Sometimes camp presents two important goals that can conflict with each other. In this article, I will describe such a situation and then describe a creative answer to the challenge.
Today is All Camp Super Camp Fun Day (ACSCFD). OK, not a catchy name, but a much-loved Saturday tradition. Basically, we open most of our activities and let the campers choose where they want to go.
That accomplishes the first goal – actually the first two goals. The campers have fun and they get to have choice (agency). Children today are pretty heavily scheduled. Experts extol the importance of giving children more time for “free play” and more agency. On ACSCFD, campers choose where they want to go. They can enjoy conventional activities (water, sports arts), but also just read a book under a tree or chat with friends.
It is fun and they get some much-needed freedom.
That brings me to another important goal. We do not want campers to get sunburned. During our normal activity schedule, the youngest campers (those most inclined to forget to re-apply sunscreen) always have someone around to remind them to do so. It might be a counselor or a member of our Senior Camper program, but someone is responsible to remind the campers.
But when they choose their own activities, they are no longer escorted.
This summer, a long-time camper, counselor and Division Leader had an inspiration: the Sunscreen Patrol.
He enlisted a cadre of 5-6 Senior Campers to staff this elite anti-sunburn team. He outfitted them with orange safety vests, orange hats and even orange fanny packs.
We then told campers that anyone that the Sunscreen Patrol would apply sunscreen and distribute a treat (like a single Starburst).
For then entire morning, they patrolled camp, spraying on sunscreen and applying zinc to more sensitive faces. [Note: we refer to zinc as “war paint”, thus vastly increasing the appeal of it. Wearing colored streaks on your face is not inherently cool, but wearing war paint – like the cool Senior Campers – is a different thing entirely.]
I will be looking tomorrow to see how well we succeeded in our mission. Until then, don’t forget your war paint.