Summer Play 2015: Week 4

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One, two, three . . . JUMP!

We’re getting close to the end of our summer at Blue Rock, and the weeks have flown by. This week was a lot of fun. The kids loved the soccer intensive offered as an optional activity all week. They honed their skills and had fun playing with their friends and the coaches. We also worked on projects in art, nature, and woodworking, played in the pool, and got musical for our upcoming play on July 29. Here’s a sneak peek from one of our rehearsals:

And here’s a look at what else we’ve been up to this week.

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Art: Weaving is Magic

Learning to use the sewing machine for a project in art

Learning to use the sewing machine for a project in art

In art this week we focused on weaving and sewing. Our littlest campers had fun doing process-art painting with things like toy trucks, balloons, and styrofoam. After they dried, we wove the strips of paper together to make place mats. The rest of the campers worked on weaving with different materials, making baskets and coasters. Wendy led machine sewing this week, helping campers design pillows and make a small quilts. The kids continued working on their camp memory books- and comic books too! We have published a few series now. Eileen fired and glazed pottery the kids created, and the beautiful pieces will be ready for pick-up next week on Wednesday. Please bring a box to safely transport your campers’ pottery home.

Science and Nature: Spray it, Don’t Pay it!

IMG_7120This week in Science and Nature we continued making our own concoctions. We whipped up an applesauce and cinnamon air freshener — who knew commercial air fresheners contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals? We also made our own gentle but effective garden spray. We started with a spray bottle of water and added a teaspoon of castile soap, a few drops of vegetable oil, and a teaspoon of powdered garlic. (For more on garden sprays you’ll have to come to our play and learn all about “Indiscriminate Spray!”) The children had a lot of fun spraying the plants in our garden, and we hope your families can use the spray bottles at home, too. You can make an excellent all-purpose house cleaner by filling the spray bottle half with vinegar and half with water. It works well and the vinegar smell dissipates in a few minutes. And a mixture of half rubbing alcohol and half water makes a top-notch glass cleaner. Mary Esther finds that kids are great cleaners when they’ve mixed up the concoction and have a spray bottle in hand!

Woodworking: Bows and Boats

A house that a group has been working on since the beginning of camp.

A house that a group of girls has been working on since the beginning of camp.

We’ve been having a great time in woodworking. Some kids made boats, complete with little sails they decorated themselves. Some made little twig creatures from pine cones and sticks. And our older campers continued to work on their own self-directed projects, with help from their counselors as needed. This week, a few kids used the hand drill to make holes in large, curved branches. When they added string and decoration, they had beautiful rustic bows. Feathers found in the forest (and some from our craft supplies) made lovely arrows. Steve came in one day to help the kids made funny face clip boards.

Excursion: Frog and Tadpole Time

Hello, froggo!

Hello, froggo!

For our final excursion this summer, we headed to a new area within Harriman State Park. Earlier in the summer, our CITs Stephen and Marcus worked at a nature center within the park, and they clued us in to an awesome spot for catching critters. Spring Lake is loaded with frogs and tadpoles, and the kids had a great time catching them with nets and observing them in our buckets and jars. We caught tiny pickerel frogs and big green frogs. The smaller tadpoles were likely pickerel and green, and we also caught big fat bullfrog tadpoles. Dragon flies flitted overhead and landed on water lilies in the still pond. Though the kids were reluctant to leave “frog heaven,” we headed from there to lunch and swimming at Lake Welch Beach. It was a great time, and we’re looking forward to more nature exploration and fun next summer.

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Summer Play 2015: Week Three

Making sidewalk chalk

Making sidewalk chalk

Week Three at Blue Rock Camp was lovely. We are continuing to develop the end-of-camp performance, and the sounds of laughter and fun echo around the campus as the kids play and create. Hunter, one of our CITs, did some origami with the kids, which was a big hit. Next week we will have an origami contest. Here’s a look at the fun we’ve been having on these golden summer days.

