Through the Eyes of a Camper: 33 years of Slow Scope Re-Shaping in a Crafts Program:

14 Jun

As I volunteer for the week at the beloved summer camp where I grew up, I begin to realize that my self-selected project assignment; of Re-vamping the “Nature Crafts” curriculum; was an effort that was nearly 33 years in the making.  As a kid, I have always loved art, and had no shortage of school supplies from my school-teaching Mother, to entertain myself with as an only child.  So the first year that I went to summer camp, I was thrilled with the fact that “Nature Crafts” was on the schedule.  I recall the first counselor clearly imparting the camp ideology; that our craft  be “made from nature,” but I also recall over the 8 years following, that there always seemed to be a shortage of other supplies, like paint and glue and scissors and brushes, with which we might artistically alter our rocks… or pine cones… or sticks.

As a counselor at the same camp in my 20s, I vowed not to suffer the same fate, of disappointing the kids who were craft lovers, so I worked hard to stretch my budget and research at the library for new and better ideas throughout the winter.  I knew the scope stated that the items had to be “made from nature,” but I wanted to teach the kids how to do more than paint pinecones and rocks.  I colored sand; soaked seeds to be strung; and dyed noodles to use as beads.  I began to push the boundaries of the unwritten curriculum and scope.   I began to question the curriculum when I found plaster molds, but no plaster… and scrimshaw cow horns, with no such tools to replicate the ancient art.   I still wanted to learn, and was determined to know more so that I could teach more to the children.   Natural objects and no tools… craft supplies and no nature…. picking up and collecting natural objects at camp… but seeing warning signs posted stating $100 or $1000 fines for doing the same thing at a State or National Park… the contradictions in the limited Scope of the Curriculum had perplexed me for decades!

As years passed, I moved away and began my teaching career, married and continued to work in art and recreation, but a few years back, something drew me home again from Florida to Pennsylvania, and I went back to visit Camp again, only to find the crafts lodge in its usual state of disarray.  The responsibility and accountability for the program handed over to a short-term summer-employee each year, as a 7-week project, with little time to plan and limited access to any budget.  It didn’t take long before I wanted to make a lasting change, and so I began my annual pilgrimage to prepare the crafts program for the summer.  I started by making new signs for the lodge, with individual letters that could be repainted, but not “erased” over time…. A new scope that stretched the Nature Crafts theme to “From… With…. About…  For… Nature” and a separate set of signs that read:  “Reduce… Re-use…. Recycle…. Replenish” and affixed them securely to the wall.  Inside the supply cabinet, new “Curriculum Posters” were hung, explaining the definition of each word, as well as “Tribal Arts… Heritage Arts… Fine Crafts…. and Decorative Arts” which raised the bar from “kid’s crafts” to Arts and Cultural Studies.  But in order to support this new and expanded scope… I had to supply the resources to make it possible!  I bought new supplies; made new laminated lesson and photo-idea pages; and provided new training times set aside with the summer staff.  Together we began such advanced projects as feather quill pen making, candle dipping, mandala weaving, macramé, soap making, paper making, felt & suede sewing, leather crafting, colored pencil sketching, plaster casting, and decoupage….  all somehow still keeping a “Nature” focus.

The beauty of the long and slow “Scope Creep” that took place, at a tortoise pace, over decades of project and program evolution, is that from this process, came a new surprise:  gone now are the days of budget-tight camp programs.  Over the winter months, the Camp Leaders kept a surprise for me until my arrival:  a brand new program area had been built!   A “Frontier” theme program had been constructed  in Honor of Fr. Larry who passed a few years ago, but not before coming to visit me as I toiled away in the craft lodge, and shared my decades-old dream and vision of being able to stretch beyond the “Nature Crafts” scope restrictions, and share with the children a love of the Heritage Arts.  That evolution, and that blessed conversation, has now found a home!  As leather & jewelry crafting is being co-taught with the skills of rabbitry, pioneer gardening, and mineralogy/gold panning …. It is now in a space that will have its own ability to grow and evolve over time: as a suitable home for the Heritage Arts and Pioneer Skills for decades of children to come (CND, 2013).

