. Start adding more balls to the game until it breaks down completely, and then start again. Wet T-Shirt Relay This is a fun one. Divide your campers into teams any way you want. Again, keep the teams under 40. For each team, you'll need one XXXL t-shirt. Each team has a starting cone where they are lined up. Next to the starting cone is a large, empty bucket. Next to the ending cone, 25 yards away, is a large 136
Beach Games Popsicle Boat Prep. Camper Swim Meet
bucket of cold water. The first runner heads to the full bucket of water, dips the XXXL shirt in the water, puts it on, and races back to start. At the starting point, the camper rings as much water into the empty bucket as possible and then gives the shirt to the next runner who puts must put it on. Each runner repeats this process until the team fills the bucket at the starting cone.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Positive Peer Influence, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
There are many great beach game possibilities. I can recommend Musical Beach Towels, Hula Hooping, Rubber Duck Race (good for pools or creeks), Water Gun Fights, Beach Tic-Tac-Toe, Sand Darts (draw the target in the sand and use shells or stones for darts), Sand Art, and Sand Castle Building.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Positive Peer Influence, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
This is a great arts & crafts opportunity. Allow kids to design and build their own boat with 50 or 100 Popsicle sticks. The big fun is the race the next day. Boat races can be held on creeks or in pools. In pools, allow the kids to push the water behind their boats. Don't allow anyone into the pool for the race. All momentum must be delivered from the pool deck!
Important Tip: If you're planning on putting Popsicle boats in the water ­ make sure your glue is not water soluble.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Planning and Decision- Making, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
This theme week is big on special events and slim on active games. Give your swimmers a chance to show off. You can use the events I listed for International Sports Week or create some new ones. In any case, a swim meet will keep your kids wet and wild.
Event 25 Yard Free 25 Yard Back 25 Yard Breast 25 Yard Fly 100 Yard IM 200 Yard IM Relay 200 Yard Free Relay Add your events below:
Alternate Event 25 Yard Dog Paddle 25 Yard Backwards Swim (on your stomach) 25 Yard Backwards Swim (on your back) Life Jacket Sprint 3-Armed, 3-Legged Swim Inner Tube Relay Kick Board Relay Add your events below:
Boat Regatta
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Program, Honesty, Responsibility, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
Following the swim meet, its time to see if the boats we made this week actually float. For this event, have staff attempt to paddle the boats crafted by their counselor groups out to a buoy and back. Some boats will sink. Others will float. Make sure staff members are in swim suits and life jackets.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Planning and Decision-Making, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
Beach Party
Go from the Boat Regatta into the Beach Party. This is your big event for the week ­ make it memorable!
Event Limbo Contest Kites Hula Hoop Contest Pineapple Pass Raindrop Relay Gutter Sundae Add your events below:
Location Add your events below:
Materials Needed & Instructions 3-5' pole (or broom stick) & Good Music! 8-12 kites or materials to make kites for each camper 12 Hula Hoops 1 Pineapple Per Team 1 Styrofoam Cup per team and 2 buckets per team Purchase one, 20' section of gutter from any hardware store, sanitize it, and make a giant sundae! Add your events below:
Limbo Contest
Get the music going and break out the limbo stick. This is best done with kids who are the same age. The boy and girl from each age group who can go the lowest win the day. Have good prizes on hand!
Hula Hoop Contest
Since we're doing it as a contest, I recommend declaring the person who can hula the longest as winner. Again, have good prizes or treats on hand.
Pineapple Pass
Break into teams of 10-20. Each team gets a pineapple for this relay race. Team members alternate between passing it through their legs and over their heads. When the pineapple reaches the back of the line ­ send it back to the front.
Raindrop Relay
This is a relay race, so we're going to need teams. I recommend keeping each team under twelve members. Have the team sit down on the ground in a line. At the front of the line, sitting before the first camper, is a bucket full of water. At the back of the line, behind the last camper, is an empty bucket. Give the person at the front of each line a Styrofoam cup with a lot of little holes punched in it (you can also do this with a plastic bag). The object of the race is to have the first camper in line fill the leaking cup and pass it over his or her head to the back of the line where its contents are dumped into the empty bucket. This process is repeated, raining water on everyone as they pass the cup over their heads, until the first bucket is empty.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Adult Role Models, Positive Peer Influence, Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
Rubber Duck Regatta Popsicle Boat Race
No need to build a boat for this. Purchase one Rubber Duck per camper participating in the event. With permanent markers, number the ducks sequentially starting with 1. Assign each camper a duck. The camper with the duck first to cross the finish line wins.
