June 28, 2008

First Camp of the Season

Wow. We're tired.

Yesterday marked the end of a whirlwind two months in which we conceptualized, planned, and carried out a day camp in our community. Not just us, mind you, but also the excellent team of teenagers who volunteered a lot of their time (including much of the first two weeks of summer vacation) to make this thing happen. As I've mentioned before, the camp was called Healthy Kids and it was a mix of camp games, physical activities like running, soccer, Frisbee and agility, and playful content sessions on topics like anti-smoking, healthy daily routines, the cardiovascular system, dental hygiene, and the food pyramid.

We had a total of twenty-five campers ranging from grades 4 to 6, and roughly half boys and half girls. They showed incredible enthusiasm all week and many asked if it was possible to continue the camp into next week. Judging by the exhausted looks on all our counselors' faces yesterday afternoon, the answer was most definitely...no.

It was an amazing, rewarding week and Jillian and I are very happy for the kids who attended and proud of the teenagers who made the whole thing possible. Not only did they assist in the planning and creation of many of the resources, they also taught all the classes and led all the activities.

It was awesome. Here's some of the highlights:

**Water Balloon Craze
Before Matt came to visit us a few weeks back, we asked him to bring some things from his local Rite-Aid: coconut-smelling sunscreen, Jillian's must-have hair products, "MY NAME IS" stickers, and, happily, water balloons. He came through with a whopping 800 and, equally whopping, we threw 'em all. Like a moth to the flame, the kids gravitated to our buckets of balloons and--to mix my insect metaphor--we swatted them away like mosquitoes. "Wait for the game to begin!"

And the games were a big hit. With the temperature reaching 90 degrees everyday, getting wet was a major priority. And when getting wet involves racing across the soccer field to a waiting chair, placing a water balloon down, and sitting on said balloon, well, who doesn't love that? Another popular game was water balloon volleyball, in which both teams hold a sheet and use it to catch and throw a water balloon back and forth over the net.

A few other games involving buckets and sponges helped us beat the heat and end each day on a really fun note. Inevitably, it would all conclude with the kids chasing the counselors around the field, dousing us from their filled water bottles. Our lead counselor, Tina, routinely bore the brunt of this and left her family thinking someone had shoved her in the community pool.

Counselors and campers playing "volleyball"

Sponge games

**When All Else Fails, Scare Them Into Brushing Their Teeth
As we were wrapping up on Friday afternoon, the counselors asked the campers what their favorite content classes had been. The answer: the ones with the gross pictures. It's true, a couple of the lessons used some rather "persuasive imagery" to get the point across, and these kids now know (and probably won't forget any time soon) what a smoker's lungs look like and what advanced (alright, REALLY advanced) gingivitis does to your mouth.

But how's this for instant payoff: this morning, one of the campers told a counselor that she woke up and brushed her teeth for two minutes, placing a watch on the bathroom sink just to make sure. While visions of rotting teeth danced in their heads...

The campers, standing in as teeth, learn about flossing

Counselors teaching Staying Healthy

**They Probably Don't Need To Know About Sacrifice Bunts
One of the few sessions Jillian and I led was a class about the rules of baseball. Standing before the kids with our baseball gloves, a carefully drawn picture of a baseball diamond, and a trusty translator (Tina), we dove in, keeping things as simple as possible. And you know what? There's nothing simple about baseball! (And there's no crying in baseball!) Go to the bathroom mirror right now and try to explain to yourself the basic rules of the game. There's nothing linear about it, it's got all these seemingly nonsensical moving parts, and men are wearing big slabs of leather on their hands.

The campers loved it. After an absorbing thirty minutes of the down-and-dirty rules, we let all the kids practice having catch with our gloves and capped it all off with that time honored school yard tradition of kids without gloves and bats: kickball. The rules of baseball + something these kids already love (kicking a ball) = voi-la! It was the biggest surprise hit since Tony Bennett's comeback.

A few of our trusty counselors

Camp games

**Stretch That Denar!
Perhaps one of our greatest coups of the week was getting all the kids t-shirts, made right here in town, from the paltry registration fee they paid. Complete with the logo that Jillian and Tina created, they are a big hit with the campers. We were able to do this with some creative finagling of our tiny budget, not the least of which was Jillian and I rising somewhat earlier than planned each day to assemble lunches for all the campers. It felt a bit like "Cheaper By The Two Dozen" with our lunch assembly line (which, I must note, included all 5 food groups), and the money saved became those kickin' t-shirts.

More generally, the camp was a fantastic study in working with limited resources. Our mantra was something like: If we can't buy it, borrow it. If we can't borrow it, make it. If we can't make it, fake it. And it all came together, created from scratch.


Anonymous said...

Love what you're doing!!! I think we did a similar game at GS this year with the sponge relays... :)

Miss you!!!~ Yoko from GS

Anonymous said...

You guys are so awesome-the camp looks like it was great fun but lotsa of work. You've probably created a monster, next year you'll have a gazillion kids wanting to go to camp! Will try to skype in a few minutes hope all is well.
Love, Mom