Friday, August 19, 2011

The Buddy System

In the past we've always kept two age groups in our camp session -- 7 to 9 and 10 to 13. For the first time this year we've held camps where the ages of the kids ranged from 7 to 13 years of age. The reason for this change is that some of the camps for the older age groups weren't filling and opening it up to the younger age groups allowed us to get more registrations.

I reasoned that because we split the kids into 3 seperate groups anyway, we could easily create different activities for the older kids to do most of the day so that they wouldn't get bored playing the games for younger kids. And for the most part this is exactly how it worked out.

Part of the day the entire group of kids are together -- snack time, lunch, and doing a few activities. One of these times is during a game that the kids play called "Eventful Journey".

Eventful Journey is like a giant game board and the kids themselves are the game pieces. The purpose of the game is to illustrate how difficult migration is for birds -- how they might run into poor weather, hunters or not be able to find food. The kids are assigned a specific space - which is a game card which tells them what their next move is. The game card might tell them to advance to card number 18 because they had favorable weather, or it might tell them that they got caught up in a storm and have to go back to a previous card. Risk cards come into play if they land on a space already being occupied by other "birds".

The advantage of having all the kids play this particular game is that some of the younger kids don't yet have the reading skills to be able to read the cards -- although they are old enough to understand the lesson of the game. We paired the kids up so that each of the younger kids had an older kid as a partner -- with the older camper reading the instructions on the card.

Earlier this week I was hanging out with the older campers and asked them how they felt about camp merging all the age groups -- did they mind having to share camp with 7, 8 and 9 year olds? I was really surprised when I was told that some of them had what they called "little buddies". The older kids had taken it upon themselves to find a younger kid to take under their wing.

While it's my job to provide humane education for the kids that come through our program, many times I'm the one who is educated. Kids will be compassionate and reach out to others if you just give them the opportunity.

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