If you're doing this event in a creek, have the kids line up at the finish line while a staff member drops the ducks en masse from a large tub.
If you're holding your Rubber Duck Regatta in a pool, race the duck from one side of the pool to the other. Campers are not allowed in the pool, but they can blow, splash, and cheer their ducks across to the far side.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Program, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
On Thursday, some campers constructed and decorated boats out of Popsicle sticks for the race. Run the event identically to the Rubber Duck Regatta described above. Give prizes for the fastest boat, tallest boat, smallest boat, and most attractive boat.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Planning and Decision- Making, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
A Final Thought I think the t-shirt said it best, "Life's a beach." Beach week is a celebration of summer. I've said it a dozen times by now, but it bears repeating: These theme programs are just the icing. Keep the focusing on teambuilding with your counselor groups. Make sure your kids are participating in your mission-driven programs, as well as eating snow cones. Don't forget the sunscreen! 142
Superheroes Week Pick up your mask, throw on your cape, it's time to find our super powers! Up, Up, and Away! Like Sherwood Forest Week, this theme program is all about the eternal fight of Good versus Evil. Unlike our week spent with Robin Hood and his Merry Men, our kids are the center of our story. This is a chance for the campers to shape the story and be central to its successful conclusion. In the space of five days, our campers will uncover the secrets to their own super powers, their own hidden forces. They will have the opportunity to practice these skills, and then use what they have learned in a battle against the evil Dr. Iniquity and his super villains at week's end. Don't let these fledging superheroes down ­ guide them to greatness!
Events Schedule
Optionals Cabin Time
Tuesday Super Powers Practice* Super Hero Teams
Explanation of the Force
Wednesday Super Powers Practice* Costume Creation
Thursday Costume Construction* The Professor's Address
Friday Heroes Celebration
Evening Activity
The Arrival of the Professor
Search for the Force
Heroes' Challenge Obstacle Course
The BTG: Forces of Nature
Parent Show *These are optional activities the campers can choose to participate in ­ or not.
Introduce the superheroes to their parents in costume.
Components of the Theme:
The Professor and his team of scientists arrive from a far-off research facility at the opening campfire. The world is being threatened by another team of scientists led by Dr. Iniquity. Dr. Iniquity and her twisted band are seeking to create super-human villains to take over the world. The Professor and his team also have the technology to give normal people super powers ­ but it only works on children. In each child is a force; his or her own personal super power. The Professor will help the campers identify that force, but he needs their help. On Monday night, the campers will go on a quest for their Force. After intense practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, our super campers will be asked to defeat the super villains and destroy the technology on Thursday night. After the "battle," campers will be asked to relinquish their own super powers ­ making the ultimate sacrifice a hero can be asked to make.
This one may be less difficult than you imagine. The Scientists will be on and off display all week. Our reoccurring characters include:
The Professor
The Good Scientists (Yeah!)
