Topsy Turvy Tuesday

Topsy Turvy Tuesday is a favorite day at the BDC. Crazy outfits, silly activities, outrageous songs, the infamous slip ‘n slide, and a square dance always make this day special!! Last week on Topsy Turvy Tuesday, we had one of the most memorable of these days that I can remember in my 16 years at BDC, and I have seen a lot of them.

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The costumes were great even Rio, my dog who becomes the camp mascot each summer, donned an festive outfit. The activities all lived up to expectations: We had a waterfront circus, foot painting, campers vs counselor soccer, slip ‘n slide and — last but not least — a collective building of a Rube Goldberg Machine. This idea and the resulting Rube Goldberg Machine took the cake.

The story we told the campers is that we were having a staff issue of immense proportions; our staff were threatening to leave camp because their tea was stale. The tea boxes were not closing properly and we needed a machine to fix this problem. Each camper group came through and helped to devise, change and build some aspect of our machine in order to solve this problem. This was an incredible success. We have included the video showing the amazing final product that was achieved of the Rube Goldberg Machine on our photo display site.

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At the end of the dance we all gathered together as a group and watched the machine do its work. There was a great cheer and incredible feeling of community from the success of the machine. Topsy Turvy Tuesday transformed into an incredible collective building event — one of the best I have ever seen.

Thanks to all who were involved!!

– Andrea Breen, BDC Director

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Closing Session Two at the BDC

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We closed Session 2 on Friday with a glorious overnight and 87 happy campers!! About 80 happy campers slept out in shelters and tents on a warm clear night with a tiny bit of rain showing up late and lots of laughs all night long. When campers returned to the barn in the morning, their parents were excited to see the smiling. dirty faces.

After reuniting, parents had a chance to sit with campers in their groups and hear about some highlights of the session, including some of the strengths each camper brought to the group. Finally, as an entire camp community we head up to Silent Meeting. Silent meeting at the BDC is always a treat. Usually, we pass a “talking stick” to help guide kids in the process as they learn about Silent Meeting. But on the final meeting of the session, we offer a more traditional meeting, sitting in silence with people speaking if they feel moved to do so. Many campers like to share aspects of their overnight at this meeting or just let us know that this is the best camp they have ever attended. Or they tell us they can’t wait till next year or that they’re eager to attend an overnight camps, or that they are eager for the next BDC session on Monday. We also tend to have many parents share their gratitude for all we do here at Farm & Wilderness and at the Barn Day Camp.

This meeting was no exception. My favorite comment came from a parent who was in her second year here at the barn. She shared that last year when she dropped her son off, a parent asked her if she was new and she said “yes”. He told her this was his final year at BDC with his child and described the experience as “it is just goodness”. Initially, she said she didn’t know what he meant. But now, after two summers, she gets it and she has no other way to explain the Barn Day Camp other than, “it is just goodness”.

Thanks for a great session, onwards to Session 3 and our 97 campers!! Bring it on!

— Andrea Breen, Barn Day Camp Director

Staff fun at the Barn Day Camp!

20150716-IMGP0091 20150716-IMGP0102 20150716-IMGP0105At the Barn Day Camp, we spend a significant amount of time training our staff on working with kids. We teach staff how to use the values of Farm & Wilderness, the “SPICES” (Service, Peacemaking, Integrity, Community, Equity and Simplicity) in our work with children.

We also know the importance of having fun with our staff. During our Staff and Skills weeks, which occur before campers arrive, we spend hours talking about “soft skills” such as how to teach independence, build community, how to make failure something that is okay and a learning experience for campers, as well as “hard skills” such as rock climbing, life guarding and farming.  We also make sure to leave room for playing games, singing and being silly together.

In our staff meetings each week, we talk about the challenges of working with children and brainstorm ways to create opportunities to teach about gender, race and fairness. Staff share some of their challenges and we talk about strategies to work with certain campers. We get through the nitty-gritty details of Topsy Turvy Tuesday, Adventure Days and Overnight trips, as well as making sure that all the daily chores are covered.

We make sure to have some fun in our staff meetings as well. After a long week (with several staff out sick and 87 campers running us wild) we worked hard in our staff meeting, but we ended with one of my favorite games — Ms. Mumbles.

