By Green River Preserve

It starts early in the morning, with the hectic rush to clean cabins: sweeping, cleaning sinks, making beds, turning off lights as campers leave for mentor hikes. For many, this daily ritual is performed in the hopes of winning cleanest cabin after lunch, for the opportunity to place the pink flamingo proudly in the lunch table napkin holders for the next twenty-four hours.

This ritual, however, sets the tone for the rest of the day—and session—at GRP. Each day starts with this small act of teamwork, whether through the aid of a chore wheel or with the direction of a counselor. Although it is not glamorous, this teamwork lays a foundation of unity for the individual cabins, asking every camper to take pride in the space in which they live and to work together to keep it clean.

Later, campers get to put their collaborative skills to the test in a different way: Predator vs. Prey. Cabins split up into their respective animal groups—hawks, snakes, frogs, and insects—equipped with a map, a whistle, and one another. They are made to function as a single organism, seeking out the food, water, and shelter they need while avoiding the predators that pose a threat.

One group stands huddled around the map, a monochromatic mass of dark clothes and charcoaled limbs in the safe zone of Girlsville, trying to decipher the location of a hidden water tablet. From the front field, the piercing sound of a whistle fills the air, followed by the shouted countdown: “Fifteen! Fourteen! Thirteen!” The group, playing the role of frogs, discusses in hush tones their next move, and then they are off, in search of much-needed resources.

The night ends with a quieter debrief and an explanation of what this game might teach us about the ecosystem present in the world around us, but one of the underlying principles of the game, beyond environmental awareness, is perhaps best summed up in one word: teamwork. Together, campers are made to “survive” an evening through communication, collaboration, and encouragement—skills of which, over the course of their time at GRP, campers gain a better and more nuanced understanding.

Katherine Poore