So this summer I decided to put together a 5 day youth camp focused on leadership and team building in order to build character in some already awesome young people.
Parents loved this idea and were really excited about what this camp would focus on. Oftentimes leadership isn’t taught in the home as much as parents wish they could.
For my camp I was blessed to have two amazing volunteers. My volunteers are former students from Rising Star Montessori and still teenagers which helped the other young people relate to them more quickly.
I announced that my two volunteers were the leaders. Everyone else was dubbed a follower. With this activity the objective is to “ski” from one side of the field to the other by taking group steps. Each foot needs to be lifted at the same time and pushed forward. If even one person still has their foot planted when others try to lift up then no progress is made. It takes some coordination and a lot of communication. One group step at a time…LEFT…RIGHT….LEFT…RIGHT….will win the relay race.
Naturally, one person always thought that they could do it the best and that they should be in charge to tell others what to do and how to do it. Or one person always tried to be faster than someone else and lead the steps.
My response to this person was “Okay great, everyone else get off and you just do it by yourself since you’re the best at it.” It’s nearly impossible to move both long boards by yourself. The point was made. We were able to laugh about it and keep going.
It took about two days – about an hour each day – until the campers got their system fine-tuned.
I wanted one part of the camp to be a community service project to teach the campers about being a servant-leader. We decided on painting a checkerboard in the Rising Star Montessori school parking lot because it was something we could all do as a team and be proud of, while at the same time it can give back to a school and give young children something new to play on.
It only took about 90 minutes from start to finish. I wanted the campers to lead themselves in this activity but a few leading questions were needed from me. For instance, I asked them “What would be the smartest way to go about painting this?” Some suggested starting on the edges and working in but quickly realized why that wouldn’t work.
Another camper suggested starting in the top left corner and working to the right, line by line, like reading a book. I asked another leading question, “Well if we started there and go that way…then what would happen eventually?” Someone answered, “The paint would be wet and people would have to reach over that row to paint the next one and it would get crowded.” After a short amount of time they agreed the smartest way was to work from the inside out. By this point of the camp the campers were in the spirit of leadership (which is the spirit of service) and I remember specifically noting that there was no arguing or joking jabs during this activity. The campers worked in beautiful unison.
We started out at the beginning of the week with very little trust. Campers wouldn’t even lean back on the lycra tub. It was evident in the beginning that we had some trust issues. But by the last day they were eager to be blindfolded for the final trust exercise. We started out with 5 mousetraps spread out on the floor but ended up with 30. Campers literally had to go through a maze of mouse traps. (show picture)
In the beginning of the camp I made 2 different “ice-breaker” balls (soccer ball + sharpie). Each octagon had a question on it. Whatever one your right thumb landed on would be your question to answer before passing it on. The first ball had more simple questions. My volunteers were excellent because they showed by example how to give a meaningful answer. One question was “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My volunteer talked about how she wanted to study engineering but her ultimate dream job would be to own her own school. She went into a lot of depth which helped other campers to open up more.
The second ball had more detailed questions on the last day and the kids really got into that. When I asked them “What was your favorite part of the camp?” they all had different answers but they all referenced back to the main purpose: leadership.