Week 1 Letter, 2017
Ed here, with the first of our six Friday Letters of the summer. These letters will let you know a bit more about the happenings of the past week at camp, as well as give some hints as to what awaits us the following week.
Our theme of the week for this first week of camp was “Taking Care”. Throughout the week, we helped campers understand that ‘taking care’ is something we do every day of the year, not just during the week of camp with that title.
What is there to care of? Well, to begin with, there is ourselves; our friends old and new; our family; our camp; the earth and all its inhabitants—plant, animal, and otherwise. The theme of Taking Care, a first week of camp tradition, always feels timely and appropriate.
I have been told by parents that one part of the Friday Letter they really look forward to is the Campers’ Quotable Quotes. Here are some from this week:
- A bus counselor asked a camper what he liked best about the first day of camp. He said “Everything”, and then promptly proceeded to fall asleep.
- On the way to Nature’s Playground, a camper just blurted out, “Wow, there really is magic in nature!”
- A very young camper renamed kohlrabi to “kohlrabbit”.
- A camper said to her Mom, in a quiet, calm way, as if what she was about to say was just the absolute bottom-line truth: “The Nature Place is my favorite place on the planet.”
- During today’s downpour, a counselor and a few of his campers came to the office for emergency rain coats (garbage bags). After putting on his garbage bag rain coat, one camper exclaimed, “it smells like bacon!” Later, the counselor returned for one more garbage bag and upon spreading it out, confirmed, “it really does smell like bacon.” As a reminder, please make sure to send your child to camp with a raincoat or poncho (these can even be left at camp for the duration of the summer), to ensure we are each prepared for inclement weather and do not have to smell like strips of bacon.
- A camper recounted to her mother how her group collected 62 eggs at Chickens and placed them in “adorable baskets,” to deliver them to a nearby nursing home, “right into the fridge so that people there could enjoy them.” The experience was described as “half-fun chicken and half good deed.” To me, this kind of full circle connectivity is a childhood memory to last a lifetime. It’s a special moment that tells us about how we are meant to take care of each other and how interdependent we are as living beings.
This first week of camp, with all its fresh energy and fresh faces, was as exciting as ever. Below are some tidbits from the weeks’ activities. Perhaps these snippets will give you some fodder for dinner conversation with your camper(s):
Morning Share: Each morning, we began camp with Morning Share. In funny ways and with different characters, we learned about putting our leftovers from lunch into recycling, compost or trash containers, and taking home the things that will be used over and over. There were also skits about taking care of ourselves while out-of-doors: staying hydrated, applying sun block, and mosquito and tick avoidance and protection. There were happy birthday songs to be shared, along with a wildflower delivered by air mail – our winged flower fairy!
Art: Campers made hanging collages using a combination of natural and processed materials. To get our creative juices flowing, we stretched toward the sky, soaking up the sunshine and breathing it into our bodies.
Drama: With Drama Jon, our younger campers used an object found in nature and acted as if it were very heavy, very hot, etc. Our older campers improvised various scenarios, acting them out at ever more rapid speeds. Channeling their inner wackiness with Drama Janet, campers created games designed to foster collaboration and take care of each other. They then explored weird and wacky walks, exaggerated gestures and funny hats. The improv game Helping Hands was also played.
Cooking: In the kitchen, campers baked whole wheat rolls; plain, round rolls for the younger campers, and herbed garlic rolls for the older groups. All the herbs came from our garden! Everyone used the grain mill and ground wheat berries. Some groups tasted and enjoyed fresh kohlrabi.
Chickens: Up at the chicken coop, we collected eggs, washed them, and delivered them to the kitchen.
Nature: We began compost experiments in aquariums filling them with soil and adding in different things to discover which ones will decompose. Additionally, some groups discovered pineapple weed, and some used Mulberry Tree berries to create beautiful pink/purple paper rubbings. Little creatures were found hiding in the bark crevices of tree trunks, Poison Ivy was identified, and we traced part of the building’s shadow in chalk on the blacktop and came back to observe a very big change as the day passed.
