12.14.2007

STEAL THIS IDEA... It's easy :-)

Whether you're in the camp industry or the child care industry (or some wonderful amalgamation of both), keeping your customers is always a priority (and subsequently getting their younger siblings). Of course you ran a wonderful summer program and they were all screaming for more at the end of the day, but how will your registration fare in four months when our fickle young friends forget all of the wonderful memories of last year?

The solution is simple, cost-effective and beautiful - a calendar.

I know it's not the most novel idea, but sending out (or selling at a small printing fee) a calendar has never been easier or more basic a scheme to revive your campers' interests.

First, you take all of those photos from last summer (and surely there are hundreds because you own a digital camera...) *--BREAK--*

IF YOU WORK WITH KIDS, YOU NEED TO OWN A DIGITAL CAMERA... there's no excuse anymore. I can write a handy dandy buying guide for you, but essentially they have gotten cheap enough that you can literally beg on the street and buy the camera with quarters...
SO AGAIN, YOU NEED A DIGITAL CAMERA.

Why digital? Because you have 500 - 1000 kids a summer (or more) and you don't want to be limited by the cost of film. My first summer working at camp, I took about 2 dozen shots with a very limited digital camera. The following year, I took about 200... and then 500... and since then, probably around 1,000 or so shots. I want to capture a good picture of each of my staff doing a great job... each camper having a good time...

ANYWAY, distribution of these pictures is essentially $0, as long as you're free to share them with the world (as most camps have a publicity waver in the contract). If not, there are a few more measures to take, but still the idea is solid.

Once you have a digital camera, you ditch the software that comes with it (because most of the time it's fairly confusing and riddled with ads), and opt for either iPhoto (on a Mac) or Google's Picasa on anything else. Both programs are very similar (in my opinion) and Picasa is FREE (I'm not sure about iPhoto).

From Picasa, you can edit all of your photos so they look fantastic (with a great red-eye tool that works perfectly about 75% of the time) and do all sorts of other fun stuff easily - including automatically posting them online to be shared with the world (free also).

*** BACK TO THE CALENDAR IDEA

Both Picasa and iPhoto allow you to send the photos of your choice to an online photo-printing service (such as oFoto). If you are using another program to edit your pictures or are completely content with what you've taken, you can upload directly to oFoto or even Target.com or Walmart.com.

SOOOOOO... oFoto, iPhoto and others (of which there is a comprehensive list towards the bottom) allow for some really great printing options, one of which is for a calendar.

NOW, I would suggest shopping around. There are probably some vendors that you already deal with (think t-shirts) that may give you a great deal on calendar printing...

Essential Features:

Full Color Photographs - try for 1 per month instead of a collage... large pretty pictures look nicer than a bunch poorly stitched together.

DATES OF IMPORTANCE - make sure you are able to add your own dates to this calendar (or intercept them before they are sent out and MANUALLY add the dates). Your customers need to be hit with those registration deadlines again AND AGAIN!!!

Fun - the photos shouldn't be boring group shots or serene trees... They should show FUN (whatever that means to your camp). Don't be afraid to hide some characters (if you have any) in the background, either ;-)

12.05.2007

Acting like children.

I do not want to preach... nor do I want to get drawn into any long arguments...

BUT...

If you read this blog, you probably have read about the tragic loss of a teenage girl on the news over the past month or so. Her name was Megan and after a severe bout of depression mixed with some cyber-harassment, she hung herself. The worst part of the story (if it could get worse) is that the cyber-bullying was from the mother of another teenage girl posing as an *interested* teenage boy.

There is another Blogger location where that particular mother attempts to defend herself (I believe it's titled "meganhaditcoming")... but I believe her logic is seriously flawed and it relates to the child-care industry.

You see, teenagers can be cruel and emotionally illogical. Between cliques and romances and pressures to fit in while standing out, the plight of a young adult IS REALLY HARD (just remember your awkward years). Sometimes this means that friends can turn to enemies at the drop of a hat... and apparently this was the case with Megan.

Seeing no other way to save her emotionally fragile and innocent daughter, this mother decided to attack the problem in the exact way that a 13 year-old would. Her blog entry and subsequent comments defends her actions over and over again as the ONLY possible option for saving her daughter... that she was being a "good parent."

Haven't you heard this logic before? Didn't you ever have a staff member who made a horrible decision and couldn't possibly see how they went wrong?

Two things happened:
1. The mother fought negativity with negativity.
Camp people know that this doesn't work... our worst behaved campers thrive on the extra attention they get, regardless of what flavor it comes in. Incentive programs go much farther than constant time-outs. If you haven't learned this yet, then keep a log of every time-out. You may be surprised by the repeats... year after year.
2. The mother didn't act like an adult.
Adults don't go onto MySpace and fake out 13 year-olds... wait... RATIONAL adults don't. It sounds ridiculous now to think of a 30+ woman pretending to be a 16 year-old boy online... and to have her act as if it's normal behavior. No. It's not. NOT AT ALL. If I see a 3 year-old on the playground take a swing at my nephew, I don't automatically run over and hit them back. That's ridiculous, right?

OK. I have a point:
Teenagers, or the bulk of our employees, sometimes have the same troubles as this mother. I've seen some male counselors (and actually experienced this as a camper myself) throwing back insults to some loud-mouthed 8 year-olds...

First of all, don't jokingly insult your campers... second of all, don't act like an 8 year-old.

RIGHT?

This problem is easy to identify with the younger campers / counselors, but in teen programs the line blurs even more. A good deal of teen counselors have a problem distinguishing when to be an adult and when to be "cool." I have the answer: ALWAYS BE AN ADULT AND DON'T CARE ABOUT BEING COOL. I know that sounds pretty lame, but the *coolest* counselors do their job and do it well... even the most angry and callous teens can tell.

Don't get me wrong - a lazy, slang-yelling, no-rules kinda person is adored by the teens... but who wants that on their staff? Not me.

Anyway, I only hope that people can learn from this and maybe this mother will realize the folly of her ways... at least I can tell of this tragic event during trainings to illustrate the importance of acting like an adult.

11.19.2007

The FIVE YEAR System

"Dig" commented about the (dreaded) five-year system that many camps have been using to keep their content "fresh" while not having to rewrite the program every year. Basically, a camp will pick five themes, topics or events to base a summer on, compile an entire schedule and programming around this idea and then cycle without varying the fifth year...

IOW: Every 5 years, the same exact regiment of stuff is repeated.

Here's why this is a broken system: As pointed out by Dig, first and foremost, the campers may not realize the repetition, but the staff absolutely does. If the staff is bored with a concept, that will be reflected in their actions; essentially trickling down and making for a mediocre camp experience... It's like that popular one-hit wonder band that has to play the same song for 30 years... most of the time, the performance gets stale... UNLESS...

Ah, the trademark UNLESS! Here's a real-world example. Broadway shows go on for hundreds, if not thousands of performances. "The Phantom of the Opera" happens to be the longest running show currently and I had the fortune of seeing it several times over the last *20* years (gasp). Each performance was strikingly different - not just because the actors had changed, but because the producers evolve the show over time. Little changes occur in various places and after a year or so, the show is (kind of) *new*.

So, there is hope for repetition... but I have other reasons for not using a *system*. You, the camp director (or whomever), hires a staff because they are outstanding. None of us are just trying to fill slots - we're trying to get the best group available... like creating a baseball team. You don't just hire a pitcher - you want a pitcher who knows six different pitches and can hit over 90 with his fast ball (I'm just sayin'...).

