Camp Woodland Blog

Behind the Scenes to Building Future Leaders

Posted by on July 8, 2023

Campfires, Camper Council, Inspiration Hour, and Sunday special events are a key part of the fabric of the weekly programming we have at camp. At surface level, these activities could have the appearance of nothing more than the opportunity to wear crazy costumes and play a bunch of games or sit in a circle singing songs and sharing thoughts around a particular theme. Some might even say their purpose on the camp calendar is to keep campers entertained and busy after dinner several days a week and on Sunday when we take a break from the usual daily program of activity choices. 

I would argue that the importance of these events is far greater than what meets the eye at first glance. The six weeks of camp is based on intentionality and purpose, and these evening and Sunday events are no exception. Why? I’m glad you asked! 

The reasons you send your camper/s to us are numerous, one of them being the development of young people into leaders. The mentioned evening and Sunday programs are the perfect ecosystem for that to happen because they are for the most part planned and executed by campers. What?! Yes, these very programs are amazingly designed and carried out by your kid/s. The staff, of course, guide, facilitate and support the campers ranging from 7-16 to be able to do this. They recognize the importance of empowering campers from the youngest to the oldest to have a voice in designing and contributing to their summer experience. 

At each weekly campfire (Wednesday nights), cabins switch between the role of leading a song or performing a skit in front of the entire camp. The collaboration it takes to decide as a group what that will be is a great lesson in compromise and negotiation. Overcoming or managing the jitters of standing in front of a group (as a group) is a great segway into confidently responding to a question asked by a teacher in school, volunteering to read out loud, or getting on stage for choir, band, theater or other performances. 

Friday nights are typically designated for Camper Council themed events that are assigned weekly to a different cabin. The cabin is responsible for coming up with a theme, selecting costumes and games that fit with the theme, making the announcement to stir up excitement for the evening’s activities, setting-up and cleaning-up, and leading the chosen activities. The cool part is the CAMPERS are part of the entire process from start to finish which means they run the activities! As a result campers learn about giving clear instructions to their peers and facilitating various aspects of a game as each group rotates through. This is the stuff future leaders are made of!

Last week, Sunnyside cabin chose a “holiday theme” and had each cabin represent a different holiday to portray with their costume choice (Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Earth Day, etc). Campers led “love song” musical chairs, “candy cane” limbo, and other fun party games along with a hunt for a missing item special to each holiday that was also incorporated into the mix. Campers leading campers…SO awesome! 

Each Sunday morning we venture to a peaceful spot behind Hilltop for “Inspiration Hour”. This is another chance to practice leadership skills as cabins take turns planning this time that is spent together as an entire camp around a chosen character trait or value (friendship, kindness, integrity, etc). Campers choose their theme and how they will share this message that is often through songs, skits, and/or stories. Driftwood was the first cabin to lead Inspiration Hour and chose “community” as their theme (one of our 5 core values). This process also aids campers in their journey to being able to speak in front of others. 

Sunday afternoons are run solely by the oldest campers each week, the CIT’s (counselors-in-training). In a similar fashion to Camper Council nights, this group plans multiple all-camp themed events throughout the summer that are longer in length, lasting from 1-2 hours. As part of the planning, considerations are given to a wide range of camper ages, choosing engaging and fun activities, the weather conditions (having a back-up plan is always a good idea!), utilizing different aspects of the camp property and facilities, and finding new twists to a camp “tradition”…just to name a few! The project management skills repeatedly practiced over the course of 6 weeks to plan these events on top of other CIT duties paves the way for leadership participation in student government, clubs and organizations throughout middle/high school and beyond.

So far the CIT’s have pulled off Alien Invasion and the 4th of July Games in grand fashion. The campers LOVE a good hunt for the CIT’s dressed up as aliens and scattered all around camp. Competition for the most points is a true motivator – congrats to Sunnyside for being the overall champion! This recent Sunday was our traditional 4th of July Games that included a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party at the waterfront along with a variety of games including the orange pass, water transfer (see photo), 3-legged race, (very carefully) shaving a balloon covered in an abundance of shaving cream, and more! 

So, next time you see pictures of crazy costumes and fun games or campers around a campfire or similar setting, be sure to look behind the scenes for examples of collaboration, negotiation, project management, communication, and other life/career skills!