A treehouse camp utilizes several experiential education methods and approaches. At this point we have described the most important components of a treehouse camp, which can serve as a "toolbox" for the design of a tree house camp.

Each component consists of

  1. The description - the WHAT happens
  2. The methods - the HOW it is done
  3. The impact - the WHY it is done.

How to Navigate:

In this section of the website there are 2 ways to navigate through the content:

  1. Click on the different components of treehouse camps (preparation, immersion in nature, ...). Then a dropdown menu will open and show more information about this specific component.
  2. Click on one of the key competencies (responsibility, commercial awareness, ...). After that, only the components appear which are related to that specific key competency. Then you can inform yourself about all components that are connected with the chosen key competency by clicking on the dropdown menus.
1. Preparation


So that participants with limited experience with treehouses can increase their knowledge in advance, they are given basic information four weeks before the camp begins to look into at home. More important than the knowledge is the mental preparation for living in nature for a longer period of time, working with their body, and getting to know themselves in a new way


  • Meeting with Parents and Participants: Information and a packing list, meeting with discussion  
  • Parents: Q&A and explanation of safety standards
  • Participants: Getting to know each other and discussion about expectations, questions and fears

Download: Example of a packing list for participants


Through preparation we can ensure that the participants know what to expect, what to pack and minimize their fears. Parents get to know the team and learn to trust the program and workers.

2. Immersion in Nature


Leaving typical living condition and being closer to the natural world, participants are moved into a very different lifestyle.


  • Leaving home
    • Leaving comforts and many daily-life objects
    • Hiking to camp (around 1km is suitable)
  • Natural environment:
    • Rooty paths instead of paved sidewalks
    • Rain jackets and tarps during a rainstorm instead of a roof over their heads
  • Simplistic lifestyle
    • Simple living quarters (often tents)
    • Majority of communication is with participants in group (limited phone use/social media)
    • Pioneer-techniques for building


Living in a (likely) very different environment – immersed in nature, in a group setting and reduced to simple means – causes many participants to leave their comfort zones. Through this setting, participants may gain greater appreciation for everyday conveniences but may also find it refreshing to live a simplified life.

3. Living Together


At a treehouse camp participants enter a group living situation where all experiences are shared: working in small groups and as a big group each day, spending the evenings as a group and sleeping in tents together.



The group goes through stages of development and will experience varying group dynamics, have conflicts and learn to resolve them. Participants may gain competence in giving feedback and reflecting on the outcomes of their own behavior.

4. Workshops


At the beginning of the treehouse camp the participants are taught the basic skills for building a treehouse and a safe and proper contact with each other. For this there is a model that contains 4-5 workshops.


1. Knotting-Skills

  • All necessary knots are shown to the participants. They learn to do the knots with the equipment in low heights.  They can test and improve their knotting-skills together with the leaders. The participants should not be overwhelmed by too much input. There needs to be enough time for everyone to try the knotting. The participants can help and give feedback to each other.

2. Tree Climbing / Belaying

  • Here the participants learn the technique for tree climbing. They also learn how to put on and adjust harness and helmet and how to do a body-check. The body-check is necessary every time someone put on the climbing gear. The participants check each other to ensure everything is safe to use.
  • Here they can have their first experiences with heights and they can test their personal boundaries in relation to heights.
  • Besides that, they learn the fundamental skills for belaying. They can experience what it feels like to be secured and secure others. The safety system, which will be used at heights later, is put up in low. The participants can try out the belaying system and crew members can give helpful advice.

3. Equipment and Safety at the Construction Site

  • All important tools and materials, which are used during the building process, are shown to the participants. Every object will be named, so everybody knows which object is which. A safe way of using and securing tools is shown.
  • General safety rules are announced (wearing helmet, proper clothing, etc.)
  • The pulley system will be explained and shown. The participants can try it out and put it up themselves.

4. First Aid

  • The right behavior in case of emergency will be explained to the participants. The crew members who are in charge of first aid will be introduced, so the participants know who they can contact if there is an (small) injury.
  • Rescue und evacuation plans will be explained.

5. Living in the Camp

  • The whole camp site is shown to the participants. Where the toilets, showers, kitchen, material warehouse, etc. are. Some camps use this for participants help to further the camp's infrastructure (building showers, fireplace etc.).
  • During the camp it will be important to keep the tents nice and tidy. The participants will learn how to organize themselves in their tents.


The participants need a solid fundament of knowledge and skills for the treehouse camp. All these basics are provided during the workshops. The focus here is more on the straight hard skills and knowledge, but it will help later on and minimize trouble later on.

5. Building the Treehouse


An essential component is the building of the tree house together. Here, participants are challenged and encouraged in their different gifts and abilities since there are many different tasks to complete. Planning, coordinating, tree climbing, making knots, moving logs and nailing planks offer everyone the opportunity to get involved based on their personal limits (e.g. fear of heights).

