Keeping Blue Star beautiful…What’s new and exciting for Summer 2017!

Blue Star is a beautiful place. Our special summer home gives our campers the unique experience of living in and with nature. We take pride in making our camper’s “home away from home” the very best it can be. Every year we embark on projects that will enhance our camp’s natural beauty and improve upon the functionality and design of our facilities. Whether it is renovating the interior of all three of our dining halls, building a new custom-designed climbing tower, interior and exterior cabin renovations and updates, creating new Blue Star “Options” as well as creating spaces to house these exciting Blue Star electives, creating gorgeous riding rings to support our world class Equestrian program, or conducting a site-wide landscape architecture project that extends across camp and has created native planting areas that beautify our campus…At Blue Star we are innovators, dreamers, and doers! Put simply, we love our summer home and are devoted to caring for it. This upcoming 70th anniversary season is no different…we are excited and happy to share what we have been up to this off season!

With camp just around the corner, we are wrapping up the following capital improvements projects on site at Blue Star:

-The installation of a Waterski and Wakeboard Cable System right on site at the Old Lake on Blue Star’s Waterfront. This addition to our camp’s main waterfront creates a super fun way to provide opportunities for skill development and preparation for off-site trips to Lake Bowen. We can’t wait to see campers get to experience our new and custom-designed Water Sports Cable System.

-Interior and exterior renovations on Unit Three Hill in Senior Boy’s have been completed and include exterior painting of bunks, interior wood paneling and new wooden porches. The icing on the cake for Senior Boys Unit 3 is a brand new and gorgeous bathhouse that also is eco-friendly!

-We have renovated two additional riding rings up at Horseback. Our Equestrian facilities are really looking beautiful, and with larger rings, our skilled instructors are better able to provide the best lessons for our campers. Take a walk up that way on drop-off or pick-up this year to see the incredible enhancements made to this area of camp.

-Planning ahead for 2018…We also have begun a massive renovation to our Top Lake area. While our Zip Line will be on “pause” for this summer only, it all will be well worth the wait when we unveil our Top Lake experience in 2018. Please pardon our dust during this season…

-Already we have mentioned the creation of our Harmony Garden to honor and celebrate our 70th season of summer magic. This special spot on camp will be available to all campers and staff at Blue Star this summer and will be ready on time for our Family & Alumni Camp on Memorial Day weekend. Additionally, campers will be able to participate in projects this summer that add beauty, character, and their unique individual camp identity to the Harmony Garden. Stay tuned to learn more about how our campers will put their hearts into making a harmonious place even more special.

Of course, there will continue to be new plantings, fresh coats of paint, and other special touches across camp to make Blue Star as beautiful as possible when we open our gates on June 11th and embark upon our 70th anniversary season. We can’t wait to share it all with you—our summer family past, present, and future! L’Dor Vador – Camp with Purpose.

Posted in Blue Star Camps News | Leave a comment

Announcing our Summer theme…L’Dor Vador – Camp with Purpose

Carpe diem. With the onset of spring we are excited to share the theme for our 70th anniversary summer of Blue Star Magic…

L’Dor Vador – Camp with Purpose

As we approach this special anniversary season, we are reminded of and humbled by our rich history and strong foundations. Our theme this year is rooted in an adage from Herman Popkin (Lauren’s grandfather and co-founder of Blue Star in 1948). While Blue Star always has been a “camp with a purpose,” in this year’s theme we shift subtly towards an action statement, reminding our campers and staff to camp with purpose. We want our campers to understand that they are a link in a chain, part of something bigger than themselves. Further, we hope to instill the values of kindness and inclusion, empowering children and young adults to contribute positively to the world around them. This summer’s theme especially highlights our camp’s dedication to social action, social justice and environmental conservation.

In our effort to model these ideals and one of Blue Star’s core outcomes of “doing good,” we will embark on a special project for our 70th season that each of our campers will have the opportunity to participate in and experience. Stay tuned for more information on how our campers will contribute to the addition of a “Harmony Garden” at Blue Star, creating a space for all members of our camp community to enjoy! Our summer theme and our Harmony Garden highlight our goals and hopes for this and future summers at camp; that we will, both individually and collectively, “plant trees, under whose shade (we) do not expect to sit,” –Nelson Henderson.