If you do not know the game of the fictitious Ms. Mumbles, this is how it unfolds. Each staffer speaks –  while using your lips to cover your teeth as you go around the circle – asking, “have you seen Ms. Mumbles?” The next person answers and then turns to their neighbor to continue the search. The game repeats around the way around circle, with plenty of creative and whacky improvisations. The game never fails to send staff into unstoppable laughter. Many returning staffers have learned to make a kybo run before the game starts as the laughter can have challenging consequences on the bladder.

We do some amazing things with kids and values that we all hold dear at camp, but ultimately we are very good at having fun both with and without campers. You’ll see what I mean in these photos of staff playing Ms. Mumbles at our recent staff meeting.

— Andrea Breen, BDC Director

 

Barn Day Camp Summer 2015

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The Barn Day Camp is so excited for Opening Day today!

We gathered 55 campers together at morning circle, sung our first songs, met our counselors, connected with camp buddies and welcomed new friends.

In the morning, the various BDC groups went to the waterfront to assess each camper’s swimming skills. In light drizzle, with some sun breaks, some campers took apart and started rebuilding benches in Work Projects.

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Others ventured over the garden and met our farm animals, including piglet Grunt (who has markings that resemble an eyebrow), the goat Nelly and the assorted ducks and chickens. We also explored the grounds, the changing rooms, the Art Barn and learned where to place our backpacks and lunch boxes.

The lunchtime circle is always lively and festive, as we learned the BDC routines. After eating our lunches and drinking some F&W farm fresh milk, we went to Silent Meeting and shared our thoughts. After more singing, we began afternoon activities.

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The BDC staff has been working hard in the past few weeks to prepare for this day. The kybos were cleaned, the docks at the waterfront and raft were placed into the water, the pig is getting to know her pen and Nelly, the goat, is mowing the lawn as I write this blog. The art barn is stocked, the stoves have been have been lit, the tools have been oiled, counselors have participated in and led activities.

At our final Staff Week circle, the summer staff shared in one word how they were feeling about camper’s arrival on Monday. Here is what they said:

Pumped, excited, jazzed, ready, full, thrilled, animated, enthusiastic, keyed up, charged and stoked.

Bring on BDC Summer 2015! We’re so excited to have your children as our campers, and the bells have started ringing.

— Andrea Breen, Barn Day Camp Director

 

 

— Andrea Breen, Barn Day Camp Director

 

BDC Is Happening……

Camp is one big buzz of activity and children are deeply immersed in the projects and activities they do.

As I took a stroll through the BDC today, this is what I saw; hammers, nails and saws being used by kids of all ages; a tent being set up by the turtle and butterfly campers in the tall grass as they talked about bugs and looked for insects;  the moose campers going through an obstacle course challenge (with some kids using only one leg or blinded by bandanas), In another area, the bear campers were on a scavenger hunt smelling all kinds of herbs and heading out to the garden to find their matches. There were also many kids swimming in the lakes and participating in swim lessons. Over in the art barn, children were listening to a story while they drew and did collages.

I love walking around the Barn. There is so much activity.  Even when kids are not actively doing something, they are engaged in some way.

From the office, where I write this blog, I can hear the butterflies in their nest. The comments and words that flow down are a joy to hear, often causing us to hold back laughter or join in some conversation or song.  The bells sound outside and the excitement level increases as the children all run to the next activity.  The butterflies are all chanting the word “swimming right now as they change into their suits and run down the hill to the waterfront and swim lessons.

BDC is one happening place.

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Afternoon Activities at the BDC

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As I sit here eating farm fresh popcorn — and I mean really farm fresh — I want to take a moment and just share with you how farm fresh our offerings are to campers.

With the corn that we grew here at our farm, BDC campers shucked and removed the kernels from the cob and then popped them over an open fire that we built.

Now we are putting the butter, which was made by BDC campers from our farm fresh milk, over this delicious popcorn.

As I sit here, I am thinking about how long it takes each camper to decide which afternoon activity they will choose. I truly understand why!  How can one decide between making Ooblek; or catching crickets and grass hoppers to feed to the chickens; or walking the goat; or playing swamp em; or making fairy dragon wings and using tools to make fairy houses?

In all honesty, how could one not want to make the freshest farm popcorn ever. It never ceases to amaze me as Director and I never get tired of hearing the staff introduce the activities at morning circle. It is one of the highlights of the BDC.  How awesome to have the opportunity to participate in these kinds of activities.  No wonder all of your children love this place so much.

I wonder what will be on that list tomorrow!!

