Campers getting into character at Renaissance Adventures. (photo courtesy Lucy Tuck)

Experiential Learning

Renaissance Adventures (RA), one of the longest-running summer camps in Boulder County, may be one of its most innovative: It packages experiential learning in the guise of live-action role playing, complete with foam swordplay.

“We did a research project to find similar camps and there’s no other camp in the world that does quite what we have done,” says Aaron Pirnack, operations and publications manager.

The day camp, which serves ages 6 to 18, takes kids on weeklong quests. Campers work together to solve challenges in three different areas: physical, social and intellectual. For example, they may battle a group of goblins, negotiate to pass through their territory or befriend them by solving a mystery or problem. Theater is part of the fun; costumes are encouraged.

“Children love being the hero of a quest,” says Mark Hoge, director. “Their decisions and actions shape the story. That level of engagement and inspiration supports the experiential education we strive to offer.”

Quest leaders serve as both game masters and mentors—which requires the ability to think quickly. “You have to be emotionally, physically and creatively present,” says Pirnack.

Campers who outgrow the camp can become quest leaders themselves. The Knight counselor-in-training (CIT) program coaches the teens on how to support physical and emotional safety. It also focuses on leadership, storytelling and conflict resolution skills.
Max Pfeiffer, 16, has attended RA since he was 6 and will be a CIT this summer. “Of course, I like sword fighting, but RA is also intellectually challenging. I love to be able to role-play a character and experiment with new ideas. I’m looking forward to leading little kids on their own quests.”

Hoge founded Renaissance Adventures in 1995. It offers summer camps, holiday camps and after-school programs in Boulder, Longmont and Denver. Other offerings include a Friday night game night for teens and Quest and Quill, a creative writing program.

—Lori DeBoer