Anyway, in creating your perfect ensemble, you are picking people of various outstanding talents. These skills should be utilized to the fullest each year. Just because it's not "Circus Summer" (because you had that 2 years ago) doesn't mean that you cannot use a variation of that theme due to hiring three or four jugglers! LET YOUR JUGGLERS JUGGLE! LET YOUR DANCERS DANCE!

I hired a really great Nature guy, but he was incredibly smart and felt he could do more than "just nature." That's how we started "Science," an activity area where he made rockets and all sorts of fun stuff... AND HE WAS SO HAPPY. We had a fitness guy who wasn't that great at the "Athletics" area, but rocked at teaching "Wellness," a new area created around his talents.

Our special events went the same way, starting a "Music Festival," when many of our staffers were in bands.

It's really that simple. Having a *system* is OK as a backup plan, but it should not be the only plan. Camps that truly rock have to be nimble and evolve; have to take advantage of their strengths. Forcing a theme can be demoralizing and detrimental to the entire experience.

11.16.2007

Creating Memories.

Do not stray from the path, my friends!
(another rant)

My first big paying gig at a camp (HA!) was a wonderful little YMCA Day Camp in the middle of the woods. This spot had *traditional* written all over it, and yet... well, it was about as bland as can be. The camp director at the time was clearly burned out. He was incredible with the parents, but seldom entered the woods or participated in the camp day.

THIS IS FINE... I suppose... as long as he's taking care of the pain that is administrative duties, that means there is a greater opportunity for the next level (which we called "Unit Directors") to really manage and bring out the best in camp. That did not happen.

IN FACT, the lackadaisical attitude of our fine director was infectious. The Unit Directors spent their days at the pool... meaning no one was supervising in the woods...

AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED...? Guess! Lots of the staff members took advantage of this sparse supervision. Chaos ensued... Camp was crummy.

There were a small number of us who actually went above and beyond - and we were the few who kept the camp afloat...

This camp hit an incredibly common speed bump in the history of camps: namely burn-out.

BURN-OUT happens. There is no avoiding it... but there is preparing for it. You see, this director really lost focus about what his goals were - what the mission of the camp was. I'm under the impression that mission statements should be rewritten every year. I know that's somewhat drastic, but in the camp world, senior staff has a fairly high turnover rate. Seeing as the senior staff really sets the bar for the rest of camp, they need to own that statement.

Once I became director, my first goal was rewriting the mission statement by committee. Essentially we made seven points that were direct goals for each child that entered camp. The main one of these goals was "Create positive memories."

Rewriting the mission statement allows for clarity and a refresh of what's important. My burnt out director was suffering from "the motions," where each year was so similar to the last that the excitement was gone. That is the key in coping with burn-out - CHANGE.

"Create positive memories" is such a strong idea because it can really alter the entire philosophy of the camp. Kids who have been at camp may have years of the same old activities - meaning that those "positive memories" are being overwritten and skewed with uninteresting repetition. Has a four-year veteran of your camp seen and done everything that can be done... several times?

Memories are strange things. I have a couple strange experiences with kids telling me about how great a one-summer-only specialty area was, even though we regarded it as a failure. Why do they remember it that way? Perhaps because it was unique, different and changed their camp experience that summer from the *norm*.

That director lost focus about what was important. Had he thought about creating positive memories, he may have figured out the rut he was in and how it affected the entire camp. A simple solution of change could have made the mediocre / bad years at that YMCA into some of the best years yet... though, we cannot rewrite history, only learn from it.

Rewrite your mission statement and get focused. If you're set on creating lasting memories, be sure to accommodate everyone - even those lifelong campers who have been around forever. This summer is the best summer that your camp has ever seen... until next summer ;-)

11.12.2007

An idea.

The holidays are upon us and all anyone can think about is... SUMMER CAMP!

Right?

Well, that's all I can think of... and basically that means that I need to start working with kids again. Besides dreaming about an East Coast tour of schools, my extremely practical side had an idea: What about New York City?

I am a New Yorker, living in the fair borough of Queens, and I'm willing to bet that there are many teens living in my area that could use a little brush up on their camp employment skills. Since I've conducted training for several camps and have a great deal of experience working with children, I wish to impart my wisdom on as many future potential camp employees as possible...

(this is Pete thinking aloud)

I could do one or two sessions a week - from 7 - 8:30 PM seems like a perfect time. Eight weeks of classes... in other words 16 major topics covering everything from the fun side (camp magic, songs, crafts, rainy days) to the not-so-fun side (professionalism, emergencies, discipline) and everything in between.

I really think this could work, as I'm prepared with the content and expertise - I would really just need a location and some form of organization sponsoring me (such as a YMCA or Boys and Girls Club). I don't want this to be exclusive to a single camp; instead a meeting of minds (so to say) of teens from various camps doing various jobs.

There would be some sort of reasonable fee per class (depending on the space, $20 to $25) and one could attend a single session or all of them and benefit...

What do you think? Any advice?

Another FORBIDDEN Song!

Yeah, yeah... I've been busy - but so have you! :-)

This was sent to me by
Lisa (who also referred this excellent blog).

"Waded in the Water"

She waded in the water and she got her feet wet,

she waded in the water and she got her feet wet,
she waded in the water and she got her feet wet,
but she didn't get her *clap, clap* wet.

<continue up the body>

[Last verse]

She waded in the water and she got finally got it wet,
She waded in the water and she got finally got it wet,
She waded in the water and she got finally got it wet,
She finally got her *bathing suit* wet!

10.17.2007

Some Sailors Went... (new song?)

My roommate, who generally opposes things associated with children, sings this song every now and then from his childhood:

Some sailors went to sea sea sea
To see what they could see see see
But all that they could see see see
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea sea sea!

Now, I've poked around the *internets* (ha) to find this and several variations popped up. Rather than borrowing those versions, though, I'm going to make up my own way of singing this... which is that the word "see / sea" is to be replaced by a nonsense word selected by an audience member - at first cycling through a couple choice staff and then chancing it on a brave child.

Yay!

10.10.2007

Birthday and Sesame Workshop


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Panwapa World is officially launched!

This is my "Me Page"

I decided to be blue and wear a superhero outfit... so basically exactly as you would expect. My house is completely "green" because I wanted to be hip and save the environment!

Anyway, we were on the View this morning... and I'm sure the media hype is just beginning. Check out the site! I'm USA88 - drop by and leave a message :-)

And it's my birthday... I've decided it's a good day.

10.08.2007

This American Life... wonderful.

Wow.

This American Life is a pretty wonderful weekly radio show
on NPR. I listen to the Podcast every week or so and THIS week is about talking to children. The first act of the show is about two dirty 20-something comedians who are brought around to various camps... and they struggle... bomb... and eventually just resort to screaming and so forth.

It's inspiring to me, because I'm very good at working *appropriately* with large groups of children. In fact, it's probably the thing that I do best.

The kids *hated* the comedians... I wish I could have given a pep talk.

Find the show through here: http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Podcast.aspx !



OK... So I've been thinking about this for a little while and I have a response for the broadcast. First of all, the commentator says that they were doomed to fail from the start. This is untrue - completely bogus.

The concept is that people who are outgoing and possess the stage ability to entertain adults have the ability to entertain children. This is correct. Stage charisma and energy, two of the huge drawing factors to adult comedians works well for kids (unbelievably)... Look at someone like Robin Williams - his energy and spirit work for both *adult* humor and *kids* humor... interesting, huh?

Also, the commentator blames the fact that the 10-year-olds have been exposed to Dane Cook for their inability to enjoy *clean* humor. This is wrong. Dan Cook can be appealing without being dirty - HE HAS ENERGY; HE TELLS STORIES.

