Week One at Camp

Our first week of camp has been plenty hot, with short periods of strong rain, long stretches of bright sun, and the excitement of getting to know fellow campers, counselors, and the streams, trees, hills, and dales of camp.

At the end of each week of camp I’ll send you a letter telling you about highlights from our recently concluded week, as well as sharing some things to look forward to the following week.

This week was ‘Taking Care’ week, which has been the theme for our first week of camp for thirty-three summers in a row! At our annual winter retreat we often debate whether we need to freshen up our first week’s theme – should we rename it ‘caring’ week, ‘connecting and sharing’ week, ‘treating things with respect’ week? None of these have exactly the right ring to them, and they also don’t encapsulate our intentions for the first week quite as well as ‘taking care’ does. Some traditions are worth keeping!

Our first week of camp sets the stage for a successful summer: we learn how to take care of ourselves (with sun protection, hydration, hand washing), how to take care of our friends (with kindness and respect), and how to care for our earth (because there’s no replacement).

At the start of each day, we are introduced to these ideas at Morning Share. During Share this week we had an appearance by The Hydrator, who overzealously brought water to those in need. On Thursday morning we met the new Thurston on Thursday (who bought the rights to the name from the NPDC production studio after last year’s retirement of the ‘real’ Thurston). Morning Share is a consistently goofy time at camp, and the whole camp singing our special birthday song, accompanied by a visit from the flower fairy, makes each morning complete.

 

When a camper says something particularly apt and often unintentionally funny, at The Nature Place we call that a ‘quotable quote’.

Here are a few quotable quotes from this week:

  • A camper was stung by a wasp, and afterward said, “I actually enjoyed it, it was a new experience!”
  • A camper was running a ‘nature store’ after lunch time, announcing to potential customers, “Buy nature, with nature!” Another camper then came up and gave her two acorns in exchange for the rock she was ‘selling’.
  • In a getting-to-know-you game, a counselor said, “Stand up if you have a sibling!” Nearly every camper stood up. The counselor soon found out that ‘sibling’ had been widely interpreted to include fish, dogs, cats, bearded dragons, pigs, chickens, and plants.
  • A camper, lying on the floor, was asked by a counselor, “What are you doing down there?” The camper replied, “I’m practicing my backstroke!”.

Here’s a sampling of some of this week’s activities:

  • In music with Rocki, campers learned new songs and accompanied them on simple instruments.
  • During Nature with Alex this week, campers identified hazards in nature, especially living ones like plants, fungi, and animals. Campers were challenged to find three plants that had three leaflets and that weren’t poison ivy.
  • In cooking with Eva campers baked savory whole wheat scones, and through this explored the process of chemical leavening and the importance of grains in different cultures.
  • In Outdoor Skills with Joe, campers learned how to move silently through the landscape, using stalking and silent movement techniques.
  • During Archery, campers learned safety protocols and worked on their accuracy with the bow and arrow.
  • In Drama with Janet, campers did the hula hoop pass, the hand squeeze pass, and created skits about soap, bugs, and sun.
  • In Nature with May, campers identified different animals and plants, learned about predator/prey systems, and played all sorts of games to understand these concepts!
  • At Games this week, campers played cooling water games, untangled the human knot, and played group tag games.
  • In the garden, campers went on a scavenger hunt to learn what is growing there, and planted seeds (beans, corn, lettuce, chard, kale, and collards).
  • During Farm, we harvested (and ate) the season’s last snap peas and helped with farm tasks!
  • This week, Outragehisss Pets brought in grasshoppers, a snake, a hedgehog, two scorpions, a small lizard, and a baby alligator.
  • Our storyteller Chuck Stead told a tale that involved finding a frozen snake in winter, a continuation of a tale he’s been writing about in our monthly Dirt publication through the year. Chuck, Ricky, Dougy, and Cindy brought the snake back to Uncle Mal’s store, where it unfroze by the heater, and then it came alive!

Hobbies this week included making dream catchers, embroidery, water games, knife skills, mucking, a panini party, chickens, nature’s keepsakes, and more.

With the 4th of July holiday falling mid-week, we had just a few day hikes and camping trips. Groups hiked up Long Mountain, via the Long Path in Harriman State Park, and climbed Indian Hill in Sterling Forest. We had one onsite overnight, one backpacking trip, and a rain-slogged trail-building experience that certainly won’t be forgotten!

Next week at camp will be our first full week of the 2018 summer season. It’s hard to believe we’ve only been in camp for one short week. Once we’re up and running, it really feels like camp has just been continuing since last summer, with a brief, forgettable pause for the cold of winter.

Next week there will be four day hikes, four onsite overnights, and three backpacking trips.

Bill Robinson, wildlife rehabilitator, will join us next week, bringing some of the animals currently in his care. This often includes big birds of prey like hawks, owls, vultures, eagles, and falcons, and bear cubs and alligators too.

Thursday of next week, July 12th, from 7:15 – 8:15 pm, is our family program ‘Songs around the Campfire’. You are invited to come back to camp (you can bring friends, family, and neighbors) to learn and sing some of the songs your children have been singing at camp.

 

Busy with the logistics, silly fun, outdoor immersion, and the general unique energy of camp, we’re already thinking about our one-week program offerings happening after our six weeks of The Nature Place.

There’s still room to sign up for Farm & Garden Days, Art & Earth, and Passages (our teen rite-of-passage wilderness program). These programs run from August 13th – 17th, and are specialized weeks that expand upon a few of the many things we do at The Nature Place.

Have a wonderful, temperate weekend, and we’ll see you at camp next week.

Naturally yours,

Ed

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