Cottonwood Institute staff spent the afternoon at Colorado Academy (CA) on Friday, June 8th. We were there to offer our expertise in the art of team-building and small-group-facilitation to CA’s Day Camp staff who will be entertaining, enriching and wrangling kiddos aged 4-14 all summer. Most of CA’s staff are themselves teenagers and relatively new to camp counseling and facilitation, yet many were returning staff and eager to offer their own insight which created for a collaborative learning opportunity for all.
The afternoon workshop consisted of 4 main themes or genres, if you will, the first of which was the ever-important genre of “name games.” Name games, though often light-hearted and down right silly, are a crucial component of any outdoor educator’s tool box. In addition to teaching/playing several different names games during this first session – while also exercising our abominable muscles through laughter – we also dedicated time to unpacking and discussing some of the theory and relevance behind them (thus, simultaneously and expertly demonstrating the importance of a good debrief…pow!).
The next genre we tackled was the oft-overlooked yet critically necessary category of “de-inhibitor” games. These games are also referred to as “icebreakers” or “mixers,” yet while it’s true that these games do often serve the purpose of lowering tension and/or celebrating awkwardness, they also, in a pinch, can serve to simply kill time. We’ve all been there, and having these games in your back pocket to lighten the mood, distract or entertain your participants or kill a few minutes before the next scheduled thing takes any outdoor educator’s game to the next level.
CA Day Camp Staff were then guided through several “team-building initiatives” that are designed to do just that – initiate intentional conversations about teamwork and what it requires. The best initiatives are ones that require participants to creatively cooperate across difference, but are also ones that, frankly, intentionally create chaos. Safe chaos, but chaos nonetheless that should be frustrating and should require a level of communication and cooperation that the group hasn’t tapped into yet. The CA staff seemed to really enjoy this session, and several staff expressed that they would definitely be incorporating the initiatives learned into their repertoire this summer.
For the remainder of the afternoon we discussed transference and the “art of the debrief,” and we also touched on the importance of always considering equity and inclusion when facilitating in small groups. We also played a handful of games that are perfect for large groups that allow participants to really get some energy out, but the day would not have been complete had we not also addressed “repeat after me!” chants and songs. Luckily, returning CA staff saved us from overly embarrassing ourselves and were capable of leading most of them. All in all, it was a fruitful afternoon at Colorado Academy, and we wish all the Day Camp much luck this summer!
Written by CI Instructor Zach Booz
See more photos from the training here!