Dane comes along with sound effects, huge physical motions and recognizable characters. The comedians in the story were relying on one-liners; perhaps the hardest form of jokes for a younger audience. One-liners rely on the awareness of the audience - if you speak over their heads, then they zone out. STORIES are where it's at. In a story, I expose you to the information that will turn humorous... I can have multiple punch-lines or even disregard one completely!

If I could have talked to those poor young comedians, I would have steered them to Bill Cosby instead of Nickelodeon (where they did much of their research). Ten-year-olds don't get the same laughs from Sponge-Bob that they used to... but play them "Chicken Heart" or "Dentist" and they'll be laughing hysterically...

And I'm willing to publicly prove my theory anytime ;-)

10.04.2007

Forbidden Songs!

Every camp has something that is forbidden.

My old camp had a ghost story about an ax-wielding psychotic named Stumpy. Back in the "old days," this was common fare for camp fires of any shape or size. When I took the reigns, though, it became forbidden - for several reasons. The story was incredibly inappropriate - especially for younger campers. I didn't want kids refusing to come back to camp because of fear... The main reason, though, was to keep Stumpy alive.

Wow. Crazy, huh? By forbidding something - EVEN with staff - it is immortalized. There never was as huge a collective curiosity in Stumpy than when everyone knew he was not allowed. Add in the fact that no one really knows the story (like I do) and you have a very powerful tool at your disposal...

I digress.

There are some forbidden songs... At many camps, "Titanic" is not allowed. I receive many a comment about "The Princess Pat" and it's basis (backtrack on the blog and you'll get a history lesson) and of course there are the gross objectors > namely "Great Green Gobs," "Baby Bumblebee" and classically the "Pick your nose" verse of "Wishy Washy Washer Woman."

These are simply objections, though (oh yeah... "Baby Shark"... that always raises some controversy). Unbelievably, we (as in camp-song aficionados) know of many more songs that have been simply forbidden!

Here's one:

"The Prettiest Girl" [same as "Littlest Worm" with line repeats]

The prettiest girl
I ever saw
Was sippin' ciii-
Der through a straw

The prettiest girl I ever saw
Was sippin' cider through a straw

I told that gal
I didn't see how
She sipped that ciii-
Der through a straw

I told that gal I didn't see how
She sipped that cider through a straw

Then cheek to cheek
And jaw to jaw
We sipped that ciii-
Der through a straw

Then cheek to cheek and jaw to jaw
We sipped that cider through a straw

And now and then
That straw would slip
And I'd sip some ciii-
Der from her lip

And now and then that straw would slip
And I'd sip some cider from her lip

And now I've got
A mother-in-law
From sippin' ciii-
Der through a straw

And now I've got a mother-in-law
From sippin' cider through a straw

The moral of
This little tale
Is to sip your ciii-
Der through a pail

The moral of this little tale
Is to sip your cider through a pail!


^^^ Someone at work sang that for me today!

...and I have a faint recollection of this next song which was just requested via email... Needless to say, both of these songs would have some parents yelling ;-)

The Boy and his Canoe

Just a boy and a girl in a little canoe
With the moon shining all around
As he glides his paddle
You couldn't even hear a sound

And they talked and they talked
Till the moon grew dim
He said you better kiss me
Or get out and swim

So what you gonna do in a little canoe
With the moon shinin' all a-
Boats floatin all a-
Girls swimmin' all a rou-oun-ound!

9.25.2007

History.

Camp is ever evolving. I know I've written this in the past, but it's an incredibly important idea to grasp...

CAMP IS EVER EVOLVING. This means that camp = change. What a bizarre thought - especially for those of us who have worked at a camp. "There's no change, Pete! It's tradition!"

Yes, tradition. Of course... In fact, I've written about the importance of tradition. But that's not what I'm talking about...

Remember camp... when you were a kid? Yeah. It was 10,000 times different than today. Absolutely. Why? Because people have changed! Parents have changed! Children have changed!

In the past, we wouldn't think twice about having riflery as a specialty area... Nowadays it takes a good deal of thought and insurance.

Ok, I'll be concise for once. Is camp worse off today? Are we overly protective? Has camp been transformed into a glorified day care?

In the past, you could scrape a knee at camp or even break a leg - it was a commonality. Parents don't find that acceptable anymore. I can't get away with saying that your child was acting like a child and therefore got hurt - someone needs to be accountable on the micro-level. Some of this change is good. It prevents abuse where there was the possibility of abuse; it makes safety the priority where it may not have been number one in the past... Is there overkill, though?

Let's start at the definition of camp. I'm not talking about Websters, here, I'm referring to what made camp special back in the day. Camp represents freedom - the first time in a kids life that they are free to be whomever they want. Mom isn't dressing me in the morning and I'm not being evaluated at every turn... I'm not surrounded by the same group of schoolyard chums that I grew up with... I'm free.

This freedom came at a cost, though. The laws of camp used to be wide open. I'm not talking about conscious neglect, but having a late-night all-camp all-woods game of capture the flag was foolish on so many levels. It was... and there *were* broken legs as well as smoking, relations and other activities that were not parent approved. Some of those were character building - the summer romance, the triumphant victory and etc. But the cost to some campers was fairly horrific - beatings, bullying, being left out...

Of course, it was an incredibly BAD camp experience that got me involved in making good camp experiences...

Anyway, there was a price to pay with the lawlessness of the past. Now there are laws that we as a community cannot avoid whether we want to or not. Inspections need to be passed, parents pleased and the ever looming shadow of accountability and insurance cast down their intimidating shade from every branch. Our programs HAVE to be safety conscious - and that's a great thing. I don't want any kid to get hurt ever... except!!!

EXCEPT - children get hurt. We're not walking the halls of a school, we're roaming the woods. There is no such thing as a SAFE camp. We strive to be the safest possible, but there are dangers of being in the woods, playing on fields and hanging out with other campers (among other things).

Accidents happen. They happen everywhere and they happen often. We're not the camp of the past, where a kid may break their leg because of staff neglect, but that doesn't mean that kids won't break their legs. And I know I'm being a little extreme, but we need to show parents that we've evolved past the days of their youth while maintaining the important parts of our history. This being said, campers get dirty, they scrape their knees and every now and then something unfortunate happens.

This is a very important fight because if we don't stand up to the ever-growing over protectiveness of the world, we'll lose the essence of what makes camp important - RATHER what makes being a kid important.

To clarify my point - Safety is always going to be the priority above all else... I just want to insert a little realism into the minds of our customers.

We cannot keep everything bubble wrapped - and frankly, the only fun thing about bubble wrap is popping the bubbles.

My Sesame Street project launches on my birthday, October 10th. Expect much rejoicing!

9.05.2007

Why We Sing Songs

Most camp people never need to ponder the necessity of camp songs. They're tradition... normal... "wouldn't be camp without them"

I have encountered the question several times outside of camp and when hiring new staff. In fact, I've even heard the phrase "I don't do camp songs" muttered by a potential staffer. My reply is always the same: "You will."

I always demand a great deal from my staff. One of my common requests is the occasional song. This can come at any time, whether the normal "camp spirit" time, during lunch, in the morning, during breaks or while walking on the path.

Is this unreasonable? Of course not! Anyone is capable of learning and leading a camp song... anyone. They do not require any musical ability, nor a loud voice, nor a completely ridiculous and outgoing person. In fact, I've encountered many a staffer who appeared shy and reserved every other moment of the day... except when singing.

There are also some solutions for those who are reluctant. For the "too cool for school" (generally) male staff members, I'd have them create chants and shouts. Those aren't as "corny" (blah) because the army does them... For the incredibly shy team members, there's always a camper who wants to be leader for the day.