This summer at camp we all will experience the Blue Star Magic on multiple levels and across generations. As part of our Alumni & Family Camp in May, at our first ceremony in the Harmony Garden, we will celebrate our camp’s deep history and bright future, as well as the unique nature of camp friendships and the power of camp experiences to shape identity and life paths. Our living history will be manifest in 4th generation campers, counselors who are guiding the next generation, leadership team members with children at camp, alumni visiting who were at camp in its founding years, and the Elmore Solomon Chapel still radiating as the spiritual center of camp. Our purpose, on the day of camp’s founding and now, serves as the connective tissue among generations of Blue Star alumni. To that end, our theme this summer is really a celebration of the vision, collective experience and heart of our camp. We are inspired by the many ways in which our shared purpose may positively impact our planet. It feels more important now than ever to recommit to our purpose, learn from the generations who came before us, and continue dreaming big for a beautiful future…

L’Dor Vador, from generation to generation, let’s camp with purpose!

Posted in Blue Star Camps News | 3 Comments

Creativity & Resiliency…The Blue Star Edge

Carpe diem. And happy happy 2017! We hope everyone is enjoying a sweet and positive start to this New Year.

Creativity. Developing broadly as a human being. Independence.

In the midst of all of the transition we all are experiencing, we wanted to start this year with a
re-focus on how best to facilitate and support our children’s development. We are inspired to deepen the good work we have set out to do, remaining firmly committed to fostering kindness, compassion and empathy in the hearts and minds of our campers. As has been a pattern recently, a thoughtful Blue Star alumnus shared the following article from the parenting section of The Washington Post. In it Laura Clydesdale argues forcefully for the unique power of the sleepaway camp experience to help instill the three main attributes listed above, all of which lead to a positive competitive edge in life. Going against the tide of hyper focus on resume building experiences (for children of camper age!), Clydesdale cites wide-ranging research and thought leaders who identity these attributes as actually helping a child stand out in the crowd, and more importantly, be able to stand confidently on their own two feet.

At Blue Star we intentionally set the stage for daily experiences that spark creativity. For example, we have expanded our Arts program over the past several years to add more Blue Star Options within which our campers learn to think and act creatively, whether on their own or in groups. Further, all of our campers come up with their own cabin songs (or dances or skits) as part of our evening programs. We believe enhanced creativity also leads to critical problem solving, thinking different(ly), and even seeing the world from other perspectives.

Our Blue Star core outcomes (self-discovery, building community, and doing good) all lead our campers to developing more broadly as human beings. Each summer we have an overarching summer theme, weekly Shabbat sub-themes, and service projects geared toward this very development. Meeting every camper where they are at, we train our staff (and remind them through ongoing professional development) to see every child as unique, helping them grow through their difficult and positive experiences. Clydesdale puts forth, “Studies over the past decade have shown outdoor programs stimulate the development of interpersonal competencies, enhance leadership skills and have positive effects on adolescents’ sense of empowerment, self-control, independence, self-understanding, assertiveness, decision-making skills, self-esteem, leadership, academics, personality and interpersonal relations.” That’s development!

Of course, the most immediately accessible concept of independence can only happen if we let it happen with our children. Michael Thompson, author of Homesick and Happy (and many other youth development books and who we have referenced before), insists that “the only way children can grow into independence is to have their parents open the door and let them walk out. That’s what makes camp such a life-changing experience for children.” As we let our first-time camp parents know right up front, the initial separation often is harder for us parents than it is for our children. Independence yields resiliency. How better to prepare our children for the rest of their lives?!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2016/05/09/can-sleep-away-camp-give-kids-a-competitive-advantage-in-life/?utm_term=.b6ebc1d4a465

Posted in Blue Star Camps News | Leave a comment

Annoucing our Campership program…Give the gift of camp and spread the Blue Star Magic!