The Moral of the Story:  Scope that creeps as slow as a tortoise – can evolve into hare-raising miracles!

Father Larry's Frontier

CND (2013) Camp Notre Dame.  Retrieved from  Facebook Photo Post:


Posted by on June 14, 2013 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “Through the Eyes of a Camper: 33 years of Slow Scope Re-Shaping in a Crafts Program:

  1. Carol Spear

    June 14, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    What a wonderful love story of the arts! Your writing is very engaging and draws in your reader. As you stated, the scope creep spanned decades. It appears that several risk factors were at play: time (annual camp for a specified time), budget (initially underfunded nature and crafts program), and constraints (connecting new ideas such as Tribal and Heritage Arts with artifacts found on the campsite).(Stolovitch, n.d.). Have you designed the training module for future camp leaders to effectively encourage a love for both nature and the arts?

    Stolovich, H. (Producer). (n.d.) Monitoring Projects. Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved from

  2. Patricia Beamon

    June 15, 2013 at 3:33 am


    I have to say this blog post is very interesting and quite a story from your childhood to adulthood. The scope creep here is the longest and slowest I could have ever imagined. You must have great patience and endurance to commit to this project which you dreamed of for so long. One of the four factors that encourage a person to remain motivated to achieve a goal is desirability (Portny, et al., 2008). Reading your blog I see that you had great value in achieving the goal of making the crafts more involved for the campers and they obviously are enjoying your contributions to the camp.

    Two of the three “biggies” Dr. Stolovitch talked about in Monitoring Projects were a challenge in this case. Timeline was decades long and a budget was null and void until you sacrificed your own funds. However client satisfaction turned into a great success because of how you handled the timeline and budget issues. I am sure the campers and employees appreciated your efforts and to this day someone is remembering and thanking you for your hard work. Congratulations in overcoming scope creep.


    Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Monitoring projects. [Video webcast].

    Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

  3. Kelley Savage

    June 17, 2013 at 12:50 am

    I am very glad that I read your post, it was very inspirational! I can totally relate to the value of the tortoise like evolution of an idea or concept. It seems like all of the state and federal mandates the government has been making on education since I’ve been a teacher (5 years) are moving at hare like speed and are unsuccessful the majority of the time. And even though 5 years is nowhere near as long as 33 years, I often reflect on the mistakes I made my first year and how much I have grown as a teacher in my 5 years, and I cannot wait to see how evolved and perfected my teaching is after 33.
    I think it was important and effective for you to analyze and understand the potential risks involved in making this curriculum change, such as keeping with the nature theme, teaching skills that the children could use away from camp, maintaining supplies and so on. “Recognizing those risks that pose a potential threat to a project’s successful completion is the first step a project manager can take toward controlling the risks” (Portny, et al., 2008). I also feel that within the 33 year long project you were able to “develop specific plans for reducing the potential impacts of risk on the projects” (Portny, et al., 2008).

    Portny, Stanley E., Mantel, Samuel J., Meredith, Jack R., Shafer, Scott M., Sutton, Margaret M., & Kramer, Brian E. (2008). Project Management Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

  4. janicehoroschak

    June 17, 2013 at 4:50 am

    Hello Eileen,

    I think many of us relate to having ownership of a project even after the baton has been handed over to someone else and I definite related to your quote “I went back to visit Camp again, only to find the crafts lodge in its usual state of disarray”. I think for how dedicated you were to this project, no many could live up to your contributions as a project manager. It sounds like you were able to easily assess the risks in this project and were able to implement Portny’s exercise to “consider previous experience with projects similar to the current one, as well as previous indicators of problems.” (Portny, p. 389) and know why and how you need to solve the problems of the project.

    Janice Horoschak


    Portny, Stanley E., Mantel, Samuel J., Meredith, Jack R., Shafer, Scott M., Sutton, Margaret M., & Kramer, Brian E. (2008). Project Management Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc


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