ANYWAY, the best solution is to sing... and when you're done singing, sing some more. BUT WHY?!?

Well, the number 1 reason is that camp songs are fun. When everyone is singing loudly and participating, the FUN is contagious. This is an activity that no one loses, no one is left out and everyone wins!

Number 2? It's an excellent way to kill time... AW... I didn't mean that! Hehe. Seriously, though, singing camp songs can effectively use 5 - 10 - 15 minutes with any size group. Anyone that has run a camp experience can definitely understand how useful that is!

Number 3 is exercise. Most songs get kids out of their seat... and on some days, especially stormy ones, there are only sitting activities. These kids need to use that extra fuel in positive ways!

Number 4 is [related to number 3] ENERGY! If everyone is jumping around and singing, it really livens up the group... This can be used to pump them up before some big event or to wake them from the afternoon lull.

Number 5... they're social. If I am new and see everyone singing and having a good time, I really want to join in. Those butterflies disappear and I forget how much I miss my Mom. In addition, I'm more likely to interact with the others around me who are also singing.

Number 6....? It's contagious... in a good way. Songs show the right kind of spirit - no anger or negative fuel in this fire! We sing together, we feel closer together... Bonding... etc.

There are more than 6 (educational / storytelling aspects not even covered)... but work beckons! I promise to have more entries as soon as my Sesame Street work finishes (and I will keep you in the loop about seeing all of my hard labor sometime in October!)

Until then, keep singing!

8.26.2007

More Numbers.

Did you know that "Baby Shark" has had over 10,000 views?

Did you know that combined, my videos have been seen over 100,000 times on Google Video?

Unbelievable (and wonderful)!

I think that perhaps Bryan and I could plan some sort of East Coast tour about making better decisions... Something like "Pete and Bryan: brought to you by Good Decisions" and do a mock television show with multimedia interactive goodness. Of course we'd sing a ton and do some really goofy bits throughout the day...

In brief we'd arrive at the school around 9 AM and visit some class rooms for some team building activities. The afternoon would be highlighted with an all-school assembly to promote better decision making, although the kids won't know that... they'll be too busy laughing and singing and participating.

The follow-through would be activity sheets for the following weeks as well as an up-to-date web presence that's safe for kids (and adults)! Then we'd do the whole thing at another school the next day... 100 schools in 100 days... or more? That would be pretty exciting!

Bryan thinks that we could get a company to sponsor this venture... I think that it would have to be a combination of sponsorship and a small fee from the school's programming budget. Of course, I'm not an expert when it comes to these types of numbers :-/

Do you think this is possible? Is there a call for it? Would a company sponsor us?

100,000 hits and growing... someone is taking notice...

8.24.2007

Numbers.

What is your optimal camp size?

Honestly, I think the bigger the better. Space, of course, is a huge consideration when fielding this question, but many camps misuse or abuse space all over the place!

So how exactly do you know? Well, there are the legal / ACA guidelines. They are a good starting block, but should not be a stumbling block. If you need 4 more toilets, then install 4 more toilets! If you need another set of bunks, then put them in. The advantages of more campers far outweigh the hassle / cost of accommodating them.

In a worst-case-scenario, how many kids can you fit into thunderstorm safe areas for an entire day? Keep in mind that they need to be busy and your staff sane! This is a good starting place to figure the perfect number. I think most camps hover around the 200 mark when they could be hitting 400 a session. That's twice as much for you English majors!

But Pete, it's not that simple. We need food, bunks and staff for each of these extra campers, not to mention programming.

Yes, this is all true. First of all, food is always scalable. A kitchen that supports 200 can, in many cases, be reorganized to support 4 shifts of 100 each. Oversimplifying the situation would suggest that the more food bought, the better price per camper per meal... meaning that your bottom line is increased.

Every year you should be adding or redoing bunks. That should be built into the budget. Face it, every camp has that building that time forgot - and it's time to forget it! ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE AN OLDER TRADITIONAL CAMP, you should be rewiring your bunks for the future. If you're not prepared to offer the benefits of the information age to kids who already take it for granted, you'll miss out in the long run.

Staff is the greatest challenge when expanding beyond your imagination. There are millions of potentially good staff members out there, but finding them and recruiting them has always been the tough part. To scale up, you'll want to revisit your staff hierarchy. Is there a way to redistribute power? More staff means there needs to be more eyes watching those staff... I would suggest beefing up some of the lesser director positions to include some managerial responsibilities to ensure that everyone is getting the support and supervision that they need.

Programming is a part of this puzzle that I find the most fun. First, figure out places that cannot be scaled. For instance, if you only have one pool, a larger number may take away from the total average pool time. The same goes for a ropes course or a shooting range. The good thing about these activities, though, is that some campers have a love/hate relationship with them. Is it possible to allow for custom scheduling? In fact, when was the last time you rehauled the way that campers spend their day? I found that at several areas we weren't giving the kids enough time - such as Arts and Crafts. I would rather they finished a bigger project one day instead of having 3 small rushed projects over the week. In addition, the teens never enjoyed Nature. I understand the importance of a well-rounded program, but I'm not going to consistently fight the majority opinion if I can't prove it wrong. Instead, there should be Environmentalism or Tribal Construction (a type of in-house improvement).

One of the major program changes I made was taking teens away from all program activities. This meant that I freed up a lot of space for the other groups to pass through while limiting the *traditional* activities that the teens only really needed to do once during the week. The afternoons were spent on service projects and large activities - both of which were more preferred by all. Of course, this requires a great deal of additional work by your teen staff, but you've been overpaying them for years anyway...

(lol)

I can be completely guilty of oversimplifying this, but I do believe that bigger is better. There's nothing like an all camp event that roars loud enough to aggravate the neighbors... who live on the other side of the mountain... :-)

8.20.2007

New Site! [ex-SITE-ing!!!]

It may not seem like a huge task, but I completely rewrote the Ghoulie Games website. As always, there is more to add and more to do, but for this exact second I'm fairly satisfied with my update. Let me know what you think!

8.14.2007

A conundrum.

Video games and camp generally do not mix... BUT...


Here's a shot from one of my all-time favorite camp movies, "Wet Hot American Summer" (which is completely inappropriate for campers or people who are easily offended). The joke is that the kids are taking a hike, although they are preoccupied with state of the art (ha!) gaming machines.

Up until the last couple of years, hand held gaming was not a huge issue at camps. This had to do with both the devices and the nature of camp. Every place that I visited had a fairly strict policy against all electronics - Gameboys being no exception. Of course, the Gameboy was not a social device (no matter what way you cut it). From Tetris to Pokemon, the Gameboy and it's younger brother, the GBA, were single service and therefore incredibly easy to ban. In addition, there were at least half a dozen of them somewhere in the bottom of the pond...

Times are changing. The Nintendo DS and the PSP are both wireless. This equates to camp gold - a large gathering of like kids outside of the school setting who I can play against. The logic is not just "camp is boring so I'm going to plug in"... instead campers are thinking about networking, sharing and essentially socializing.

Of course, the responsible adults that run camps (me included), still enforce the archaic ban without hesitation. YOU DON'T COME TO CAMP TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES!!!

BUT...

...you do come to camp to interact with new people... to break the ice and participate... to do things that you've never done before.

What are positive camp memories? I learned a ton of great card games at camp... and I remember them all because it was as much a social phenomenon as a programming one. In fact, at my camp card-playing was outlawed... perhaps that's why it stuck so long?