Audience Costumes and Props Support Programming
· Dr. Iniquity · The Bad Scientists (Boo!) Your counselors and staff will sell this theme, but your kids will become the superheroes. They will form super identities, super powers, and super costumes. Most staff won't be dressing up this week ­ only kids have the super powers! Our campers will be our heroes this week. Each counselor group will be its own team. Let the kids create names for their teams. Remember, the more teams we break into, the more each camper can participate. For the purpose of this theme, teams should be age/gender appropriate. We are not going for parity between the teams. Teams work on challenges independently and do not compete against one another. Be prepared to spend money on this one. If comic book culture has taught us anything, it's taught us you can't vanquish evil unless you look fabulous. Costumes will transform your campers. You need generic masks (think Mardi Gras) or simply the black eye-covering mask the Lone Ranger made famous. You also need bolts and bolts of cheap but flashy fabric for capes. Don't forget fabrics like felt for vests or tunics! Additionally, you'll want lab coats for the scientists. Get creative on the Professor and Dr. Iniquity. They are scientists, but there is no reason they couldn't be flashy (capes, monocles, canes, etc.) Spend some time on the machine that will transform children into superheroes. It should be impressive with flashing lights and loud noises (sirens or music). Beg, borrow or steal a strobe light and fog machine. This week has it all. We're discovering and testing our super powers, as well as making costumes. It should all build to Thursday night's BTG. In addition to the activities listed on the Events Schedule, you may want to include:
1. Decoder Rings & Writing Ciphers. All I will tell you is that it's possible. You can teach your campers to manufacture their own decoder rings, as well as how to write in different codes and ciphers. In my limited experience, Ron Hipschman is the definitive source. Visit his website and it's all you'll need to get started: 2. Disappearing Ink. Provide campers with Q-Tips, lemon juice and paper ­ they have all they need to write invisible messages. Dip the cotton swab in lemon juice and write a message on the paper. To read the message, hold the paper next to a light bulb or other heat source (you could even iron the paper) and the message will become visible. 3. Drawing Comic Strips. Provide campers with colored pencils or markers, as well as drawing paper with pre-made comic strip "panels," and let them get to work. If you want, give all the kids the same scenario and let them write the strip with their own superheroes. 4. Superman Tag. This is a classic game of freeze tag, but Superman is "it." Superman flies around the game space freezing villains. ADD YOUR OWN SUPPORT PROGRAMMING IDEAS HERE: 146
Climax Denouement Notes: Cabin Times Reflections Awards
Forces of Nature is a station-centered role play. In their teams, campers move from one station to another completing various tasks that will bring them one step closer to Dr. Iniquity and his/her machine. In each task they defeat one of Dr. Iniquity's super villains. In the end, Dr. Iniquity is captured and the machine is destroyed in some safe but spectacular fashion. The game will require a lot of time and patience. Villains need costumes. Stations require significant set-up. The entire game could run as long as three or four hours. It's epic. This is our chance for the Professor to thank his heroes for defeating Dr. Iniquity and destroying the mutation technology. The Professor asks for campers to voluntarily relinquish their powers. After destroying their version of the machine before the campers, the Professor and the good scientists leave. Counselor group teambuilding this week can take on a special level of focus. Teambuilding can become training for their superhero tasks. I recommend problem-solving initiatives. Consider discussing some of the Superhero Code of Conduct topics from Michael Powell's Superhero Handbook: · Acting responsibly to serve the community · Ensuring the rights of liberty and justice · Not expecting compensation for superhero deeds Rather than medals or trophies, consider having the Professor present each camper with a certificate of appreciation. The certificate should include their name, their hero name, and their super power. 147
On-Site Demonstrations Packing List Field Trips
If you can swing it, contact a cartoonist or caricature artist and ask them to visit camp this week. Consider asking your campers to bring parts of their own superhero costumes to camp for the week. You could certainly use a few extra capes and masks around. Don't take a trip unless it's super.
Glossary of Terms:
The Professor's Arrival
At the conclusion of Sunday night's regular activity (i.e. opening campfire), or dinner on Monday, the Professor and his scientists arrive to deliver their plea for help and to describe the events of the coming week.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Community Values Youth, Youth as Resources
Explanation of the Force The Professor and the scientific team attend dinner and explain the Force, setting up the evening's activities. The Professor's speech could go something like:
"In each of us is a latent power, a latent force. With a slight push on our genetic code, we can unlock this power ­ but our technology only seems to work on children. Because you haven't yet ceased your development, your genetic codes are still susceptible to the manipulations of the machine we have created. Tonight, you will identify the Force that sleeps inside you. After you have found it, we will unlock that power. The process isn't easy, but it is necessary if we are to same humankind."
Potential Program Outcomes:
Community Values Youth, Youth as Resources
Search for the Force
This scavenger hunt / station-centered role play allows campers to identify their personal super power, their personal force. At each station, campers should all have the opportunity to try the activity.
Counselors should help campers distinguish their own personal powers and emphasize that all teams need one individual with a unique ability (you'll need all 10 powers to complete the BTG). While I encourage every camper to take part in every event, I recommend setting a rule that once a camper's special force has been identified they are no longer in competition for further powers. The camper who is the fastest runner in a given group may also be the best climber, but once she has been identified as having the super power of speed, that camper is out of the running for the gift of power of flight and climbing.
