Hanging Out with Hazel (the Goat)

Daniel Weatherby July 15, 2021

There is one morning each session when several of our central staff members spread-out around the outside of the dining hall with computers, cell phones, or tablets in hand. 


The director on the microphone releases the campers from their breakfast table and they come running (or fast walking) outside to head one of two places: their Morning Watch location, or to a line behind one of these technology tethered staff members.


The day before, each camper visited each of his 6 skills, and this is their opportunity to change a skill or two.


It can be fast paced.


“What skill would you like to change? What skill would you like to change it to?”


My favorite place to be during this time is with our 6-10 year old Bear Campers. For this activity, we take a slower pace.


They don’t often have a fully formulated plan – they’re just concerned with getting to the front of the line and asking to see their skills, and then considering each individually. Once we’ve gathered which (if any) skill they would like to move from, we look at the list of skills they can switch to, together.


Excited questions ensue. And the good news is, we have time.


There’s Basketball? Air Riflery? What’s Homesteading? It feels a bit like witnessing a camper experiencing a surprise Christmas. 


It may be one of the first times they fully feel the agency they have – to see something they want to change in their lives, and GO FOR IT.


This week I got to take part in a skill change with a Bear Camper who wanted to switch from Basketball to…. well, anything. He mentioned he plays basketball weekly at home and wanted to try something new.


Since my favorite skill is homesteading, I encouraged him to try it.


“What do I do there?”

“Well, you get to learn about all the plants in the garden, you occasionally get to eat some of the vegetables, and there are goats/cows/chickens…”




Sure enough, Christopher loves it.


In fact, he is now in Homesteading for 2 of his 6 skills, to be sure he gets to go each day skills take place.


Skills and skill changes are one of the many ways campers get a sense of their agency at camp. I just particularly enjoy homesteading and the way campers light-up around the garden.


Almost every day I get to check-in with Christopher, and the other Bear Camp homesteaders, to hear about the excitement at the farm, and to make sure they wash their hands before their next meal. 


Daniel Weatherby

Bear Camp Director

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