Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hiking Skills for Cubs: Day Camp Day 4

Ever announced that you were going to be leading a group of kids on a hike and had your ears accosted with groans and whines and all manner of under-breath grumbles? Unfortunately for me, I have a few too many times. Although I have yet to figure out just where some kids have gotten this negative stigma to the word 'hike' (my own kids beg to go on hikes, so I just don't get it), I have found that children often can use the help of a motivator to make a walk through the woods something less of a chore.

So for my last day of the Cub Skills station at camp I came prepared to motivate the boys toward enjoying our 1 mile hike. First, I had pre-hiked the path and found a cool destination that could be used as the end of our trail. A spillway for the resivoir's dam with some neat climbing rocks on the bank of the river. Score! I also created a hiking bingo game for the boys to bring on the hike, which conveniently listed many trees and birds which they needed to be able to identify to earn the Hiking pin. How very sneaky of me to include requirements in something billed as a 'fun' activity!
Click image to download printable PDF.
But I had an even better secret weapon to get the boys excited about the hike. I brought with me many small tubs filled with various goodies and some small plastic baggies. Before each group sallied forth they got to make their very own trail mix to enjoy on the walk. You've never seen kids so excited to put scoops of pretzels, Goldfish and M&M's into a baggie before. I don't think I heard a single grumble or complaint about starting the hike since they had one hand in their snack mix and the other on their bingo sheet and pencil. Conveniently, the character trait the camp was focusing on that day happened to be posotive attitiude too, which I happily reminded the boys of before the hike and hinted that those exemplifying that trait might just walk back with an extra spirit token or two.

We happliy walked the rocky path, the boys excitedly checking things off their bingo sheets, including many things that apparently ONLY they could see. I tried not to mind the obvious cheating and told myself they were only trying to please me and themselves. When we reached the spillway and rocks, the expressions on their faces was priceless. There's something about kids and runnign water that makes them stare in awe. After a group picture and a short break to eat more trail mix and point out some nearby poison ivy, the hike back went just a smoothly and pleasently as the hike down. I'm not sure who was more proud of themselves, me or the boys. I also passed out information sheets for the Virginia State Parks Trail Quest program to those boys who were interested in getting the pin for that day's hike.

Five group hikes in one day, and no memorable complaints to speak of. In fact, every boy seemed to have a truly great time and was all smiles after leaving my station. If that's not a testament to how much kids can actually enjoy hiking then I don't know what else to do to help. Dare I say even the parent chaperones, one of which blatently had said he hated hiking, thouroughly enjoyed themselves on the walk. I truly hope that the week's activities and the culmination of the short hike will inspire more of those kids to get outside and walk some trails with their Dens and family members.

One of the groups at the "end" of the trail. Can you tell they had fun?

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