In the three hundred and fifty-odd days of the year when camp is not in session, we wish away the time by pulling near whatever random past camp memory bubbles up. While relying on memory is a standby, it often fails to capture the essence of all the facets of the camping experience.
Instead of hoping to remember all the fun and energy, why not add a camp archive project to your program offerings?
These can be scheduled for activity or arts and crafts time, as a whole-camp activity, or to select groups with a keen interest in preserving camp memories for future generations. Not only are the products of these activities excellent tools for reflection, some can be used in future marketing campaigns to show the value of camp to parents and potential campers.
1. Camp Scrapbook
Materials: scrapbook(s), scrapbook pages and page protectors, scrapbooking and/or arts and crafts materials, photos
When thinking camp scrapbook, think simple. Scrapbook pages can be made by individual campers in 15 minutes. Have campers personalize a photo with a quotation, slogan, or short blurb about what camp means to them. Or invite cabins to create a cabin page. Sports and other activities can also create a page detailing their successes. Staff can create a page of reflection on their experiences. If traditional scrapbooks are too small for your group, three-ring binders are a cheap solution.
2. Camp Collage
Materials: photos, poster board/foam board, adhesive
If photos are readily available during your camp session, a collage is one of the easiest and least expensive options. Possibilities include creating a photo collage of the entire camp or individual groups, cabins, activities, orientation, arrival and departure days or special camp events. Laminate or frame collages to preserve them, and share them with future groups by displaying them on easels.
3. Camp Quilt
Materials: vary by option
Camp quilts are a favorite in terms of whole-camp involvement and simplicity of implementation. If you’re fortunate enough to have a volunteer or staff member willing to sew together the pieces, you’ll be able to make an archive that will be cherished for years. These can be used as wall hangings in offices, dining halls, and other common areas.
Two camp quilt ideas:
• Fabric Squares: Have each camper create a picture of camp on a fabric square using permanent markers, fabric paint, puffy paint, fabric markers, or fabric crayons. Remind campers to sign their square.
• T-Shirt Quilt: If extra camp T-shirts are available, have each cabin or group sign their name to one shirt using an option mentioned above. Ask someone with sewing skills to quilt the shirts together and display.
4. Camp Pennants
Materials: permanent markers, felt/fabric/vinyl pennants (one for each camper and/or staff member), rope or cord long enough to accommodate all pennants.
Pennants fill the bill where a camp quilt is too large an undertaking. Like fabric squares, pennants can be customized with a name, bit of artwork, slogan or general interpretation of camp. Secure pennants to rope or cord via heavy-duty staples or other method. Display pennants in camp offices, drape over windows and walls for upcoming camp sessions, hang on fences and around pools for a festive touch. Pennants are durable and store easily.
5. Camp Handprint Banner
Materials: large strip of butcher or Kraft paper or solid fabric, non-toxic poster paints, disposable plates, permanent markers
Especially fun for a younger crowd, a colorful banner bearing a handprint of every camper and staff member, signed with a permanent marker when dry, is a low-cost alternative to bigger archival projects. Have the banner available as one of the first activities of the camping session or week to give the piece time to dry. Later, invite participants to find their handprint, sign their name and write one word that best describes their camp experience. Done on fabric, this can last several years with proper care. Paper versions may not last as long, but are still a community-building activity.
6. Reflective Daily Diary
Materials: notebook/journal (one for each cabin or group), pens
Mainly for middle grade-age campers and up, a daily camp diary is a place for storing thoughts, memories and friendships created by a single group of campers. Campers in a cabin can rotate writing (or drawing, creating poetry, etc.) in the journal, and participation is not required. Instruct campers and staff that poignant diary entries may be shared in public venues (campfires and other ceremonies and/or camp promotion) and may remain anonymous if they choose. This type of archive will appeal to a certain type of camper, so keep in mind that it might not have the same level of interest generated by the larger, more artistic and expressionistic projects.
7. Video Film Festival
Materials: video cameras (one for each cabin or group)
In the same vein as the reflective daily diary, but with the benefit of multimedia, using inexpensive video cameras to capture the flavor of a camping session puts campers in charge of their experience. Invite each cabin to produce a video of a pre-specified length to be shown in the spirit of an independent film festival. Before showing videos, counseling staff need to verify the appropriateness of the content (as should also be the case with the reflective daily diary). Outstanding videos can be uploaded to camp social media outlets and/or burned to DVD for long-term storage. Prizes can be given, if desired.
8. Time Capsule
Materials: paper, pens, a safe storage container and facility for maintaining time capsule
Traditional time capsules are buried in the hopes of being discovered and opened at a future date, but this does not preclude the notion of creating a time capsule that will be stored above-ground. Invite each participant to write, draw or design a message to a future camper from this “camp of the past”. Have them include anything (either in terms of communication or material items) they think future campers would like to know about today’s camp, as well as their favorite memories of camp. For larger camp groups, plastic bins with tight lids (which can also be duct-taped for an added effect of security) work well as storage containers. Be certain the time capsule is stored where it can be accessed for future opening and that more than one person is aware of its existence!
Beth Morrow is an educator, author, and senior week co-program director for Camp Hamwi, a residential camp for teenagers with diabetes. She loves camp archive projects of all types. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.