Happy holidays! We are so excited and honored to be celebrating our 70th anniversary season of Blue Star Magic in the Blue Ridge Mountains this summer. As 3rd generation owners/directors, we are proud of our rich history and time-honored camp traditions which have positively impacted the lives of generations of Blue Star campers and staff since 1948!

While summer 2017 is still months away, we are diligently focused on the upcoming camp season as we continue to nurture the future of our welcoming and inclusive camp community. Dedicating ourselves to helping each camper realize Blue Star’s three core outcomes (self-discovery, building community and doing good) is our humble way of making the world a better place, one camp experience at a time. We know how vital these 21st century skills are for children. All kids should be given opportunities to discover their best selves, form meaningful and genuine connections to others, and feel empowered to affect positive change in the world around them.

We believe that every child deserves a chance to experience camp and it is for this reason that Blue Star has funded an internal camp scholarship (Campership) program that has given the gift of camp to hundreds of campers who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to attend. Recipients of these funds are typically awarded to long time camp families that may be experiencing a financial hardship and prospective families that are unable to afford either full or partial tuition costs. We have often been met with requests from members of our camp community who have wanted to contribute to our Campership fund. For those camp families and alumni, we are excited to announce that now our camp community can also support our Campership program! As an accredited camp of the American Camp Association (ACA), Blue Star is eligible to build our camper scholarship fund through the 501(c)3 tax exempt status of ACA.

If you or a family member are interested in making a contribution that will assist with tuition costs, giving the gift of camp to a child that may otherwise not be able to attend, please view our electronic flyer here (http://www.bluestarcamps.com/pdfs/Campership-Program.pdf). For those who would like to participate, please know that donations to the ACA Campership fund will be used for the sole purpose of providing need-based financial assistance to campers. You can help make it possible for a deserving camper to experience the Blue Star Magic by visiting ACA online here (http://www.acacamps.org/campership).

We so appreciate our amazing Blue Star family and the many ways the good work we do at camp is supported by our camp community. Looking forward to sharing a spectacular 70th season with you all and remember, “The heart that gives, gathers” – Lao Tsu

Posted in Blue Star Camps News | Leave a comment

Inclusion and Our Approach to Bullying

How we practice inclusion at Blue Star…

Co-Authored by Dana and Matt “Fish” Eisenman (of our Leadership Team) 

As we reflect on summer 2016, we cannot help but consider how the 2016 theme guided our daily experience at camp. Our theme, “We are One,” helped us towards our goal of attaining an ideal: a harmonious and inclusive summer camp community for all of our campers and staff. We are one cabin, one unit, one camp, one Blue Star, one community and one human family.

Sometimes the task of community building can be challenging, even at camp where our traditions and core values easily lend themselves to creating a cohesive, caring and inclusive community. We know, as part of growing up, our campers and staff can be met with challenges as they navigate various aspects of their social lives in myriad settings. Testing the accepted social boundaries to establish one’s role in the group is a developmentally appropriate behavior, but when bullying becomes part of a group’s dynamic, it can erode the sense of security, well-being, and safety that we hope all campers and staff experience at camp. At Blue Star, we define bullying as repeated unwanted aggressive behavior that involves a power imbalance.  

Empathy is a key component of our approach to resolving these issues at camp. We avoid labeling campers and work to help all campers identify their role in the social world of camp, providing opportunities for them to make their own positive changes.

By employing empathy as a powerful tool for understanding, campers exhibiting bullying behavior are able to see the impact of their words and actions. In the tech-heavy lives of our campers they often do not have the opportunity to see how their behaviors impact others. At camp however, the responses are immediate and personal, and with guidance from a staff member, campers are able to feel the impact of their actions. As the people who are directly responsible for campers’ social-emotional well-being, our camp leadership team and counselors encourage campers to take ownership of their camp experiences by providing guidance as they navigate these social challenges. The real work of camp is to scaffold and support all children in coping with these challenges and learning from the experience to help them discover their best selves.