Sometimes *banning* something that is popular is not the best solution. If kids are going to bring their iPods and DS's and PSPs to camp despite our best wishes, we need to find a solution that's fair to everyone. Instead of just assuming that technology is negative, we should evaluate the potential of using technology in specialty areas.

The Seatle Mariners (half owned by Nintendo) have downloadable content (such as stats and replays) as well as the ability to order from your seat using the DS. That's incredible! Can we repurpose the same program for problem solving initiatives? Perhaps the days schedule will automatically upload to your DS every morning. Maybe we can include some slideshows for parents?

The possibilities are endless. REALLY.

Welcome to Camp 2.0 - it's a new world; about time we caught up.

What I've been working on...

Hey all! I've been off for a couple days because I've been revamping the main site...

Here's a sneak peak of what will be out shortly:

8.08.2007

The Red Rascal

During a visit to an overnight camp, I asked the future director to tell me the camp stories. He pondered this for a moment and then gave me the impression that he didn't understand. Again, I asked about the fable, lore, legends - where is the camp magic?

He did not have an answer. There were no characters that everyone knew. There was no traditional telling of an age-old tale.

How can this be? One of the greatest parts of camp is the tradition - the stories - the secret life that distinguishes this place from any other place!


One of the characters from my past is the Red Rascal, here tormenting other members of her family during an annual birthday celebration... for her nephew... the Green Ghoulie.

8.06.2007

Sharks and Barracudas

Sharks and Barracudas

Players: 8+ (I've played 4 on 4, but can imagine up to 10 on 10... or more!)
Space: A Medium Gymnasium (can be adapted to 1/2 a soccer field)
Supplies: 1 ball for every player (various sizes and types are a big plus)

Everyone loves "Capture the Flag." When I was really young, "Capture the Flag" meant running through the woods non-stop (sometimes late at night) with a basically unachievable goal. Sounds dangerous? Then it was revised as I got older to playing on a field - which worked much better as a game. Gyms have normally presented a challenge when adapting "Capture the Flag" mostly because of the size. This game combines two successful games ("Capture the Flag" and "Sharks and Minnows") in order to make a very entertaining and challenging gym experience for those of any age.

Game Play and Setup

The group needs to split into two *basically even* teams. The space is split in half and each team claims their side (the "Shark" side and the "Barracuda" side). At the back of each side, there is a safety zone from the foul line to the wall. Place one (1) ball in this safety zone for each player on the opposite team (for instance, if there are nine (9) Barracudas, then there should be nine (9) balls in the safety area behind the Sharks).

The goal of the game is to either: (1) Have all of the balls in the game on a single side; or (2) Capture all of the opposing players.

The rules are fairly simple. The center line represents the "tag" line. If a Barracuda steps onto the Shark side, then they can be tagged and consequently go to jail. Conversely, the same happens if a Shark crosses over to the Barracuda's side. If a player is tagged without a ball, they must go to the safety zone behind their opponent (the jail) - Sharks end up behind Barracudas and vice versa. If a player is tagged while holding a ball, they must return the ball and return to their side before resuming play.

If a player is in the jail, they must stay in the safety zone until one of their teammates who is *not* in jail successfully swipes a ball.

Players who are trying to take balls may only take them from the opposing side's safety zone. Players in the safety zone CANNOT be tagged! Players can only hold one ball at a time and may not pass / kick / throw the ball at any time. If a ball is dropped, that ball must be returned to the safety area from which it was taken.

Once a ball successfully crosses the halfway line, the player must bring it into their safety zone!

The basic idea is that some of the players will try to steal the balls while others play defense. The jobs will change significantly as some are captured or as the loot dwindles.

Notes

I love introducing new games to a group of kids - especially amid yells of "Wall ball" and "Dodgeball" or other such standard games that are probably played too often by lazy instructors. When I first taught this game to a group of middle schoolers, their reaction was an expected hesitation. They left saying that it was the greatest game ever. Of course, I'll probably never play it again with them - I am fairly strict about my no-repeat attitude with groups I scarcely see - but the effectiveness with all players of varied skill levels was wonderful. In addition, the processing that the team work and strategies provide is excellent for educational facilitating.

8.03.2007

Field Trips

I issued a challenge: no boring field trips.

This may sound like an obvious one, but I have a completely different definition for a *boring* field trip. For instance, AMUSEMENT PARKS are boring(!)

I know, you're shocked. I should take a moment to let that sink in...
...
...
OK. Again, amusement parks are boring.

Of course, I'm really meaning ordinary / everyday / *traditional*. Now for a tangent:
When I was in middle school, the big trip for the 8th graders was to Riverside Park (which is now called "Six Flags New England"). This was a highly anticipated and coveted event. Everyone who was anyone would go - especially since everyone (for the most part) was invited and it was during the school day. Yes, it was very exciting being at a theme park with my closest buddies... BUT, now I'm an adult and I can barely remember that trip. I've been to amusement parks my entire life - one trip with my entire 8th grade class does not make the experience wholly unique. In fact, because there was such a diverse group walking together (along with chaperons / etc) I didn't get to do nearly the amount of things that was the norm for my family...

Now, reflect: Have any of your trips to the amusement park with your large camp group been outstanding? Or, rather, have they been a pain? The kids seem to appreciate it, but how many of them have already been to an amusement park before, or that particular amusement park?

I am willing to bet that most campers have a great deal more fun with their family or friends when visiting by themselves as opposed to a large group...
But, I digress.

You can put the pieces together and figure out that amusement parks are not the greatest trip to take a large group of campers. In fact, I would make the argument that doing so is the easy / lazy way out. Why would I ever say this? Another tangent:
I was in Tiger Cubs right when it started back in '86. Instead of having a single leader for the whole group of 10 six-year-old boys, the mom's ran the program, having a different trip each month. Three of the trips stand out in my mind perfectly because they were unique and interesting and I'm sure that I can name all of them if I really concentrated. The three that I immediately remember are a trip to the Sikorsky Airport in Stratford, CT; a trip to a large Little Caesar's Pizzeria where we all made our own pies; and a trip to a rock collector's store where we searched a cave for rare rocks (as well as learning about many different kinds of rocks). That was over 20 years ago and I can remember all three trips in great detail, as opposed to the many trips to amusement parks that have occurred through various organizations.

Camp is about creating positive memories. Every director's dream is to fill a camper's head full of great experiences that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. Why not take advantage of the field trips to make this happen? There are some incredibly creative trips out there for those willing to find them!

How do you go about booking creative trips? First of all, you ask around... Factory tours can be quite interesting if you can find the right factory. Are there any special events that are taking place in the area? If there's a regional theater, perhaps you can get a backstage tour and meet some of the actors. Businesses love giving demonstrations - especially if the kids are the target audience. I would bet there are tons of professional dance programs or martial arts dojos that would love to have a group for a day (and these opportunities are not only fun, but generally cheap!) Call everywhere you find in the phone book. Sometimes a business will go out of their way to design a custom program for your campers... The Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts has an excellent group program that entices participation and interest in even the oldest of campers (I was very surprised and pleased). Basically, the memories are out there waiting to be made - you just need to defy laziness and convention. Just because we did it last year does not mean we have to do it every year!!!

8.02.2007

Training your counselors for everything...

I remember hearing a presentation once where the main argument was that there's no such thing as a "safe camp." I absolutely agree with this. Despite the best efforts of the greatest leadership in the world, factors exist on this unpredictable planet that will shake the foundation of every safe-guard placed on the campers. Small hazards, such as loose limbs or hidden rocks on the path, are unavoidable... and big hazards... well, we don't like to think of those :-/ BUT YOU MUST!!!

Every leader must always be evaluating risk and making the camp's experience as safe as humanly possible. Every day. Every second.