Rotation Order
Task The camper with the fastest ascent on the climbing wall will have this power. The camper who is the fastest swimmer will have this power. The facilitator plays "Change 3 Things" with the campers. The first camper to locate the 3 changes will have this power. Each camper will be asked to build a one-match fire. The camper with the first fire lit and sustained will have this power.* Have the campers do timed arm hangs (as a pull-up substitute) from a pull-up bar. The longest time in each group is your camper with this power. 149
Super Power Power of Flight & Climbing Power over Water and Swimming Power of Superhuman Observation & Attention Power of Light and Fire Power of Superhuman Strength
Have the campers represent your camp through visual arts (painting, sketching, collage, photography), performance arts (monologue, song, music), or literary arts (poetry, story, essay). The most creative submission wins the camper this power. The camper who can blow out a candle from the furthest distance has this power. The campers each have the opportunity to tell a joke or funny story. Let the campers decide who made them laugh. Each camper has the opportunity to sing a song. Again, let the campers decide on the best voice. Hold a 50 yard dash. The fastest runner in each group has this power. Add your events below:
Add your events below:
Power of Creation & Creativity Power of Superhuman Breath Power of Laughter Power of Voice / Song Power of Superhuman Speed and Running Add your events below:
*If this task seems too simple. Have campers build and light a fire that must grow high enough to burn a string suspended 12" above the ground. This is an incredibly subjective task. I acknowledge this. Do your best. There are two tasks on this chart you may need to replace or revise: 1. Power of Flight and Climbing: Substitute a Vertical Jump event. Tips on this event appear in the chapter on International Sports Week. 2. Power over Water and Swimming: If you don't have easy access to a pool or other body of water for swimming, I recommend dropping this event. Consider replacing it with the Power of Invisibility and play hide-and-seek. 3. If you need an additional substitution, consider the Power of Superhuman intelligence (played with a game of MemoryTM). *Important Note: The design of this activity, as well as the BTG, is good for up to 100 campers. If you are providing this theme to a group larger than 100, you will need to add an additional super power and station for every ten children. The same goes for the BTG. Add one station for every ten additional campers. As each camper passes the test and is assigned her super power, remember to help them generate their own superhero name. This will be important at the end of the night when they each sign their superhero certificate. At the conclusion of the hunt, the camp should all gather together. The Professor will make a permanent transformation in the campers ­ turning them into superheroes. For the transformation, have the Professor and the good scientists unveil "The Machine." Make sure the lights, fog machine, and sound are all on! 151
Super Powers Practice Superhero Teams Obstacle Course
Before each camper passes through the machine, have them sign a superhero code of conduct. Put it on a certificate and have the kids sign it with their real names and their new, superhero names.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Achievement Motivation, Caring, Integrity, Honesty, Responsibility, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution, Personal Power, Self-Esteem
In this version of the theme, there are up to 10 different possible super powers. Offer optional periods this week for campers to practice their super powers. Open the rock wall, your pool or beach, etc. for campers to hone their skills before Thursday night.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Creative Activities, Youth Programs, Personal Power, Self- Esteem
Whether your teams are simply counselor groups or you have decided to shuffle your campers around and assign new teams, this spot on the schedule is reserved for teambuilding and the creation of your team name. If you spend time on your teambuilding, your campers have the opportunity to reap the benefits of a huge number of assets. Look below.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Other Adult Relationships, Caring School Climates, Youth as Resources, School Boundaries, Youth Programs, Caring, Equality and Social Justice, Integrity, Honesty, Responsibility, Planning and Decision-Making, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
It's time for your campers to test their super powers! As a director, you can choose to go for the budget obstacle course and create your own, or you may decide to rent an inflatable obstacle course or two for the day. For sheer size, I recommend renting two or more inflatable obstacle courses. This
wouldn't be a bad night for Sumo Suits, Velcro Walls, and other great activities or challenges you can rent locally. If you decide to build your own obstacle course, make it EPIC in scale. I can recommend a series of events to you, but please, use the assets your facility provides you. If you have a pool, use it. If you've got a climbing wall and zip line, use it.