Our ongoing theme also teaches inclusion. Inclusion requires campers to go beyond tolerance and encourages them to learn about others, empathize, and become part of one community. Camp is the ideal place to reflect on and learn from all experiences and return to home and school with a renewed sense of self and the compassion and love of a caring camp community. We are always One…

*For more information on bullying, see stopbullying.gov

Posted in Blue Star Camps News | Leave a comment

Reflections for a Sweet New Year!

aCarpe diem.

We want to create a moment to reflect with our camp community on our past summer and wish everyone a beautifully sweet New Year. This time of year provides us with a precious opportunity to slow down, pause, and reflect on where we are and where we are going. What an amazing summer of Blue Star magic we all created together! In so doing we have been working hard on helping each camper realize our three core outcomes…Self-discovery; Building community; and Doing good. As we reflect and seek to learn from this past summer we are asking ourselves a big question (that we encourage all camp parents to ask ourselves): In twenty years, if our children are asked what they learned from us about building community, what will they say?

Hopefully, Blue Star campers will have learned that building community requires positive action. Each of us holds the power to actively contribute to the type of community within which we want to live. If we start the journey with a kind and open heart, then we ultimately will speak and act from a place of love. Beginning with our cabin and unit groups, the process of community building will not be perfect or without challenges. When we assume good intentions, practice forgiveness, and learn to constructively communicate through our conflicts…we will have learned from camp how best to influence positively our home communities.

Since the school year (our “off season”) has begun we have heard so many beautiful stories from camp families about the Blue Star magic seeping into life back at home. One example is from a first-time Blue Star family whose daughter recently hosted a weekend “Blue Star swim party” complete with camp games, a pop-up Granny’s store (yes, there were Big Boppers!), and almost an entire unit of campers building community together. Being kind and welcoming to one another while having a super fun time…that’s the Blue Star magic.

Wishing everyone a reflective and meaningful New Year filled with Onelove…L’Shanah Tova!

Posted in Blue Star Camps News | Leave a comment

A very special first Shabbat…WE ARE ONE family

groupphoto

Our first Shabbat of the summer was spectacular. Our theme for services for this first week of camp was “We are one family.” On Friday night in the Elmore Solomon Chapel, we welcomed new campers and staff into our Blue Star family and reflected on our connectedness not only as a camp community but also as one human family. We came together to pray, sing and share a joyful and peaceful Shabbat spirit that resonated from the Chapel all throughout camp. When we unveiled the names we had added to the memorial board in our camp chapel this summer, I shared the following quote from Buddha with our campers and staff…“To those in whom love dwells, the whole world is but one family.” Our Blue Star family seems to share a unique heart, one that spans generations, wishes the best for all humanity, stays connected to each other and to the spark of magic that we hope each of us finds in ourselves from the time we spend at camp.

Making this first weekend of our 2016 camp season even more special was that we were joined by an illustrious (think: BSC all stars!) group of camp alumni. All former long time campers and staff (most whom have been members of our leadership team in various capacities over the years), this close knit group of camp best friends returned to Blue Star to celebrate the upcoming marriage of two camp sweethearts, Susanna (Susu) Fried and David Cohen. Susu and David actually got engaged the day after camp ended last summer on the black top! Another couple in the group, Allie Weprin and Eric Rosenberg, are also engaged to be married. At Saturday morning services, Eric shared the following “original thoughts,” a Blue Star tradition, at our camp services.

 

f51bf128-e1d8-4077-a28d-4d25cb4a4943

Original Thoughts by Eric Rosenberg

Shabbat shalom

Last night’s service ended with a quote from Buddha. To build upon those thoughts and continue this summers theme of “We are One” I thought it would be appropriate to share these words from another spiritual leader…One Direction – “One band, one dream, one direction.”

I was a camper from 2000 to 2005 and on staff from 2009 to 2011. Many times I stood right here and looked out to a crowd full of faces where I knew nearly everyone, but today I only recognize a few. While part of me misses my own camp days it makes me even happier to know that Blue Star will always continue on with new generations of campers and counselors who will create some of their life’s most meaningful relationships here.

Something people will tell you a lot out there in the real world is that the only constant in life is change. Those people have never been to Blue Star. Here always smells the same, feels the same. The brunch bagels never get softer, Evan and Sosna never leave, and the Blue Star magic doesn’t stop once you turn out of camp.

