Thursday, October 1, 2015

Survivor-themed Camp Weekend

I'm a big fan of a theme when it comes to camping. It wasn't really necessary for the first couple of campouts, when everything was still really new. For younger girls, the process of working together to prepare three meals a day plus snacks, then clean up (all in a brand-new setting) is a learning experience in itself. Throw in a hike, a few games and maybe a craft, and you're good.

But as the girls get more experienced with camping, I think a theme can provide some focus for the weekend and make it easier to plan activities. And it's just fun.

A year ago, our troop decided on a Survivor theme for our fall campout. Admittedly, most of them have never seen the show Survivor, so they only had the vaguest sense that it involved outdoor challenges. But they're a pretty competitive bunch and enjoy learning new outdoor skills, so I thought they'd enjoy it. (And after seeing some examples online, I had been dying to plan and do one, so it may have included some subtle suggestion on my part.)

Rather than go through all the details here, here's the link to the schedule and challenge details.


Unfortunately, the original instructions I typed up for the girls for each challenge remain on my now-dead laptop, but I've hopefully provided enough details for you to type up your own.

I wish I could take credit for all the ideas, but most were cobbled together from various sources (see resource list at end), adding in tweaks that made it work better for our troop and the particular camp we had chosen.

A few things to keep in mind:
  • Our girls were 7th & 8th grade when they did this. All had been camping before, so activities were chosen with their skills and interests in mind.
  • If prep and planning is not your thing, this theme is probably not for you. Our girls selected the camp and unit, and planned all the meals, but due to the nature of the theme, all the activities were pretty much up to us as leaders to plan. 
  • We were staying in yurts in a Girl Scout camp, so had access to a picnic shelter, fire pit and latrines. 
  • As tempting as it can be on some campouts, we weren't going to vote to send any of the girls home. And while our girls love a good competition, I also wanted this to bring them closer together, so you'll see that many of the challenges are them working together to achieve reward. Certainly with a larger troop (we had 8), teams might make more sense.
  • I tried to add some touches here and there to make it more authentic, but also didn't want to spend a bunch of money on materials. For most of the challenges, I printed the instructions on the computer and then rolled them up into a scroll tied with twine. For the knot tying challenge, I placed the pieces of rope into brown paper lunch sacks and pasted a Survivor logo (shhh, don't tell the show) to the outside of the bag. For tribal council, I cut extra paper bags into pieces to look more like the parchment used on the actual show for voting. But I'm sure there are plenty more creative and inventive leaders out there who can take it to the next level (just do a quick search of Pinterest and you'll find tons of boards devoted to Survivor-themed parties.)
So, how did it go? It was a hit, and probably our most memorable (so far) camping trip as a troop. As a leader, this was also the trip where it really hit me how far they'd come and how much they'd grown. 

For example, while we had done all the learning progression for firebuilding - from building an edible fire, to laying a real one, to lighting a match, this was the first campout where they were solely responsible for firebuilding. Let's face it, even as an experienced leader, I'd had my moments of frustration in trying to get a fire lit in the wind or keep a stubborn one going. So the thought of leaving my entire weekend of food consumption in the hands of  tween girls was downright scary. But they blew us away, even lighting a one-match fire at one point (and of course, gloating about it incessantly.)

The favorite activity by far was the food challenge - it was also the one I struggled with the most in planning. They're not known for their adventurous eating, so we wanted them to stretch their palates, but also didn't want them to go home to their parents with tales of girls vomiting in the woods. So we picked the foods accordingly, and it turned out to be the perfect mix of disgusting but do-able. 

I also knew I wanted to have the tribal council experience, but without the negativity. Our solution of having the girls vote for "Best Leader," "Most Helpful," and "Best Attitude" worked great, with nearly every girl getting at least a couple votes and some good discussion. That said, we already had a pretty high level of trust and low incidence of cliques in our group, so you'll have to keep your own troop dynamics in mind when choosing activities.

Some additional resources for Survivor camp themes:
Do you use themes for your campouts? Any favorites?

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