No one thought of preparing this school bus full of campers or the leaders / counselors for a bridge collapse... I can only hope and wish they made it out safely. ...

8.01.2007

The Potato Canon

I love special events. In fact, special events are one of my specialties.

Sure, every camp has the Talent Show and the Olympics (or variations thereof), but we'd go out of our way to make some fairly "original" programming. Such events included the Dance Party, the Music Festival, the Penny Carnival and Wacky Races . My little brother came up with Bead Day which is a very popular event at that particular camp...

Anyway, sometimes we need filler material for one reason or another... One of the solutions was included briefly in a previous post ("When We Was Campers") and here is another: The Potato Canon.

Although it sounds dangerous, using the correct precautions and a trained staff, a canon that fires potatoes straight into the air (eventually to land in the pond with a small splash) is very exciting and entertaining. In fact, I had only read about potato launchers and the like before I worked at camp and was very impressed when my science specialist put on a demonstration.

The factors that really work when using a potato canon are: the loud BOOM, the height that the potato reaches and the anticipation of it hitting the water. We put targets in the pond and named each potato for a different large group of campers... they turned the event into some sort of contest among themselves, rooting for their particular potato. It can be quite an amazing sight.

7.30.2007

Dream.

My life goal is to open a camp.

The simple explanation is that it will serve youth-at-risk from September - June and be a *regular* / *traditional* camp for the summer. Of course, no camp that I create will in any way be regular or traditional, but that would be the simplest explanation. In addition to a summer camp for children, two weeks out of the summer (one in June and one in August) will host adult camp, a time for the rest of the population to relive their youthful glory (and occasionally sneak out late at night to cause trouble). Ideally the facility will be a conference center as well and host weekend groups year round.

I was inspired by projects such as Nature's Classroom and NorthBay Adventure, both of which meet school requirements for a 4 - 5 day *field trip* program (the latter serving youth-at-risk in Maryland).

Everyday my imagination creates a more detailed picture of this *camp* experience. Based on experiential education techniques mixed with a fairly sophisticated ubiquitous technological back end, our mission will be to inspire everyone to make better life decisions and see that there's a fork in every path...

Get ready for Camp V.

7.28.2007

Oh I see...

I really want to write about the potato canon, but I don't have a lot of time and I'm on someone else's computer (!)

Hm. Here's a chant:

The Binary Chant [done in military style]
1010101
(repeat)
1010101
(repeat)
10
(repeat)
10
(repeat)
10...10... 11!
(repeat)



Enjoy ;-)

7.25.2007

Commercial Break

A fairly common element of Summer Camp is the *Talent Show*. At my previous camp, this event came only once at the very end of the summer. There were 2 days: kids and staff. The oldest campers would sometimes be invited to perform their skits / whatever again at the staff show if they were a big hit.

The kids talent show was broken into 2 chunks as well, as the youngest campers deserve to participate, but cannot possibly take an entire afternoon sitting. They would do their customized event somewhere else and then join the rest of camp for the last hour or so.

Anyway, I was the MC along with my constant sidekick, Bryan. The first year I did MC duty, I wanted to regulate time - which meant that I needed my own little group of mini-skits to use as filler. Another director and I found a couple of CDs of old advertising jingles from television and... well... basically used the interstitial time for ad placements. Of course, it normally included dancing around incredibly silly and then smearing the product all over ourselves... I think that I ended up chugging ketchup one year because of this...

But the whole thing was very humorous, well-received and successful. The reason I bring any of this up is because I am seeing "They Might Be Giants" tonight and they happened to cover one of the songs we used (completely coincidentally!). The song is called "The Middle" and is a Public Service Announcement for safe road crossing...

Hooray!

7.23.2007

New Song!!!?!?! "Crazy Moose"

I was just sent this CRAZY / AWESOME song from a camp in... um... well, I have no information on the camp, beside that the caretaker is crazy... crazy-awesome... like the song!

CRAZY MOOSE


This is a repeat after me song (This is a repeat after me song)

WITH ACTIONS (WITH ACTIONS)

There was a crazy moose (audience repeats each line after you sing)
Who liked to drink a lot of juice
There was a crazy moose
Who liked to drink a lot of juice

[CHORUS:]
Singing way-way-oh
A-way-a way-a-way-a-oh
Way-oh-way-oh
A-way-a way-a-way-a-oh

This moose’s name was Fred
He liked to drink his juice in bed
This moose’s name was Fred
He liked to drink his juice in bed

[CHORUS]

He drank his juice with care
But once he got some in his hair
He drank his juice with care
But once he got some in his hair

[CHORUS]

Now he’s a sticky moose
Full of juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuice...
On the looooooooooooooooooose!

[CHORUS]

[*update*]
Here's a link to the video from my new friends out in Washington!

7.19.2007

The Fastest Growing Game Show Sensation...


I don't have a lot to write today - mostly because I'm completely overtired. I think (perhaps) I may be coming down with something... or maybe I should just adjust my bedtime!

During the Morning Announcements, I liked to host a game show that includes the tag line "The Fastest Growing Game Show Sensation." I believe (and I may be corrected by one of my old employees) that the first appearance of this idea was somewhere in the woods during an activity area. I started with "Win Pete's Money," a nature variation of a show called "Win Ben Stein's Money" and then eventually came to "Will it Float?" a popular time-waster from "The Late Show with David Letterman."

Anyway, the kids loved "Will it Float" and in actuality they just loved the idea that it was the fastest growing game show sensation (in Germany, it turns out).

Further down the road, I used the line for a game during "Wet and Wacky Day" which I used basically as an excuse to soak counselors... and then it became a Morning Announcement ritual.

The game changed constantly. Sometimes it was a trivia question... sometimes something else. Last Summer one of the more popular games was... hmmm... Food, Animal or Both... or something like that. The question was posed in German and generally it was anyone's guess what the answer was!

[more 2 come]

7.17.2007

Empowerment.

So...

What to write about today?

The PENNY CARNIVAL!!! (woooooo!)

This is a simple... simple... simple idea. Did I say simple?

Basically, your camp has a bunch of teens who are generally uninterested in doing anything.
I'm not talking about the Counselors in Training, who are also uninterested, but somehow get away with it... No, I'm talking about that teen program that has always needed a little revamping.

Are you with me so far?

Anyway, these teens need empowerment wherever they can get it. Sure, they may be too young to be given huge responsibilities, or too immature to handle serious work... and, in reality, we have to remember that they are campers and should be given the same amount of activities as everyone else. But empowerment creates motivation.

Let me clarify.

I'm an angsty teen who doesn't want to do anything. At all. I have an iPod hidden in my backpack, a PSP in my pocket and my cell phone on vibrate. I want nothing more than to sit around and talk and avoid any authority figure that may change my current state.

Put me in charge, and all that changes.

If you don't believe me, have a Reading Day for your youngest campers. Take the teens and allow them to run the entire program. They'll love it and surprise you.

The main gist of my entry for today is giving the teens the grand responsibility of creating, designing and running the Penny Carnival. Will they succeed? Of course. Will they exceed expectations? You bet!

They setup everything. You give them a week to design the games - no more than 2 or 3 teens running each attraction - and let them decide where the pennies go. During lunch they put everything together and then *BOOM* release the campers! Hehe.

Of course you have to pay attention to the little things > there cannot be too many of one attraction; a strict level of appropriateness needs to be enforced (shooting games are out); the amount of "tickets" or prize certificates needs to be regulated; and etc.


In the end you'll see some of the most creative projects... and you'll see motivated teenagers - which can be as rare as a Bigfoot sighting.

