At camp, there are a multitude of things that campers need to learn to get in the full swing of the Kawaga way. For both new and returning campers, there are a lot of traditions and rules that need to be followed in order for camp to run smoothly.
There seem to be two types of ways in which campers and staff learn how to “Be Kawaga” (Getting out of teacher mode is tricky for me!). Some things are taught through explicit learning – we talk through the process, make sure everyone understands why these rules are in place and what the expectations are. Others are taught through observational learning – kids observing what others are doing and understanding that this is how our camp works. They learn from returning campers who understand what to do from previous summers, and these campers learned from campers before them! Both of these skills are used every day and I wanted to share a few of both!
Explicit learning compared to Observational learning in the Mess Hall –
With roughly 240 people eating at the same time, there needs to be a fair amount of procedures set in the Mess Hall to ensure we are using our time efficiently, getting fed, and moving on with our day. There is a lot to learn on how the Mess Hall works.
During the first meal of camp, Ty talks through the process of starting meals. Fifteen minutes before the meal starts, a bell rings through camp and one person from each cabin comes in to set the table. This person is called the KP. At the five minute bell everyone is allowed into the mess hall. Campers stand and wait for Ty to walk in and once it’s completely silent, he blows his whistle. The whistle being blown means people can get food and move around. At the table kids pass the food around, use their manners (to the best of their ability) and have a nice, family style dinner. At the end of meals, tables are cleared and cleaned in a very specific manner. The mess hall is full of explicit lessons. We understand kids won’t walk in knowing how we run meals, so we talk through the process.
We do a TON of cheers in the mess hall – especially during lunch and dinner. We sing college fight songs, occasionally a fun pop song, cheers that originate from the 1930s to songs that have been Kawagafied – the correct words swapped out to fit camp! Kids pick up on more songs and cheers each meal they are at.. They start to understand the unspoken order to cheers. Campers understand how they announce that a cheer is going to happen to get everyone’s attention. There is a seamless transition from only some kids knowing what’s going on to everyone participating in the action.
Explicit learning compared to Observational learning with Bugle calls –
There are many different songs that play over the intercom throughout the day. We wake up to reveille, “piggies” let you know to run to the meal before you are late and taps at the end of the night let you know that rounds – our nightly check-in is about to occur. There are a lot of songs to learn about our daily flow.
One such song is “Call to Quarters” which sounds when the evening program is over and it’s time to head to bed. This occurs at 9:00 and is followed by Tattoo, the Kawaga Ideal, and then Taps at 9:25. As the boys hear different songs they learn that they should be moving through their night time routines. As another song plays, campers should be closer to being ready for bed as rounds are going to start soon. We don’t have to go through what each song means as the other campers show them exactly what to do. By 9:30 when Ty and I walk around to do our cabin checks, campers and back in their cabins, showered, teeth brushed and ready to say goodnight!
We raise and lower both the American and Kawaga flags each day and play a song to signify that it’s happening. No matter where you are at camp, if the music goes, you turn towards the flag, stop what you’re doing and wait for the flag to go up or down. Once the flag is up or down you continue on with what you were doing. This is something that we always explain to new campers. The first few days they keep walking or going on with what they were doing and the rest of us teach the new campers the rule for this time of the day.
Explicit learning compared to Observational learning Sports Games-
The rules of the game are a clear example of explicit learning. There are rules that are set and referees talk through some small things before the game starts – like what is allowed with a volleyball set, where boundaries are, how many points are needed and so on.
What is not explicitly taught is the sportsmanship, cheering, and behavior during the game. At Kawaga there is a strong standard during games of how players behave. There is a line in the Ideal that says “proud and unbending in defeat, yet humble and gentle in victory”. Our expectation is that you play to win a game, playing hard and fair. But win or lose, once the game is over we’re all on the same team and we’re all friends. We don’t gloat after a win and likewise we don’t sulk after a loss. New campers may not come in with the same mindset but as soon as they are in their first competition, they see that this is the expectation and follow it. I am always very proud of how quickly the new campers are able to understand how they should behave during games. We cheer for our team, not against others. We stay positive and engaged in the game.
We come to camp to learn and grow. Our goal is to help these incredible young boys and men become stronger, better at sports and more confident. We encourage them to be humble and kind while having fun at the same time. Campers are constantly learning lessons and together we hold each other to a high standard. We have two weeks left, dwindling opportunities and so much more to accomplish. Thank you for letting us share the summer with all of your boys.