Camp Quest AZ 2015 ended a week ago. All 55 campers and 18 staff members survived the ordeal and are better for the experience. The campsite is the James 4-H Camp at Mingus Springs in the Prescott National Forest. At 6500 feet, the temperatures are a bit cooler. The camp dates back to 1950 and is currently run by the University of Arizona. It’s isolated. Cell phones don’t work there and…no internet! There is power for 12 hours in the day and water enough to drink and shower occasionally (limited to three minutes of tepid water—quite invigorating). The food was good and plentiful and prepared for the campers by a small catering staff. The weather was generally nice but we did have one wet day that started with fog and drizzle but it was only for the one day and the sky cleared up in time for our nighttime stargazing activities which included making an LED constellation, a star treasure hunt, and building a using a simple astrolabe.
It was a busy week with quite a number of activities. There were seven cabins divided by age and boys and girls. This year, I slept in the cabin with the older boys. They were great kids. They got up early and went to bed late. The 9 older campers, 7 boys and 2 girls were part of the CITs (Counselors in Training). The national Camp Quest organization prefers to call the older campers LTs (Leadership Track). However most of our kids were returning campers and wanted to go by the name with which they were most familiar. The campers did many of their events with their cabin mates but they were also a part of 4 teams that mixed the age groups and boys with the girls. The teams were encouraged to come up with a team name and there were competitions between the teams. There were competitions between the cabins as well. The first was a scavenger hunt where the campers were given a list of things to collect. On the list were things like something blue, a rock, a leaf, a feather, etc. I know a feather was on the list because one of the campers chased me down and took my hat.
Some of the activities were for all the campers and some were electives. The “for everyone” events were shorter activities and each team participated in turn. On Monday through Thursday, there were 4 morning Quest Zone activities: decorating walking sticks, human skulls and evolution, microscope exploration, and register machine ( a lesson and activity that demonstrates the use of a computer that uses a number of storage registers and a very limited instruction set to perform the functions of a computer). The elective activities took more of a time commitment from the campers and they choose which ones they want to attend. The electives were: archery, crafting mythical creatures, fishing, Pinewood Derby, Mission to Mars, Music, Dia de los Muertos (sugar skulls), Drama, and Survival Skills.
Then there were the free time activities. During free time, the campers could choose a number of things to do and they varied from day to day. On Saturday, for example, there was no archery or fishing available since those activities required equipment that had to be packed in preparation for the end of camp. Instead, the kids had to choose between crafting homo-polar motors, learning to make balloon animals, and making and using a pin-hole camera. At other times campers made “rain sticks” out of repurposed materials, crafted their name in binary code on wristbands, and dug through samples of dirt looking for fossils. On a Friday free time, there was an opportunity to sing Karaoke. The older campers often preferred to participate in the discussions at the “Socrates Café” near the fire ring.
Now it’s time to finish the story of the 30 year old Pinewood Derby track and how well it performed in the mountains above Prescott. This is a great story because it has a happy ending. I pulled out of the driveway on June 6th with the Pinewood Derby track hanging out of the back of my truck and all my other stuff packed around it. We made it.
I unloaded, set up, and tested the track. Then it went back into the storage box to await its time in the spotlight at the end of the program on Friday. That is when the campers who chose to build Pinewood racers would compete in front of the whole camp.
Everything worked! The six campers that built cars each raced six times. The oldest boy in the competition became the race official and lined up the cars on the track behind the starting gate. He made sure the rotation was proper during the next race. I operated the computer and tallied the scores. After each race, the kids retrieved their cars and they were lined up for the next race. It went quick. Each race only takes a couple of seconds. After six races the numbers were in. The computer sorted out the scores and one car came out on top with 6 first place wins. That car belonged to the youngest and littlest Camp Quest camper. Everyone cheered as Gloria was crowned the 2015 Camp Quest Pinewood champion! Congratulations Gloria and congratulations Camp Quest AZ for another successful year.