“ The trees and the skies and the lanes and the brooks.
Are more full of wonders than all of the books.
And always outdoors you can find something new
You never are lacking for something to do.
So, come where the wild things are waiting outside.
And let your soul taste of the joys that abide.”
Philosophy of Campfire
It is around the fire – open to the night sky that individuals relax and appreciate more keenly nature’s contribution to our happiness.
4-H Campfire Programs
A good campfire program will play an important part in any Camp. More than 2/3 of the campers will rate the campfire programs as the activity they like the best at Camp; that is provided they are well planned and carried out. Having a good campfire program will require a host of planning and work before, as well as during, the Camp. This work can and is fun especially as you see the enjoyment that the campers have during a well conducted campfire program.
A 4-H Camp Fire Can and Should
- Develop talent by giving campers opportunity to participate in the various activities.
- Provide opportunity for sharing experiences and talents.
- Develop appreciation for nature and the world around us.
- Provide opportunity for having fun without commercial ideas.
- Stimulate creative thinking and develop a resourcefulness which can be used in local community programs.
- A chance to build team spirit and group involvement.
Planning the Camp Fire Program
Much of the campfire program can and should be planned by the campers during the Camp. However, they need ideas, direction, and some help in planning a good program. It is hoped that this section on campfires will provide you with some ideas and aides.
Most campfires are carried out with some kind of theme or type of campfire which the program can be built around. If a theme is selected, the skits, songs, challenges and other parts of the program can and should be built around the central idea. One of the most popular types is the Indian campfire and it will be used as an example throughout this section. Other types might be: Hobo, Amateur Circus, Backwards, Hillbilly, School Days, County Fair, Comic Strip, T.V. shows and other similar ideas. Remember, themes are limited only by the imagination the group planning the campfire. It is well if the campers or a representative from the campers select the theme. This will help build interest and enthusiasm for the program.
The parts of the program itself will depend to some extent on the length of the time available, facilities, age of the campers and the theme selected. A typical campfire will include:
- The Lighting of the Fire:
There are a number of ceremonies that can be worked out to light a campfire. Many reference books have different ceremonies and ideas on how to make the lighting an interesting and exciting part of the campfire. Below are listed a few for your consideration:
- Spontaneous Fire – Suddenly, at the command of the Chief, the fire starts. This is achieved in the following manner: Prepare a mixture of equal parts of POTASSIUM CHLORATE and SUGAR (one tablespoon each). Mix thoroughly. Spread the mixture on a paper plate under the kindling of fine shavings or dry twigs (arranged wigwam fashion) which have been soaked in kerosene. Concentrated SULPHURIC ACID (less than an ounce) is placed in a glass bottle with a string tied to the top of the bottle. This string is held secretly by someone in the counsel ring. When ready for the fire to ignite, the string is pulled slowly thus tipping the bottle over so that it pours on the mixture. The moment the sulphuric acid pours out, there is a slight explosion and the shavings burst into flame. Experiment first. Never pour acid on the mixture by holding the bottle in your hand. Keep all persons away from the fire, since the acid splatters and it will burn holes in clothing. Also do not touch the bottle or anything the acid has spilled on. The acid and chemicals are dangerous and should not be handled by young campers.
- Fire From Heaven – A small wire is stretched from a stake in the pile of wood from the fire to a tree nearby. A staff person hidden by the tree foliage as a ball of excelsior or other suitable material saturated with kerosene. The ball is wrapped with some wire which is hooked or can be hooked over the wire leading to the campfire. At a signal from the Chief, or as part of a story, the staff person in the tree lights the ball of excelsior and lets it slide down the wire. It helps if the story teller or Chief can be on the opposite side of the campfire to draw campers’ attention away from the source of the fire.
- Fire by Friction – an interesting method that required time and practice. Some older campers with a little practice might have a contest starting the fire with this method.
