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Treasure Hunting when Kids Do Dumb Stuff

Have you ever sought out the hidden treasure of accidental learning?

This treasure hunt began with a camper who tested if his mattress could float and sent himself on a mission of no return into the middle of an algae filled Lake Inferior, or a camper experimenting with a hard ball in a bunk only to realize that its bounce shatters windows. Brooms in overhead fans, 2-liter soda chugging races, annonymous pizza deliveries, a nose filled with marbles, duct-taped ceiling furniture, kids stuck in trees, pet skunks, and well, crazy camp stories that could go on for hours.In all of these moments, there was a lesson to be learned. Some adults would react with a lecture and some punishment, but at camp we believe in the power of this accidental learning and take the time to seek the treasure of the hidden lesson. Our counselors are there for these post-mistake narratives and our campers end up better for it.

Chris Thurber, who wrote the article below and a favorite camp person of mine, wrote, “Kids do dumb stuff. It’s built into their brains. It’s simple biology.” Did you know a person’s frontal lobes, that are used for impulse control and reasoning, are still developing until a person reaches their early twenties?  That means until after college, a person has little chance of not doing dumb stuff.

campers at campfire at Appel Farm Arts CampThurber also says that, “perhaps the oldest teaching tool is a camp favorite: FIRE. Since people discovered how to make fire, they have sat around these fires and conveyed their experiences…

Everyone has a story. And the most interesting ones involve, well, doing dumb stuff.”


Every summer, I love our big crackling campfires with the songs and s’mores, but I love our Fireside Chats even more. Fireside Chats, trademark Appel Farm Arts Camp, is the 20 minuntes before bedtime where campers gather with their bunkmates to share the stories from their day. It’s the best time to hear about your friends’ accomplishments, laugh, solve problems, and of course share the stories of the wonderful mistakes you learned from that day.

I can’t wait to know what we’ll learn this summer! Campers of 2013, we’ll be there for support when you undoubtedly do some dumb stuff, and in the meantime if you do something dumb, tell your parents, “I’m having a frontal lobe moment and I’m learning!”  

For those of you who’ve already been to camp or are all grown-up, I hope you’ve got some great lessons to pass on from your campfire worthy stories.

NOW, seriously, check out this awesome article! Click HERE.

Much camp love, Cori

The article is from the current issue of Camping magazine.