Outdoor Skills Weekend

Flower Pounding
Flower Pounding was one of the many enrichment activities we could take.

Outdoor Skills Weekend is for leaders and camping moms in your troop. It’s a weekend of camping fun for adults at Camp Winacka on the first weekend in October. Over the weekend you’ll have a chance to learn lots of fun activities and skills that will making camping lots of fun for your troop!  I wanted to share some of the fun things I did at the 2013 Outdoor Skills Weekend, just to give you an idea of why you might like to go next year!

Friday afternoon we arrived at 5 pm.  Check-in was in the new Geico Welcome Center. When we checked in we got the list of activities we had signed up for, picked a cabin to sleep in and chose a kaper. You could choose an “early risers”, “night owls”, “quiet cabin” or “snorers”. I chose to sleep at Hideaway, a cluster of cabins I love that feel like you’re sleeping in a tree house.

These nametags open into little books where we could jot notes

After check-in I dropped my luggage in a spot where Ranger Dave would pick it up and take it to Hideaway and went to the lodge. We made name tags there out of 2 pieces of balsa wood decorated with wasa tape, sequins, markers and yarn and sandwiched several sheets of paper between the wood before punching a hole or two for a ribbon lanyard. That will give us someplace to jot names or quick notes during the weekend.

They serve a snack of popcorn, pretzels and crushed oreos. It makes a nice sweet and salty trail mix! We sit around the lodge talking to old friends and meeting new friends. The Council Store has set up a table with a nice selection of adult shirts, sweatshirts, hats and accessories. I look at the great books about camping and purchase a flashlight!

At 6 pm a big group of us met to learn about telescopes and to plan a hike to Inspiration Point to look at the stars. The weather is windy and cold after the sun goes down but with a new moon the stars are amazing! There is a new giant telescope at Inspiration Point and we learn how to use it and look at various constellations and hear some great stories about the stars before hiking back to Winacka for bed.


Saturday morning I’m up at 7am and meet at the lodge at 7:30 to practice a flag ceremony with Fran Styles. I learn that the red sashes should be tied on the left. The ideal number for a flag ceremony is 6. The audience forms a horseshoe facing the sun.  We do a run through and then do the real thing for the leaders who are straggling over for breakfast. Fran answers questions about the ceremony and makes some suggestions for leaders who are curious about how to do a flag ceremony with their girls. We go into breakfast.

We have some delicious scrambled eggs, home fried potatoes, bacon, fruit and coffee for breakfast. The Songbirds teach us a new grace and we all have kapers to do to clean up from the meal. They teach us how to have our girls do the dishes when we bring them to camp.

Right after breakfast we learn how to do a fire drill. We meet at Morningside and quickly get into groups according to cabin. We count how many are in each cluster and shout those numbers out. Gabby/Star checks her numbers to make sure that the right number are assembled. She explains what would happen in a real emergency, tells us we did a good job parking our cars facing out and reminds us to keep our car keys with us, drink lots of water, wear sunscreen and have a great day.

Resin Pendants
These were some of the pendants I made. They are clear and very hard and have little things inside them.

My first activity starts right after the drill. I’m learning to make resin pendants. They are little clear molded shapes, about the size of a 50 cent piece, filled with all kinds of treasures: sprinkles, tiny shells, little pictures, seeds, dried flowers, goldfish cracker, penny, sequins, glitter and so much more! They can be made into magnets, necklace pendants, bracelet charms, and cork board pins. We learn how to mix the resin and hardener and then get to pour about 6 little pendants. I put some drops of resin on a scrabble square, and experiment by putting some resin on a collection of treasures in a bottle cap. I get to bring home a mold and all my creations and a sheet of directions so I can do it with my troop.

