Greetings from camp,
One of my absolute favorite aspects of this place is the diversity of interests that our kids hold, and the ability of our staff to be creative and cater to these. This amazing variance was on full display last night during our Special Interest evening activity. Special Interest is a program in which our normal project areas (tennis, swimming, sailing etc.) offer abnormal activities.
For example, instead of the normal fare of traditional camp sports, our athletics program turned our upper diamond into a driving range and the boys had the opportunity to whack balls around the giant field. (Or chase butterflies, which seemed to be quite popular as they waited their turns to hit. In fact, some boys chose to occasionally forgo their turns to chase down the fluttering beauties….ah, Nebagamon!) Down at swimming, it was sponge bombardment, a great way to get wet, compete, and give it to that counselor you have wanted to pelt with a wet sponge for a week now! Instead of cooking, MOCA prepared cookie dough that was meant to be eaten raw (don’t worry, no eggs). Needless to say, this was quite popular! The Nature Lore crew took a sunset cruise on our pontoon boat. I have never heard so many 13-year-old boys describe something as “pretty.” Down at canoeing, it was a counselor hunt as a canoeing staffer was set off in a kayak and the boys had to chase him down in a canoe and flip him over. It stands to reason that it was mostly the boys that wound up in the water…and they would have had it no other way! It was a tin can shoot at target shooting and a random scoring contest at archery. (They drew lots to see which rings would be worth which number of points…the great equalizer!) Finally, down at the Artshop and CNOC (our wilderness skills program), they got their Harry Potter on and were making individualized wands from wood. They whittled, they colored, they wrapped in parachute cord, and they painted. And they talked….and talked and talked. There must have been 30 kids down there ranging from our youngest campers to our oldest. The atmosphere was exactly what a camp director that preaches about creating a “Radical Utopia” at camp every summer would brag about…so…consider this officially bragged about!! All of our program areas came up with creative and unique offerings for the boys to try.
With all of these varied offerings, it should come as no surprise that campers were spread all over the place enjoying all of the different activities. I love the fact that a boy that comes here is given the opportunity to pursue whatever it is that tickles his fancy on a Special Interest evening. There is no social stigma associated with any activity, and what is valued most is figuring out what it is that you are interested in and pursuing it, and, oh yeah, whatever sounds fun!
This is a particularly special gift for these boys given their ages. The majority of them are at that tricky middle school age. As most of us remember, those middle school years are among the most socially challenging. (Though, in the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that my middle school years were my social salad days. I was actually considered kinda cool from 5th-8th grades….it didn’t last. It was also when I still entertained the possibility that I would not have to sit in the front row of every group photo I would ever be in…like all the other short guys! That didn’t last either. In fact, I purchased camp, in part to ensure I would always be able to sit in the THIRD row in the staff photo since that is where the administrators sit. Otherwise, I can assure you, it would have been cross-legged in the front row to this day!) It is an age when doing what is prescribed by a social “in” crowd takes on huge importance. It is an age when one of the things to be most avoided is standing out from one’s peers in any way. It is an age of conformity and denying one’s own individual interests in order to fit in. Sometimes, as the Borg say, resistance is futile. (Yes, your son’s camp director is a Trekkie.)
It is different here. This is a place where we expect that you won’t follow the crowd. This is a place where we expect you to follow your interests, your passions, and your curiosities. It is a place where trying something new and out of the norm is not only acceptable, but encouraged and celebrated.
And so it was that the “hippest” 14-year-old enjoyed an hour-long cruise to appreciate the beauty of a sunset, and the most timid 6th grader blasted his counselor in the face with a wet sponge. And 8 – 15-year-olds totally gave themselves to making magical wands, while listening to classical music and getting to know each other. In their “other” world this stuff might not have been considered the “in” thing to do. (Well, throwing a wet sponge in the face of an authority figure will always have its appeal!) But here…indulging in something different, that just tickles your fancy, is the absolute pinnacle of coolness.
Today is Cruiser Day! Competition, imagination, and Dairy Queen!!! More on that next week.
And today the weather is gorgeous…sunny and 83 degrees. This is no time to be sitting in front of a computer….I’m out!
All is well in the North Woods….