Western society fails to appreciate children’s ability to care for themselves, exercise judgement and bear responsibility. HRMC Dangerous Camps for kids (DC4K) are working proof that children are more capable, sensible and creative than we can imagine.
Children need to be encouraged to take risks and learn that nothing terrible will happen just as parents need to learn that trusting our children to make critical decisions and act with autonomy is essential for their transition into adulthood. Whilst this makes logical sense it is set against a society in which children's’ worlds and freedoms (independent mobility) are shrinking.
Children are arguably more hemmed in by surveillance and social regulation than ever before and today’s risk averse society fueled by social media fear feeding and dictates on responsible parenting is causing parents to increasingly identifying the world outside the home as one which their children must be protected from.
DC4K therefore follow the philosophy: “As safe as necessary,” not “as safe as possible.”
Whilst Dangerous Camps view having fun as central, they are about ‘serious’ play or ‘play with purpose’ where children are provided not just the ‘hard’ technical survival skills of fire lighting and emergency shelters but more importantly the ‘soft’ interpersonal social survival skills that support resilience, self confidence and self esteem. It is these soft skills that support a child’s navigation through the complex and oft times confusing social world they inhabit. Time and again we are shown that it is a child’s understanding and interpretation of their world that determines thoughts, emotions, behaviour and ultimately their mental health.
Whilst traditional adventure camps focus on hard skill acquisition such as those required for reaching the top of a mountain there is only the hope that the experience has also taught the kids something about themselves, Dangerous Camps focus on the whole experience and the linkage between individual, team and task and the complex interplay of emotion and behaviour. In this model reaching the top of the mountain becomes secondary and failure is often more useful for a child’s substantive development than success.
The following are some of the educational concepts that have influenced the design and development of Dangerous Camps.
Unstructured and Self Initiated Play
One of the fundamentals for the Camps is the desire for the kids to initiate activities. Our experience shows that when adults are involved there appears to be a learned deference from the children allowing adults to determine and drive the agenda. We want to reverse this process. In our experience this means that participants will wait for “someone” to tell them what to do. Our role will be to provide a broad direction for the kids and to then support them to accomplish what it is they decide.
For the above to happen, there will be a mix of skills that facilitators will provide along with structured activities based on problem solving and decision making allowing kids to win materials, foods and assistance. Children are also left to their own devices for periods of time and are able to make decisions that may take the course in very different directions. It is quite remarkable what can happen.
“Peter had a blast and learned new skills while also building more confidence and independence. It also pushed him (and us) outside our comfort zones which is where the magic happens!” Emma, Peter’s Mum
Loose play is about stimulating imagination and creativity by providing materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. They are materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or combined with other materials. Dangerous Camps use these as the basis for physical problems that kids need to solve. For example to retrieve an item from the lake without getting wet. Or more simply kids can use the items in unstructured play as they choose.
The basic premise of Tinkering is that the kids are provided real tools and material to solve real problems that will allow them to continue on quests, complete tasks, or simply for fun. They can choose to build rafts, sleds, potato cannons or whatever else will get what they need done. This is all accomplished with material they have salvaged, adapted and re-engineered and then put together with power tools, ropes, knives and axes. Planning, team management, risk assessment, imposing timelines and of course failure are all part of the learning.
‘Active rest’ or ‘not doing’ is important for children. Especially in this age where they are continually required ‘to do’. Boredom is not the sign of a poor imagination but rather can be the making of imagination. Boredom stimulates’ the brain into envisioning the future, reviewing and processing other people’s emotions. But more critically it can lead to daydreaming. We are therefore happy for the kids to encounter and engage in boredom as a prelude to a child finding what interests them or just reflecting on an experience.
The dangerous journey
Do you have an issue or a problem that has caused you to become stuck, unable to move forward, or perhaps left feeling paralysed. DC4 Adults offers a unique journey through your personal contested space. Guided by our trained facilitators you will be provided the opportunity to engage in reflection, wicked problem-solving and decision making. A series of unique obstacles and challenges encountered on your journey will require to be overcome and in so doing provide you the necessary tools to translate your physical movement through the lakes, tundra and islands of Northern Canada into your own personal inner journey of problem-solving and self-actualisation.
For Organisations and Teams
Organisations and teams are only able to develop and grow if they are able to navigate uncertainty, risk, failure and interpersonal conflict as well as success. HRMC facilitators are trained and experienced in the creation of scenarios designed to generate cognitive dissonance, heightened arousal, and disequilibrium in order to push participants to challenge beliefs, values, locus of control and emotions. This challenge then stimulates action or adaptive behaviour to cope (restore equilibrium) and thus deeper learning. Whether this be a team-building or organisational development process HRMC will ensure that experience is transformed into knowledge and participants are supported in their desire to bridge the liminal space and transition into behavioural change and growth.
Opportunities for families to spend meaningful quality time together are rare. DC4F offers the opportunity for parents and their kids to spend time working and thinking through co-creative problems together as well as simply spending unstructured time in beautiful surroundings.
No longer do the adults have all the answers and no longer is the experience just about the kids enjoyment - our camp is designed so that each member of the family has to come to rely on and trust the other. Conflicts, issues and problems require to be worked through as a family and critically all decisions made together. Remembering of course that bad decisions simply lead to better stories! Our facilitators are there only to provide direction, advice and safety.