In 2012, the most common gift I received was a book called The Dangerous Book For Boys, by Conn and Hal Iggulden. It is a book filled with instructions, information, recipes and advice for tons of different activities that in the digital age might otherwise be lost to video games, private sports coaches, and after school computer clubs. There were chapters on paper airplane making, slingshots, finding fossils, building a treehouse, making a periscope, and a wealth of other activities that appeal to the Tom Sawyer in all of us. (To be clear, we all know that these activities are not limited in their appeal to one specific gender, but be forewarned, for this update, I am going to use the construct of stereotypical “boy” interests. More on this later.)
Last night, we could have easily written the second volume of this book with our evening activities. It was the perfect night of boyhood activities. Broadly speaking, last night was Special Interest, a night when our activity areas offer something unique that is outside of normal rank work. Something different…something special…and last night something that would have made Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn envy every single boy at Nebagamon.
Here is just a sampling of the activities offered last night:
Our CNOC program (wilderness skills) offered a clinic on how to craft a handle for a knife out of wood. The head of that program detailed all of the steps involved in finding the right piece of wood, shaping it, sanding it, and creating the perfect handle for a wilderness knife. (Not to worry, none of our kids actually were in possession of raw blades in search of a handle! The poor guys were tantalized by receiving the know how to create these tools, but denied one key ingredient.)
The athletics project created a “short porch” home run fence on the upper diamond and hosted a massive home run derby. Few things get a kid more pumped than smashing a dinger over a home run fence to the cheers of his peers.
Our music program offered the opportunity to create a drum set out of items found in nature….and coffee cans. The rag tag percussion set that was put together appealed to just about any boys’ desire to get a stick and something to bang on and generally make a ruckus!
Down at the climbing wall, the swashbuckling side of our kids was sated by a fencing clinic using those foam swimming noodles to parry, fleche, and riposte each other into foamy and hilarious oblivion! You should have seen the dramatic death dances of these characters!
At canoeing, searching for sunken treasure was the order of the day. Our canoe staff had hidden gold nuggets (ok…painted rocks!), valuable gems (ok….rocks painted a different color) and the motherlode of all treasures – SODA – in the canoe area. They boys had to paddle out, flip their canoes and travel the area in the air pocket created from a swamped canoe to seek out these riches.
Our nature program offered an activity called “Playing With Fire!” Which….well…..was kinda playing with fire! Our wonderful nature program director helped the boys build a campfire and brought a bag full of things that might be fun to burn in a camp fire! They burned sticks, pine cones, cocoa powder, M & M’s, ping pong balls, and a variety of other fascinating items. Let’s be honest, what is more appealing to the little boy in all of us than building a fire, and burning stuff!
Our archery and fishing programs combined to offer bow fishing! Yeah, that’s right, the boys got to shoot arrows (attached to rope) from our pontoon boat at fish (milk cartons with fins) in the lake. I mean come on…shooting bows and arrows from a raft at fish?!?! What could possibly appeal to the boyish side in all of us more than that?!!?
Down at the waterfront there was a massive playak war (playaks are our version of kayaks) which was just as it sounds. Grab a life jacket and a playak, paddle out into the shallow waters just off of the swimming area, find your best friend, flip his boat over, help him get back in, and do it again! As any boy will tell you, there are few things that substantiate a solid friendship more than the ability to creatively come up with a way to drench your best friend.
Now I will repeat myself. I realize that I flirt with coming off as potentially sexist with this update, so let me be clear. First and foremost, we are well aware that these activities do not appeal to all boys. In fact, other extremely popular activities last night included glass bead making, board game strategy sessions, and smoothie making. Also to be clear, I am not saying that girls wouldn’t love to participate in these activities. I am sure that many would. Heck, my daughter loves few things more than flipping me in the water and throwing things into a fire! But, I could not be more proud of the opportunities that we offered our boys last night!
As I walked back up to the office after this incredibly satisfying evening activity, I happened to notice that the fencing around the Big House needs a whitewashing as the paint has chipped a bit in the last few years. Given the tone of last night’s Mark Twain-esque feel, I am thinking I can likely get that fence whitewashed and procure some of the boys’ lucky rabbits’ feet tonight!
Things feel great here….
All is well in the North Woods….