I love problem-solving! As a camp counselor, I feel that some of the most fulfilling and rewarding work I’ve done was when I did my best tackling a big problem. But I’m not alone—I’ve found that campers are some of the best problem solvers I have ever met.
Once, we had a young camper who became frustrated building a cardboard boat. He had a brilliant plan for how he wanted the boat to be structured—an idea that no one else on the beach had thought up—but the duct tape wasn’t cooperating with him. The camper was so angry he wanted to throw scissors and sand. I sat with him and we discussed how he was feeling.
Once the camper and I started talking, he began to problem solve at lightning speed. He identified that he was hungry, decided that he needed a snack, and headed over to the dining hall, all on his own. At the end of the day, he and I worked together to make the biggest and strongest cardboard boat on the lake—it held the weight of 34 rocks and still didn’t sink.
I’m fond of this story because the camper was willing to step away from the trigger for the emotion and break down what the true causes of his feelings were. After a little encouragement, the camper showed maturity and self-awareness by problem-solving on his own.
On a different occasion, another camper was also waist-deep in cardboard, trying to create a pair of human-sized wings. It was not an easy task. He waved his work around weakly, unimpressed with himself.
“It won’t work. Nothing I ever make works,” he said. But even as he said these words, I could see the camper’s brain working furiously. He knew the kind of product he wanted—he just had to problem-solve in order to get there.
The camper tried a new tactic, and then another. He experimented with different types of cardboard and different taping techniques. The camper pushed through trial and error until he had a masterpiece: a lifesize pair of cardboard wings that he could attach to his arms and wear like a backpack. He proudly wore it for the rest of the day and later brought it home to show his family.
Even when the camper was seriously doubting his abilities, he didn’t let the scary idea of failure stop him. Instead, he showed deep determination and problem-solved his way into creating something that he could be proud of.
What I love about Wildwood is how welcoming and forgiving the community is. It is a place where every mistake can be a learning experience and every problem can be an opportunity to grow.
Everywhere you look at Wildwood, there’s a problem-solver discovering something new or challenging or exciting or different. It is inspiring to see, and brings home the idea that anyone can solve problems, no matter their age, experience, or knowledge. At camp, anyone can be a problem solver—even me, and even you!
~Written by Arianna W. Day Camp Counselor