I came here this weekend with a large group of friends. From youngest to oldest we span 6 Blue Star units. For you Senior 3’s, that means coming back to camp in 2029 and hanging out with a bunch of Pioneer 1’s. While that probably sounds impossible today, Blue Star makes it possible. You may have met someone 6 days ago who will be the best man or maid of honor at your wedding. Your future boss may be at Juniors waterfront right now forgetting who their buddy is.

David and Susu will have gone from awkward Pioneer coeds to having children and grandchildren together. I met my future wife Allie in 2010 as counselors. We were a unit apart for 5 summers as campers and never once crossed paths. Senior Girls – that means the short boy across the aisle with the mismatching socks, who is too nervous to talk to you today, will be someone you spend your entire life with.

As you all grow up and move away from this place – going to different schools, having different experiences, falling out of contact with some camp friends and reconnecting with others you never knew before –  there will always be ONE Blue Star. Blue Star will always continue long after we are all and maybe even this place, is gone. It is a state of mind you can tap into, it’s a foundation for any relationship you’ll have. It will be your family forever.

One camp, one dream, one direction

Posted in Blue Star Camps News | Leave a comment

Blue Star just keeps getting better and better!

IMG_20160318_121309474

Happy April to our campers, staff, alums and camp families! With camp just around the corner, we are excited to tell you more about what is “new and exciting” at Blue Star in Summer 2016! You can expect Blue Star to look more beautiful than ever this year as we have been ticking away since the Fall on various capital improvement projects across camp to make this upcoming camp season extra special for our camp community.

Making Blue Star even more beautiful…
Pioneer Boy hill is looking better than ever…with extensive interior and exterior updates, brand new beautiful front porches/decks, interior paneling and some extra love and attention to the general landscape and look of the hill. Globally, more attention has been paid across camp to various natural and landscaped areas, creating a more aesthetic and “villagey” feel in those spaces. Senior Boy hill got a fresh coat of paint and many cabins in our younger camps will be getting new beautifully handcrafted cubbies!

Riding Rings, Tennis & Basketball Courts and renovated spaces for new activity offerings…

We built an incredible new riding arena to support our fabulous Equestrian program and our growing Horseback Skills Camp. Our new arena is situated in a lovely spot where campers can enjoy the surrounding natural beauty of our camp setting. It is the biggest ring we have ever had (200 x 125 feet!) with a special viewing area for camp friends and families to watch their friends at our camp “Equestrian shows.”

Our main tennis courts and outdoor basketball court are both being resurfaced and repainted. They will look clean and fresh for Summer 2016 at camp, not to mention will make for better matches and games for our camp athletics programs!

Perhaps the most exciting news to share is about our new program offerings! Last year, our new Cooking Option was an incredible success…campers loved the space we created for them to learn and hone their culinary skills. Our new Blue Star Dance Option was also an amazing and well-loved addition to our Blue Star Options (“electives”). Campers genuinely enjoyed these new BSC Options, and this year we are continuing to devote our energies to expanding and enhancing our already robust Arts program which includes theater arts, photography, video/film, arts & crafts, pottery, dance, culinary and ancient arts.

This year, we will be creating a separate activity space for a full-scale Fine Arts Option! Our campers that are bourgeoning young visual artists will receive instruction through participation in various projects and instructional sessions led by our highly skilled art specialist, Ambre. We are very excited to have a new fine arts space where campers can explore their creativity, use new mediums and materials and find new ways to express themselves through artistic endeavors.

Additionally, for our young musicians at camp, we are starting a full on Music Option! Led by our very popular camp DJ, Theo, it will include instruction in guitar, piano and other instrumentation as well as DJ, song writing and performing. A mini “band camp” at Blue Star will surely be a hit for those of our campers that already show an interest in and affinity for music and those that are hoping to explore their musicality at camp this summer!

Our love for camp and dedication to making Blue Star the best it can be is unwavering! We can’t wait for opening day of Summer 2016 and to share the next “best Blue Star summer ever” with all of you…We are One!

