Perpetual Motion

As the campers are actively engaged in the problem solving, the instructor might offer advice or pose a direct question that helps campers focus on the critical factors of success, but it is the students who must do the experimenting. They will pose solutions and try them. They will evaluate why something worked or why it didn’t. They will adapt an idea that almost worked or discard it.

The key for the instructor is to engage campers in evaluating ideas and assumptions, to help campers believe that they can solve problems if they think things through, become more aware of what is going on and why.

If the instructor can also encourage campers to adopt the attributes of fairness, generosity and empathy while they engage in problem solving, the camp activities can carry even greater power.

The applications in camp setting for the constructivist’s approach to learning and the teaching of critical thinking and communication are virtually endless. Here are some activities that can be easily implemented:

The Moving Play: select a play that has several different scenes and have the campers select the most appropriate camp facility (from a list of facilities that you designate as available) that helps the audience experience the essence of what the playwright had hoped for in each scene. The campers should also consider how the actors could enhance the experience of the audience, as everyone transitions from locale to locale for each scene.

Understanding Exercise Physiology: Have students explore through various athletic tasks which of the three energy systems they are using:

1) The Phosphocreatine System — short, explosive bursts lasting only a few seconds

2) The Lactic Acid System — high intensity exercise that brings on extreme fatigue that cannot be tolerated after just a few minutes in duration

3) The Aerobic System — less demanding, low intensity, sustainable activity that can last for several minutes up to many hours

Give the campers six activities to perform and have them determine which of the three energy systems is the primary energy system being used. The six activities could be the standing long jump, a 50 yard sprint, a five mile bike hike, a springboard dive, a 50 yard swim, and a two mile run around the lake.

Create a New Game: Have the campers develop their own original game. They can be given parameters of how many people can be on each team along with the equipment and space that they can use. Have them write a brief explanation of the game along with a rules list. They can play and modify their game until they think they are ready to teach it to the rest of the campers.

Creating a Court/Field that has four 90-degree corners: This activity can be accomplished a number of ways by using a corner of a cardboard box, a compass, or Pythagoras’ Theory, which states that the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides.

Once they think that they have laid out a field with four perfect 90 degree corners, ask them to find a way to show that they have accomplished the feat.

These four examples demonstrate how campers can construct their own learning and enjoy it at the same time. These kinds of camp activities also take the burden off the instructors to have all the answers or to put out the energy to engage campers in activities.

People love challenges and making their own choices and the camp setting might just be the perfect place to get people engaged in the life skills of critical thinking and communicating.

Dr. Susan Langlois has over 25 years of experience as a college professor, athletic administrator, camp director and sport facilities consultant. She is currently Dean of Sport Science at Endicott College.

Dr. Richard Nastasi has taught the constructivist approach to learning at Boston University, University of Ballarat in Victoria, Australia, and at his current post of professor at Endicott College. He had developed and directed camp programming for people at every developmental level.

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