Enjoying playing in the creek during Free Time todayEnjoying playing in the creek during Free Time today

At Falling Creek, we are able to promote free play and celebrate all the things that make boys, boys. We encourage them to play hard, get messy, be creative, sing loudly, and cheer triumphantly. There are also times when we encourage their quiet campfire reflections, fuel their artistic endeavors, and allow them to follow their curiosity about the environment. Though we strive to teach boys manners and have a few rules at camp to ensure safety, none of those rules say anything about “children being seen and not heard.” At camp, it is the opposite, and all throughout the day there is exciting, loud, fun playing going on.

Even though free play doesn’t seem like it would have any benefits to a boy besides just pure fun, there are actually a multitude of developmental benefits that come from play. Experiencing nature in a socially supportive and natural environment is formatively important, even though informal interactions like play and recreation seem mundane. Research tells us that free play “allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills. When play is allowed to be child driven, children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue … In contrast to passive entertainment, play builds active, healthy bodies. In fact, it has been suggested that encouraging unstructured play may be an exceptional way to increase physical activity levels in children, which is one important strategy in the resolution of the obesity epidemic” (Ginsburg 2007, doi: 10.1542/peds.2006-2697).

There are few places with as many imaginative play opportunities as there are at camp. This is especially true on weekends, when boys are able to play all-camp-games together, compete in the tournaments they choose, decide to take part in Special Signups that aren’t usually offered, or just have free time around camp to play with their friends. The tournaments are a fun way to allow boys to enjoy friendly competition and play against other boys in their favorite sports or activities. Today’s tournaments included basketball, Magic cards, doubles disc-golf, archery, fishing, chess, and carpetball.

One of the larger tournaments of the day was the Magic cards competition where 40 teams of pairs combined forces, skill, wisdom, and patience. With so much coordination of fun, this tournament will conclude in the afternoon tomorrow.

Josh Cooey organized the doubles disc golf walk-up match where 2 people can complete the course any time during the morning. Raines K. and James L. were the victors.

Photography counselor, Jordan Matthis, hosted the walk-up Archery tournament where boys could drop by the range any time this morning to shoot the best of 5 arrows from 25’ or 50’. Harrison K. scored 46, the best at the 25’ distance and Berkley W. shot a 35 to win at the 50’ range.

Harry O and Ben C. hosted the walk-up fishing tournament where the boys check in to pick up a rod and they have 1 hour at the point to catch as many fish as possible. They fish with another person so they each can help the other keep tabs. George G; used his amazing fishing skills to catch 13 fish, which is better than catching one fish every 5 minutes, quite impressive.

Will Weaver hosted the first annual “Marisa Pharr Carpet Ball Challenge” for boys that want to show off their carpet ball skills. Thomas P. proved to be the best today. Well done Thomas.

Perry Earle also announced and organized a chess tournament. Perry noted that there was some stiff competition and two guys have emerged as finalists. Harper K. and Patteson B. will challenge each other tomorrow afternoon in the final match.

Part of today's chess tournamentPart of today's chess tournament

The Basketball tournament had 10 teams, with each including all 4 tribes. It was stiff competition with many of the games close. In fact, one game went into double overtime. David Cowan’s team, known as “Team Sauce” emerged as the champion just as the bell rang to send us all to a delicious lunch.

Frank giving the guys some pointers during the basketball tournamentFrank giving the guys some pointers during the basketball tournament

During our BLT wrap lunch, we celebrated three birthdays! Nature and OSC counselor, Carson Skidmore had a birthday today. Lee A. also turned 13, and Matthew L. turned 16. After cake and singing, everyone headed to their cabins for rest hour and to recharge for a big afternoon.

In the afternoon, we continued playing with a huge all-camp-game of Wild Wild West! This is one of the most popular games we play at camp, splitting into 4 teams and using the whole camp as a “game map.” Boys are hunting for “hidden gold,” but have to watch out for turning in fools-gold to the bank unknowingly. They can also earn points by finding other hidden items around camp, or by pulling the flag belts of other teams. Even though we had an afternoon shower, the rain only made the game feel more epic, and boys were having a blast running through the woods and playing all afternoon.

Rain never slows down Wild Wild West!Rain never slows down Wild Wild West!

After all the excitement of the day, we capped off this Saturday with an incredible fireworks display. During the evening of the 4th, the weather took a turn and we had to delay the fireworks. However, that meant that we got to extend the Independence Day celebrations until tonight! We enjoyed “bomb pop” popsicles and sat around the lake, admiring the light show as the fireworks shot off and reflected back in the lake below.

Tomorrow we’ll have another full day of playing, allowing campers to enjoy the freedom of choosing their activities. We’re looking forward to sleeping in an extra hour as well! At camp, every day feels like the weekend, but we’re excited for the more relaxed pace that Sunday will bring.

Enjoying tonight's fireworks displayEnjoying tonight's fireworks display
Serving the ball in a tennis matchServing the ball in a tennis match