Summer camps kicked off at 4-H Acres this past week and we had a blast!

The first week of camp was exciting; the campers were pumped and energized during check-in on the first day. It was fascinating to see the counselors, whom I’ve only known for a couple of days, reveal a new side of themselves while interacting with their flocks. During the first day, in addition to playing name games, the campers were introduced to all of the safety rules like how to respond to “all in!” or “head count!” The Mallards were learning about what it meant to respect themselves, respect others, and respect the land around them. They then began to throw sticks safely into the woods, learning about patience, teamwork, and listening skills. 

Photo Ben Bookout

Photo Ben Bookout

The Forest Engineers were playing a game of strategy and teamwork.Their counselors had set up a rope weaved between two trees in an intricate web about three feet off the ground, and they had to figure out a way to get everyone through the web without touching the rope. The catch was that they could only use each hole four times. It was beautiful to see them working together, communicating, leading, and regrouping to think of new strategies.

Capture the Flag was playing a game called Master Tracker. From my understanding of the game, one person must step out while the others figure out quietly, who will possess the special rock. When the rock is hidden, the group scatters their tracks, and allows the tracker to come back. The tracker must figure out who has the rock based on tracking skills that they could have only mastered from Master Tracker School.

During check-in , all of the flocks were playing either a game called Forest Fire, or a blindfolded game. The Forest Explorers began by learning about the Gayogohó:no’ people. Their counselors stressed that it was important that the campers knew how to pronounce the native people’s name, as the Primitive Pursuits is located on their land and taking care of it for the time being.

The Mallards were learning how to safely carve using peelers. They learned that it was a privilege to be able to use a carving tool, and that they should say thanks when handed the tool. The Pathfinders were playing Capture The Flag while Growing Wild was on a bug hunt not far from them. It was beautiful to watch the kids be so curious and open-minded. Coyote Camp was learning how the compass applied to all aspects of our day, our seasons, and the movement of animals. They also learned how to use bowdrills to make a fire.

During their snack circle, the Forest Engineers were listening to a story about a sky woman relating to gratitude and giving back to the land. Later, they began weaving with grass and sawing through wood to repair some log stairs. Growing Wild was learning how to say thanks to the earth by picking up something special and leaving it at another camp. In another part of the forest, Forest Village was facepainting with charcoal by bowdrilling and mixing with water. In the back hemlocks, the Capture the Flag camp were learning how to make fires with bow drills. They were having a competition of who could make the best one. Right before lunch, Coyote Camp was learning how to tie tarps to the trees as a shelter. I could tell that they had to work together to figure out which trees were the best, how to tie the knot so it would be sturdy, and how to get the tarp high enough. Later in the week, some of the groups were learning how to make food with stuff in the woods. They learned to make jams from berries and pesto from leafy plants.

What I’m realizing is that Primitive Pursuits isn’t just about learning how to build fires or learning how to carve with a knife. For the kids, it’s about learning how to appreciate nature, the land we’ve been given, and the culture behind what the kids are learning. There is always a rich history behind any fundamental thing that humans do. Building fires has an origin story in every culture, the reason animals are the way they are or the color they are always has an origin story in every culture.

From observation, I can tell the kids are excited to learn new things every day. They interact well with each other, and the counselors are great at maintaining their attention and transitioning to new activities. We’re excited to see what week 2 brings!