My next activity is called Trashy Cooking. We’re going to cook our own lunch (while the rest of the group is eating taco salad.) “This better be good if I’m missing taco salad!” one of the leaders says. We are going to try several new outdoor cooking techniques. The centerpiece is a meal layered in a 10 gallon metal trash can and cooked over an open fire. First in the can go about 12 soda cans half filled with water. Then we put a screen on top of them and a layer of cabbage leaves. Then we put in 25 large chunks of potato, large chunks of kielbasa sausage, turkey meatballs, chunks of onion, chunks of zucchini, chunks of corn on the cob,  and small wedges of cabbage. On top we put the metal lid. The whole can goes on top of about 30 hot charcoal briquettes and then we pile another 15 briquettes on top of the lid and then push more hot charcoal around the sides up as high as we can mound them! That gets left on the fire for about 2 hours.

While we wait for that to cook we also cook a small turkey with a can of soda stuck inside it, cook small burgers on a shovel, cook hot dogs on a pitch fork make armpit fudge and a big fruit salad. The trash can food isn’t completely cooked when it’s time to go but the small turkey is delicious and we’ve sampled enough to be stuffed.

My next activity is a terrific discussion about how to handle problem behavior in your troop. Gabby/Star leads the workshop and she’s got great ideas that have worked for her in the years that she has been the camp director at Camp Winacka. It’s all about making better choices. Identify the problem, tell her why that choice isn’t working, ask her what a better choice would be. Behaviors are like a ring of keys, you learn which ones open different doors and which ones don’t work. She may learn that screaming and throwing things works at home..you have to make it clear that it doesn’t work with you. She taught us the acronym S.M.E.L.S…Stop what you’re doing, Move to the girl, Engage her by looking her in the eye, get Low and talk Slow. (Lean for a teen, Squat with a tot…get on their level and let them know you are focused on them.)

We learned several different lanyard and finger weaving techniques
We learned several different lanyard and finger weaving techniques

My final activity for the day is learning how to make a bunch of different lanyards, friendship bracelets and finger weaving.  I leave with several samples, a loom and a packet of directions and examples.

Other leaders have spent the day: doing archery, learning how to run a better encampment, taking a tour of Camp Winacka, learning ice-breaker games,  taking Let’s Camp training, going on a 3 hour hike, making sit upons on giant looms using t-shirts and plastic bags, learning games to support outdoor program, taking a discovery trail, learning photography, doing flower pounding, singing and learning new songs, learning tips for incorporating journeys into camping, painting river rocks, playing Kumeyaay compass games, making fire starters, learning about ceremonies and planning a Scouts Own and taking a geology hike!

We have a flag down ceremony and then head in to dinner. We have pasta with marinara sauce, hot bread sticks, salad and roasted vegetables. Again we learn a new grace and sing a song together. After dinner we pull the benches around the big stone fireplace in the lodge and leaders swap SWAPS and then we have a campfire. The theme is the rainbow and all the songs they teach us have something to do with color.  We learn silly songs, repeat after me songs, we sing some pretty rounds, hear some interactive stories and finally sing the lovely quiet songs that signal the end of the campfire. They offer smores, but I’m exhausted and ready for bed.

Sunday we don’t have breakfast till 9am so we have time to pack up our things and clean up the cabins. We have kapers at the cabins just like we give the girls when we bring them camping. There is a flag ceremony and breakfast with pancakes, bacon, fruit and yogurt. Leaders are scooping up ashes from the campfire last night and sharing SWAPS.

After breakfast we have a Wide Game. It has the theme of a Gold Rush hunt for gold. There are 4 stations with silly tasks, snacks and challenges and takes about 40 minutes for the 4 groups to follow a map around to try everything. We get a hand out about how to plan a Wide Game and giving us examples of fun Wide Games: learning first aid, learning cooking techniques, doing crafts, doing circus tricks, olympic games…lots of fun ideas!

We head back to the lodge to have the flag down ceremony and a nice Scouts Own at Singing Tree. We talk about things we learned over the weekend, about friends we’ve made, how much we love the outdoors and this special place. At check out we get a patch and a hug. I pick up a bag lunch and hit the road.

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