Writing for a Volunteer-driven Camp

Teens enjoy challenging new skills to make a topographical map of the near east.

The greatest thing that I’ve learned over the years of writing these camps is that Volunteers are a gift from God.  I’ve met some absolutely wonderful folks who seem to get the Montessori madness when they see the camp.  I’ve also met some folks who just want a good flannel graph and buttered bread finger sandwiches.  It doesn’t matter they are your gift and they must be unwrapped with care and shown love and respect.  (No one said all of God’s gifts are warm and fuzzy.)

The advantages of child centered camps is that the children are part of the “kitchen crew,”  the “clean-up staff,”  and the instructors (through Socratic questioning). Providing children with real skills allows them have ownership and purpose in the world.   For example, placing children in the kitchen encourages the trying of foods that might be sketchy.  When a child makes the food, the child is more likely to sell it to themselves and their friends as, “no really, it’s good.”  It also provides the child with another way of relating to their parent.  They truly can help cut up fruit or veggies.  They know how to stir a pot and wash a pot, too.  It is real life for real families.  There are families that employ some one to teach their teen to drive a car.  I view teaching kids to cook to be similar.  Some parents are overly cautious with knives.  (My mom was.  I didn’t cut my own meat up until highschool. Sigh.)  Some it is the hot stove.  Others are concerned with perfection.  Kids can practice in the kitchen at camp.

This frees up volunteers to be utilized differently in a kid centered camp.  Volunteers are the shepherds which spend extended periods of time just being with kids.  They have two jobs: 1.  Get the kids safely from point A to point B and 2. love and nurture the kids in their care.  The shepherds also act as back-up for the room coordinators.  One person is in charge of a space and can pour all her energy into the lesson and since the decorations aren’t the big deal, time can be spent working on how to communicate effectively.  In the years I’ve been using this model, volunteers consistently have found themselves less stressed.

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