Top Programming Ideas 2004

–Alyson Gondek has more than 20 years experience in camping. She is a co-director at Camp Woodmont, located in Cloudland, Ga., on Lookout Mountain. She also owns a public relations/marketing firm. Alyson lives in Snellville, Ga., with her husband, Mike, and two children, Chelsea, 12 and Savannah, 7. Look for a profile on Camp Woodmont in the March/April issue of Camp Business magazine.

PVC Challenge

We had a great team challenge that we added to our program this past summer. The idea started from a brainstorm about a “marshmallow gun” I was trying to design… but that’s another story.

This challenge was created out of a collection of PVC pipes, joints, elbows, Ts, reducers and adapters. There are two collections of PVC that are exactly alike and are separated into two boxes.

Each team receives their parts and a 50′ water hose that reaches back to a double faucet outlet. The object of the game is to build a device that will transport the water about 75′ to a bucket.

The challenge begins with fitting together the joints and pipes. There is no glue. Actually, there is Vaseline on the joints to make it more fun.

In addition, there are holes drilled into all of the pipes that have to be covered with fingers, arms, noses, ears, tongues, etc. — with enough pressure — so that the water doesn’t leak out everywhere.

Last but not least, there is not enough pipe to extend the entire 75′. The teams finally figure out that each of the adapters and joints have a place in this giant water jet.

The hose is adapted into a 4″ diameter pipe and then through several joints and adapters the pipe is reduced to a 1/2″ diameter pipe within about 10 feet. The 1/2″ diameter pipe has a cap with a 3/16″ hole drilled into the center.

Every PVC piece has to be used, and no person can cross the 60′ point. When all of the holes are covered up (except for the end cap) and the joints are held tightly together, the collection of pipes becomes a jet that shoots the water across the remaining 15 feet to the bucket. In the bucket, the water must reach a point to where the ball floats just over the top edge.

It’s a ton of fun, and everyone gets soaked. This is by far one of the most challenging team challenges yet. In all of the team challenges that I have seen in the past, some smart, quiet guy in the back always figures out some strange wording and then makes everyone look bad.

There really is no trick in the wording with this challenge. It just takes someone to figure out how this thing works, and then everyone has to be involved — at the same time. It becomes very frustrating for the teams, but it adds to the feeling when the teams are successful.

This challenge is extremely portable, and the total cost for all of the parts (except the hoses) is around $60, but it takes a while to drill the holes and figure what adapters and joints you will need. I enjoyed making it so much that for $1,000 I’d be more than happy to put together another set for someone!

–Jay Poindexter is the program director at Camp La Junta, Hunt, Texas.

Capture the Memories

Photography has always had universal appeal, especially with young people. Photographs have the power to capture the moment and to help bring back fond memories of the camp experience: the company of good friends, the exhilaration of camp adventures, and the mixed emotions of being away from home and making your own way through the day-to-day challenges of camp.

Given the accessibility of digital photography, here are some ideas to weave digital photography into your programming. There are also a number of companies that provide Web-related services who can help facilitate a lot of these ideas (go to the Camp Business On-Line Buyer’s Guide at or look for the March/April Buyer’s Guide issue of Camp Business magazine for companies who provide these services).

Photographing the theme of the day: Every morning — or it could be just every few days — the camp staff can post a theme that campers can try to communicate in a photograph.

The ten best photos can be selected and posted in a photo gallery that could be electronically posted or even printed for display in the dining hall.

Having the staff or even the campers select the theme can be a great way to generate interest in this camp activity. Some of the themes that have been popular in this are actually quite abstract and it is really interesting to see how campers use their creativity and imagination when they image these themes through photography. Themes like friendship, fun, excellence, happiness, cooperation, loyalty, and nature really get students thinking, experimenting, and loving the creative process of photography.

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