I'm out in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, nearing the end of a week of staff training and camp planning sessions. My sister Kelsey is here, which means that for the first time in my life someone from my family is experiencing Rowe for themselves. My co-director Ben and I have been leading discussions on basic adolescent psychology, interactional techniques, legal issues, how to have successful self-care in the high-pressure life of camp, and all kinds of other nuts and bolts. We've also sunk into the sparkling depths of brainstorming--one of my favorite qualities of this environment is the incredible value placed on creating programming that transcends the normal summer camp activities.
For example. Many of our meals have themes. One theme that's on the calendar for this year is "They Toastly come out at night...Toastly." What does it mean? It's an allusion to a line from the movie Alien, where the little girl answers a question about the aliens with "they mostly come out at night...mostly." This theme meal involves two major components: toast, and, some sort of alien appearance. Either, there will be a way for aliens to pop out of some of the food, or, if that is logistically impossible, one of the staff will likely have some kind of alien attack happen during the meal. It's elaborate. It's absurd. It's the kind of humor that certain junior high age campers feel utterly bewildered by, but some feel incredibly at home in immediately.
What I think is important about this kind of programming is that it teaches young people that the copying/aping of their favorite artists, TV shows, etc., that they do all day long is actually not that creative. It opens up doors for them to be imaginative again, at a time when their social rules tell them not to. We have a social norm at Rowe Junior High camp that emphasizes creativity and the dissolving of cliques.
We'll be playing a gameshow called "Ask the Creep," which was invented on the fly a few years back during a particularly bad rainstorm that forced a cancellation of an outdoor activity. "Ask The Creep" involves a regular trivia-show format, except that your "lifeline" is not a friend. If you want to ask for help on a question, you have to ask a character called the Creep, played by one of the staff, who says something surly, that may or may not be the answer. Campers get to hear a lot of their own language (which is often particularly surly) used in such a way that it is exposed for what it is: uninformative. Surprisingly, they absolutely love the game.
So I'm basking in the creative glow, and the green of the fern-floored forest, and the incredible vegetarian food my old friend Dan is making for us. I'm also carrying around the impending responsibility of 100 lives. So we'll see how all that pans out.
Oh! We also have a black bear who keeps getting into the compost. He's a teenager too.
I'm frenetic, but often laughing.