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Excursion: Frogs, Snakes, and Swimming

19771220225_cddef46511_kThis week’s excursion with our older campers was a really good time. We went back to Harriman State Park, which has so many natural areas to explore. We started out at Kanawauke Lake, which has a reedy, marshy shoreline perfect for finding critters. We caught a green frog in a net and held it for a while, checking out its webbed feet and bright eyes. Then we let it go and watched it dart under a lily pad for safety. Damien caught a small sunfish using just a hand net, and we put it in our bucket for a little while so the kids could observe it. Back into the lake it went to live out its fishy life. As we walked further along the shoreline, we also spotted a water snake, perfectly camouflaged among some dead leaves as it hunted minnows for its lunch. Then we had lunch ourselves, perched on rocks or sitting at picnic tables. The Kanawauke Lake Nature Center opened after lunch, and we were able to see many more critters inside as we met with the naturalists there. We then piled into the vans and drove to Lake Welch Beach, a swimming spot in another area of the park. The kids swam the afternoon away, playing with the CITs and each other and soaking up some sunshine.

Science and Nature: DIY Fun

magicmuckThis week in Science and Nature we asked, “Why do we have to go to the store for things like tea, toys, and fertilizer when we can whip up our own concoctions?” So we made our own mint tea from tea leaves harvested from campus mint plants. The younger children harvested worm castings for take-home fertilizer, and also made their own toy: “Magic Muck.” Magic Muck is a mesmerizing mix of corn starch and water. Mix some up, and you and your child will have a lot of fun — it’s messy, but cleans up easily. On the same theme, we learned that many commonly-sold bug sprays contain a class of insecticides that are killing our beloved bees. We thought about our choice between using these sprays and making our own (or finding other solutions to our bug problems). The children came away feeling empowered to make their own things, and to take care of our earth at the same time.

Music and Drama: The Buzz on our Play

The questions raised in science and nature about bugs, bees, and their role in our world will be further explored in our upcoming play. You’ll have to come see the performance on Wednesday, July 29th to find out more. We had a good time stomping, slapping, and chanting as we learned the songs for our play, and our musicians practiced their drumming and strumming. Can’t wait to see you on the 29th!

Woodworking: Choose Your Own Adventure

19585350030_19c8ce9b48_kThe kids are doing great work in our woodworking sessions. Some kids made twig creatures using pine cones, sticks, and other natural materials. Others made tic tac toe boards, with the playing pieces crafted from glass beads and little circles cut from magazines. Steve came again this week and helped the kids make some boats using wood, dowels, and sails made of thin cork. Our youngest campers carefully glued shells and other natural treasures onto pieces of driftwood. A few kids have been working hard on a board game, which they’ve named “Stage Craze.” They designed and made the whole thing themselves, from the playing board to the cards to the wooden dice, and they love playing it. A group of campers have been doing another ongoing project, building and decorating a doll house. It’s amazing to see the teamwork and engineering skills that go into making the house come together. One girl decided to make a little puppet theater, and now a few more kids are making theaters of their own. When the kids are allowed to choose their own projects, their enthusiasm and dedication is wonderful to see. Their confidence is growing too as their skills improve. Some of them are getting really good with a hammer!

Art: Making Books

Making a book in art

Making a book in art

This week in art we focused on bookmaking. Campers learned how to do three-hole-binding, a comic book and a pop-up book. The big project for the week was a Camp Memory Book with art work they created earlier in the week. It has pockets and spaces for notes and photos. Campers had a great time creating a map of camp to include in their book.

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Summer Play 2015: Week Two

Kids from Group C show off flags they made.

Kids from Group C show off flags they made.

It’s Week 2 at Blue Rock Camp, and everything is in full swing. The kids are developing friendships and getting to know (and love) their counselors. We are all enjoying the continued lovely weather. Some days were misty and magical, perfect for exploring the woods, and some were hot & muggy pool days. The kids from Group C have been enjoying caring for our visiting chickens, brought in by group leader Shannon who raised them from babies. We’re seeing a lot of happy faces as the kids begin to unwind from the school year and really get into summer mode. Here’s a peek at what we’ve been up to this week.

