I never actually knew that it was the famous architect Louis Sullivan who is credited with coining this phrase (the actual phrase he wrote is, ‘form ever follows function’) until I looked it up. It turns out he got his inspiration for his words from the Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio who stated that a structure must exhibit three qualities; It must be firm, useful and beautiful. People ask me all the time if Camp has changed over the years and I often reply that no, it has not changed, but the truth is it changes dramatically every year-most notably on the day the campers arrive. The form Camp takes on does indeed follow the function.
Just minutes before the first buses arrive there is an air of nervous excitement- just as the campers on the bus must feel, too. The minute the campers step off, things transform. Staff greet campers, luggage comes off the bus, campers head out toward their cabin to meet new friends and settle in. But in addition to the change in activity and population a palpable change in purpose envelopes Camp. For the prior week the staff has been training and preparing for just this moment and the ensuing 8 weeks. They have covered practical issues of safety and theoretical models of child development and group dynamics, yet few are prepared for the flood of emotions when presented with another, younger, human who looks to them for guidance, protection, example and fun. It raises everyone’s game and once again these woods come alive.
I walk the Camp every day and don’t feel this. I see the window screens that need repair, the trees that need to be trimmed or the possibility of expanding or improving an activity. It’s pleasant, but not the same – and I know it would be awful to see the campus just as a physical plant for too long. The function – our function of providing children a positive camp experience – drives the form we assume.
Our function includes:
- Modelling Empathy and Moral Behavior
- Supporting Peer Relationships
- Supporting Communication
- Stimulating Creativity
- Exposing to a Larger World
- Supporting Identify and Independence
- Setting Clear Boundaries
- Supporting Exploration through Movement
It’s an awesome transformation and even in crunch of the mid-April snow that still covers much of the woods I can hear the footsteps to come and Camp Mishawaka becomes firm, useful and very beautiful.
Let’s just get rid of that snow first!