7.16.2007

NEW SONG! "The Lion Song"

I was inspired by a very positive comment... So I wrote a song!

"The Lion Song" (the words in the brackets are for the song leader to shout... they do not interrupt the beat!)

[Lion!]
Roar!
Uh uh uh
Roar!
Uh uh uh
Roar!
Uh uh uh
...

[Baby Lion!]
Meow!
Uh uh uh
Meow!
Uh uh uh
Meow!
Uh uh uh
...


[Sea Lion!]
Glub!
Uh uh uh
Glub!
Uh uh uh
Glub!
Uh uh uh
...

[Dandelion!]
Sun!
Uh uh uh
Sun!
Uh uh uh
Sun!
Uh uh uh
...


[Detroit Lion!]
Block!
Uh uh uh
Pass!
Uh uh uh
Score!
Uh uh uh
...


[Autonomic Ganglion!]
Sway!
Uh uh uh
Sway!
Uh uh uh
Sway!
Uh uh uh
...

[Coach Lion!]
Freeze!
Uh uh uh
Listen Up!
Uh uh uh
You're It!
Uh uh uh
...

7.13.2007

The New Hotness

One day, Bryan came to camp wearing a LiveStrong bracelet. I had never seen one, nor had many of the kids or staff. Somehow he had found out about the fund raiser directly when it started...

Anyway, during our morning announcements, he showed off his new bling, referring to it as the "New Hotness." Since the bit was pretty well received and seemed fairly harmless, I started talking to everyone about the New Hotness.

"Do you have the New Hotness?"
"Oh snap! Look at his hotness..."

and so forth.

This started a ridiculously popular LiveStrong fad at my camp, just months before the rest of the world became enamored with the little yellow rubber bands.

Shortly after, Bryan started a New-New Hotness. He was working under the assumption that fads are short and need to be periodically replaced by something equally silly and simple. So Bryan
convinced the campers to wear goggles on their heads all day. My competing Hotness, as I hated the strap digging into my ginormous head was to wear a winter hat during the summer.

Neither of these New-New Hotnesses were as successful as the LiveStrong bracelets, but they were quickly adapted and created positive murmurs throughout camp. The following years we integrated several other kinds of Hotness, all achieving some level of success.


This picture is NOT of the New Hotness, but it's still pretty darn funny. How else do you deal with campers constantly pestering you for the schedule?

7.12.2007

The Weather Coconut: Part Deux!


My brother Fred sent me this photo of *myself* admiring the lovable weather coconut in all of it's glory...

From Board #1:
"Do Not Touch
* If it is moving, it must be windy
* If it is not moving, there is no wind
* If it is not there, it was stolen!!!
* If it is white, it is snowing
* If it is wet, it is raining
* If it is going "Tink, Tink, Tink", there must be hail
* If it is on fire, run!
* If you cannot see it, it is foggy
* If it was swallowed by the earth, there is an earthquake"

From Board #2:
"* If it is acting bored, there is no weather
* If it is casting a shadow, the sun is out
* If it is involuntarily bobbing up and down, there is a flood
* If there are steaming rocks raining down upon it, there is a volcanic eruption
* If it ends up in Oz, there was a tornado"

Of course, that was our first coconut which had limited meteorological abilities. With our expertise at choosing better weather predictors, that list will not only expand, but also be a more accurate!

Send me a pic of your Weather Coconut!

7.11.2007

Picture Perfect.


What is the purpose of this blog?

At first I wanted to keep a repository of new songs as I learned them - in an easily maintained place (as opposed to greenghoulie.com which is brutal and in definite need of an overhaul). Once I started writing stuff, I concluded that I could share some of the many camp secrets I've come across over the years...

Now I've decided to chronicle my own camp career in order for others to observe and absorb some of my knowledge.

This is why the last post was about Dr. Underpants (among others). Since I'm mostly posting from work, my access to camp pictures is limited (currently), but I will fix that in the coming weeks. Even though this is my hobby and at times I cannot work as hard on this as I desire, this is my love - CAMP is my love.

I need to get to a couple camps this summer for some singin'. If you would like a special guest (at a very low cost), I am more than willing to take a vacation day to entertain some campers. Whether it be 5 or 500, I have a couple tricks up my sleeve that will really excite and charge the kids and staff alike....

*Just let me know*

7.10.2007

A Bad DAY :-P

Every cloud has a silver lining, right?

I missed a plane today - :-/

Oh well. You just have to try your best, right? :-)

Anyway, hmm... So remember morning announcements? They're incredibly important, etc, etc... Well, one of the fun things about morning announcements are the skits.

At first, Nacho and I reenacted famous scenes from movies (something from Star Wars was the first one, if I recall correctly)... That got uninteresting fast, so we had to come up with some original material. We built off of the Superhero / Villain dynamic that kids loves and made some ridiculously wacky personae.

Dr. Underpants, for instance, (who, BTW had nothing at all to do with "Captain Underpants") tried to take over camp several times and was always thwarted by the resident hero, Captain Tepee. The plot started simply and then evolved into a multi-character soap opera involving Major Pain, The Dark Lord of the Tepee, Princess Tepee, Shiny Shirt Man and Bold Man to name a few...

Eventually they all fell to the cunning and daring of Captain Tepee (or Princess Tepee)... except for Shiny Shirt Man who *did* successfully take over camp a couple of times.

[more 2 come]

7.09.2007

The Princess Pat...

Someone recently pointed out that one of our favorite songs, "The Princess Pat" is based on a very similar song about the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry.

From Wikipedia.org:
Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) is an infantry regiment in the Canadian Forces (CF), belonging to 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (1 CMBG). It is one of the most decorated regiments in the CF. It currently consists of four battalions, three in the Regular Force and one in the Reserve Force (militia). The PPCLI is ranked second in the order of precedence for the regular infantry, and 38th in the infantry militia. The regiment's RHQ is located in Edmonton, Alberta, with its three regular battalions located in Alberta and Manitoba. The regiment acts as the "local" infantry regiment for western Canada.
If you check out the entry, you'll see the original lyrics toward the bottom of the page. Those, of course, are the *official* serious verses. At some point in history, these words were adapted by children's artists and campers to be more accessible to children. For example, instead of "light infantry" we use "lived in a tree." This makes the song something else entirely: namely a style parody, where the subject is completely changed.

Another similar song is "The Ants Go Marching..." which was a children's version of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" (which itself was a variation of an anti-war song).

Isn't history fun?

My Bonny Variation (Thanks Jess!)

A fan the site sent me a variation of one of my *personal* favorites / specialties, "My Bonny."

She says that this is the "Alaskan modification," although I would think they have polar bears, not black bears... but what do I know? [I did make some slight modifications to her version, only for *appropriateness*]

My Bottom (variation of "My Bonny" from Alaska)
[stand or sit on every "B" word]

My bottom was bit by a black bear

My bottom was bit by a bear
My bottom was bit by a black bear
Won’t you bandaged my boo boo for me
Bandage, Bandage
Won't you bandage my boo boo for me for me
Bandage, Bandage
Won't you bandage my boo boo for me


[video coming soon]

7.05.2007

The Importance of...


When I started working at my old camp, there was no opening or closing ceremony. In fact, there was nothing really to mark the beginning or end of a day besides the bus drop-off / pick-up. I'm sure there are many staff and camper alike who would swear that such a thing existed back in those days, but the truth is that they didn't... The days came and went, any major announcements being done through paper handouts (yuck!).

I became the Special Events / Specialist Director after a couple of years and took control of the entire schedule. Every day was to have at least 20 minutes before and after camp for announcements, songs, skits and fun.

