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!!!