One of my favorite times of the day at camp is called “Assembly.” We hardly ever mention it when we talk about the daily schedule; it’s such a short period of time. Assembly takes place in the 15 minutes between morning interest groups and lunch.
Assembly has all the best elements of camp. There’s a theme song (everyone loves group singing), there are costumes (campers love dressing up for 50s dinner, water carnival, and the big moment when Voyageur and Odyssey campers walk back into camp), and lots of skits (so fun), and games (well obviously, it’s camp). Like camp, assembly itself is a variety show of fun and creativity.
Pioneer and Trailblazer campers make their way up from the waterfront or back from pounding away in the woodshop, or building fairy houses in the forest. Once they’ve reached the main camp, they gather in between New Hampshire lodge and the Eating lodge to watch their leaders put on this jamboree of imagination.
The leaders get to decide what elements belong in the variety show. They can teach a new camp song or challenge campers to guess which leader belongs to a set of silly facts. Is it Sal who has never eaten a cheese burger, or is it Charlie? Was Ali the champion of her 3rd grade spelling bee or maybe it was Taylor?
Sometimes they play word games, like guess the true meaning of “spondonegle” or they make up silly news stories from outside the valley—have you heard that Lexington Massachusetts has banned walking? Now everyone must skip or crawl or jump anywhere they want to go in town. Sometimes campers get involved by showing off wacky talents and superhuman tricks. It’s amazing what you can pack into 15 extra minutes.
Campers love assembly because it tickles the imagination. It’s also an opportunity to catch their breath and work on that friendship bracelet between activities. But that’s not why we have assembly. This pre-lunch festival is actually a safety measure!
Assembly is built into the schedule to help campers make their way from the distant interest groups and trip-prep activities toward the eating lodge. While we don’t take an official roll call at the beginning of each meal, the dining table is as important as each interest group’s attendance sheet. It’s an opportunity for staff to check that every single camper is present and accounted for, all at the same time.
Without Assembly, campers would trickle into the meal each at their own pace. Some from only a short distance away, at archery, others would be delayed by putting away paddle boards and asking Susan if they could please have a bead for their buddy tag to show that they had swam all the way to Birch point and back. It would be hard to know when the whole community was finally united, and harder still for the early-arrivers to wait to fill their plate.
How sneaky that this 15 minute carnival of fun, Assembly, is stuck in there to keep us all in check. It’s a quick little circus, but it completes the task and has everyone around the table by the time the meal starts with a camper sharing a moment of gratitude. The counselors and specialists silently count heads around the table making note of each member of the village, while everyone circles the table with arms on each other’s’ shoulders and listens, as still and quiet as they can, to the person sharing their gratitude over the mic.
I am grateful for intentionality. I am grateful for ingenuity. I am grateful for purpose. I am grateful for playfulness. I am grateful for a fun, safe summer.