Since then the morning announcements and closings have been a staple of that camp: a completely necessary and essential part of the day. Although sometimes they drag on a bit or don't really make sense, I recommend that all camps do something similar...

[more 2 come]

7.01.2007

...

sad day...


a former employee and friend of mine was lost.


...



"Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life." - John Muir.

6.28.2007

When We Was Camperz...


I love this skit...

It's a lovely story about Bryan and I (and a special guest...) and our adventures during the time "When We Was Camperz." The prep work basically involves finding some willing hands, buying some really gross and gooey food and hoarding the lost and found for outfits that can be modified and ruined.

We employed the use of a narrator, as talking through the camp day ourselves got difficult - especially when there was ketchup, pudding and syrup in every exposed pore. Essentially, the more disgusting the skit is, the better received by the campers / staff / everyone.

Some advice: buy club soda or seltzer for halfway through... it helps clean away some of the peanut butter that covers your eyes.

6.27.2007

Hippo Song...

The Hippo Song is one of the most popular camp songs I know...
Perhaps this is due to the unique motions or the quirky lyrics - regardless, however, the song is requested again and again wherever i go.

Recently I was emailed an additional verse to this Repeat-After-Me masterpiece:

"Not swooshing down a slippery slide
Or going for a bicycle ride"

I'll include a full *all new* version of the video in future posts, but here's the classic version:


6.25.2007

The Golden Hammer, Territory Tepee and a new camera...



Hey all. As camp season starts, I am reminded of some of my favorite traditions...

One such, at an old camp, is the "Golden Hammer." This prestigious award is given at the camp banquet by the Head of Grounds. Every season, the Service Staff pays close attention to those who serve camp. One person (or two on special occasions), is selected for outstanding contributions to the facility - the specific attributes changing year to year with the individual(s). This was the highest award and most revered among the upper staff. What's the highest award at your camp?

[mine's above]

Territory Tepee was a game I created specifically for my old camp. It's a wonderful combination of Risk and Capture the Flag... I will post the rules soon. A tease, though, is the map [shown above]... enjoy!

[I have a new camera!]

6.22.2007

Lyrics - I'm a Nut!

"I'm a Nut"

[the motions are basically described in the song... watch the vid ;-)]

I'm a little acorn round
Lying on the dusty ground
everybody steps on me
That is why I'm cracked you see

I'm a nut (click) (click) [gently hit head on clicks]
I'm a nut (click) (click)
I'm a nut (click)
Nut (click)
Nut

Take myself to the movie grand
Just to hold my little hand
Wrap my arm around my waste
And when I squeeze I slap my own face!

I'm a nut (click) (click)
I'm a nut (click) (click)
I'm a nut (click)
Nut (click)
Nut

Lyrics - The Bear Song!

"The Bear Song"

The other day
[repeat]
I met a bear
[repeat]
Out in the woods
[repeat]
A-way up there
[repeat]
The other day I met a bear
Out in the woods a-way up there

(continue the same format for the following verses)

He said to me
Why don't you run
'Cause I see you ain't
Got any gun

And so I ran
Away from there
But right behind
Me was that bear

Ahead of me
There was a tree
A great big tree
Oh golly be

The nearest branch
Was 10 feet up
I had to jump
And press my luck

And so I jumped
Into the air
But I missed that branch
A-way up there

But don't you fret
And don't you frown
'Cause I caught that branch
On the way back down

The moral of
This story be
If you meet a bear
You need a tree!

Lyrics - Black Socks!

"Black Socks" [can be sung as a round]

Black socks
They never get dirty
The longer you wear them
The stronger they get
Sometimes
I think I should wash them
But something inside me
Keeps saying not yet!

6.20.2007

Jokes.

I love special events. The challenge of entertaining a large group of kids who vary in age is very appealing. Every now and then I'll talk about special events that I ran at camp or plan to run in the future...

Am I nervous about giving away my secrets? Absolutely not! If you take these ideas and turn them into something special, I want to know... The only way we learn as a group is to build off of one another's ideas and ideals. :-)

In addition, my preferred event size is 400+ kids. Yes, that's where I shine... as well as Bryan, my sidekick. Seeing as most people would be intimidated with such a massive group, I'm not worried about giving away anything.

*get on with it!*

Jokes are powerful. Good jokes could bring people together in ways that they never imagined. Whenever I have a group, I love to integrate humor in my speech... *edit* Wow! I had written this whole set of information about a "Joke Day" special event that was somehow lost...

TAKE 2!

"Joke Day" is a great idea - whether it's a day, an hour or a couple of minutes in between lunch and activity time. A joke can give a willing camper their 15 minutes of fame without anyone dominating too much... and generally the results are surprising. The best way to run such an event is planning ahead (as always). Have staff memorize lots of jokes as well as a couple of skits. *"Down By the Bay" is a good resource to have ready, too*

Encourage the campers to prepare appropriate jokes. Depending on the amount of kids and the formality of the event, the staff should make sure each joke is clean and in good fun. Then, basically, the event is a fast-paced talent show. I suggest using a wireless mic if possible to alleviate the traffic jams from stage scuffling. Break up the event every so often with a skit or a set by the staff... AND... it's incredibly important for the staff to overreact. Laughter is contagious!

I learned the "Monkey Story" from my friend Shawn Hackler and it's a mainstay in my event toolbox. I wrote a similar loooooooooooooong joke called "The Key," which I'll record some day, I'm sure. Anyway, having any of this ready to call upon really helps better the camp (or whatever) experience... because everyone likes jokes - whether they know it or not.

The Monkey Story



Gabe Tells a Joke!


6.19.2007

New Song - "I'm a Nut!"

This is awesome. Thanks Margot!




New Song - "The Bear Song"

Another great addition, performed by my wonderful sister... :-)




New Song - "Black Socks"

I'll post the lyrics later... enjoy this song performed by my older sister, Margot :-)



6.18.2007

Camp Secret...


Since I'm using this site as a repository of good ideas (in some form or other), I wish to share some incredibly hush-hush secrets about camp...

One such *fun* idea was the "Weather Coconut." Prepare yourself... this next one is super-secret.







BEADS.








Yes, beads are one of the most important items at camp... They are used as a way to mark a campers progression > through a day / week / summer / lifetime.

To put it succinctly, beads are a reward, motivation and currency. Each area gives a different colored bead every time the camper visits (such as Nature or Arts and Crafts). This is a normal bead - think of it as a second-hand on a clock or another day on the calendar. Normal beads show the passage of time... We used to throw in attendance beads as well - just for showing up that morning.

Then there are "special" beads. These are a little more fancy, but still achievable on a semi-daily basis. If you were to get 10 normal beads a day, you should get 1 or 2 special beads a day. That's a fine way of splitting it up - and of course, I'm talking averages here. Once the campers (or kids) are really addicted to beads, they go out of their way for special beads...

Following this progression, there are "rare" beads which are the hardest to get. Rare beads are (in fact) rare by nature. Each camper should get at least one rare bead while at camp, but the rarity is really derived on how many other people have them...

You see, the beads need to be displayed in a place where everyone can see them. This way, campers compare and contrast their collections. If everything works out, everyone has a bead just rare enough to be satisfied by their personal collection.

There are a good deal of problems associated with beads, such as kids leaving their totems at home or kids finding beads on the ground. Every problem should have a workable answer - as we collected the totems at the end of the day or secured them to the camper's backpack and I gave out special "honesty" beads at the end of the day for kids who found beads on the ground (they would only get 1 bead regardless of how many they turned in, but this didn't seem to phase them).

If you need more information on the BEAD game ;-) let me know. It is an incredibly powerful tool that I'd love to develop more!