Have you had your youth answer “Camp!” when you work with them on upcoming programming and had a small inward groan or moment of anxiety because you’ve never taken youth to Camp before? Or you have, and you remember how much work it can be to plan for activities, shelter, food, campfire and overnights? It can be overwhelming.
During COVID Scouts were not permitted to do overnight camping, or even access our local Camps. But once we could, our Group in Victoria (Beavers to Scouts) jumped in with two feet. Being in the woods was a tonic for the stress of the world and each of us, youth and volunteers, returned home with lighter hearts. We continue to make twice a season day trips to Camp Barnard outside Victoria. We’re often the only ones out at Camp on a weekend and I wonder, “Why?”
Except for the sleepover piece, everything that’s fun about camp can happen in a day: hiking, projects, shelter building, campfire, canoeing, eating together. While Camps benefit from our support, and we can sleep in our own beds the most important is that the youth connect to their local natural spaces, experience the freedom and challenges that come with being outdoors, and have the fun that is central to Scouting.
- Plan the day with your youth.
- Be flexible. If one activity is really engaging the youth, let them continue. There will be more trips.
- Consider returning to the same spot at your Camp each visit, using this as a familiar “base camp.” The kids connect with the space and notice how it changes with seasons.
- For safety, check weather forecasts especially for high winds (greater than 39 km/h). Make an alternate plan where you will be away from trees in such a case.
- Remember to pack first aid supplies and membership forms for youth and volunteers. Communicate your safety plan with all participants. Pack youth sized dry clothes, extra warm supplies, water and food in your vehicle.
- Check out forest school activities for inspiration. These outdoor leaders support children in nature play, firemaking, tool use, shelter building, games etc.
- Consider planning your day like we do a traditional campfire – active to start, then settling into focused activities, and ending with a campfire. This might be starting with a hike, then after lunch building rafts, then campfire. Include an opportunity to share gratitude for the day together.
- Shelter building (stuffies, simple tarps, tents)
- Boat building (recycle box materials and scrap wood, using a hammer in a ‘circle of safety’)
- Compass work
- Hammocks – require teamwork and knots to erect.
- Mushroom hike with a naturalist
- Bark rubbings
- Nature crafts – nature journals, mud faces on trees, leaf and flower pressing, twig imprint into fimo dough (make a hole through and you have an ornament). Wreath making or making dream catchers. Twig stars; weaving in Y shaped branches; making “potions” from leaves, mud and water. Drawing pictures with charcoal. Making games with sticks in the mud.
- Make bird nests (trickier than it looks). (Make them big enough for you to sit in!)
- Plant tree seedlings
- Remove invasive species (both these activities help counter Climate Anxiety in children and adults)
- Sandcastle building
- Damming a little creek or building a dam to keep the tide out
- Singing in the woods
- Eye Spy scavenger hunts – Scouter plants Easter eggs (or dinosaurs, or human made things or fairy gold or whatever you dream up) along a wooded path. Youth silently count things they can see.
- Printed Eye Spy games – can make your own for a site you’ll visit eg “Mt Doug in the spring”, or “Beach” – make a 5 x 5 grid, insert the photos and print.
- Bird house or bird feeder making (eg bird seed muffins – melt fat over fire, mix the fat + seed “dough”, fill silicone muffin tins (with a hair pin piece of string, for hanging later). Let solidify.
- Minibeast hunt
- Go on a smell hunt. What different smells can you find in the forest?
- Go on a Four Senses hunt – bring back to show. (Omit “Taste.”)
- Make a rope course to follow – in small groups or pairs, have them lay out a short rope (5-10 m). Then invite another child to follow the rope. Then follow the rope blindfolded.
- Play with a fairy tale theme – Scouter with a Red Riding Hood hat, or meeting a “witch” in the woods or “finding” a picnic basket with a pot of warm porridge, a jug of milk, brown sugar and a set of bowls J
- Play games – learn a couple with confidence. Eg The Thicket Game, Oh Deer!, Beaver Soup, Capture the Flag
Supplies I’ve found useful:
- Pre-packed backpacks for each Lodge or Lair (list below)
- High viz vests
- Project boards (lightweight plywood cut slightly larger than 8 ½ x 11 paper
- Sit upons – a warm, waterproof barrier to sit on. Youth can make with a large ziplok bag, newspaper and blank printer paper they can decorate. Cut up tarp (decorate with sharpies?), cut up thin ensolite foamie. Note: Yoga mats are sticky and hold dirt J
- Scissors and string (I like jute string – cheap and biodegradable)
- Magnifying glasses (a few in a bag)
- Nature books –a few! I might bring one or two on an outing. Eg Indigenous plant cards such as: “Pacific Northwest Plant Knowledge” cards from strongnations.com. Bird book like “Birds of Coastal British Columbia” by Nancy Baron and John Acorn (Line Pine Press), plants eg “Plants of Coastal British Columbia” by Pojar and MacKinnon, mushroom books, sea life books, etc. Kids enjoy looking through them. I view these materials as a chance to learn stuff together.
- Story book (for Beavers I look for something short, OK if it gets wet, and if possible, on topic. Value Village is a great source.)
- Large pieces of fabric – check remnant areas of fabric stores for lightweight fabric, 2 to 3 m long. Great for a picnic blanket, fort building, outdoor carpet, and so on.
- Sharpies – are waterproof, so fun for outdoor applications.
- Large headed needles (eg darning needles – sometimes can find plastic ones at dollar stores. Lots of uses – eg threading yarn through leaves to make jewelry, decorations, crowns)
- Bag of miscellaneous yarns – for tying things together, weaving, decorating
- Plain clay
- Bottle of bubbles (great to fill a few minutes)
- Foldable wagon is often useful.
- Plastic shovels or trowels, and yoghurt tubs, ice cream pails
- Pipe cleaners (great for young children to join things together)
- Wash basin for each Lodge/Lair (holds supplies, can wash hands, water play etc)
- Duotang with membership forms, the day’s emergency plan, or other important info
- Clip board or project board
- Large ziplok with markers, glue sticks, tape, scissors
- Story book
- Small first aid kit (bandaids, cotton pads for cleaning a wound, gloves, small bag for garbage)
- Toileting baggie (tp, gloves, small bag for garbage)
- Foil blanket
- Box of granola bars
- Hand sanitizer
- Plastic bag for wet items
- Supplies for the day