Camp Woodland Blog

What Formula 409 and Woodland Have in Common

Posted by on July 15, 2021

I recently discovered how Formula 409® got its name. Surprisingly enough, it is actually a tribute to the tenacity of two young Detroit scientists hell-bent on formulating the greatest grease-cutting, dirt-destroying, bacteria cutting cleaner on the planet. As the story goes, creating the ultimate cleaner didn’t happen on the first try. And it wasn’t on the 101st or the 301st either. It wasn’t until batch number 409 that they were finally satisfied. And so, the name stuck. Formula 409®. True story.

So, what does the story of how 409 got its name have to do with camp you ask?! The answer is everything. It has everything to do with how we roll at Camp Woodland. Failures and mistakes are not shunned or discouraged. Rather, it is quite the opposite. Missing the mark (by a little or a lot) is celebrated as an opportunity for growth. It’s actually quite refreshing! Sure we have levels in certain activities; however, at the end of the day, no “tests” are given or “grades” recorded. Campers have the choice to challenge themselves as little or as much as they want in any given activity.

The idea of challenge-by-choice can be extremely rewarding and empowering. Campers typically make comparisons to earlier versions of themselves rather than measuring up to those who might be quite skilled in an area. Take archery, for example. There may be campers in the same class who are wishing they could simply hit the target and those who are shooting at 50 feet and trying for a given score or “qualifying” target.

One of my favorite things about having mixed ages and skill/experience levels in a class like archery is the mentoring that happens between campers. Talk about reinforcing what you know by being able to explain or demonstrate it to someone else! It is also really cool to see campers cheer each other on and recognize those small, yet important “wins” when they do something better today (have an arrow stick in the target) than they could yesterday (retrieve arrows from the grass).

When I was a counselor at Woodland, I taught water-skiing during the 2 periods of afternoon Rec Swim. It would indeed be rare for a camper to get up on skis, a kneeboard or wakeboard on the first try. First off, this activity requires that campers be at a certain skill level in swimming (to feel comfortable and adept at maneuvering in deep water). For some of the younger girls, this may take a year or longer to build up the skills of being a proficient swimmer in a lake setting.

Once campers have the swim skills necessary to give a more advanced water sport a go, it may take several days of multiple tries to get up only to face plant (and have a gallon of water go up your nose). It may take another round of Rec Swim periods to make a loop around the lake successfully (more face plants). For campers who want to challenge themselves even further, they may practice going in and out of the wake (with wipeouts being an imminent possibility) before they truly get the hang of it. For campers who choose to work on passing levels in an activity, instructors are good at spotting when a skill has been mastered and can be done without hesitation vs when it is only demonstrated one time. A “test” is not necessary!

I’m guessing the two scientists who finally landed on the best mixture of ingredients to make the ultimate cleaner, were pretty pumped when they realized the 409th try was “it”. If you could experience the sheer joy of seeing a camper improve the tiniest amount or reach proficiency in a skill, it is truly why we do what we do!

Hearing the squeals when a camper is finally able to canter after the 12th try, return a ball using backhand on the 31st attempt, do a forward roll after struggling the 19 times prior, learn lines for a play after fumbling during the previous 7 rehearsals, coordinate a string of dance moves after 42 run-throughs, read the wind direction in sailing after 4.5 weeks, do a dive from the dock after the 21st bellyflop, paddle in the stern position in a canoe after spinning in circles for several classes in a row, and more is absolutely the B-E-S-T. You see, it is through failure and mistakes that the stuff growth is made of can be found in abundance (more on that next time)!

P.s. In case you’re wondering, I’m on my 25th revision of this blog (but who’s counting?)!