Until last week, I’d only ever run an activity where students built something and then by the end of the session, they dismantled it. Most of this was for initiative activities such as raft building where part of the exercise was to create a working raft from scratch and cross a river with it by working as a team. Usually everyone involved ended up drenched. However, last week the activity was mountain biking and since the campus didn’t have any mountain bike tracks on it at all, we had to start from scratch.
This was both a fun activity, but also a great learning experience for me seeing the different team dynamics as the students designed and built something from scratch that’s going to be a permanent fixture of the campus! We started off in the classroom where the boys worked out all the key features they wanted for the track! There were obstacles, drop downs, water features, berms and even criss-crossing of the track back onto itself. This last feature I had to overrule mainly for common sense reasons, as some of the boys and the thought of risk management are quite mutually exclusive. With a few different design ideas in mind, we headed out. It wasn’t long before the boys attacked the course with various tools, scratching out the basic shape with rakes and shovels, then angling each twist and turn to make sure enough speed could be gained to be able to clear objects or power through the berms. There were already a couple of massive trees scattered about, so they were easy spots for various rollovers.
A Rollover In Progress
I’d imagined that at the start of the day, we would have had an hour in and I would have had a group of boys leaning on shovels complaining about how boring this was and they just wanted to ride their bikes. Instead, I had some of them not even wanting to stop for lunch, as they continued to pour endless amounts of energy into building the track.
What I loved about this was the fact that they’d taken complete ownership of the build. The teamwork was natural and completely unforced, which can often be the case in initiative games. The other instructor and I ended up just being there for safety and to move large objects with the tractor. It was the boys’ mountain biking track, not ours, which made a massive difference and after six hours of endless toil, they had a rideable course with two rollovers, a few muddy berms and a winding boardwalk with step ups and drop downs! With their tools finally down, the boys jumped on their bikes and one after another, rode around and around and around the course. Cautiously, at first, they checked out each part, however, as they became more confident, they cleared each rollover faster and enthusiastically ripped around the corners with style.
As the light faded, we managed to tear the boys away from the track. The only discussion over dinner was about how they were going to extend the track even further and make it even better. What was so wonderful about this, as opposed to any other building activity I’ve ever done, was the fact that the boys were so passionate about it. What they were building wasn’t just going to be torn to pieces at the end of the day. It was and is going to last well beyond their time at camp and this seemed to instill a deep pride in them for what they were doing! All in all, it was a wonderful day, which started out with an idea and ended up with a cohesive team and one awesome mountain bike track!