The Mentality of the Modern Man
The first week of the guy’s Stand Up Foundation camp was a truly unique experience. I arrived at Jonathon Dickenson State Park on Monday ready for the first day of camp. The other leader and I had spent the greater part of the day before prepping for camp, especially this first day. Our theme for the week was The Mentality of the Modern Man, focusing on the skills that are essential for every successful young man to know. We worked with our retreaters on everything from leadership and teamwork to recognizing your own potential and how to tie a necktie. Our goal behind the week was to make these boys into strong, confident men ready for their impending transition into high school. But before we could any teaching, the boys had to be having fun.
We set the tone with our opening activity on Monday morning: building a catapult. We supplied our boys with wood, zip ties, bungee cords, and a loose design idea for a piece of grade-A medieval artillery. The retreaters sprung into action immediately, working together to finalize a design and construct their masterpiece. It was not long before the boys discovered that they couldn’t do this on their own and that teamwork was essential even to simply zip tie together the pieces of wood. Soon, a group of boys that had met only 30 minutes prior were standing proudly next to a catapult of their own design and construction. After yours truly selflessly put himself in harms way to ensure the safety of the device, the boys began to launch golf ball after golf ball, trying to beat each other’s distance records.
It was after the artillery barrage began however that the retreaters really began to shine. Due to the mechanical stress put on the zip ties, they began to loosen and shift, causing the catapult to be much less effective. The boys responded to this by holding the sides of the catapult in place while one of the other ones fired it. The teams formed organically as the boys rushed to assist one another to achieve their end goal. My fellow leaders and I were surprised yet again when they took apart the catapult and modified the design to something completely their own. That surprise turned to embarrassment when their revised design proved far better than the design we had provided them with.
Before lunchtime on the first day, our retreaters had already excelled in and exceeded our expectations in activities we had designed to get them to work as a team, innovate, collaborate, and most of all, build something that they could be proud of. Throughout the week that followed, we engaged them with many different activities including stand up paddle boarding, a short fire safety course, kickball, building fires and cooking their own food, pinewood derby racing, and many more activities culminating in a boys vs. girls camp war on Friday afternoon in which our boys were beyond excited to be able to put their newly painted catapult to good use by launching payloads of water balloons at the girl’s pavilion. But this camp wasn’t just about having fun. The goal of our organization is to promote social and emotional health, and to make sure these kids are getting the tools they need to be upstanding members of our society, and we made sure to incorporate that in every activity we did. The paddle boarding reinforced healthy lifestyles and was accompanied by a discussion of body image, the fire safety and building taught a useful skill and the responsibilities that come with it, and pinewood derby races gave the boys an opportunity to practice problem solving and foster friendly competition. Most importantly, by the end of the week, we had connected with the retreaters, and we had just as much fun hanging out with them and doing the activities as they did.
~Alec, 17, Founding MMM Member and Pioneer