Last week was the first week of summer camp at Baltimore Clayworks. It was great. It was one of those moments that seemed to have the right people and things in all the right places. And somehow most of the week for me revolved around dodge ball. This seems an unlikely activity for one of my best weeks in recent memory, but somehow I feel like dodge ball was a key element to everything. I remember dodge ball from gym class in elementary school and not in a good light. I remember kids being brutal, getting hit with lots of balls and sometimes being relieved to be out so that I didn't have to play anymore.

This week was different. I taught my camp to play Secret Medic Dodge Ball which I learned at a Playworks office recess (for those unfamiliar Playworks is a nonprofit whose mission is to improve health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play). In this game, each team chooses a medic who can tap players back in if they get hit with a ball, rules are very specific about hitting below the shoulders and ensuring that things are done in a way that no one gets hurt. We played this game at several breaks and during lunch brainstormed other games and types of dodge ball to play.

My students were amazing, they each shared new games to play and we tried them all. I stayed out of the decision making as much as possible, trying to leave it up to the group to decide through consensus. I was pleasantly surprised at how fair a group of 6-12 year olds were at ensuring everyone's voice was heard, everyone got to play and at trying new games. When discussing whether to play Secret Medic Dodge Ball or Crossover Dodge Ball (crossover is a game where people hit with the balls who should be out, just cross to the other team, when one team gets all the players that team wins) one student said, "We should play crossover because everyone gets to keep playing and everyone wins." The group agreed.

I don't know whether I have fully communicated the amazing things that happened last week during dodge ball, but if you work with youth, you probably understand. The week was full of those moments where my students stepped up as leaders and the group made decisions together. Everyone was involved and engaged and chose what kind of role they were going to have in the game. Sure students still got upset when they got hit, needed someone to help them enforce the rules and to be there if they got hurt, but overall they were in control, organized and working with one of the best group dynamics I have seen. If this kind of success can be structured in a group of young people playing dodge ball, imagine the amazing things that can happen if this structure is implemented in other circumstances. What else could this group have achieved if given the opportunity?

I can only imagine.