This year, our sleepaway camp took place in in the second half of August in Kismaros, at the Kismagos Centre for Ecotourism. Most of our 17 children came, full of energy and enthusiasm, from Litke, Lácacséke and Magyarbánhegyes, but we also had participants, just as keen, from Salgótarján, Budapest, Feked, Somlójenő and Takácsi. From different places, but also often with different social backgrounds, these kids came to know and love each other by the end of the seventh day of the camp. They shared rooms, activities and also their experiences with each other, so that by the end of the camp they created a group chat on social media to keep in touch instead of complaining about their roommates.
The beginning of the story is not quite as cheerful, though! No sooner had our little group of explorers arrived to Terra Viridis (a new planet awaiting discovery) than tragedy struck: Tibi, one of our volunteers was kidnapped by the alien inhabitants of the planet. Luckily, the camp site proved to be a safe zone, but it was up to the children to get to know the extra-terrestrial creatures and their intentions, to find out whether or not they are hostile, and, ultimately, to get Tibi back.
The activities which took place over the course of the week represented a wonderful opportunity for gathering intelligence, and the children learnt a lot about aliens as well as other important things. They found out how to differentiate between real and fake news after our communications system was hacked, and they also learnt about stock exchange (cosmic moneys were needed for the hostage negotiations) and about transmitting messages to other planets using a binary code. To top it all off, they got the chance to dissect cosmic animals, thereby gaining knowledge related to anatomy and systematics. Our guest Eszter Papp taught the kids sign language, whilst other playful challenges targeted problem solving and collaborative skills. Longer projects taking place over the course of the week included painting the camp flag and designing a gift for everyone to take home (that’s how everyone received a knapsack t-shirt), shooting a video clip, building a wind turbine, concocting healthy sweets and creating cheerful designs for plaster casts.
Besides the activities, each day also involved after-lunch meditations and bedtime storytelling, teambuilding games aiding reflexion, as well as organized free time, with the option to play board games or make music, do colouring or slacklining, as well as sports. Individual mentoring sessions allowed the children to discuss not only their camp time experiences but also their long-term goals and aspirations with a volunteer.
Our two visits to Budapest were also enjoyed by all. On Tuesday, we discovered that science can be wonderful too at the Csopa Centre of Scientific Wonders, and not even the early wakeup time could take away from the campers’ enthusiasm. On Thursday, some participated in creative painting at Alkotásutca (Creation Street), and we couldn’t wait for the sun to set to witness our medusas done with fluorescent paint shine. Others solved logical puzzles in the escape room, and we also had the chance to try out VR play.
By the end of the camp, to everyone’s joy and relief, the aliens returned Tibi to us. It turned out that they were not quite as hostile as we believed them to be… In fact, ties were strengthened and friendships were formed not only between aliens and earthlings, but also amongst earthlings and earthlings. Long live adventure and discovery!