(Note: THIS IS REAL. I actually handed this in to my superiors after a summer of working out at the local Boy Scouts of America summer camp. Of course, my immediate boss handed it right back to me and made me redo it before he’d hand it to his boss. But still, this is mind-bogglingly silly and unprofessional. I guess that’s how I roll.)
July 21, 2004
The Handicraft Area is quite possibly the most important area in camp. While it has no Eagle required merit badges, it does have materials that all the other areas within the camp need in order to run good programs. And besides, as James has pointed out several times, camp is not about merit badges. (Even if it was, Handicraft gets the most blue card traffic simply due to our stereotype of being the home of the easiest merit badges. Kids simply flock to us in the free time to try and jam in that fifth or sixth merit badge.) Almost all areas within camp come to Handicraft with their requests for paints, brushes, paper, fabric, award materials, etc. Handicraft is like the little recognized backbone of Lost Lake Camp. Without it, the program would collapse in a helpless goo.
Any area without specific goals and neat slogans and stuff isn’t worth being a member of the Lost Lake Camp. As such, I’ve come up with all kinds of cool little phrases and inspiring stuff. I never really had it while we were actually working with the scouts, but I feel that it is important for us to end it out good an’ strong. So, our Handicraft motto is: “Duct tape fixes everything.” We’ve also got things like, “A Handicraft staffer is tired, hungry, stressed, cheap, immature, etc.” and “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and country, to serve my area director at all times, to not laugh when she’s ranting again about the same stuff over and over, and to observe the Handicraft Law.” And, of course, we have a Grand Purpose. Our purpose in Handicraft can be divided into three main categories: providing a safe and fun learning environment for the Scouts, providing materials for the Scouts’ various ‘non-merit badge’ projects, and providing materials for other staffers for things like maintaining their areas and making their awards. Let’s look at each of these three purposes one at a time.
Providing a safe and fun learning environment for the Scouts. Here in the Handicraft area, we take pride in being one of the safest areas in camp. Despite the fact that we encourage the use of knives and rocket engines, we have never once had a fatal injury, or even a critical hospital run. Though we teach them how to Indian stick fight and how to weave baskets, we have never had any broken bones or poked-out eyes. And, while we endorse such potentially dangerous activities, we are still able to preserve a level of safety and keep the classes enjoyable and interesting. Being the ‘artsy’ area of the camp, we allow the boys an otherwise unavailable outlet for their thoughts and feelings that would be stifled and suppressed to slowly fester with unhealthy emotional rot, possibly for years, if not let out. So not only is it physically safe, but also mentally healthy and soothing.
Providing materials for the Scouts’ various ‘non-merit badge’ projects. Perhaps the most common request from the boys is that of paints, brushes, and fabrics so that the boys can create troop or patrol flags. We help not only in making available supplies and helping in the creative process, but in the actual construction and technique behind the finished piece, especially with the younger boys. Also, when making awards for leaders or staffers, we are usually the first place that they come to for whatever they need, from feathers to 2X2s. We have all the materials they need to make from scratch almost anything they can reasonably come up with and also have the know-how to help them through any problems they might have in the actual formation of the undertaking.
Providing materials for other staffers. While we may whine incessantly every single time Sven makes me do one of his little projects, we still do them and are sure to only whine when he’s not around. Most of the rest of the staff, however, is pretty good about just taking the supplies and providing their own labor. We always try to be very accommodating in whatever help we can provide, be it just materials, or workspace as well. We even try to help out in work, if help is needed or wanted. And for all the stuff that we were asked to do and didn’t do… well, we get busy, too, sometimes. It must not have been deemed terribly important.
This year was a very interesting year for Handicraft. I myself am just freshly entered into the grown-up world and had a little bit of difficulty playing ‘mature adult’. Things were better once I got into the swing of things, but were a little rough at first. Neither of my staffers, Ben —– and Torben ——, had any previous teaching experience and their pooled amount of Handicraft merit badges left me somewhat nervous, I will admit. Ben did a wonderful job pulling off several minor miracles and Torben taught me superhuman patience. (He really did try most of the time; he just got easily distracted and was compulsively violent when feeling insulted.) All things considered, I think the Handicraft area ran amazingly smoothly. Granted, it was still somewhat akin to riding through a North Pole back road in a 60 mph handcart, but we made it through in one piece. All of the classes were taught, requirements were met in a satisfactory manner, and most of the boys got the badges for the classes they signed up for. We provided the times and the materials whenever possible, and any shortcomings that are apparent, we say were purely the boys’ fault. I blame them and a bad upbringing.
I am pleased to inform the higher staff that my plans to take over the camp began to come to fruition this year. Phase One of my three part plan began with the commandeering of the Trading Post. With that firm foothold onto power, I was able to get a strong influence over the Waterfront Director, as I fed his addictions to soda and popcorn. And, once I whine enough about being understaffed, I was able to steal half a day of Dane and half a day of Steve, thus creating the entity I will to refer to as Stain. Once I have completely taken over Nature and Waterfront, Phase One will be complete and I can move onto Phase Two, which involves getting the kitchen staff on my side and using my influence over my mother to gain free access to the weaponry. When faced with rifles and shotguns on the one hand, and bland, horrible meals on the other, Scoutcraft and COPE will quickly crumble and Phase Three will be complete, leaving me undisputed Queen of Camp, using James as a hostage to keep the authorities out of it. I plan on having all of my mini-goals met within the next five years. So the Trading Post thing wasn’t bad at all, in the long run. I mean, it was pretty stress-y at times, but it brought me one step closer to camp domination.
Next year, I also hope that I will be provided with adequate staff. We were unable to completely teach all the merit badges that we have supplies for because we did not have the manpower to run it all. There are also a few supplies that would make our lives a lot easier, such as white paper to draw on and a pack of pencils. There are a few merit badges that are all but impossible to finish within camp. Perhaps there is something we can do to fix this, such as letting the boys know if there is something they need to do or research in advance. A few of them were pretty frustrated and felt cheated. I’m hoping that next year things will run better. I can’t really blame anyone else for a lot of the problems were that I didn’t know what I was doing. It took me a little while to really step into the role of area director and I have always had a problem with delegating. Now that I see its importance, I will hopefully be a little more willing to dump extra stuff on other people. If I could do that, as well as complete Phase One, I would be a pretty happy girl.
In closing, I would like to once again point out that Handicraft is the most important place in camp (except maybe the Dining Hall). As such, and seeing as I was in charge of the Trading Post as well, I think I should get double pay next year in compensation for all the years that stress has shaved off of my life. I also think Ben should receive some sort of compensation. I saw about ten white hairs on his head today that were not there at the beginning of camp. Yes, it was paint, but it was enamel paint and that stuff doesn’t wash out so easily. Thank you for an excellent summer and I hope to be back next year. 🙂 (Insert evil laughter here.)