Summer Camp for Adults

Context: Why is summer camp only for kids? Could adults not appreciate and benefit from not having to think about what to do for fun on a summer weekend, and get to necessarily hang out with new people? This idea has come up a lot with young adults who have worked at various kids camps. It is not too dissimilar to weekend resorts for adults, or like an out-of-university orientation (the mirror to getting oriented to a university, it is getting oriented to a city without the university as the centrepiece).

The Idea: Camp Fun in the City is essentially summer camp for grown-ups, and the goal is to have fun! It’s about discovering the outdoors, doing cool arts & crafts, and playing games, while hanging out with old friends and making new friends

Note: It has happened! We put on a iteration Montreal this summer in mid-August over two weekends. The activities were, in order: drawing, name game, walk through rooftop garden, dinner, story about Montreal, dance, chilled out games, talk about serious things, lunch, field games, laughter yoga, BBQ in Parc Jean-Mance, yoga, hike Mount Royal, lunch, concert, yoga, theatre games, lunch, park games, play in a sprinkler, dinner, (danse instructor did not show), drawing, knitting.

Lessons Learned / Problems:

  • Talking is the way to communicate this project, not typing. Sending people emails and facebook messages didn’t work to get people bought in to collaborate on the project, and didn’t sell registrations. Sitting down with people to explain it did. And then they talked about it. The word of mouth is how new offerings like this get people excited. The videos helped too.
  • People are hesitant to commit to attend a full schedule of activities over the course of a weekend in a city. People are bound to skip some stuff if they live a short bike ride away and all their friends are around. This detracts from the feel of the camp as a group doing things together. There are two potential ways to address this:
    • Take people out of the city so they are definitely all going to stay together
    • Keep it in the city and acknowledge people will skip some activities. Make some activities high-priority / high-attraction so that there are some moments where the group is all together and interacting, and some moments where Drawing tablemaybe only a few people are participating
  • Don’t redesign it too many times while coordinating logistics. I had a design for the camp formulated, realized I didn’t have time to pull the logistics off, hired two lovely people to organize the camp, and then game them to much creative license to redesign the camp. I am bad at not hiring people, so I hired two people. Their visions of the camp somewhat were not perfectly in sync  which held up progress at times. That said, the camp would not have come together without both of their help and dedication.
  • It needs to be marketed early. Summer weekends book up fast for people.
  • Mid-August is terrible timing. Early June is the optimal time. People don’t remember what they can do in summer yet. The season is full of possibility. Everyone is really chilled out mid-August, and the city has a serious lack of energy.
  • The registration cost needs to be quite low for people to participate. If it is all in the city, something in the range of $100 / weekend with food included is an educated guess at a threshold price.
  • The planning is not all that hard if you know a range of people with different skills who can lead workshops and have talked through what the camp is (as long as they show up). Actually leading the camp can be quite stressful and exhausting.
  • Getting a friend or two who are good cooks to be the chef(s) really hold the camp together and relieves a lot of stress (though the chefs may be stressed).
  • Making it bilingual requires having someone truly fluent to be on call with a pre-defined turnaround time per size of text to translate. Also, the organizer should be bilingual for a bilingual camp in Montreal.
  • Dance!! Getting instructed to do a funky and easy dance early on builds great energy and laughs between people.
  • Don’t tire people out too much running around playing games. Most adults can’t handle running around like they did at age 12.
  • Trying to be a general camp is confusing for some people. Maybe choosing a theme would make it more enticing for certain groups. But if it was an “environmental” camp, for instance, that would turn a lot of people off.
  • Having a BBQ at the end of the day in Parc Jean-Mance is glorious.
  • Have a follow-up event.
  •  A few NGOs are interested in collaborating in the future, to connect with people outside their normal circles and to re-energize their programming.

It should be happening again early summer 2014.

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