Splash! Water-balloon catapults at camp

July20_Catapult1This year, the 3rd Guelph Guides put their lashing skills to use on a different sort of camp gadget – catapults! This activity also reinforced physics, teamwork, safety and leadership skills. And, the fun of water balloons!

Several parts of the Guide program include making camp gadgets. Today’s fancy lightweight camping gear sometimes makes it hard for Guides to see the practical value in making gadgets. It’s fun to lash together a table or wash stand from sticks, but not very realistic when you can just unfold one from a bag. I’ve certainly appreciated lashing skills to repair and secure things but wanted a meaningful and memorable way to share those skills with the girls.

I modified instructions I found on a favourite outdoor skills webpage. I had to split long spars into two pieces so they could fit in my truck. The Guides practiced using hand tools, and nuts and bolts to fasten the two halves together.

The Guides built the catapults using diagonal lashing. There are a lot of joints so they all had a chance to try. Everyone saw the importance of lashing securely when poles shifted and the water balloon didn’t go in the right direction or didn’t go far enough. It is way more fun to hit someone else with a water balloon than to have one fall straight down on your own team.


The Guides took turns on different jobs during launching, with one Guide acting as Safety Officer for each launch. Her job was to make sure that no one got smacked by the throwing arm. She checked that the launchers and spectators were all in safe places, then she counted down to launch. On her signal the two Guides on the ropes pulled backwards to fire the catapult. After each launch the Safety Officer instructed her team in carefully lowering the throwing arm.

Guides could launch a water balloon about 12 meters (40’). It was over 30°C that afternoon, so everyone was happy to get splashed.

Catapults were a very frequent ‘star’ at our end-of-camp evaluation. The girls had a huge sense of accomplishment at being able to build something so cool. Some loved the responsibility of being Safety Officers, others were gleeful to have fun with water balloons. Now that the unit has all the materials, this activity will certainly become part of our regular rotation.

By guest blogger Regan Avis, a Guider with the 3rd Guelph Guides as well as Community Guider for nearby Guide units. Regan is a life-long Guiding member. 

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