Part 4 of 7 – My experience at Camp Quest Ohio

Day 4, Tuesday 21JUN2011

You would think that after hooting with the owls until 0200hrs it would be difficult to soar with the eagles at 0630hrs, but that just goes to show how different camp life is from regular life. Camp week is a welcome break from the daily grind and carries with it a certain excitement that is difficult to describe if you have never experienced it. Perhaps if camp were to last several weeks this would take its toll, but for one week, it is a pretty fun ride. I should also mention that I woke up on my own this morning at 0610hrs…

Since I stayed up so late talking with other counselors I did not have a chance to bring my journal up to date before going to sleep. After the morning shower routine I got the journal taken care of and spent the rest of the time taking a cat-nap until everyone was ready to go to breakfast. Breakfast was the usual routine with a staff meeting afterwards and kids doing cabin clean up. I joined my cabin after the staff meeting and… yeah you guessed it… nap time…

Morning activities were next on the agenda and first up was a test of our ESP (Extra Sensory Perception) abilities with Zener cards. Zener cards were invented in the 1930’s by psychologist Karl Zener, and consist of a deck of 25 cards that have one of five symbols: a circle, a plus sign, three wavy lines, a square and a star. The test is to guess which of the five designs is on the card that the experimenter is holding up in front of the subject. The subject has a 20% (one in five) chance of providing the correct answer. If the subject does not have any ESP abilities the number of correct answers hovers around the 20% mark after several trials. Scoring significantly above or below the 20% mark indicates the presence of ESP. The campers paired off with one taking the experimenter role and the other taking the subject role. Each group did 100 trials and reported back on their results. Unsurprisingly, everyone scored right around the 20% mark, meaning there as no evidence of ESP to be found that day.

Instead of a second morning activity, the group photo was next. I was initially skeptical that we could get all 60 kids and 40 staff to sit still long enough to get a decent picture, but we managed to pull it off with no problems at all. Everyone was really patient as Paul, one of our resident photographers, took a number of shots. After the group photo there was still some time before lunch so the kids played around in the pavilion and the Ga Ga ball pit.

The Ga Ga ball pit was a new addition to the camp this year and turned out to be extremely popular once the kids got the hang of it. Ga Ga was originally played in the Australian Jewish community starting in the 1960’s, and has since grown into an international sport. The Ga Ga pit is octagonal shaped with sides that are about 2 metres long. The object of the game is to eliminate your opponents by hitting them below the waist with a ball that is about six inches in diameter. You may only touch the ball once and may not grab it, so the usual method of play is to hit it with your hand or fist. The game is really fast paced and it is especially fun to watch everyone jumping and diving out of the way after the ball is hit.

Lunch was followed by a freethinker profile of the author Kurt Vonnegut and scientist Carl Sagan. The first set of cabin cleanliness awards were also passed out. Cabins 10 and 12 won the competition so their counselors got to take turns in the dunk tank. Our cabin (Cabin 11) received a score of 50%, which probably put us somewhere towards the bottom, but not quite in the hazmat category.

Rather than go swimming after lunch, I ended up hanging out in the pavilion with everyone else who was not interested in swimming. Most people played games or talked while others took a quiet snooze on a picnic table bench. Downtime was pretty much a continuation of what we were doing in the pavilion, although the primary draw was a card game called Mao. I spent the time re-packing my backpack and updating my journal.

After downtime it was time for team games. Today’s event was a food challenge akin to the TV show “Iron Chef”. Each team was able to choose five ingredients from a variety of ingredients that bore a mysterious resemblance to the salad bar. Teams were then given their secret ingredient which turned out to be rice. A time limit was imposed and everyone got to work creating their masterpiece. After the time expired, the same judges from yesterday’s fashion show returned to do the judging. Each team presented their masterpiece and the judges tasted it and made comments. For the most part the dishes came out pretty well. Although in a few instances the “masterpieces” evoked rather hilarious expressions from the judges who had to taste them.

After team games we had an hour of afternoon activities. The choices for afternoon activities were Socrates cafe, dancing, reading in the dining hall and science with Stan. Stan’s science task was to assemble an electric motor from wires and magnets and power it with a D cell battery. If you got it to run you got five points, otherwise you got zero points. The dancing activity was a lesson in Hindu hand movement. Socrates cafe, busy as usual, was discussing the question “what is love”.

Dinner was followed by a lecture on Hinduism by Katie and Caroline and then the food activity winners were announced. Our team was named the winner of the young kids bracket and all of them got quite excited. I was very proud of them.

Since tonight was Carnival night, my co-counselor Craig went up to the Pavilion to help setup and I went back to the cabin with our campers to work on the skit. You could definitely feel things starting to come together this time around. I provided very basic guidance and subtle redirection when things diverged off topic. Other than that, I stayed out of the way and let the kids have a good time with it. I think we got a good framework in place tonight and now have something to work with over the next few days.

Around 1930hrs kids started lining up for the Carnival at the entrance to the pavilion and were let in shortly after. The carnival games consisted of a basketball shoot, a dunk tank, cotton candy, plinko, soccer shoot, snake eyes (dice roll), balloon sculptures, tarot reading, ring toss, numbered rubber duckies in a wading pool, water pong (bounce a ping pong ball into a water cup) and throwing darts at balloons. The essential goal was to earn as many tickets as possible which could be redeemed for prizes at the end of the carnival.

After the Carnival I took my kids back to their cabin to put them to bed. I was on watch tonight until midnight, so I hung out with another counselor in the boy’s cabin area while the rest of the staff was up at the pavilion having a staff meeting. Around 2230hrs one of the fire alarms in the younger boy’s cabin started chirping every 30 seconds as if the battery was dying. We later found out that these were relatively new fire alarm systems and some, like ours, had a bad backup battery. Others were actually going off in the middle of the night due to bugs crawling into the sensor housing. On the advice of the camp director, I went to the caretaker’s cabin to get him to deal with the problem. Rather than having to wake him up, I found a spare alarm with instructions sitting on his porch. I took the spare down to the cabin area and we ended up fixing the problem on our own.

After my watch was over at midnight I handed the cabin area off to some counselors who were going to bed early and then headed up to the campfire to join the other staff…

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