Setting up Camp
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Author:  jomegat [ Mon Mar 14, 2011 8:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Setting up Camp

I originally posted this on my blog last fall. Now that the forum is up, I will post it here too:

I took the Pathfinders camping this weekend, and tried something new that worked out remarkably well. First let me describe the problem this scheme has solved.

When I first started leading in Pathfinders, upon arrival at a camp site, I would survey the situation, figure out what should be done first, and then assign a kid or two to carry it out. Then I’d figure out what else needed to be done and assign another kid or two. This would be repeated until everyone was busy with an assignment. Then I’d see kids having trouble with their assignment, and I’d jump in to help. In no time at all, I would become absorbed in the task at hand and not notice that the other kids were horsing around instead of discharging their duties.

So I started carrying a clipboard around to prevent myself from fully engaging in the task. This forced me to tell the kids how to do something rather than jumping in and doing it. Except that it didn’t always work. As I gave my attention to one group of kids, another group would finish (or abandon) their task, and I wouldn’t notice until the horsing around started again.

The beginnings of my new scheme were exercised two weeks ago when we camped at Bar Harbor, ME. I made up a list of tasks ahead of time and assigned kids (and adults) to each task. That worked better, but it was still imperfect as the kids had no incentive to execute. But it was useful, because I got a nice list of tasks out of it. As we set up camp, I ended up adding a few tasks that I was unable to think of ahead of time. I wrote them down.

Before we camped last weekend, I turned that list of tasks into a dozen cards. Each card had a title and a somewhat detailed description of the task. The twelve tasks were divided into three groups, A, B, and C. The A tasks needed to be done first, followed by the B tasks, etc. Each card also had a number of points printed on it. Difficult or unpleasant tasks were worth more points than easy, fast, or fun tasks.

Then I divided the kids into four teams. Each team had an adult mentor, and a mix of kids (teens, and younger ones). The idea was that the teens should be able to teach and direct the younger ones. If they had questions, they had an adult mentor to turn to.

The team with the most points was to be dismissed to eat first at every meal, followed by the team with the second highest point total, etc. The team with the fewest points was dismissed last, but even then, they weren’t really “last” because the staff receives that designation (with myself being the very last).

Before we started, I had them all pitch their own tents and stow their sleeping bags & luggage in them. As they finished that, they were to assemble at the trailer. When their whole team was finished, they could choose a task A card. When they finished their A task to their mentor’s satisfaction, they could choose a B task, and so forth. When they finished their C task, they could choose another C task if one was available (and if they wanted more points).

This worked like a charm. For the first time ever, I had kids coming to me to get set-up tasks. They worked quickly, efficiently, and without complaint. Cool.

One idea I had and abandoned was that each kid would choose a task of his own. If a task needed four people, they would have to wait for four people to choose that task. I am convinced that the team approach was way better. First, I only had to remember the order of four teams rather than the order of 20 kids. Second, they had the opportunity to develop teamwork. Third, they knew that if they slacked off, their whole team would eat last. Peer pressure can be a wonderful thing.

I did end up adding one more incentive. On our weekend campouts, we typically eat six meals (Friday supper through Sunday lunch). Since I had already divided them into four fairly balanced teams, I decided that the two teams with the most points would get kitchen duty once, while the other two teams would get two shifts. That’s not even a horrible punishment, because in the past I would divide them into three teams and everyone would get two shifts.

I was also careful to remind team four that they were indeed not last to eat, because they were still eating before the staff did. Plus we’re always careful to have enough food, so no one goes hungry on these trips.

After we had finished setting up camp, the adults there remarked on how smoothly everything had gone. They were pleased that they had to do no prodding or cajoling. I must say that I was pretty pleased as well.

Author:  euphony [ Mon Mar 14, 2011 9:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Setting up Camp

That is great idea.
I am thinking what are the tasks that you are giving them in the camp aside from kitchen duties?
I usually have the units cook their own food for their own units consisting of 4-8 members.
Then at noon of saturday and sunday, we eat together sharing the food with everyone.

