My STEP Project involved creating a tangible “Bag of Tricks” for counselors to use as they began the summer with campers. I gathered information from other counselors about their tricks in order to make a bag that would help counselors to be successful. I then gathered the supplies and put together a bag for each counselor to receive during staff training.
While creating the “Bag of Tricks” I was able to reflect on the things that worked for me last summer. I was challenged to develop these tricks that worked for me into a bag of supplies that counselors could use for themselves. Throughout the summer I was able to observe new and returning counselors use this “Bag of Tricks” in their own way. Each counselor used the supplies in different ways and to solve different challenges of their week. Through this I was able to learn that everybody has a different way of approaching challenges. There is no one correct way to solve a problem, and just because something worked for me doesn’t mean it will work for others. I was also reminded that some children don’t respond to your first approach, and it may take a few tries to solve their problems (such as homesickness, boredom, etc.). Having this “Bag of Tricks” helped counselors to feel more prepared and to have a few different options to pull out of their backpack when a problem arose.
Some of the most important relationships that led to my transformation this summer come from the campers that arrived each week. Through my interactions with each of them I was able to learn more about what works, and what doesn’t, with different age groups. They taught me more about how a child thinks and feels in different situations. For example, campers can feel homesick in ways that I never imagined. Through conversations I was able to better understand the reasons why they may feel so homesick and I developed new tricks to get them involved in activities and to keep their minds off of home.
Another aspect that led to my transformation during this project was being in the role of Unit Leader. As a Unit Leader I was able to observe other counselors and their interactions with campers. As a counselor last year I was very focused on my own cabin of campers, and didn’t pay attention to how others worked with their cabins. This summer opened my eyes to the many different approaches that a camp counselor can take to solving problems between campers. I learned new techniques that I can use and that I could add to a new “Bag of Tricks” for next summer.
The event of creating the bags also helped to lead to some transformation in my way of thinking. As I was putting together the bags I was reminded to think of items that would be effective for all age groups. Since I had most of my experience with older campers, I also had to pull information from other staff members to know what works for the youngest campers. The act of putting the bags together taught me about the ways that our staff can work together to help each other be successful and solve a variety of issues that may arise.
This change has caused me to think with more of a child’s mindset. I now think of how each thing I do when working with children will affect the child. This has influenced the activities I choose when programming for a group, or the approaches I take when mediating a camper. This relates to my future, as I plan to go into a setting where I would work directly with children. Having this “child first” mindset will help me to be successful as I pursue a career in a school setting or as a social worker. I can also use this new knowledge as I create service programs for my Advocates for Children and Education Scholars group. It will help me to better understand how we, as a group, can serve the children in our community and how we should interact with them while we do service projects.