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Art: Tie Dye Time and Clay Creations

Tie dying

Tie dying

In the art room, we finished up our second week of the pottery intensive. The older campers glazed their projects fired from the week before, and worked on smaller pieces.  We did a nature walk and collected items to press into clay slabs for texture. These were then used to make wall pockets. We used acrylic paint to paint some of the smaller clay fired pieces, and also painted tiles. The littlest campers created a long, collaborative, additive sculpture that we put in the garden by the art room. We finished this week with our tradition of tie-dying camp tee shirts, always a big hit. Here are instructions for washing out the shirts when they come home with your campers. One of our campers, Lily, also led a group in homemade making sidewalk chalk.

Science and Nature: Squirmy Wormies, a Plant’s Best Friend

More worm castings for the garden

More worm castings for the garden

In Science and Nature this week, we deepened our investigation of insects. We looked at their role in the garden and the rest of the natural world. The kids used bamboo, sticks, and straw pallets to build bug hotels that will welcome helpful insects to the garden. We were excited to see that our seedlings have sprouted, and we made sure they were well cared for. We’ve now got beans, lettuce, squash, and flowers growing. The kids learned this week that it’s not just six-legged beasties like ladybugs and bees that help the garden- our wormy friends are important too. We searched under logs in the woods for the natural fertilizer that worms make: worm castings (otherwise known as worm poop). We scooped up the castings and added them to the garden, which should make the plants very happy. A few worms came along for the ride too, and they can help aerate the soil and of course add more castings. The children also enjoyed harvesting radish seeds from pods. A focused quiet settled over the room as the children carefully slid the tiny seeds from the slender dried pods. Ellen notes that when our littlest campers from Group A talked about their adventures in worm exploration, the kids had a lot to say: “The worm was wet,” “They wiggled in the bucket,” “I put dirt on its head,” and “I could pick them up.”

Woodworking: Earth Loom and Plant Presses

19556001476_e7df36aca5_oThere was quite a flurry of creative activity in woodworking this week. Some kids began creating flower presses, which when finished will allow them to preserve collected plants and flowers. We also worked together to build a large Earth Loom, which you may notice by the building near the drop off circle. We lashed together branches to create a frame and added colorful yarn. Throughout the summer, campers can weave branches, flowers, cuttings from the garden, ribbons, and strips of fabric into the loom. It’s an ever-changing record of our summer together. Kids also made fairy houses, board games, twig cabins, and funny wooden faces. We had a special visit this week from Steve, the grandfather of one of our campers. He helped kids string together wind chimes out of bits of pipe and scrap wood.

Music and Drama: Hooray for the Play

music1 The end-of-camp play is a beloved Blue Rock tradition. Mary Esther and Johnathan started work on this year’s production with the kids this week. Blue Rock Camp plays are special: They are always designed so that kids can participate at whatever level they’re comfortable with, without the pressure or anxiety some kids feel when faced with performing. It’s a gentle, joyful introduction to drama. Johnathan ironed out the music and lyrics this week, while Mary Esther worked on the story with lots of input from the campers. You may hear the kids humming or singing the tunes as they begin to learn them.

Excursion: Into the Woods We Went

DSCN0115At Blue Rock, our older campers go on excursions where they experience the natural world outside our campus. This week, our excursion leader Katie (who’s also our woodworking faciliator) brought the kids to Lake Tiorati in Harriman State Park. The weather was a little cooler than we’d hoped for, but most of the kids decided to swim in the lake anyway. William was excited to catch a small fish with one of our small nets, and we found snail shells in all shapes and sizes. After drying off and warming up during lunch, we set off on a hike. Near the lake was an trail head for a section of The Appalachian Trail. As we made our way there, we talked about how the AT is one of the longest marked paths in the world, running all the way from Georgia to Maine. We saw a group of AT backpackers, and the kids high-fived them as they passed. As soon as we walked onto the trail, we knew we were in a magical place. Huge boulders covered with moss, ancient trees, and feathery ferns surrounded us. The misty weather added to the sense of peace and mystery. Some kids at the front of our group were lucky to see a doe before she bounded away into the woods. We stopped when we noticed a huge stand of wild blueberry bushes. It’s a bit early for blueberries, but on close inspection we found many ripe blue ones hidden among the immature greens. Once they got the thumbs up from Katie on the berries’ safety, the kids happily foraged around and ate what berries they could find. We are thinking about going back to our new blueberry treasure trove in a few weeks to see if we can catch them at their peak.

