Tribe Challenges at Summerland California

Every camper at Summerland California has the opportunity to work with others as a team.  In order to develop new interests apart from screen-based activities, we challenge campers to test their limits as part of a tribe.

Tribes compete as a group at the Amazing Race, or on science and engineering projects.  The goal is not just to be the best- the goal is to learn how to work well with others.

Often when we are consumed by video games or social media, we forget how to socialize with others.  Sometimes we can fall behind in our abilities to make friends and interact.

Tribe activities help us quickly regain these lost skills, or sharpen or skills if we don’t have problems making friends.

For some, Tribal Challenges will be a great way to sharpen our socialization skills and learn how to interact better with peers.  For others, the Tribal Challenges will be a way to develop or practice leadership skills.


Bobcat spotted on a hike in the California hills.

Working as a team has obvious benefits for young people.  Campers get to experience functioning as a group outside their immediate family.  Relationship skills, coping skills, stress management skills are all put to the test in nature, and the environment provides natural consequences (or rewards) for how well the group functions.

In many ways working together with your tribe hiking is like being part of a family.  The tribe only can move as fast as the slowest member.  If a camper decides they’ve had enough and they want to sit on the trail and feel sorry for themselves, the entire tribe is effected.  We might get in late, or it may even start to rain.

But the lagging group member also provides leadership opportunities for other campers.  Helping out a friend in need by taking some of their weight provides character building experiences.  As campers are tested in the outdoors, they begin to learn more about themselves and develop interests apart from screen based electronics.

Tribe Challenges: Learn to Work as a Team

At Summerland California we value socialization and the opportunity to problem solve as a group.  The benefits of team building activities are numerous.

We create inter-dependent groups of campers that must rely on each other to overcome obstacles and compete against other groups.  Many of our campers are quite gifted at mechanics, science, and engineering (Minecraft expertise is a plus here for sure!).


We engage campers with opportunities to problem solve with other campers in a group format.  Frustration, arguments, and group conflict become “grist for the mill” in our insight groups as we find opportunities to intervene in the moment and build insight, and practice coping and social skills.  This is also an opportunity to learn leadership skills and socialize with others.

Teams are comprised to compete in a variety of challenges.  A typical team building challenge can involve:

  • As a team, create a robot using supplied materials to climb the highest grade compared to other teams.
  • Create a landing pod that will simulate the Mars Lander.  An egg will be placed in your lander.  The team whose lander can withstand the highest drop wins.
  • Using just 2 sheets of paper, 10 inches of tape and 2 paper clips, build the highest tower you can create.  Sketch your design first, and all team members must significantly contribute to the design and construction of the tower (see video below).
  • You team must create a bridge that crosses a two foot span with materials supplied including spaghetti noodles and rubber bands.  The team whose bridge that can support the most weight wins (see video below).
  • Create a rocket using materials supplied that can travel to the highest distance compared to other teams.
  • Create a remote controlled robot what will “battle” with the opposing team.  The last robot in the circle still moving wins.
Team Cup Stacking Challenge
Marshmallow Challenge
Insights into Tribal Challenges

Tom Wujec from Autodesk presents some surprisingly deep research into the “marshmallow problem” — a simple team-building exercise that involves dry spaghetti, one yard of tape and a marshmallow.

At Summerland California campers are challenged physically and mentally to work together as tribes.  At the end of a tribal challenge, we process what happened: what worked, what didn’t, and how can we improve?