We invited readers to submit their most creative programming ideas to find out what keeps their camp ticking.
Whether a day camp or resident camp, here are several ideas that might work for you:
• Create a photo album to music and burn it onto a DVD. Make it available at the end of summer to kids/parents for the cost of the DVD and cover (about $1). This is a season-long activity that involves the staff members taking pictures. The pictures are then uploaded to a DVD and set to music.
• Utilize a camp mascot as a staff motivational tool. After the first week, give it to a staff member who did an exceptional job. Each week, give it to a different person and allow him or her to add something that has meaning to it.
• Use Clean Table award to encourage campers to help clean up!
• Ask the kids and staff to collect can pop tops to donate to Ronald McDonald House. Have a competition between the kids and staff; this not only makes it fun, but teaches the kids the importance of “giving back” through collecting and donating.
Ann Smiley, Director
Lysander Parks & Recreation
Lysander Day Camp
Exploring The Water World
We took an old salad bar and turned it into an aquatic-life studies resource.
Since outdoor education occurs year-round and the lake freezes in the middle of winter, this was a way to keep the macro invertebrates alive for the children to see.
The bar had a galvanized bottom with a drain plug that we sealed. It had electrical outlets for lights, so we used this to run the aerators to add oxygen.
In the spring, we added creatures that hatched and provided a great learning opportunity for children, including those who were not able to venture lakeside. Campers gathered “bugs” from the bar and looked at them under the microscopes along with all the other children.
YMCA Camp Willson
Recycle Materials For Equestrian Games
Old arrows missing tips and fletchings can be great for games in the riding arena:
Stick in the bucket–Riders pick up a stick in one bucket and put it into another on the other side of the arena. This game can be played at different speeds; the buckets can be at different heights; riders can be asked to only pick up a certain color of arrow; flags or colored string can be attached, etc.
The flag race–riders pick up one flag (arrow with a flag attached) in a can filled with sand and run to the other side of the arena and jam it into another bucket. It is a timed event of speed and accuracy.
Retired climbing rope–An old, stiff rope that has been used too much to climb and is too hard for lead rope knots can be made into rings. Take about a 3-foot piece of rope and form a circle 12 inches in diameter, weaving the end in and out of the “hole.” Since the rope is rigid, it will stay in this shape. Place the rings on the posts and have the riders bring them to you while you hold your hand out. Have the riders pick them up and “ring” a cone in the middle. These rope rings are durable, can stand all sorts of weather, and if the groundskeeper mows over them they are cheap and easy to replace.
Certified Horsemanship Association
Interested in beating the heat at camp? “Alka-Seltzer Wars” will help campers cool off, while keeping them active and engaged.
Preparing for the war takes quite a bit of work, but the payoff is worth it.
First, purchase as many Alka-Seltzer tablets as you have campers (you might want a few extras in case of catastrophic tablet failure).
Next, drill a small hole directly in the center of each Alka-Seltzer tablet and run a string through the hole to make a necklace for each camper.
Divide the campers into teams or have them play as individuals. The object of the war is to spray, douse or soak the other team’s Alka-Seltzer tablets until they dissolve. Once a camper’s tablet dissolves and falls from the necklace, the camper is out and should turn into a cheerleader or water carrier for whoever remains.
The last team/person with an intact tablet wins the war and should get a prize (some spicy food perhaps)!
Paul A. Schlag, PhD
Western Illinois University
Recreation, Park & Tourism Administration Macomb, Ill.
One of our favorite team-building games is called “Pipe Nightmare.” I think we adapted it from a book by Michael Brandwein.
Take 4-inch PVC pipes, each four feet long, and cap one end of each pipe. Drill an equal number of one-quarter-inch holes spaced evenly around the entire circumference of each pipe–the more holes drilled, the more of a challenge this will be!
Drop a tennis ball or rubber ducky into the bottom of each pipe.
Divide the group into teams of 4 to 6 and provide each team with a pipe and some way of transporting water (cups, pitchers, small buckets) from a water source (pool, lake, or a basin filled by a hose).
When the game starts, teams rush to fill their pipes with enough water to float their ball or ducky to the top. Since water leaks out all of the holes, it will take each team’s collective efforts to plug the holes using their fingers, arms, knees, toes–and get very wet in the process!
This game is a hit on hot summer days and teaches teams to strategize and work together to accomplish a common goal.
Laurentian Camp Cherith
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (campsite is in Lanark, Ontario)