- Colored Fire – An interesting and surprising effect is changing the color of the fire. Roll newspaper and magazines into tight rolls about 3 inches in diameter. Tie securely with a string. Soak these “logs” in the following solution: 2 pounds copper sulfate (blue Vitriol), 2 pounds rock salt or sodium chlorate, ¾ gallon of water (3 quarts). Mix this solution in a crock or stone jar – NEVER IN METAL OR PLASTIC. DO NOT PUT HANDS IN THE SOLUTION OR TOUCH THE WET LOGS. Dry the logs in the sun or spread out on folds of newspaper on a warm cellar floor. Pine cones, corn cobs and twigs can be soaked in the above solution and will give a brief flash of colored flames.
WHATEVER METHOD YOU USE, PUT SAFETY AHEAD OF EVERYTHING ELSE.
Also don’t overlook the use of a torch. In some cases you might want the fire burning when the campers arrive. The person in charge should also remember a box of matches. The best laid plans sometimes fail, so be prepared.
Additional ideas can be found in the book “Complete Book of Campfire Programs”.
Challenges and Games:
Challenges and games are a tradition in the 4-H campfire program. Campers, both boys and girls, like to put their talents, physical and mental, against opponents – all in the spirit of fun, of course. They will do it individually or by groups. They will do it for personal glory or for the sake of their team.
Challenges provide an opportunity to get the new and the timid campers into things. Once they do something they will usually keep doing other parts of the program more readily. Team Leaders should keep this in mind as they select people to take part in a challenge.
Challenges and games can provide excitement, entertainment and fun at the campfire circle. Remember that the main objective is to develop desirable character, citizenship, leadership, and fellowship. Challenges and games play an important role toward meeting this objective.
A FEW SUGGESTIONS:
- Do not allow challenges that might cause someone to be hurt.
- Do not allow challenges that require a special skill such as tumbling, etc. Try to include rather than exclude campers.
- Advise against challenges requiring a great deal of time to complete. (Set a time limit if necessary)
- Let the teams pick the member who will accept the challenge.
- All teams should be given a chance to accept the challenge given. Select challenges that can be used in this way.
- Encourage teams to cheer their representative.
- Have the Camp Manager appoint a counselor or others to judge or time challenges where necessary.
- When at all possible, have the planning group announce challenges ahead of time so the teams can practice and prepare. This allows leaders to try and involve all members of the team and helps build enthusiasm.
- Stories or Special Features
All campfires should end and sometimes begin with a serious note. This may take on many forms. It is up to the planer to decide. Story telling or a good reading or poem by selected counselors can challenge the campers. This is an excellent time to develop a theme. This section need not be long. A short, well-planned story can be very effective.
Singing is a vital part of any and all campfire program. It’s another of the “make or break” points to keep in mind.
The good song leader is one who is ready with a song right now. She/he is never caught without one – one that fits into the tempo and the mood of the program, or that will change the tempo or the mood. The campfire program may be started with singing. It is also appropriate between different parts of the program. There are peppy and “slow-down” and “mood-changing” songs. The song leader must know these and more, and know how and when to use them. Usually ”peppy” songs start a campfire program. Often between challenges, a “rouser” is used, i.e. a song that requires action on the part of the campers. A “quiet” song is usually best to close the campfire.
- Closing Ceremonies
Truly impressive campfire programs end on the right note – one of encouragement, challenge or commitment. This should be a planned part of the program and not just something that happens when you run out of planned programs. The closing might use a story, song, special music, a friendship circle or perhaps some kind of organizational pledge. Whatever you use, (and this will depend on the type of campfire that you have), be sure that the closing is part of the planned program.
- Physical Facilities
At most camps, the campfire area has been established. However, the following may help you plan improvements or changes.
- Most authorities feel that the inner circle should not be more than 30 feet in diameter and most suggest from 20 to 30 feet.
- Seats should be provided. If it is a large group it may be necessary to have them in tiers so everyone can see. A full circle is usually desirable but in many cases a semi circle better fits the location. The important thing is that campers are comfortable and can see and hear what is going on.
- The fire itself is an important feature. A badly planned fire can spoil an otherwise good program. The purpose of the fire is to provide light with a minimum of heat. Consequently, the wood should be dry and of the kind that will provide light. The best results are usually obtained if the wood is split into small pieces and fed frequently into the fire.
