AIKEN - There's no tribal council and no scheming to make this summer game of Survivor thrilling. Instead, children at the University of South Carolina Aiken camp use team-building challenges to enhance their sharing and social skills.
In the Survivor Day Camp, which is part of the Kids in College summer camp series, children spend hours in activities ranging from capture-the-flag to a doughnut-eating contest. All games focus on learning teammates' strengths and using those skills to win a challenge, said instructor Amanda Cook.
"Their competitive spirit has definitely come out," Ms. Cook said. "They definitely put their hearts into it because they aren't on the same team every day."
Children draw for a new team each day from a stack of blue and green camouflage bandanas. They receive stars toward The Ultimate Survivor winner through daily challenges, random acts of kindness and winning the Most Valuable Player from group votes.
"A lot of this has to do with cooperation," Ms. Cook said. "I want them to know that you don't have to be No. 1 and it is OK to not be the best. They know that it is important to help each other and think about their actions while coming up with strategies."
The children's growth was evident from a repeat of their first camp challenge. Using ski-style trackers, teams held the white rope and ties in their hands. Based on the leader's signal of "left" or "right," their feet would lift to move the trackers forward. But the teamwork didn't work so well the first time.
"I got madder and madder," said Daniel Hane, 7. He was team leader on the first attempt. "If people didn't lift together, we couldn't go anywhere."
By Thursday, his team tracked across the USC Aiken campus within minutes of beginning the challenge.
Children also were happy that, unlike contestants on the TV show, they were in small groups and didn't have to eat bugs.
"We've learned how to help each other," said Randi Herron, 9. "Even if I can't help the team do things, I can still encourage them."
Reach Julia Sellers at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
KIDS IN COLLEGE
For more about summer camps at USC Aiken, visit www.usca.edu/conted/pdf/2007CatalogPDF.pdf.