"This is the best summer camp ever."
Okay, okay, that was me talking, but it is often something the campers themselves say. They might add, "It would be better if . . . " if it lasted all summer, if it were an overnight camp, if I could come every week, and other really grand ideas, because the camp is about ideas after all.
Our tinkering camp is about ideas and it is also about the nothingness that leads and follows ideas. Tinkering is "to make small changes to something, because you hope to improve or fix it." The adults, the counselors and myself, are in the business of making small changes to improve the experience of each camper's nothingness and everythingness of summer.
Each Monday, a new crew rolls in to camp. Not completely new, but mostly new. The children are ages 5 to 10. The new to our play yard-children arrive a bit nervous, curious, with a touch of wide-eyededness which comes from a combination of arriving at a new place/space, with new people, and quite a bit of wonder. They drop off their gear and come back outside. They wander about in that way that children do, looking for something that says connection -- people, place, or thing -- what will lead the way, what will provide that spark?
The counselors busy themselves with greeting and introducing themselves to the parents, but they have learned (or maybe they always knew) to stand back and let that nothingness happen. They get it and it is a joy to watch the whole thing unfold and it takes only moments. One picks up a bicycle tire. Another picks up one of the ropes. Two begin to stack crates. Buckets of water and sand begin to move. Talk bubbles up. Children look around and see what's what. They need no road map, they need no direct instruction to begin.
This arrival time, this first day, is so valuable because it sets the tone for the whole week and interestingly, each week is quite different. This time to find their own space and place within the context of our play yard gives each week, each group, its own pursuits.
This unfolding wonder and curiosity is such a gift. The parents who decide to send their children to a camp that celebrates and cultivates nothingness are really and truly appreciated by us, the adults watching the play unfold. We get to see those little moments of surprise and agreement and sharing between the children. We get to see the wide-eyed wonder light up when some new discovery or experience pops up.
Waves of nothingness leading to sparks of everythingness. This is the gift of summer packaged in our tinkering camp.