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Step 2: Figuring out what's going to happen at your camp

The first step is to figure out some idea of what you want to do at your camp. This is a little tricky, because you probably won't really know what you're doing at your camp until the second to last week of your first summer or so, but you need to have something to say to people in order to get started.

Here's what we did:

We knew that camp would have two main components:

1. hands-on activities: all the activities that we were going to do were going to be hands-on.

2. freedom: kids were going to have the freedom to do whatever they wanted to at camp (as long as they didn't infringe on other people's freedom) -- our projects, their own projects, or just play.

Then you have to flesh out that theory enough to be able to describe how one single day will run. In our case, that meant thinking of a handful of cool projects for kids to do and make (robots! kites! make computer games! build robots!) and then explaining that we were going to offer campers these sorts of activities throughout the day. The kicker to the spiel was explaining that we were in effect providing kids with an initial spark of inspiration, and once they fell in love with an activity, we would give them the room to do it all day if they wanted and take off with it.

This last paragraph is part of a spiel I've given hundreds of times now. Practice your spiel with your friends and colleagues in planning the camp. It will get clearer and clearer the more you give it. There's going to be a slight wariness from parents when they consider sending their kids to a camp running in its first year: it's best if you can capture the magic of your future summner camp in your spiel to offset that worry.

You'll find, as you talk about your project, that you'll use the same words over and over again.  Our words were/are "discovery", "inquiry", "inspiration", "creativity".  Turn these words into a sentence.  Make a list of what you think would be the coolest things to do each day and call it an 'activities list'.  Now you have a plan.  And most of a brochure.

This plan can, should, and will change.  "Freedom" sounds nice.  What about when a kids wants to watch anime music videos of pop songs on youTube all day?  We had our answers, you'll have yours.  But it's good to start with something.

 
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