Activity: How to make a spirit stick!

In our last Nottinghamshire YMCA Day Camps blog for young people, we told the story of the Spirit Stick and how it came to be a fixture at our Camp Fire Fridays and camp rallies. Today, we want to show you how you can make a spirit stick of your very own! 

Making a spirit stick blog Dating back to Native American history, the more recent spirit stick tradition was born at a National Cheerleaders Association camp in 1954. Over the course of the camp, one team stood out from the rest and, while their techniques paled in comparison to the other teams, their spirit and positivity radiated through the camp, promoting unity. American cheerleader innovator Lawrence Herkimer wanted to celebrate their hard work so, utilising his limited resources, he reportedly cut a branch off a tree, painted it and allowed it to dry in his garage before presenting the adorned branch to the team as a ‘spirit stick’ to honour the admirable positive attitude their efforts embodied. Learn more about the spirit stick’s history.

Spirit sticks can bring a team together, improve morale, and lead a song or chant! Today, we use them at YMCA Camp Williams during Camp Fire Friday to lead camp songs and rallies.

You can use your spirit stick as a funky ornament or enjoy them to recreate camp chants in your own living room.

Crafting Materials

  • You will need the following materials to create your stick:
  • Empty paper towels, dowel rods, or sticks for the base 
  • Streamers
  • Beads
  • Ribbons
  • Feathers
  • Acrylic paints in a variety of fun colours
  • Stickers
  • Glue 
  • Scotch tape
  • Scissors 
  • Coloured tissue paper 
  • Paint brushes 
  • Clear packing tape 

Crafting Instructions 

  1. Wrap a few layers of the tissue paper around the base of the stick and tape into place. 
  2. Paint the wooden dowel or paper towel roll with paint in your team’s colours. Find the exact centre of the dowel rod. Wrap a piece of masking tape around the dowel rod just to the right of the centre mark. Paint the spirit stick to the left of this masking tape all in one colour.
  3. Allow the paint to dry, then apply a second coat. Remove the masking tape. Wrap another piece of masking tape around the painted section of the dowel rod just to the left of the centre mark. Paint the right side of the dowel rod in another colour. When dry, decorate the ends of the spirit stick with curled ribbon using hot glue.
  4. When the paint is dry, decorate the stick creatively – you can add glitter, sequins, all the squad members’ signatures or a caricature of your team’s mascot.
  5. This is one project where less definitely isn’t more. Consider decorating the ends with piles of curled ribbon, bows and faux flowers. Glue on foam letters to spell the recipient’s name, the team name or something inspirational. Pick up wood cutouts of stars, moons or a football to decorate and glue to one end of the spirit stick
  6. Spirit-Stick-Day-Camps-Camp-WilliamsUse duct tape to seal one end of the spirit stick. Wrap a few layers of the tissue paper around the base of the stick and tape into place.
  7. Fill the stick half-full with sand, gravel, bells or beads. This will add heft to the stick and also give it a noise-making quality.
  8. Seal the other side of the spirit stick.
  9. Paint the ends of the stick or decorate them with tissue paper and ribbons.
  10. Secure everything by wrapping clear packing tape all the way around the spirit stick.

And there you have it! Your very own spirit stick…