North Star Camp for Boys

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Cabin Campfires and Unorganized Free

Camp alumni have long said that later in life, though they hadn’t noticed while they were enjoying their summers, they had come to realize that they had learned and grown more at camp than they had anywhere else. And while that is a great realization, we don’t believe that we have to keep this a secret from our campers. We want them to be party to this development that happens at camp. Sunday nights at North Star put an emphasis on that.

We begin our Sunday evening program with what we call Unorganized Free. Unstructured free play has tremendous benefits for kids of all ages, and those times have been disappearing for kids with perilous effects (read here, here or here). Unorganized free is meant to combat that. The rules are simple: Go Outside and Play. This is not something kids are used to hearing these days. In a world where their schedules are getting tighter and the stress levels are getting higher, this child-directed free play was an exciting, out of the box experience. There were two rules - 1) Everybody had to be outside, and 2) The counselors are to supervise for safety, not to play or organize. At announcements, one of the Junior Village campers asked, “Does that mean we could play a huge game of hide and seek?” The kids went crazy when we told them that that is exactly what they should be doing.

The second part of our Sunday evening was Cabin Campfires, which are designed to help our boys process their experience, build self awareness, and teach so much more. Much like our opening night candlelight ceremonies, these "cabin meetings" are an opportunity for open, honest communication and sharing. So every cabin took to their campsite, built a campfire, and began this fireside chat. The format was as follows:

1) Accomplishments - everyone should take a moment to recognize the things they have accomplished in this past week.
2) Compliments - a chance for cabinmates to praise the positive things they have seen in each other.
3) Personal Growth - a time for each person to consider a way in which they have grown or a lesson that they have learned in the past week
4) Discussion - an opportunity for the group to discuss issues, problems or challenges and work together to find solutions.
5) Reflection - a few dedicated minutes of time to one's self to think about how to better friend, cabinmate and camper in the coming week.
6) Goal Setting - to conclude with a tangible plan for the week ahead with both individual and group goals.
7) S'mores - how else could you end a campfire?

With both the Unorganized Free and the Cabin Campfires, we were upfront with the boys about why we were doing what we were doing. Not only did they understand it, they appreciated it. We heard from many of our campers how nice it was to be able to have time like this, where they could just be kids in the woods. And many of our staff explained that this time has been of tremendous importance to them as campers and counselors alike.

Today’s Grace:
“It always seems impossible until it is done.”
- Nelson Mandela