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From the “It’s a Hit” email round table I ran a while back, here is one of my favorite submissions. It comes from Rebecca Simpson of Camp Douglas in Canada.
CARNIVAL ANSWERING MACHINE
We build an “Answering Machine” from a large table covered in bright paper for our weekly carnival. There is a slot cut into the paper on the front that is reinforced with another layer of paper around it. A sheet of paper is taped on the back of the slot from inside the machine. Small pieces of paper and bright (felt tip markers) are provided for campers to write questions on and slip into the Answering Machine. An answer is fed out the same slot.
What the campers don’t know at first is that a person is inside the machine (under the table) providing the answers. Younger campers are the best with this activity as they don’t try to figure out “who” is in the machine but just take great joy in receiving their answers and thinking up new questions. One volunteer needs to staff the machine on the outside, helping campers think of questions and/or writing their questions for them. The person inside benefits from hearing the conversations going on outside and can use that info to answer the questions.
The sillier the questions and answers the better. Don’t try to give true answers, arbitrary and bizarre answers are often most appreciated! Answers that refer to funny things that happened at camp that week are great too. The machine takes on a personality of its own.
Caution: Make sure the paper surrounding the table is secure and peek-proof, the fun depends on the suspension of belief, and one glimpse of the person under the table ruins that instantly. The person on the outside must guard the paper sides from being ruined and keep campers from peeking in the slot.
Provide the person under the table with some fun candy, a drink, a pillow or cushion and lots of pens. Sound effects are good, but you may need another person or a recording to provide those as the answering machine can get very busy! We place the machine nearly against a wall so that the back side of it can be entirely open to the air as it gets hot inside!
Some campers will spend nearly their whole time at the answering machine!
You can find this and 99 other camp ideas in the 100 Outstanding Summer Camp Program Ideas eBook.
I think it would be really cool to make or purchase a card table fort cover like one of these. A lot of patterns and custom-made ones can be found on Etsy. Click on the photo to be taken to the Etsy stores I found these on. Of course, this is a bit of an overkill and they are for card tables. A larger table might be more appreciated by the staff member underneath. You can use table cloths, butcher paper or anything else that you have to cover the table sides.
The one below has a mailbox. That would be perfect to use for this answering machine activity.