Station Balance Beam Hurdles Army Crawl Tire Run Tire or Tube Crawl Pit Jump Add your events below:
Task Campers cross a simple balance beam.* Campers run a set of 6 hurdles. Have campers crawl under an obstacle. This is an old-school football drill. Lay twelve tires out on the ground and have the campers run through them. Have campers crawl through upright tires, hula hoops, or a tunnel. Set up a "pit" for campers to jump across. Add your events below:
*You can construct a basic balance beam with 2 bricks (or 2 cinder blocks) with a 2"x4" resting between them. Take your campers weight into consideration. Heavy campers will require more support underneath the beam. Add bricks or blocks until you are confident no one will snap the wood. 153
Costume Creation The Professor's Address Forces of Nature
Hurdles can be constructed using 2 chairs with a dowel rod or ruler balanced in between them. The important part about these hurdles is that if kids run in to them, they fall apart. Few tears are shed on these hurdles. You can construct the army crawl obstacle in the same way you make hurdles. Campers just have to stay low as the crawl. If you want to make it harder, use string on the chair legs instead of dowel rods balanced across the seats. This will allow you to make the clearance very low to the ground.
Regardless of which you choose, go big! Play a movie soundtrack on a huge sound system. If it's a night activity, pull out spot lights or work lights and make it bright! This is also a good night for friendly competition. We don't need to keep score, but its fun to do obstacle courses for time.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Programs, Integrity, Honesty, Personal Power, Self- Esteem
Its superhero costume time. Start with paper and markers and let your kids design their ideal costume. It will be the counselors' job to make it happen. Costumes need not be finished today; there is more time in the schedule later in the week.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Programs, Creative Activities, Personal Power
The Professor describes the nature of the challenge before our heroes. Each task will be an opportunity to conquer a super villain and get one step closer to Dr. Iniquity.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth as a Resource, Service to Others, Youth Programs, Personal Power
Super Heroes of the world unite to conquer evil. For each camper, there is a task designed specifically for his or her super power. At each station, the super villain is protected by a force field our heroes can't enter. You can represent the force field with cones or rope. The heroes first task it to turn off the force field or trick the villain to leave safety by challenging them to a test of powers.
In some scenarios, if the campers discover a way to turn off the force field, the villain relinquishes a piece of the techno-puzzle. In other scenarios, campers trick the villain out of the force field and defeat him or her in combat to win the puzzle piece. Some events may require the abilities of multiple heroes. Make sure campers arrive at the start of the game dressed in their costumes ­ complete with necessary equipment: · Our superheroes with climbing power should wear their climbing harness the entire night. · Our superheroes with the power over water should be dressed in their swimsuits. · Our superheroes with the power of superhuman speed should be in their running shoes. With each task, a super villain is defeated and an important piece to the downfall of Dr. Iniquity is discovered. Each team will visit each station once over the course of the night (give each group a map and start them all at a different point). From each super villain station, the campers will recover a piece of the techno-puzzle they need to defeat Dr. Iniquity. The super villains must be prepared to re- set their station between groups. This could mean relighting fires or candles or replacing hidden puzzle pieces. This is an epic game ­ it will require a lot of set up, costumes, and patience.
Rotation Order
Station Fortress of Light Villain: Negaflame The Tower Villain: Zephyr Temple to Loki Villain: Giggle Gal 155
Task Blow out the candle that extinguishes the force field protecting the villain, Negaflame. Recover the clue. Trick Zephyr into lowering his force field and then distract him with a foot race. Recover the piece from the top of the tower. Make the villain laugh and her force field fails.