- The building of the campfire is work. There is more to building the campfire than just piling up some wood to burn. Someone should be responsible for the fire being built and for the availability of dry wood. The 2 most common and effective fires for larger groups are these:
This is for an evening campfire. It is quick and hot and bright, but dies down rapidly when the poles fall in.
- 4 foot poles or almost any size stacked on end. The fire is laid underneath.
An ideal CampFire. It is easy to light, burns brightly and gives off light. It lasts a long time and burns steadily, but is not too hot to gather around. Light it at the top.
- 4 foot sticks. All sticks fairly uniform. The pile widens at the bottom. Fire laid on top. Fill top of pile fairly full.
Another Efficient Fire. It can be improvised at most camps. This fire produces little heat and usually plenty of light.
-Use a # 10 can and fill about 1/3 full of fuel oil or kerosene and place a full roll of toilet paper in this an hour or more in advance of the campfire time. The paper may be left in the can and will light readily and safely with a match. The fire may be easily extinguished by smothering with a board or piece of metal placed over the top of the can. The partially burned roll of paper may be recharged for another fire by simply adding more oil. Regulating the quantity of oil will also provide for a shorter or longer burning fire. This is a good substitute when wood supplies are wet or limited.
Experienced campfire leaders usually light the fire only at the top. As it burns hot coals fall down and gradually light the lower part of the fire. This makes the fire last longer and burn brighter for a longer period of time.
After the campfire, be sure that an older counselor or adult is responsible for seeing that the fire is out and that there is no danger.
- If It Rains
Rain is the big threat to a campfire program. If it happens, do the next best thing. Hold it inside. When you go inside, attempt to make it as close as possible to the experience of an outside campfire. If you do not have a fireplace, your camp might consider purchasing one of the electric fireplace logs or purchase some red plastic and build something resembling a fire with a light bulb for light.
- Symbolic Ashes of the Camp Fire
At the final campfire of the year, some camps make a ceremony of taking some of the fire ashes from the last campfire. They place them in an urn and store them until the next year. They are then used as the foundation for the following year’s first campfire.
If the camper who sets aside these ashes returns to camp the next year, he might represent the old campers by bringing the urn to the first campfire and signifying that these ashes are the continuation of the spirit and the tradition of past campfires.
To make these ashes more symbolic, you might ask each camper to contribute a small piece of wood to the last campfire. Each camper thus adds his spirit and leadership to the symbolic ashes.
No specific ceremony has been developed for this. Here is a chance to be creative and to develop your own ceremony for your specific camp.
There are 3 phases:
- Contribution of firewood by each camper. How would you develop it’s meaning.
- The collection of the ashes from the last campfire.
- The contribution of the ashes from the year before to the first campfire of the present year. How would you develop meaning for past spirits, traditions and camp fellowship?
1. Advance Planning and Preparation
______ Is there an adequate “build-up” of publicity for the planned program?
______ Are all campers involved in some part of the preparation?
______ Is there an orderly and thought out manner of getting to the fire?
______ Does the seating allow all campers to see and hear clearly?
______ Are different ways planned to arouse interest in all campers?
______ Has the campfire been constructed properly so that it will light easily and
provide sufficient light?
______ Do campers know the tradition and lore of the campfire?
______ Does every camper in the planning group have a definite responsibility for
making the program a success?
______ Will the program be interested and orderly?
______ Have those who planned the event gained in self-confidence about
appearing before groups?
______ Were the Meditations and Recreation groups consulted?
2. The Campfire Program
______ Is there a lighting ceremony?
______ Is there a central theme?
______ Does the program stimulate creative thinking?
______ Is it age appropriate entertainment?
______ Does it develop group spirit and a cooperative attitude?
______ Do the songs fit with the theme?
______ Is there group participation as apposed to a select few carrying the entire burden for the program?
3. After the Campfire
______ Is the retreat from the campfire orderly and appropriate?
______ Is the fire disposed of properly?
______ Did the setting meet the program needs?