The Solar System Metaphor
Social development and the creation of a shared identity in the cabin.
Camp Hawkeye is great for growth, learning, friends, independence, maturity, self-realization, differentiation, and FUN. Let’s take growth and learning as it relates to social development and group skills for now and focus on one piece of the puzzle here at Hawkeye:
THE CABIN GROUP
Even more specifically I want to share about the development of a group identity within the bunk. By bringing together lots of different campers from lots of different places with lots of different backgrounds you can end up with kids sitting around thinking about…well…how different they are. This is why it is vital to provide them with a set of shared experiences, create a sense of camaraderie and acceptance, and, foster a sense of ownership over the physical and social cabin space.
One metaphor we use to discuss this process of group identity development is the Solar System Metaphor.
This is something we discuss with staff and also with parents too to do three things:
1. Demonstrate more concretely the idea of the cabin group
2. Explain the role of the counselors in leading and providing social mentorship for the campers
3. Represent the transition from counselor focused to that of the shared experience
Think about it like this. The solar system represents the cabin group social dynamic. Each individual within the group is a planet revolving around a central point with a large amount of gravity pulling them all in…pulling them all together. At the start of the session the counselors are the sun. These three staff, their personalities, and the images that the campers have of them make up the binding force that defines this group.
At the start of the session it is the counselors who set expectations, and show as much as tell, how to appropriately interact with other kids in the cabin and around camp. This is easiest to see during un-programmed down time such as Free Swim, Reading Period, or Cabin Time at night. The counselor will spark discussion, seed/set-up and/or run board games or cards, and ACTIVELY WORK TO INCLUDE ALL CAMPERS. The counselor’s opinion carries much weight and everyone looks for their take.
However as the session matures so does the group. A central task of the staff is to gradually move out of the center of this solar system allowing that spot to be replaced by an appropriate set of shared experiences and hopefully a widely accepted group identity. This is one reason groups or bunks have names or nicknames.
To encourage this developmental process and provide the memorable shared experiences needed for this type of unforgettable transformation the Hawkeye program prioritizes high-point experiences. Each group is tasked with a hiking trip in Week 1 for example. This trip is done together and is harder than some kids in the group would like and too easy for others. The goal is a shared conquering of a mountain or unforgettable swim under a waterfall for example.
We start to build up a memory-bank of “remember the time(s).”
Other activities built-in to the program for this purpose include things like:
· Camp Auction
· Bunk-Ball Tournament
· The Un-Talent Show
· Bunk Day
· Skits at the All-Camp Campfire
· Bunk Night
· Overnight on the Island
For many groups the culminating experience is the Overnight to the Island. The cabin packs their stuff, totes it all down to the canoes, and paddles out to the island for a night in the tents. The evening includes a later lights out, hangout time around the fire, sharing stories and just generally of yourself in the dim and flickering light, and of course S’Mores for all. Remember we always pack a couple of “dirt marshmallows” to replace those that are lost of the end of the stick.
There are few things better than coming back to camp in the morning rumpled and happy. Sated with eating chocolate and drinking in the countless stars above Lake Kanasatka smiles seem to come easier.
The metaphor we use is imperfect but the understanding of what it represents is there. The transition is important; both for the group and for the relationships of individuals with one another. But it is the experiences used to get the group there that is most vital.