Summer Camp ’13 – Week 4

Oh man, I am starting this entry way too late. Monday feels like forever ago… Anyway, this week I got to do Science Camp!!! So cool! If you don’t remember, or didn’t notice, I love science. It is just the best. So getting to work with these kids and do cool science this at the same time was kind of my big hope for the summer.
(And the directors noticed because I get to do Science again this coming week!)

This week’s kids will be my youngest for the summer, eleven and twelve year olds, all boys.

CT was one of our two challenging campers. He interpreted most things said to him as a personal assault and reacted defensively. Unfortunately, to add to that, many of these kids lack a certain social tact and the way they would say things made them come across as a bit of an assault, even if they weren’t intended that way. Additionally, when you do not let go something the way he wants, even tiny little things, he looks and sounds like he is about to explode in tears. It was just annoying, because he fortunately would not then explode in a behavior. He seemed to expect respect without giving it, at least among his peers.

CH, the second challenge, is a very bright kid (actually pretty much all of them were really smart and knew a lot about a bunch of science things), gets bored easily, and just did not want to participate pretty much all week. He definitely had a habit of provoking others by just being disrespectful.

EN is mostly nice to have around, but would usually take CT’s side in the event of tension (usually between CT and CH), which would not help. EN’s awesome traits were a strong desire to keep the cabin clean and an occasional, brilliant proof of great personal insight. He was also bored easily and would retreat into a book if we weren’t looking.

JN is a delight. He is very kind and supportive of the rest of the group, and extremely obsessed with Pokémon. I’m pretty sure that he believes he actually lives in the Pokémon world, or is at least very deeply involved with the RPG. He talked about going home to [a region of the game] and doing things with his Pokémon like one would talk about going home and playing with friends. He also talked about going home and playing with friends and cousins, but I’m only about 60% they’re not from the game.

MX is also awesome, very sweet and cooperative kid, but easily bullied by others, especially CT. Funny story about him, we gave him a “Good Listening” award and were reminded at the end of the week that he is partially deaf in one ear.

Finally, AD was another kind, gentle kid, but definitely the mentally slowest in the group. He was always happy to go along and enjoying himself, but need a lot of reminders to stay on task, especially when he got a little dehydrated.

On Monday when the kids were showing up (very slowly and spread out, which is frustrating to the ones that arrive earlier), I and one of the counselors from the other Science Camp (9-10 y/os) played with Ooblak and the kids that showed up. Ooblak is a non-Newtonian fluid (it acts like a solid when sudden pressure is applied to it) made from corn starch and water. It is a lot of fun to play with. Once they finally arrived, we went through our process of coming up with a tribe name, and setting our norms and consequences, then went in for dinner. After dinner, we played some games or something until the evening’s campfire. Like I said, Monday was a long time ago. All I really remember is that my co-staff and I were really concerned about how the week would go because they were all totally not getting along. Well, CT and EN were not getting along with CH, JN, and MX, mostly.

Tuesday was a big fun day, we went to COSI! COSI is the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, and it is a ton of fun – so cool for a science nerd who likes to play with things because there is a ton of cool stuff to play with. Well, because we could see that the guys were not getting along well in a whole group and because we had three counselors (well, two and a good Jr. CIT), we decided to split them into pairs they would get along with and attach them to a counselor. We also that this would make them easier to keep track of in a large area with a lot of other people. It worked. On both counts. Didn’t lose any of them and we did not have behavior problems while we were in COSI. After driving to Columbus, not an insignificant drive, but much better than the trip camps I’ve had (besides encountering a major back up from an accident and then a road work detour from our detour), we arrived at the Center. I spent the morning (about an hour and a half before lunch) with CT and EN. We cruised between exhibits, and I mean cruised. They barely stopped walking, I believe because both of them had been there before on multiple occasions. It was frustrating for me because I’m the kind of guy that wants to spend a ton of time checking out all of the cool things to look at. At least they got highly interested in a game of checkers in Progress that kept them occupied for at least 15 minutes. After a lunch of deli sandwiches in the group lunchroom (wow, were there a ton of other camp groups there), I got to change and go around with MX and AD, which was a great change of pace. They actually investigated and enjoyed each exhibit. Plus, we got to see a presentation show about how fireworks work! It was awesome. Lady in a tie-dye lab coat blew things up using liquid nitrogen, performed the Thermite reaction, and exploded some hydrogen balloons with other chemicals to make the explosions colorful. It was loud and bright and super exciting. As our afternoon wound to a close, we drove back to camp for dinner, showers, and experiments. Before dinner, we tried to get them to dissect owl pellets (owl vomit of fur and bones, if you didn’t know), but most of them decided it smelled too gross, so I found a bunch of rodent skulls lodged in their own fur. After dinner we played with baking soda and vinegar (gas production) and made slime out of glue, borax, water (a polymerization reaction).