Sanctum of Strength Villain: Negator Dais of Darkness Villain: Dark Shade Dungeon of Destruction Villain: Antigal Fortress of Fire Villain: Megaglow Castle of Consciousness Villain: Mind Master Citadel of Silence Villain: Sonic Girl Dark Deep Villain: High Tide Add your events below:
Add your events below:
Challenge Negator to a show of strength. Out-hang the villain and win the puzzle piece. Raise the lights and chase Dark Shade back into the shadows. Antigal is the mistress of destruction. Make something of beauty and weaken her powers. Extinguish the fire and extinguish the force field. Challenge Mind Master to a test of intelligence or observation. Sing loud enough to obliterate the force field protecting Sonic Girl. Trick High Tide off is floating fortress and recover the clue. Add your events below:
Fortress of Light The space should be set with a circular, visible force field around Negaflame, the villain. Use a section of rope for the circle (size doesn't matter). Seven candles should be burning, each with their own smaller force field, represented by a hula hoop. Six of the candles are white, one candle is blue. The key to this task is to blow the correct candle out (the blue one), thereby extinguishing Negaflame's force field and recovering the techno-puzzle piece. Each team only has one chance to do this correctly. Choose wisely, superheroes. The counselor/guide can ask the following questions: 1. "Superhero with the power of observation, what do you see?" Hopefully your camper will notice that one candle is a different color than the rest. 2. "Do we have a superhero that can blow out that candle in one attempt?" Too obvious? Be more subtle then. If the campers fail to pick the correct candle to extinguish on the first attempt, they must challenge Negaflame to combat. At this point it is up to the creativity of your counselors and campers. The Tower Zephyr is keeping the clue at the top of the tower. The force field surrounds both the villain and the tower. To retrieve the clue, you must trick Zephyr into lowering the force field and distracting him with a foot race or some other challenge. Meanwhile, the superhero with the power of flight and climbing should make his way to the top of the tower to retrieve the clue. The counselor/guide can ask: 1. "How will we get Zephyr out of the force field?" 2. "How will we keep him distracted?" 157
3. "Who will challenge him?" I wrote this with the intention of using superhuman speed to best the Zephyr in a foot race, but there's no reason campers can't distract him with a song or joke. Important Note: For this activity to run smoothly, you'll need to station a belayer at the base of your climbing structure for the entire night. Temple to Loki Again, the villain is at the center of a force field. Giggle Gal's space is impenetrable, unless she begins to laugh. This may be time for a good joke? It may require many jokes or a good funny story. The counselor / guide can ask the following questions: 1. "What are her weaknesses? Think about her name" 2. "What could we do to distract her or weaken the force field?" Sanctum of Strength Negator stands at the center of his force field holding the clue. One superhero must make a challenge that interests the villain ­ and our hero must win the challenge. If the campers don't hit upon the arm- hang challenge, then Negator can suggest it. The counselor can ask: 1. "Who will challenge him?" 2. "How can you beat him?" Dais of Darkness Dark Shade can stress the fact that he draws his strength from the shadows while he taunts our heroes from the safety of his force field. A supply of kindling and firewood should be on hand. 158
Inconveniently, the counselor/guide will only have one match to win the challenge. The guide can ask the following question: 1. "What can we use to defeat Dark Shade?" Dungeon of Destruction Antigirl is weakened by the act of creation ­ particularly things of beauty. Our hero with the power can recite a poem, write a story, paint ­ anything will weaken this foe and destroy her force field. The hero can enlist the aid of the team. The counselor can ask: 1. "What does her name tell us?" 2. "How can we weaken her?" Fortress of Fire Megaglow is standing safely behind his force field, basking in the glow of a warm (but modest) fire. Extinguish the fire and he'll be forced to give up a clue. Have buckets on hand for kids to form a mini fire brigade. The counselor / guide can ask the following questions: 1. "What are his weaknesses? Think about his name" 2. "What could we do to distract him or weaken the force field?" Important Note: Because Megaglow will be doing this ten times over the course of the event, you should have plenty of burnable materials on hand for the villain to get a fire going again and build up his force field. 159