Today, Friday, provided us with a rainy morning—perfect for one of my favorite activities. A group and I made an “autumn-mobile”. Learning that water sticks to water, like a kind of glue, we covered my car in leaves from the birch tree that always starts to lose its leaves at the beginning of camp.
Storytelling: Every Friday morning we hear the most wonderful stories when Chuck Stead, our only storyteller for 32 years, visits the camp and tells us tales from the Ramapo Mountains where he grew up. Today’s story, which you may hear in detail over the dinner table, concerned itself with Chuck and friends helping their neighbor, Mrs. Southerland, clean up her property. There is a mysterious shed that Chuck’s gang can’t wait to get into, as if it were a rare, untouched archaeological site whose contents may reveal mysteries and clues from the past.
Garden: We made refreshing mint and lemon balm water; sampled baby lettuce and mustard greens, weeded and aerated a new garden bed for planting; watered thirsty plants; and acted out the life cycle of a plant
Games: Younger campers got to experience the beauty of cooperation through ball balancing relays, and practiced awareness skills through games such as Wise Old Owl and Mr. Fox. Older groups played Giants and Elves as well as Crossing the Toxic Troll Pond.
Animal Encounters: Bill Robinson, wildlife rehabilitator, brought us an owl, 2 hawks, a legless lizard, a turkey vulture (buzzard) and a corn snake. The hawk flew just over our heads as it zoomed in to eat the dead mouse Bill offered for food. At Outragehiss Pets, our neighbors here in Chestnut Ridge brought frogs that looked like moss, a bearded dragon, a gecko, a green python, a 3-banded armadillo and a cockatoo.
Snoopy: Campers sang “Draggin’ the Line” and “Count on Me”. They played Musical Memory Match, a silly and challenging singing game.
Outdoor Skills: Campers had hands-on experience in making cordage from stinging nettle, dogbane, and raffia. Some uses of rope made from plant fibers include fish nets, bow strings, and water bottle holders.
Tree Climbing: Campers learned how to safely climb a tree using our special climbing apparatus. It was wonderful to see a camper climbing – sometimes struggling – and the rest of the group cheering on their fellow camper!
This past week’s hobby choices included: Nature Investigation, Magic!, Song Attack, Archery, Climbing, Chickens, Dream Catchers, Clay Crafting, Art in the Kitchen, Garden Feast, Woodworking, Down on the Farm, Skit Builders, Yoga, Wild Food Foraging, and more.
There were 2 day hikes in Harriman Park this week, an on-site overnight at camp, and a backpacking trip along the Harriman trails. Our oldest group helped members of the NY/NJ Trail Conference build new trails in Sterling Forrest.
Next week, our second, is called The Turtle’s Back Week. Many native peoples have creation stories based on the turtle. I can’t wait to see how these stories are woven into our activities here at camp. There will be three day hikes next week and 6 groups out on overnight camping trips.
Also coming this week: Our first Family Evening Program of the summer- Songs Around the Campfire on Thursday, July 13th at 7:15 pm. We invite all campers and families, and their family friends, back to camp this evening to sing some of the songs we have learned during the past 2 weeks.
Next week also features our very first Bring a Friend to Camp Day! Campers in groups M through Q, except R, can bring a friend to camp on Friday, July 14th (R’s Bring a Friend to Camp Day is Tuesday, July 18th). Please click here for more details about the day, and to download a permission form to be filled out by the accompanying friend’s parent/guardian. Permission forms for July 14th are due back to the office by Tuesday the 11th.
We are so grateful to have your family along with us for these precious weeks of summer. I speak for all of our staff when I say that it is a joy to spend each and every day discovering, exploring, playing, creating, and connecting with our campers. We can’t wait for Week 2!
Thank you for a wonderful first week,