Wednesday morning had a nature hike in store for our campers! Hooray, my favorite! We just walked out into the forest right next to our camp to look at whatever we could find. Each kid got a rainbow chip to help them look for interesting colors in nature and we did our best to point out all of the different plants we knew. Additionally, I brought a long a bunch of plant ID sheets if they found something they wanted to identify. We hiked out to the dam looking at fungus, exoskeletons, and plants on the way and telling stories about the origins of some leaves we found. Amazingly, they guys actually did a really good job of listening to each other’s stories about leaves. CT really shown on the hike, finding all kinds of cool mushrooms and tiny frogs. After the dam, we hiked up a creek to a waterfall, looking for salamanders and crawfish on the way and exploring the waterfall. Back to the dam we hiked for lunch and to be picked up so we could go to the pool! [You see, over the previous three weeks, Ohio has received a fairly excessive quantity of rain. Enough to raise our dammed lake 18’ and make the water gross enough to require a closure of the water by the state. So, instead of canoeing, tubing, and swimming in the lake, we got to go to a nearby community pool for 2-3 hours of swimming two of the days in the week!] The pool was really a great thing to happen. We got to swim around with our kids in clean water and there were pretty much no behaviors for any of the kids in any of the groups, which is exceptionally rare. They even had diving boards to go off of, which I have not gotten to do in forever! After swimming, it was back to camp for dinner, dry ice experiments, and HOMEMADE ICE CREAM! It was a blast. After dinner, we started the ice cream, making vanilla and cinnamon sugar ice cream in plastic bags with ice and rock salt. Super simple, you should do it. Half and half in a quart zip lock, add sugar and flavoring, double bag. Put it in a gallon zip lock filled with ice and rock salt. Play with for half an hour. Enjoy significantly. While we were helping the ice cream harden, I pulled out some water, soap, and dry ice to have some fun making it smoke all over the place, filling bubbles with condensed water, filling balloons with CO2, and making spoons scream. It was good fun, until CT got upset at people for touching the bubbles full of cold water vapor and CO2 because he wanted to see how tall the bubbles would build. Then it was a campfire and bed.

Thursday was our second big trip for the week – to the Cleveland Zoo! Another not insignificant drive, but thankfully detour free. While we were there, I spent the whole time with CT and EN and was amazed by how absolutely bored they were by the zoo. I mean, seriously, who is bored at THE ZOO!? At least CT enjoyed the Lorikeets (parrots that you can get in the cage with) and the fish exhibits, but EN seemed pretty determined to not enjoy any part of it. At least at the end of the week he confessed to liking the Crowned Cranes and Zoological Medicine exhibit. The most exciting part of the visit (exciting in a bad way, of course) involved CH. At lunch, he absolutely refused to eat. Nothing, just would not eat. So, we continued our split up and left my co-staff with him to make him eat something before he could enjoy anymore of the zoo. After trying every method she could think of, she just started staring at him, in silence. Ten minutes in, CH picked up one of the things from the plate he had in front of him and slowly started eating it. After a bite, he asked if he could have Fritos, then cleaned his plate. Victory for the counselor! Then, she took him to see the fishes and he taught everyone around them everything they could ever want to know about every fish that was there. Back to camp we went to shower and camp out! The camp out was a very interesting experience. Very interesting. It was my first time camping out on top of the large hill behind camp and I will aim to make it my last. Not only is it a particularly rough hike up and down, but there were a multitude of bugs up there which freaked the kids out, it got hot really quick when the sun came up due to a lack of cover, and I just got really frustrated starting a fire, which I’m pretty sure was irrelevant to the campsite, but I’ll just associate them forever. I got way too frustrated. But then, thankfully, my co was able to get the fire starter brick lit and I was able to build it into a roaring flame and we cooked chicken fajitas and CT and CH suddenly got along for no apparent reason while building a shelter – which was awesome, but confusing.  Then the bugs really came out as the sun went down – giant swarms of gnats, which apparently freaked out CT, and then mosquitos which would not leave the kids ears alone. We all woke up with a lot of new bites.