–Andrea Breen, BDC Director

 

Barn Day Camp Session 1 – 2014

Sitting this Sunday afternoon listening to the loons as they call back-and-forth on Woodward Reservoir, I am enjoying the last moments of quiet for a while.  I can practically hear the sound of children jumping into the lake to take their swim tests.  The Barn is starting up later today and we are really ready.

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The staff have been spending the last several weeks becoming certified life guards and learning how to belay at the climbing wall.  We’ve been going over developmental stages, learning about the importance of the imagination in our programming and getting to know each others styles and how to support one another as a staff.  We have learned all about the campers who are coming and prepared our space from a long, hard winter.  We are ready, staff is excited and can’t wait to greet their campers.  I hope that children are anxiously awaiting the BDC opening, looking forward to another summer of fun, of digging in the dirt and taking care of our newest goat, Daphnie. Or maybe they are anticipating climbing even higher or choosing a more difficult route on the climbing wall, or building a fire with wet wood,  or passing their knife test, or visiting Ben in the nature shed.  Spice is tuning up her guitar and helping the staff prep for swim lessons, Meghan is tidying up the art barn and Sam is sharpening all the tools for our  work projects.  Nate is gathering wood for fires at Outdoor Living Skills. Gretta is preparing some new fun activities for Adventure Days  and Betsy is weeding and getting the eggs going in the incubator for our farm.  Counselors are ready to meet their campers.

So, bring on the summer of 2014 at the BDC we are ready for the noise, We are READY FOR THE BDC TO BEGIN!!

 

Silent Meeting at the BDC

Silent Meeting at the BDC is a pretty special place.  I have been at Farm & Wilderness for 14 years. Yet for me to feel fully present each summer, I need to sit in the Silent Meeting circle filled with campers and staff.

That circle is magical.

For staff, for parents, for campers, for visitors, whomever is up there, the magic is palpable. I am always amazed at the scene of kids running full speed up to the circle after lunchtime for Silent Meeting. While it is true we have fidgeting and, once in a while, we have to move a child, for the most part, the kids know what to do and respect the space.  Kids love to touch the talking stick.  They watch it go around the circle and are impressed when we bring a new talking stick into the circle.  Often they just sit and touch it for a few minutes, taking in that moment.

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We also often hear a variety of praise for our camp, everything from:

“I can’t wait for my afternoon activity” to “this is the best camp in the world” or “I love that we play in the rain here” or “I feel so lucky to be here” or “I am excited for my overnight”.  And, of course, there are many more things that are said.  Sometimes our Silent Meeting can take as long as 20 minutes before that stick gets around the circle. Much of that time is silent with no one speaking at all.  I have never, in all of my time at the BDC, heard any child complain about Silent Meeting.  Mostly I hear that they like it.  I find when we sit in silence, together it is inspiring and gives you a warm and loving feeling that permeates throughout the afternoon.  How lucky that we have that time together.

 

From Rain to Heat …

At the BDC, we give campers a choice of awesome activities in the afternoons. This helps them make choices independently and try new things.What we do here dovetails nicely with a New York Times discussion on the benefits of camps.

Here is a sampling of the BDC activities for the last week.

Slytherin in the House, Tea Party (drinking tea while on the raft in the BDC swim area), greased watermelon in the shallow portion of the BDC swim area, Swamp ‘Em in canoes, extreme yoga planking everywhere and anywhere they could, guacamole making with tools, cookie making without measuring, blind food eating (strawberries, carrots, dates and other items), story book reading, slip and slide, crate climbing, duct tape bracelets, face painting, flower crowns, extreme fort building, fairy house making, fairy furniture making and I am sure there were more that I missed.  You may just have to ask your child to explain or let them enjoy what they did on their own.

Sometimes I wonder how they choose.  These of course are just the activities right after Silent Meeting.  There is an entire morning of activities that happen in a variety of areas, which include things like:

  • Fixing the steps to Silent Meeting in work projects
  • Picking raspberries for the farm stand in farming
  • Building fires different ways at Outdoor Living Skills
  • Swim lessons
  • Looking for bugs in nature
  • A variety of things in the art barn and working as a group to accomplish a task in adventure.

Then, last but not least, kids end their days with “free time” where they have the choice of going to any of the activity areas or just hanging out and running around the bowl and the play area.

The day is full and fun and there are just too many things to do.

This is why we love the BDC.