During the last few gasps of summer, the boys and I hit the local pool for some fun in the sun. Our pool does not have the same great view of Sly Lake that we enjoy at camp but it’s still pretty nice.
After throwing Luke and Jack around a bit, I took a break by the side of the pool. As two little neighborhood boys skittered by, I couldn’t help but overhearing their conversation:
“Yours is an ‘outie.’ My belly button is an ‘innie.’ Yours is cooler than mine….”
Ha! It’s a conversation I remember having a similar conversation with a buddy forty years ago. With our boys starting school, my thoughts drifted to their groups of friends. It made me think of ‘innies’ and ‘outies’ from a social standpoint. Of course, that got me thinking of camp, specifically about how we train our staff.
Kate comes up with all sorts of games for our staff to play during Orientation. They think it’s all just for fun… at first. And, not surprisingly, most of the games start in the form of a circle.
One of my favorites has all of the staff form a couple of really big circles. Each has about 50 staff member standing shoulder to shoulder, facing inward. Two staff members are picked out at random and we tell them to try and get in the circle.
Well, those two normally do everything they can – jumping, trying break through, sliding underneath legs, etc. The circle members, without being told to, normally do their best to keep the ‘intruder’ out.
This is a pretty normal response. If you were ‘in’ the circle, you’d probably get a little competitive and think, ‘They aren’t going to get into the circle by me!’
But is that the point of game? No, the point was for the person ‘outside’ to get inside the circle. What if they just walked up, tapped someone in the circle on the shoulder and asked, “Mind if I come in?”
How many times have you seen someone do everything they can to try to get ‘in your circle?’ The more outlandish things they try, the more annoying they become, right?
But what if they just walked up and said ‘Hi. Mind if I join you?’ You’d probably be more likely to let them, wouldn’t you?
Another circle game has the staff get in groups of five. They exchange names, answer a few goofy questions, and laugh a bit while getting to know one another.
Then, for some random reason, we pick one staff member to leave the group. Whoever is tallest. Which staff member has the longest hair. Whoever traveled the furthest to get to camp, etc.
They are literally cast out and told to find another group. The four remaining in the group are asked to remain silent.
It’s tough seeing those people wander about trying to find a group of four to join. The limit for each group is five people so there is always a lot looking around for a new crew. They are searching for a group, wandering the room, not knowing if and when they’ll find a new group.
We do this once or twice before we introduce a wrinkle: having your name called out. This changes everything.
Rather than the groups of people remaining silent while some person searches for a group to join, the group of four start actively calling the wanderer’s name. ‘Sarah, come join us.’ ‘Drew, over here!’ ‘Scrappy, we need you!’
Totally different experience, isn’t it? That simple change – from silent to calling – makes all the difference. It’s always better being called, invited, than not, right? All it takes is for the group to start looking outward and having the courage to call out.
One of the great things about our summers at Weequahic is the circle we form together. It’s big, it’s inclusive, and it’s really fun. The challenge for you back home is to actively decide what type of circle you’ll have and/or how you’ll try to enter other circles.
Almost every ‘circle’ you’ll see will be facing inward towards each other. And they should – it’s fun to be with your friends. However, it’s equally important to sometimes open up the circle to add more people… as long as they make the circle better.
It’s also important to sometimes completely turn the circle so that you are facing outwards, arms open and out-stretched.
That’s how we want camp to feel when our campers get here – counselors shoulder to shoulder, arms stretched out, reaching and smiling towards the on-coming campers. It makes for a great start.
You can do the same with your friends and possible-friends back home. You’ll have an ‘outie’ circle that way… and it’ll be pretty cool.
Have a great start to the school year!