The key to any great school camp is balance. Tired bodies, over stimulated minds, disrupted sleep patterns and intense socialising can lead to challenging situations for students (as well as teachers). Everyone needs downtime. It can be reflective, active, unstructured or whatever works for your particular group. Here are five ideas to help build downtime into your school camp itinerary.
Journals are a powerful way for students to connect with their thoughts and feelings. They also become a great camp keepsake and basis for post school camp classroom activities. Set aside a certain period of time each day (after dinner is usually a good time) and encourage students to express themselves in a variety of ways using things like illustrations, labelled diagrams, comic strips, mind maps.
Here are a few ideas to stimulate creativity:
- Dear diary entries.
- Write a procedural text based on one activity you did today.
- Design a new activity for the camp.
- Write a speech to thank someone who helped you today.
- Create a comic strip depicting the conversation between a piece of equipment and a reluctant participant.
- Draw your favourite camp scene.
- Make a list of everything you’ve seen, heard, tasted, touched and smelt today.
Try something new challenge
Downtime is often when homesickness and anxiety raises its head. Without the hectic pace of camp, some students find it hard to choose what to do with unstructured time.
Here are some ideas to help:
- Play with someone you haven’t played with at school / camp.
- Within the set boundaries, find a place you haven’t explored yet.
- Find out three things about someone you didn’t know well before camp.
- Focus on one natural element of the camp and find out three facts about it.
- Learn a new skill e.g. chess, table tennis, foosball.
Simply be bubbles
Here’s a trick to slow down transitions between activities on school camp and re-energise the brain and body.
- Students find an independent space to sit, lie or stand, however they feel comfortable.
- The space is theirs and can be defined as being inside a bubble.
- Choose a designated length of time (5 mins works well).
- During the time the students can do anything within their bubble as long they are silent and don’t impact on another person.
- Encourage the students to tune in to their bodies and minds to decide what they need to do at that particular moment, e.g. it could be something physical like jogging on the spot or sitting daydreaming.
- If students are looking around and find it difficult to keep the focus on themselves, try the activity with closed eyes.
School camp is a chance to step away from technology and enable students to let their mind wander and make connections in a different environment.
Have an ideas box ready by stocking up on materials like:
- Mindful colouring books and pencils.
- Suduko, crosswords and other puzzles.
- Board games e.g. chess, draughts and if you’re really game, Monopoly.
- Dress ups.
- Doodle pads and crayons.
- Lego or other construction materials.
Mindfulness is all the buzz and playing a powerful part in today’s education. Many schools have adopted programs through organisations like Smiling Mind, whose founders James Tutton and Jayne Martino define mindfulness as “Paying attention to the present moment with openness, curiosity and without judgement.” Camp is the perfect occasion to introduce or continue mindfulness practice. Here are just a few ideas:
- Go on a sensory safari where students walk around an area taking in all the sounds, sights and smells.
- Focus on one aspect of nature, e.g. a tree, and think about how each part interacts with the other.
- Take three deep breaths inhaling in the nose and out the mouth.
- Give gratitude to your body after an activity.
- Guide a visualisation activity where the students picture the best thing they’ve done on camp and recreate the scene in their mind.
- Colour guided meditation where students choose a colour to represent various feelings.
There are plenty of ways to incorporate downtime into school camp at Coffs Coast Adventure Centre. Shannon, our Camp Concierge, is only too happy to assist you.