Friday, June 18, 2010

This summer:4: Airports, Cheddar Biscuits and Sea Turtles

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. -Phillipians 4:13

So my first week of Summer Camps is over, and man have I learned a lot! It was so much work, but totally worth it. I don't think I realized how big of an impact this summer is going to have on me. After the first day, I knew I was going to LOVE this summer and any other experiential education work I do in the future. I don't really know what the job prospects look like, but I am definitely going to look into it.
Here are some short snipits of my week:
Arrive in Grand Forks Airport. Now this airport has one, count it one, terminal for passenger flights. The same room you check in is where you go through security/is where you buy a bagel/is where you get on the plane/is where you get off the plane/is where you get your luggage/is where you rent a car. My luggage ended up not making it on my flight, so I waited in the waiting room (aka the everything room) for a couple hours, luggage-less for Charles' flight to come in. Like a work of typical "Audrey 'Touched by an Angel'" magic, my luggage ended up coming in on Charles' flight unscathed.
We got to the base, met our wonder of wonders Point Of Contact, Jake, and went to our apartment-sized hotel rooms to sleep off the day of travel.
I ended up going to church with Jake because I thought it would be a cool experience to meet Christians from across the country. This was probably the best decision I made all week considering they had an old traveling singing couple leading the service that morning. They mostly told cheesy jokes then broke into synthesized Southern Gospel duets for an hour. Jake said that Garrison Keillor has written sketches modeled after this very couple, which I found positively delightful.
The rest of the day (literally) Charles and I spent organizing our materials for the week/summer. For the summer we will each have a roller-duffel full of non-consumable materials and get 3 boxes of consumables set to each base. We put everything into giant Ziploc bags so they were easy to find when we had to pull them throughout the week. It took a while, but made the rest of the week go SO much more smoothly.
The first day of camp was a blast. We only had 9 kids in the first camp and 8 in the second. The first camp comprised of younger kids (elementary) and they were nuts. It was a great test of our kid-wrangling skills. the second group was of older kids(junior high and young high school) The kids didn't know what to expect, so some coped by being extra rowdy, some by being extra reserved. it was cool to see our knowledge of reading behavior learned at staff training become applicable.
Now the kids knew what was going on the elementary kids reacted as being much more calm and focused, which was a relief. The older kids however decided to reek havoc... well, a couple of them. We had our first real discipline issues, which held strong through much of the rest of the week--even to the point of nearly dismissing a child from camp due to complete disregard of respect. Yikes.
One amazing thing started this day though. there was one boy that had played hookie for the first day of camp, but he showed up late for this day after a call from his mom announcing his arrival. We were told to watch out for this teen because he "spends most of his time in jail" and was well know around the base for having severe discipline issues. He was a follower that chose the wrong leaders.
This teen could not have been a better camp. He had perfect behavior and really got into the challenges and had a lot of fun! A few Challenges into the camp, he started asking about being on DI teams and actually stepped up as a leader of his group! Jake was entirely floored and had trouble not skipping across the gym floor in excitement for the dramatic change is this teen in just a couple hours! We wondered if he would show up the next day.
Camp continued and the Challenges got more difficult. As in life, wen the challenges get more difficult, weaknesses in things like communication, teamwork and attitude become wildly apparent. But this isn't a bad thing when addressed in the safe environment of a DI camp. We were able to do a lot of valuable processing with the groups after they "failed" Challenges or got in fights or frustrated. This helped them to step back and realize the advantages and disadvantages of the situation they were in... it is amazing to see that light bulb turn on in kid's heads.
My favorite example of the day was one boy that was constantly getting frustrated with another boy on his team(the one that nearly got kicked out). He was about to just shutdown and quit, but then we saw something click in him. All of a sudden his maturity level shot through the roof, and he was working to include this boy in Challenge solutions and make is ideas seem important. It was inspiring.
By this point nearly all of the students were showing growth. They were having fun and taking real ownership over their ideas. In the older group, the boy that was having such extreme behavioral issues elected to sit out from activities, and we allowed it after Charles and Jake spoke extensively to him since his mom made him come and he was otherwise inhibiting the other kid's growth too greatly.
One breakthrough really stuck out to me in an ultra-hyper young girl that got put in the older kids' group due to time constraints. Usually while her team was working on a Challenge, she was bouncing off the walls somewhere or annoying her teammates. Near the end of the day, I was talking to the team about how DI teams often assign roles to certain people that they have during every Instant Challenge. I suggested a role such as the Master Time Keeper, which I hoped would give a sense of purpose, focus and contribution to this girl. Boy, did we see a switch in her from that point on! Yes, she was asking me how much time they had left every 30 seconds, but she had a role and felt needed. Her team accepted her contribution, and with her extra focus, were able to mentor her to have a bigger role on the team. It was heart-warming and made me feel like I made a difference too!
We also had Family Camp Friday night. Well, after the tornadoes... The weather got crazy, and we thought we'd have to cancel, but last minute a few families showed up and we had a great time. After realizing a third of our attendees were 5 or younger, I accepted the challenge of chilling with the little kids while Charles and Jake managed the parents and campers. I realized after a week of working with elementary and junior highers, that may favorite age group is actually the little kids! They are so much fun, and while they are a lot of work, I don't feel like I am going to die like I do after managing a million older kids. Good thing to realize....
Last day of camp. So many campers had come so far from the beginning of the week. Teamwork and moral were at all time highs and the Challenge solutions were great. Charles worked his booty off to put together a wonderful DVD slide show of the pictures we had taken throughout the week, and I must admit that I was holding back some emotion while watching it. :)
One of the kid's moms thanked us and said that she has seen such a change in her son at home over the week, and that camp was all he talked about. So touching.
As for the teen that skipped on the first day, he is moving to a base in Texas next week and already plans to start with a fresh step and join the DI team on the new base.
Charles and I celebrated a great week with dinner at Red Lobster and ate some cheddar biscuits for Andrew, our boss who looooves them. :)

All in all, this first camp experience has exceeded my expectations. A quick story to sum it up: The Sunday before this journey began, some ladies at church in Bloomington prayed for me and shared what God was placing on their hearts to tell me. The words they said all seemed right, but one thing stuck out to me as seeming off-base. She saw my turtle necklace that my dad gave me and said that she couldn't get the image of baby sea turtles out of her head. She talked about how people will dig trenches leading from the sea turtle nests to the ocean to give safe passage to the babies, so often plagued by fatality. She said that she saw me as building "trenches" for these children to lead them to the right path in life...
At the time I thought, "Hey lady, this summer is about me traveling and staying safe and not dying of exhaustion. I really don't think that by only being at the bases for a week is going to have any life-long impacts. Seems rather over-the-top..."
Needless to say, I don't feel this way anymore.

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