As I write, campers outside are running around in the midst of a Harry Potter-themed counselor hunt (a game of hide-and-seek) as part of our Wednesday evening activity. While camp is small with over nine cabins out in wilderness trips, spirits are high. Those cabins that have returned from their wilderness trips (Crow’s Nest, Fo’c’s’le, Boulder, Outhaul, Shang-Tu and Xanadu) carry a sense of unity, accomplishment and genuine comfort with their surroundings back here on campus. We’ve been enjoying close perfect weather, tempered only by a brief shower this afternoon. Today was our second Tent Day outing of the season, a switch due to predicted thundershowers on Tuesday that never materialized. Most of the camp went to Popham Beach State Park today, save for a group of sailors who sailed from Chewonki.
I’d like to feature our birding activity with this write up for our birding activity leader Tom Foley:
In the afternoon at general swim, a small group of campers lines up to report their bird sightings to me. Field guides and journals in hand, they wait their turn to describe in detail the species they have observed on Chewonki Neck. I ask the boys to recount the color, shape, size, behavior, and habitat of species of their choosing. The campers are “testing” to earn prizes in the Great Birding Challenge of 2017.
There are many boys at camp this summer who enjoy attending early morning bird walks and learning about the species we find. The prizes used to incentivize the birding program are just a (still very exciting) bonus for many of them. After attending two bird walks, campers receive a birder’s journal, and three bird walks earns them their own Peterson’s Field Guide. If the boys attend five bird walks and can confidently and accurately describe twenty species they have seen at Chewonki, they earn a pair of Nikon binoculars. I have even created an award given once each session to the cabin with the greatest average number of bird walks attended per camper. My hope for this award is to promote cabin group bonding as well as to encourage participation from boys who may not have initially thought they would be interested in birding.
As the birding activity leader, I get to share my passion for watching birds, but more importantly I teach the boys the process of inquiry. Instead of simply pointing out birds and identifying them, I solicit observations from campers. “Describe the plumage of this bird. How would you classify its habitat? Why do you think it might be displaying this behavior?” I try not to give answers. The boys learn to ask questions and to answer them by combining their observations with deductive reasoning. I can only hope that campers will take a love for birding home with them, but I do feel confident that this more general practice of inquiry will be put to good use in their schoolwork and in their personal endeavors. Once the boys realize that they have the tools to learn about birds independently, simply going birding will become an incentive unto itself. – Tom Foley