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Summer Play 2015: Week One

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A few kids look for worms and other critters under a log in the woods.

We are off to a great start to the summer at Blue Rock. The gorgeous, mild weather made for very comfy outside play time. The kids splashed in the pool, explored the forest, dug in the garden, played the ukelele and drums, worked with clay and felt, built with wood, caught up with old friends, and made new ones. Here are a few highlights from the week.

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Science and Nature: “Breathe In Oxygen . . .”

sciencenature3In Science and Nature, we learned about flowers and their all-important pollinators. You may hear your kids practicing our new chants about pollination and our friends the honey bees. We added earth to the garden, checked out all the plants, gathered mint, smelled the delicious basil, and even viewed some pollinators hard at work. Looking through a magnifying glass at the centers of flowers, we saw how each flower passes pollen along.

Art: Sewing Stitches, Squishing Clay

clayIn Art, some kids made water bottle holders from felt, honing their sewing skills. Younger campers have been having fun exploring the versatile nature of clay by pinching, poking, squeezing and rolling it. Older campers have learned skills and techniques such as connecting pinch pots into bigger forms. They learned to roll slabs that were used to build imaginative lanterns. Ceramic pieces will be ready for pick up the last week of camp.

Music: “You Are My Sunshine . . .”

ukesThe kids played ukeleles and drums in Music this week. Older kids are learning the first chords on the uke, and everyone’s picking up the basic drum rhythms that will anchor the songs they work on throughout the summer. There are plenty of small percussion instruments so that kids at all levels of ability can play along. This week kids played and sang such favorites as “You Are My Sunshine” and “This Land is Your Land.”

Woodworking: “If I Had a Hammer . . .”

DSCN0088Woodworking is a lively group. We encouraged the kids to create designs of their own and then bring them to fruition using scrap lumber, accessories, and decorations. The hammering station outside was a popular spot, and inside the classroom we glued, cut, and painted with great enthusiasm. This week’s creations included a mailbox, a doll desk, houses with rooms and beds, a set of stairs, and the legendary sword of Godric Griffindor. As group projects, we are building an Earth Loom from tree branches and a moth trap. The littlest campers got into the action too, carefully selecting pine cones and beads and crafting them into one-of-a-kind art.

News from the Groups

treeclimbEllen reports that our littlest campers in Group A have come together nicely and have been busy all around the campus grounds. The playground is a great place for them to chase or be chased by our CITs, and to dig in the sand. In art they shaped clay into a rocket, cave, worm, and pancake. Creativity at its finest!

They loved using the magnifiers to have a closer look at flowers and seed pods. And as they were looking, a camper said excitedly,”I see the seeds, I see the seeds!”

The rest of the groups have also been busy exploring, creating and playing. It’s amazing how quickly the kids become friends at Blue Rock. One special time for the community is lunch. All the campers, group leaders, CITs, and station masters come together to eat on the outdoor bleachers, shaded by trees overhead. It’s a nice opportunity to hear what friends in other groups are doing, and for siblings to check in with one another. Kids are invited to come up on the wooden stages to tell a joke or riddle to the group. We love seeing the kids’ confidence grow over the course of the summer. Even the littlest campers are beginning to bravely take the stage. One little guy got up and said, “Knock knock!” (“Who’s there?” asked the group.) “A pickle!” (“A pickle who?”) “Do you want to eat a pickle?” You have to love those toddler jokes.

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