By Maria Gullickson, the First Lady of Shrine Mont Camps
As we prepared to come to camp this summer, I wasn’t really sure what it would be like. I spent many years working here in a variety of roles, and before that spent many years as a camper here. I'm not working at camp this year, but I'm married to the director of camps (Paris Ball), and since we have a new baby (Toby) this year, we decided to move the whole family up to the mountain for 2 months. So I don't really have a formal role in camps anymore, though I do like to refer to myself as The First Lady of Shrine Mont Camps. From 8:30am to 5:30pm on weekdays, I’m sitting in a room with a computer doing my Real Job, and the rest of the time I’m just hanging around.
It’s pretty cool to get to hang around all the camps without any responsibilities to worry about. But I also wanted to find a way to get involved somehow. One of the things most of the camps do most days is Free Electives. The elective choices are different every day, and activities vary widely. So I decided this spring that I should come up with a great free elective that I could do with one of the camps in session on the weekends.
I thought about it for a while, and came up with something pretty awesome. I’ve seen pictures online where people construct elaborate scenes on the floor, then incorporate their baby into them and take photos. This can be done fairly easily with simple materials – blankets & pillows, and maybe a few random other props (stuffed animal, flashlight, frisbee, yarn, and the like). Certainly the campers were going to have all the necessary materials.
I did this elective with 5 different sessions of camp, with campers of all ages, and the results were awesome. I showed them a few examples, talked about what kind of materials they might have with them that we could use and let them each grab a couple things from their cabin that they thought would be good. Then I let them go to it. They came up with the ideas for scenes. They worked together to figure out how to create the scene and how to use the items each camper had brought. I just popped Toby into it where they told me when they were ready and snapped a bunch of pictures. They always had time to put together a few different scenes during our time together, so I came away with lots of great shots.
Sometimes when campers see a free elective, they’ll sign up for something like “Ultimate Frisbee” or “Friendship Bracelets”, which are pretty much what you’d expect. Other times they’ll sign up for something ridiculous like “Baby Tossing” or “Goat Herding”, which is essentially just a Surprise elective. You don’t know what you’ll really be doing until you get there. I never told the camp staff what to call my elective, but they always opted for ridiculous names (including the two examples I just used). So kids showed up not knowing what to expect. But without fail, they got really into it. They loved creating the scenes and they really loved Toby. In the end, I really felt like I had accomplished my goal of finding a good way to involve Toby and myself in the camp life. We’ll have to come up with something equally fun to do for free electives next summer.
Spreading the good news of Shrine Mont Camps into the Valley of the World.
The View from the Mountain is written by a rotating cast of staff writers and contributors.