I teach a lot of Challenge Course. Like, a lot. Every day I try to get groups of kids to communicate, work together and solve problems in new ways. It’s so interesting to me the different ways kids come up with for the same challenges, so today I’m going to relay a few of them to you.

Yesterday I had a group of kids mostly comprised of younger boys, as well as two younger girls. After a few name games and ice breakers, we got into our first real challenge. They had to all stand on a blanket, and, without taking their feet off of it, flip it over to stand on the other side. Everybody panics when they get this objective. It shouldn’t be possible. Immediately, though, the louder or more confident campers jump into action. “Wait!” I holler, and everyone freezes. I run through the group, pointing. Half the campers will be temporarily blinded; the other half will be unable to speak. Invariably, everybody complains: how can we work together when we can’t talk? But that’s part of the challenge. With campers more naturally predisposed to leadership muted, and those who more naturally hang back given the ability to speak but not see, teamwork takes on a more urgent palor.

For the first few minutes of the challenge, folks experiment with different methods for flipping the blanket. Usually, they’re unsuccessful. With the group I had yesterday, they tried a really amusing but ultimately unsuccessful method of folding up all four corners, leaving themselves nowhere to stand. As they realized the problem they created, they grumbled to me, and started roughhousing around instead of working on the challenge.

“Okay, pause, everybody off the blanket” I said. They all gratefully stepped off. We had a conversation about why they were struggling. I said that five fingers was “I am contributing to the team awesomely” and one finger was “I am not contributing to the team at all”, and asked everybody to hold up the fingers they felt they were doing. Everybody was at around a two or a three. I asked why, and we had an awesome conversation, and when we got back on the blanket, they worked together much better. Those who could see helped those who could not, and those who could talk listened to one another.

When I could see that they were close to success, I said, “Two minutes to complete the challenge!” and they jumped into action. The success was delicious precisely because they had struggled. 

Other Tall Timbers Happenings

–       Owen Linares won a game of gagaball; Zach Buchalter won two games

–       Ella Stamerra won the Smallest Splash competition

–       Nadine Twombly won the Funniest Dive competition

–       Claire Schmitt and Hailey Mostow climbed the easy side of the rock wall; Loea Kang made it up the hard side

–       Owen Abbey went paddleboarding for the first time

–       Michael Godek won Pirate Wars at the Lake

–       Hannah Miles and Nadine Twombly won jailbreak in tennis

–       Yogalates began during free swim, and it was a big success

–       Zeke White hit a tennis ball off the top of the target in Archery

–       Livia Lampal and Zoe White climbed the easy side of the rock wall