Friday morning required us to find ways to entertain the guys without going anywhere. First, we did the egg drop challenge – build a device which will keep an egg from breaking when dropped from a height. Some were interested in the project, some could not really comprehend it, and some broke their egg before they completed their device. But, JN, awesome kid that he is, made a hot-air balloon-like parachute which actually prevented the egg from exploding on impact, it only cracked a little bit. He was super excited about that accomplishment. After the egg drop challenge, we went out and built our own terrariums (aquariums for land animals). But we did not just build any terrarium, we [hopefully] built successful closed-system terrariums with dirt, charcoal, water, plants, and bugs which will survive on their own for a while. The plants make oxygen and the bugs turn it into CO2 for the plants to grow. We’ll probably never find out that they all died. Hopefully not. Then it was time for lunch, followed by our second pool trip! Unfortunately, our trip to the pool was slightly marred by a HUGE lightning storm. This only prevented the kids from getting into the pool for two thirds of the pool visit. Instead, we hung out under a pavilion, sang every camp song we could think of, told jokes, and even performed a skit (total of at least an hour and a half), which, I must say, was an amazing performance on the part of the counselors that were there. When we finally got to get in the pool for 45 minutes, it was delightful. Then, it was back to camp for dinner, showers, dry ice bombs (!!!), and SongFest. Dry ice bombs went pretty well. Picking just the right amount of dry ice and water for a soda bottle is tough, and only one went off in the general time frame that we wanted it to. A second went off during SongFest, which was hilarious and the singer covered it wonderfully. Two of them did not go off… But the ones that did go off made really big booms! After SongFest, it was back to the cabins to pack everything up, have their last night snack (pizza and cupcakes because one of the boys in my cabin was having their birthday!), a story and sleep. I got to tell the story and spend that night in the cabin.

Saturday morning came at last. After the sugar-packed breakfast that we feed them every Saturday, we got our guys’ stuff fully packed up and ready for pick up, then tried to figure out something to do for the next couple hours. We decided to try to get them to work together as a team again – mistake. At first we had them working in their partners which they had been getting along with through-out the week to do communication drawings. One of them would have to describe a drawing (random shapes and figures) to the other, who would draw it. It was fun to watch and listen to. Then, we made them work as a whole group. I pulled out a raccoon loop and challenged them to Warp Speed – make the knot in the loop go around, 360° in a circle. The goal is to get them improve off of their original time and to think creatively. It started off decently, but then when people started having different ideas about how to solve the problem, they got mad at each other, individuals started quitting and I had to tell them all to sit down and be quite, and that we would talk when they proved they could behave like the mature young men I knew they were. That worked shockingly well. After the silence, we talked about teamwork and cooperation for several minutes before transitioning into our processing of the week. During processing, CT’s mom showed up and he was under the impression that he could leave right away when she showed up, even though we still had introductions, awards, and the potluck left. It was his first week at camp. I would like to continue to believe he started nearly crying about wanting to leave so soon because he really did not want to leave because he enjoyed himself, but I guess I’ll never know for sure. Introductions, awards, and the pot luck went smoothly. This week, all of our guys’ parents arrived before the awards ceremony, so I didn’t have to worry about watching kids until 1:30p, which was great.

Wow, I got this one done in a lot fewer words. I hope you’re thankful. I know I am.

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One Response to Summer Camp ’13 – Week 4

  1. peg emerson says:

    dear Andy,
    Sounds like you are finding your calling. I so enjoy reading your blog every Sunday. It sometimes brings to mind my camp counseling days in Wisconsin and Minnesota 60 years ago. I ran the lakefront waterfront at a Girl Scout camp for two years and then ran the canoeing program in the Boundary Waters at a Y camp for a couple summers. I love both experiences and learned a lot that served me well for real world work. Love Gran

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