We hit a wall! Building Dens

[gallery orderby="post_date"] After three weeks of Tink 2012 World Tour, Dens summer camp, one thing is assured…we will hit a wall. Hitting a wall is what we call the point in time when the builders find out that what has been imagined does not necessarily translate to a workable den structure.

This, we all agree, adults and children, is the best part of Tink camp. We experience adversity, we encounter crashing defeat as structures cave in and fold in on themselves. Stand up! Stay up! This is no fun! Afterwards, the children discover that this is the fun.

The third week of camp this year had double trouble. Wednesday was already a day off for the 4th of July holiday and then a storm ripped through the area the weekend before camp began and left in its wake downed trees and rampant power outages. We were already struggling with the idea of having just four days to build when camp had to be canceled on Monday because of the power outage. Would we get anything done? Most importantly, would we hit that all-important wall?

Tuesday, we spent the day talking about the den project itself. The adults imagined that stuffed animal or favorite toy dens would be the way to go. The campers had a quick and instant buy-in and off they went to select materials, imagine small structures that would house a favorite item from home. They were charged with placing pencil lines along larger pieces of wood. We knew that these would have to be cut when the children were not there because of the rolling power outages around town. The children felt confident that I could be trusted with these cuts—more on that later!

After the holiday, the children returned with their favorite “stuffy” or toy. They measured it and went right to work. It did not take long for the wall to show itself and it was a wide and tall wall.

Here is the children’s list of situations from our we-have-hit-the-wall discussion…

Lesley’s cuts were wrong; Wrong nails; Not enough hammers; Not enough time; Not enough of the right boards

During these wall discussions, we have seen something wonderful happen. Before the meeting, the children often feel alone in their frustration. We have had tears and stomping. We have had busy children suddenly go quiet as they get very, very stuck. A human connection is made during the sharing. They find that other people have hit the same wall. They are able to share with each other what has worked and what has not worked. They find experts in things they need help with while others find out that even though they are stuck, they have solved a problem another person has not. During this particular discussion, there was a shared feeling of “being behind” or that other children had finished. They quickly discovered that only one builder out of eighteen could confidently say, “I am finished.” They asked him how and he told them, “I changed my plan.”

After lunch, that is exactly they did. Sharing wood pieces with another builder for extra or different wood pieces solved the “wrong cuts” situation. Using a combination of hot glue and white glue solved the “wrong nails” situation. Setting up in teams and pairs with the hammers solved the “not enough hammers” situation. Finding and using different materials likes sticks and cardboard solved the “not enough of the right boards” situation. Interestingly, the “not enough time” situation did not happen, we still had time to read a Baba Yaga story and come close to completing all the cozy dens.

We have two more weeks of Tink 2012. We don’t know what will happen during each of these one-week sessions. We hope, of course, that the power remains ON and the trees UPRIGHT. Mostly though, we hope for a big, gigantic wall and many lovely ways to get over, under, or around it!