While working this past summer at Chewonki, I got the opportunity to spend time in our Woodworking activity. Although I’ve always been somewhat interested in woodworking, most of my experience was with a swiss army knife and a stick I found somewhere in the woods while I was a camper. At Chewonki, I was taught how to properly use spokeshaves, carving knives, hook knives, and the order in which these tools are used. I’ve continued woodworking since this summer, and have decided to take a large step from spatulas/spoons to making a canoeing paddle.
As I’ve been creating/shaping my paddle, I’ve been reflecting on Camp 2021 and looking forward to Camp 2022. I think there are a lot of important lessons that can be learned from woodworking and working with kids; two things that I enjoyed doing every day at camp this past summer.
First: each individual is unique and has different needs. Paddles are made out of porous/small grained wood, some have knots, they may be too hard or not hard enough… the best thing about spending time making a paddle, or spending time with a camper, is that you get to learn what makes them unique. It’s also great for figuring out what they need; are they a visual/auditory learner? Are they patient, or enthusiastic? Do they like working with others or individually? Each camper’s experience is going to be unique, and it is such a joy watching them learn how to shape something into an object that is made through their hard work.
No skill is needed to start woodworking, or to interact with kids. What is needed is good intentions, patience, curiosity, and support. Although skill is not needed, support is. Creating a paddle can seem overwhelming so having someone there to simplify the process, to whom you can ask questions, can make a world of difference. At Chewonki, we understand that camp can be overwhelming to some. By giving support to a camper/cabin leader/activity head, they will learn the skills they need to help themselves next time they feel that way. Homesickness is common in sleepaway camps, and Chewonki is no exception, but we never want someone to go through that alone.
The end of camp, or a woodworking project, is bittersweet but rewarding. You’ve seen your campers grow in just a few days/weeks, your paddle take shape. You’ve learned what makes them unique, overcome difficulties, and challenged them AND yourself to grow as a person. We hope that our campers experience transformative growth in their time here, and learn how to be stewards of the natural world. It’s always easier to work with kids when you have a community around you; it’s easier to create a paddle when you have many different tools to use.
I hope that the months leading up to the beginning of camp are fulfilling, engaging, and that you find a project of your own that challenges you. At Chewonki, we are preparing to have a fantastic summer and are looking forward to seeing the unique individuals that we have the opportunity to learn about!