Posted in Blue Star Camps News | Leave a comment

Summer Theme 2016…We are One!

Carpe diem. Here comes the roll out of our Theme for Summer 2016…We are super pumped to share our theme with you earlier than usual this season. Lauren & I are grateful that we were able to spend this past weekend engaged with our Camp Leader team to vision for this coming summer. A foundational part of our good work together is to explore what our summer theme will be and how it connects to our Core Values and Mission. Without further adieu…our summer theme is “We are One” {אנחנו אחד}.

Blue-Star-2016-Theme

Building community in an intentional way is one of our three core outcomes for all of our campers every summer. While we encourage each camper to discover their best self, we also are asking them to become engaged members of our community. How do we scaffold community building? Think about concentric circles. Beginning with the innermost circle of One Cabin, we extend outward to a second layer of One Unit. From there we ripple out further with One Camp before finally merging as One Blue Star. Within each of these circles campers find opportunities where they not only feel known, needed, and cared for; moreover, they possess the power to positively shape their communities.

Delving deeper into the meanings of the Hebrew word for “One,” I am struck by a particular use which translates to “One-ity,” reminiscent of the concept of unity. At Blue Star, we are committed to showing and reminding campers how to bridge divides, open our hearts, and welcome others into an inclusive community in which everyone is accepted.

As always, our camp programs and projects will be centered around the concept of “tikkun olam,” of healing the “one world” we all share. Our summer theme for 2016 hopes to inspire a spirit of civic engagement as well as a deeper understanding of the universal “one-ness” that connects all people. Lauren & I hope that our campers will connect to each other and the world around them in ways that honor and highlight inclusiveness, understanding, and open-heartedness.

We are One…“One love, One heart” and one Blue Star family!

Posted in Blue Star Camps News | 1 Comment

What is the secret ingredient in the BSC Magic?!

Carpe diem. Lauren & I hope this finds everyone feeling good and enjoying the holiday season. We hope you had an extra bright Hanukkah and wish you only the very best for the New Year 2016! As we approach the annual ritual of “winter break,” we wanted to share an article that struck us at our core. Those of us in the Blue Star family (all of you!) reminisce and dream often of that Blue Star “magic.” What we might consider less is what actually makes or helps create that magic. That is, what is the secret ingredient (the special sauce, if you will) in the very center of the magic? The answer is below; just keep reading…

A long-time alum and very special friend of Blue Star, Walter Solomon, passed along the following article to Lauren and me from the website, ejewishphilanthropy.com. In the article, The Secret Ingredient of Summer Camp Magic, writer/educator Benjamin Kramarz explains that the recipe can be found in the concept of liminality. Kramarz defines liminality as the “state of being in transition” floating amorphously between one stage or place and the next, whether of development or more concretely as in school grades. Our good work at Blue Star is focused on harnessing that transitional time and space to create the conditions for personal and communal transformation.

http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/the-secret-ingredient-of-summer-camp-magic/?utm_source=Tues+Oct+13n*&utm_campaign=Tues+Oct+13&utm_medium=email

How does it work? We intentionally build a community every summer that is filled with “good people” who are almost all in a state of transition. Our counselors are trained vigorously to model “how to be” in this unique state of being and guide their campers through it. Layered in is our meticulously designed program structure that rests on two foundational principles: First, we leave plenty of healthy space for unstructured time where campers are allowed to do what they want to do (with adult supervision and within extremely safe physical surroundings); Second, campers are encouraged and supported in choosing their own main activity options (or electives) where they can discover their best selves. To take the learning and growth to the next level, reflection is built in both informally and formally through myriad activities such as cabin circles, rose n’ thorns, and key log ceremonies.

We have written previously about transition. Transition, or change more broadly, is super difficult for many of us (for me personally). You will be reading this during a transitional time of winter break, between school semesters, and as we shift from one year to the next. The beauty and strength of the Blue Star experience anchors in embracing the in-between state(s) and harnessing their awesome growth potential.

Posted in Blue Star Camps News | Leave a comment