For the construction of the tree house it is crucial to decide on a suitable concept. For example, fixed teams can be formed, each building a platform. Here the efficiency is the focus and results can be generated quickly. Alternatively, the participants can decide which construction sites they want to work on according to the "pleasure principle". Here the group process is more in focus. The participants have to organize themselves a lot more and negotiate who will do which tasks.

Another important point is not to overburden the participants. In a treehouse camp, the construction of the treehouse is the main focus, but this will also push the participants to their physical limits. Therefore, free time or even days should be scheduled at regular intervals to allow for regeneration. On such days or at such times the construction site will be closed, and other recreational activities will take place. Such activities could be a day at the outdoor pool, or a hike (possibly with the local forester).


The tasks to be completed are distributed throughout the group in a meeting. Here it is important that the participants voluntarily agree to complete them. Leaders should steer the group and support the process without giving many instructions. Targeted reflection can be helpful in certain situations. Leaders should also keep the overall process in mind and plan for future tasks.


The participants will experience that together they are able to build a complete tree house. In the different steps of the work they can work on their personal limits and competences. Participants will reach their limits and have to learn to deal with them. It is important that they are encouraged to accept their personal limits, but also the limits of others. An "I can't do any more" can be more courageous than an "I'm going on".

During the planning process it is important that the participants learn that each individual is important and needed. This promotes self-confidence and increases the willingness to take responsibility. Open and free planning communication encourages creative thinking and puts the focus on possibilities instead of obstacles.

Tree climbing is about coming to terms with one's own fears and to go beyond one's own limits within appropriate limits.

Communication and teamwork is required when tying knots, as these (with the main beams) are always done in pairs. In addition, despite a stressful situation, it is necessary to work precisely and accurately.

A high degree of communication is required when moving and especially when lifting the main beams. Here, individual participants can test their organizing and coordinating skills.

Throughout the construction process it is important that the participants develop a culture of safety that is conducive to the process of building and the community. Few, clear rules that everyone has to follow are more helpful than a long list of detailed restrictions. Rules should be discussed and reflected upon with everyone so that they are accepted by all. Here participants automatically take responsibility for themselves and the group. Mutual admonition and control (buddy check) is expressly desired.

6. Reflection


Having the possibility to reflect on the experience as it takes place allows the participant to understand experiences more deeply and allows them to develop.

In order to create a framework for reflection in which the participants feel comfortable and are willing to open up, it is recommended to create fixed reference groups. These can be the "building teams", who have been building together all day anyway. If there are no fixed construction teams, "family groups" can be formed for reflection, which meet regularly to reflect on what has been experienced. This consistency creates a safe framework in which it is easier for the participants to communicate. It is important that the leaders who work with these groups are familiar with reflection methods and know how to use them correctly.


Discussion Methods for During and at the End of a Session:

  • Traffic light method
  • Smiley method / thumb-rating method
  • Discuss the day with another participant
  • Small group reflection
  • Postcard / pictures methods
  • Find an object which describes the experience or emotion


Practical Actions

  • Draw a picture of the highlight of the day
  • Write a journal or journal entry (as group or individuals)
  • Go for a walk alone
  • Look at photos of the day


Through guided and solo reflection participants can process their feelings, appreciate their own work and the work of others, become cognizant of their inner thought processes and describe these with suitable words.

7. Living in the Treehouse


After the construction phase, the treehouse is moved into and established as the new centre of life. This is a very big change in the previous (daily) structure, because now the majority of work is finished and the time has to be filled by new things. The previous life is now limited to a much smaller area and requires compromises from all parties involved. The participants should assume control of their treehouse and manage it themselves.


Various activities can be used here. The participants can think up their own creative projects (e.g. building a swing, or making a film). There are workshops, games and walks.

Special elements for all are the move in day, rest day, 24 hours in the treehouse day, and visitor's day. Upon moving in it should be clear to everyone that building is now finished and that there is time for other things. On the visitor's day the work is presented to family and friends.

Download: Methods for living in the treehouse


The participants experience a sense of fulfillment of a dream and self-efficacy. They can see and show concretely what they have achieved, built and created in the last days. They can celebrate and be proud of it.  Furthermore, the workshops encourage creative processes.

8. Postprocessing


Reflection after the program is key to creating meaningful takeaways, which accompany the participant and enrich their daily life long after completion of the program.

Related Key Competencies


During the Program

  • Letter to self
  • Create a souvenir


After the Program


Effective postprocessing leads to long-lasting take-aways in soft and hard skills. Through tangible items of reflection the participant can relive what they have learned later.


CVJM-Akademie gGmbH
Institut für Erlebnispädagogik
Im Dru­sel­tal 8
34131 Kassel

Tele­fon: + 49 (0) 561 30 87–506
Fax: +49 (0) 561 30 87–501

Funded by Erasmus+ "Youth in Action"

The website and the content was developed in the project "Treehouse Camps - a Method to Strengthen Key Competences and Integration in Youth Work".

Project duration: September 2018 - August 2021