The primary focus of Challenge Camp is to give middle schoolers (typically 7th graders) the chance to develop that sense of "belonging" within a group and to foster teamwork with each other. With that in mind, activities at Challenge Camp typically involve some sort of "team challenge," where the group either has to a) work together to accomplish a task, or b) build upon individual contributions for the sake of the group.
In the spring, we did a Challenge Camp with the "4-H Dynasty" (think A&E's Duck Dynasty) theme. Then, the kids completed several rounds of outdoor/hunting-themed activities, which culminated with a duck-blind building contest. Each group built their duck blinds with cardboard, duct tape, bamboo, leaf/branch clippings, camo-colored paint, etc. Once the structures were built, two members from each team were given marshmallow guns and ammo (mini-marshmallows) to "shoot" as many rubber ducks floating in kiddy pools as possible. Now, these kids are from the "Sportsman's Paradise," so I am sure you can imagine how much they enjoyed these activities.
This time around, we wanted to continue the momentum we gained with our challenge activities and the culminating project, but in an effort to appeal to a more diverse audience (girls and minorities aren't always fans of the idea of being out in the woods or hunting, per say), we decided to go with a more general "Team X-treme" theme. However, we stuck with the same basic idea as our previous camp. This year, each group or individual (depending on the activity) earned points for their teams throughout the weekend. After all the challenges were complete, the top three teams were recognized for their hard work by being allotted extra materials for their culminating activity - lean-to building.
To give you an idea of what this all looked like, imagine groups rotating through different "outdoor-like" activities: archery, marshmallow shooter building, tent building, simulated fishing, outdoor cooking, and compass reading. I lead the archery activity (yes!), where each kid earned points for the team based on their archery skills and participation. If at any time, a child chose not to participate in any of the activities, the group lost points for the team (I don't think this actually happened, though.)
When it was time to build the lean-tos, every team was given a standard set of materials - cardboard, duct tape, trash bags, bamboo, etc. Those teams who excelled at their activities were allotted additional building materials depending on whether they were 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place winners. Every team had two hours to build their lean-tos in preparation for the "storm" that was brewing...
Unbeknownst to the kids, this "storm" came in the shape of two 4-H agents, using a leaf blower and power washer. Every member of each team had to take cover under their lean-tos while the "storm" blew through. Oh the squeals and shrieks we heard when the kids realized what was about to occur (and as it did, too). It was quite comical to say the least.
I really think the kids enjoy these activities and I bet they'll be talking about it for months. We actually doubled our numbers from the spring camp to the fall one, and I'm sure they'll grow even more now with these new activities. Generally speaking, the southern part of the state does some fabulous 4-H programs, but I think we're starting to build upon some of our own. Good times.
...and while we're on the subject of the weekend...I can't wait to share about the Jen and her family's visit to Monroe. It's probably best, though, to save that for another day.
Hugs, kisses, and love!