Castle of Consciousness Challenge the Mind Master to a battle of wits and observation. Let the camper with the power of observation call the game. You could challenge Mind Master to a game of "change three things," or you could play another game (i.e. rock-paper-scissors or a blink contest). The guide can ask: 1. "How can we beat him? What challenge of focus or memory can we beat him with?" Citadel of Silence Sonic Girl is relaxing in the safety and comfort of her force field. This villain should speak in whispers and cringe at loud noises. Her force field will collapse under the assault of sustained singing. The hero with the power of voice and song can enlist the support of the rest of the team. Singing a camp song brings down the force field that much faster. The counselor can ask the following questions: 1. "What are her weaknesses? Think about her name" 2. "What could we do to distract her or weaken the force field?" Dark Deep Like our challenge against Zephyr at the Tower, one of our heroes will need to challenge and/or distract High Tide while another hero swims to recover the clue from the center of the pool or from a floating dock on your lake. The counselor/guide can ask: 1. "How will we get High Tide out of the force field?" 2. "How will we keep him distracted?" 3. "Who will challenge him?" I wrote this with the intention of using superhuman speed to best the High Tide in a foot race, but there's no reason campers can't distract him with a song or joke. 160
*Important Note: The design of this BTG is good for up to 100 campers (10 teams of 10). If you are providing this theme to a group larger than 100, you will need to add additional super powers and stations for every ten additional children. All night, our heroes have been collecting the pieces to the techno-puzzle that will defeat Dr. Iniquity. The puzzle presented below can be printed on paper (at least print it on shiny silver paper with sparkles). If you want to go for the gold, and I want you to go for the gold, cut each puzzle out of a 4'x8' sheet of plywood. Spray paint the pieces metallic silver. The bigger the puzzle; the more impressive the game. Hint: Number the pieces so you know you have 10 complete sets. At the conclusion of the game, all of the teams come together for a show-down with Dr. Iniquity at his/her secret lair. Our campers each assemble their techno-puzzles around the villain. In the face of 161
Heroes Celebration
hundreds of heroic campers, the Doctor abandons the machine and flees. Campers should have some role in symbolically destroying it.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Youth Programs, Integrity, Honesty, Responsibility, Restraint, Planning and Decision-Making, Interpersonal Competence, Peaceful Conflict Resolution
The Professor and the good scientists want to thank you for your service. Additionally, the campers are asked to relinquish their powers before they return to the home, and the Professor will then destroy his machine. The world is not yet ready for these changes.
As the campers leave the dining hall, they pass through the Professor's machine (complete with strobe lights and fog), symbolically giving up their powers.
Potential Program Outcomes:
Community Values Youth, Youth Programs, Interpersonal Competence, Self-Esteem
A Final Thought Superhero Week is a massive undertaking. It will quickly overwhelm your core program if you let it. Remember to take time to focus on the parts of your camp curriculum and mission that make you unique. That's the warning. On the upside, this theme week put the focus completely on your campers. Each camper is guaranteed their moment in the spotlight ­ make sure that light is kind, not cruel. If, on Thursday night, you collapse in pool of your own droll after the BTG, please remember to pick yourselves up and wave to your campers as they head home. If you did this right, they'll be back again. 163
Final Fling Week
Events Schedule
This is your week to plan. I like to use Final Fling week as my last week of day camp programming in the summer. It becomes our smorgasbord week ­ the week we use up all the cool program and crafts supplies we have from the summer. Use this page to create your own Final Fling Week. Enjoy!
Wednesday Thursday
Cabin Time
Dinner Evening Activity
Components of the Theme: Narrative Characters 165
Audience Costume & Props Support Programming Climax 166
Denouement Notes: Cabin Times: Reflections: Awards: On-Site Demonstrations: Packing List 167
Field Trips: Glossary of Terms: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 168
8. 9. 10. 11. Event
Materials Needed
The Last Word At the opening of this book, I made every effort to dissuade you from using theme week programs in your camping program. I suppose it's only fitting to end in the same fashion, and so I offer these words of caution: Don't let theme programs be a waste of your precious resources. Avoid using theme programming as a crutch. If you're confident in your program design and schedule, don't water them down with excessive theme work. Don't let themes rob a camper of valuable camp experiences. Celebrate the basic experiences that make your program unique. At the same time, there is a lot weekly theme programming can offer your campers and staff. So, please, remember these words of encouragement, as well: Theme programs can release the imagination. Themes can provide necessary variation for the campers and staff over a long summer season. Weekly theme programming can be used as a marketing tool. Use theme programs as development and training exercises for the next generation of camp leadership. Remember, most importantly, this stuff is fun! Best of luck to you this summer. May your staff grow in wisdom through service to your campers and one another. May your campers grow in both stature and understanding. And may you finish the summer season with no additional gray hairs. 170

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