Author:  jomegat [ Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Setting up Camp

These were the setup duties only.

    A Tasks:
[*]Pitch kitchen shelter
[*]Pitch dining shelter
[*]Build latrine
[*]Setup stove & lanterns

    B Tasks:
[*]Sort dishes & hang them on the line
[*]Hygiene Center (dish washing & hand washing stations)
[*]Carry totes to kitchen
[*]Setup tables

    C Tasks:
[*]Get camp chairs out of trailer & sort them
[*]Fetch water
[*]Gather firewood
[*]Build fire ring (do not light fire)

I may have reversed some of the B & C tasks here. I do know that I didn't want any B tasks to depend on the kitchen being ready to go, because it might not be ready yet. Any club that adopts this scheme should really make their own list, but this one should serve all right as a starting point.

Assigning points to each task is something you could have the kids or TLT's help with. Some tasks are not suited for some camp sites - such as fetching water. Sometimes we have a spigot right there at the site. Other times we have to haul it a coupe hundred yards. Sometimes we aren't allowed to build a fire. Sometimes we aren't allowed to bring our own firewood (they don't want firewood crossing state lines up here in New England thanks to the Asian longhorn beetle). So the tasks really need to be thought out ahead of time, and the points can be adjusted as fits the situation.

Author:  euphony [ Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Setting up Camp

Thank you so much for the ideas. I learned a lot from this forum, I learned how to lead PF camping from other leaders and much from this forum. I was even able to meet in person another Pathfinder leader in our country Philippines due to this forum.

Author:  tuningpeg571 [ Tue Mar 15, 2011 7:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Setting up Camp

That system sounds like it would work really well. I am curious about one thing though: My club (and many other clubs I know of) have the KP kids go first at meals, but I think that you had the highest-scoring team go first at every meal the whole weekend? Did this work out well?

Author:  jomegat [ Tue Mar 15, 2011 8:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Setting up Camp

Each team rotated through KP, with the highest scoring teams taking the last turns before we recycled the teams again (and thus, the highest scoring teams took fewer KP shifts). When the meal was ready I had them all fall in for prayer. Then I dismissed them according to the order they established during camp setup. We never have the KP shift serve food - everyone serves themselves. And yes, I did this at every meal. But when the last team was still waiting to be dismissed, I reminded them every time that they were still going before the staff. I never heard any complaints. In fact, when we started planning the camp out we have coming up next month, the kids reminded me of this setup competition and requested that we do it that way again. They like to compete.

If that's too disruptive of your normal camping routine, or if you don't think it would work in your situation, there are probably rewards other than eating first that would work as well. I liked this approach as it reinforced the reward for hard work six times during the camp out. Kids are naturally competitive, and it doesn't take a huge reward to motivate them. I've seen them do some incredible things when the only winner's prize was a shiny quarter. So there are certainly alternatives that would likely work as well (or perhaps better) than what I did. It might even be possible to motivate them by letting them have first choice of which KP shift(s) they take.

One other thing I wanted to point out is that I did not make pitching the sleeping tents part of the task list. Instead, I used it as the qualifying round. If I had started off with "each team choose a task" then I expect there would have been disputes as to which team got first choice of task. By starting them all out with the same task, they set their own choosing order.

The cool thing that I did not anticipate was that when a group of kids had finished pitching their own tents and stowing their gear in it, they went and helped their other teammates finish pitching their tents to help move things along and improve their team's position.

Author:  mikepetersen [ Wed Aug 21, 2013 6:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Setting up Camp

Your idea rocks!! I think this is the coolest idea to perform tasks/duties smoothly. No pain only gain.

Author:  jomegat [ Wed Aug 21, 2013 2:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Setting up Camp

It works very well for pitching camp, but not so much for striking camp. For that, I'm going to try another approach this fall. Again we will have cards, but they will be tasks for individuals. Each completed task will earn a "fun size" piece of candy.

Some people might object to feeding kids candy, but I don't have an issue with it, especially if it is "earned" through physical activity. I'll report how it worked out later this year.

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