After months of anticipation, we have finally arrived at our week of overnight camp, wrapped in the beauty of the Redwoods of the California Coast. All of our host sites have added something special to the flavor and the project possibilities of our camps, and Westminster Woods does not disappoint! There's nothing quite like the sense of calm and wonder motivated by a sky-reaching grove of nature's giants. The staff and the campers spent most of our first day repeating how lucky we’re all feeling to get to spend a week creating art in this mystical place.
We got off to a late start, and spent most of the time before the dinner call learning about one another. After introducing ourselves and our spirit tool - the tool we feel captures some essence of ourselves - we broke into groups and shared stories of successes and failures from past projects. As makers, we know failure (and iteration, and iteration) is an essential part of the design process and where we stand to learn the most. Without the staff even prompting, the kids all chose to share their "failures" in terms of the silver lining or what they learned about themselves.
Dinner is earlier than anticipated this week - 5:00! Our schedule will need a bit of tweaking to find the sweet spots with such an early evening break, but the good news is there's lots of light afterwards for evening builds, hikes and games. We decided to push tool training off to the morning and instead get to know our home for the next week with a sunset hour hike up the ridge. Quite a few vistas made everyone stop in their tracks to take it all in.
On the hike, we had our first small group meeting. We plan to meet in these smaller teams each night to discuss important skills and strategies for team cohesion, conflict resolution, or just discuss how we’re feeling about the day. Zeke, Addison, Sophia and Phoenix will be hanging out with Christopher – Liam, Marvon, Alex and Hannah with Katie – and Anna, Sonia, Jonah and Reid with Jenny – and Josh will be visiting each group during the staffs’ nights off. Tonight, we started with why we came to Project Ember, what strengths we think we have to offer the group, and what areas we need some support in. Many cited technical proficiency and big picture thinking among their strengths, while stamina/focus and not getting attached to their own ideas over their teammates’ were areas almost everyone said they wanted to get better at. This group is tremendously self-aware.
The night came to a close gathered around our fire pit, mostly chilling out and playing some instruments. We also introduced “Spotlight” with an abbreviated life story told by Josh. Every night, we’ll ask at least three kids to be in the spotlight for 11 minutes, with 6 minutes to tell any story of their choosing and 5 minutes for other campers to ask follow up questions. For some, being in the spotlight comes easy. For other campers, this will be an edge we hope they try to push through. Anna, Zeke and Phoenix bravely volunteered to be our first storytellers at tomorrow’s fire. For now, it’s off to bed so we’re sharp for tomorrow’s tool training.