In typical summers, we follow a daily schedule where boys choose 6 daily activities, and have 2 free-choice periods before lunch and dinner. Because of the cohorts we had this past summer to reduce Covid risk, we weren’t able to offer true free-choice periods for the whole camp community at one time. Initially, we just extended our activity periods and didn’t offer the free-choice time at all. Many campers missed the chance to spend time just relaxing and playing games with friends around camp. The Dining Hall (where our ping-pong, foosball, and game tables are) didn’t feel like the “heart of camp” that it usually is.
One of the best “pivot” ideas we had during the summer was to turn this “free-choice location” into a daily activity instead! Signing up for “Dining Hall” (or “D-Hall” as we called it) in their cohorts became a new daily option for boys – they would play games, enjoy chatting with their friends, or read a book while overlooking the lake. With so many action-packed and skill-based activities around camp all day, we didn’t initially realize how popular it would be to have an activity for recharging while enjoying more relaxed games.
The relaxed pace and ability to choose what they wanted to do were both key reasons for the new “D-Hall” activity’s popularity. Though we pride ourselves on our lesson plans and skill progressions in activities, we saw that we also shouldn’t underestimate the benefits of unstructured play and just enjoying the company of friends. Going forward, we’ll continue to look for ways to include free play and independent choice in our program plans.