Pre-Camp Education Session

Carpe diem. A gentle yet steady breeze. Five hundred shades of green trees behind an emerald lake. Gravel roads lining nature’s paths. These are just a few of the reminders of the sheer natural beauty of these mountains and our safe space at Blue Star. It also makes it easier, even refreshing, to settle in for the summer as Lauren and I transition from our off season to our “playoff” season. With that, our focus pivots fully to getting our incredible staff as prepared as possible for the potentially transformative work they are about to do.

To help us with our staff training preparation over the past couple seasons, we have connected with Dr. Michael Thompson—a psychologist, school/camp consultant, and nationally recognized leader in the field of child development. Below is an article he wrote a few years ago on the positive impact camp counselors can and do have on children’s lives. Our intention here also is to share some of our learning with our parent community as we partner together to create a meaningful experience for our campers.

Some of my takeaways from this article are that parents have the opportunity to allow other adult mentors to enter their children’s lives at summer camp in a much more unique environment for learning than at home. That is, campers are away from their parents and so really can grow to lean on and learn from their counselors. Thompson writes, “College-age students possess a completely different kind of authority than do parents [and they are able to] teach character and community, caring and sacrifice.” Camp counselors are cool, hip, and more like older role models who campers want to emulate. Looking up to them, campers will follow strict guidelines, try on new rituals, and make some selfless choices to be an active participant in their own community.

During staff training, we will remind our counselors and activity specialists of the powerful opportunity they have this summer. Further, we will show them how to channel their role to be fully present with their campers, meeting them where they are at and gently nudging them out of their comfort zones. Let the good work continue! See you all very soon…

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Summer Theme…Shine On!

Carpe diem. Lauren and I are so excited to introduce our theme for summer 2015. Our theme is “Shine On”. The idea connects to our first organizational internal core value to Let your Light shine. It is about giving our campers (and staff) permission to truly be themselves. Let THAT inner light shine and be shared with everyone in our camp community (and out in the larger world). All we ultimately set as an expectation for each camper is to be kind to others. Having a kind and caring heart and thinking of how we can be of service to others is one thing towards which we always can strive. As the Dalai Lama reminds us, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

We grew up at a time where there were growing pressures put on us to be a certain way and follow a prescribed path toward success in life. Now societal pressures have magnified exponentially, and as parents, we already are aware of this. Lauren and I view camp as a sacred and safe space where we can provide a sort of antidote to some of these outside pressures. At camp we invite and encourage all of our campers to find their best selves. We try to create the conditions within which each camper can feel comfortable just being.

How do we create these conditions at Blue Star? We spend a lot of time and energy behind the scenes, with our team, devoted to designing an overall program structure and specific daily programming aimed at just this. For example, our campers are given the opportunity to choose themselves what their primary two “options” (or daily camp activities) will be. In other words, they do not just go with their whole cabin to every activity already pre-selected for them. While that might seem quite simple, it actually provides many of our campers the unique experience of choosing and pursuing what they really want to explore as their main focus (without their parents’ input). This is one example of how we consciously are carrying out a foundational philosophy at Blue Star passed down to Lauren and me from Herman Popkin and directly through Rodger. That is, every child possesses a unique gift(s), and it is our mission to help her/him discover that.

Lauren and I believe that it is such important work to discover what makes each of us truly happy. The process of self-discovery can be illuminating and liberating, even if the change it inspires is subtle. We believe that what is most important about this process is that our campers find happiness. That is what becoming successful in life means to us. When we are truly happy we really do “Shine On”.

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More exciting news from camp!

Summer 2015 is right around the corner, so we wanted to take a moment to share some exciting news from camp with you.

Custom Climbing Tower and Top Lake Zip Line…Did you know that, just as you are reading this, the final finishing touches are being made to Blue Star’s brand new custom climbing tower? Our friends from Challenge Towers (www.challenge have been wonderful to work with, have done a fabulous job, and are about to start work on our new tree-house zip line at the top lake. That’s right…new custom rock climbing tower AND a new awesome top lake zip line!

That is not the only new fun to be had at Blue Star this summer though. We are introducing TWO new Blue Star options in 2015….Dance and Cooking! We are formally offering dance this summer (with a full time dance specialist) and also starting a cooking option (yum!). We are going to be redesigning a special space for our cooking option and look forward to sampling all of the delicious dishes prepared by our campers in the cooking option.

Sprucing up….All of this planning to make options and camp activities awesome this summer has also been happening in tandem with enhancements to our already wonderful site and facilities. Since last summer we have been focusing on exterior cabin renovations in Teen Village. We painted the Village blue and built lovely new wooden decks. It looks amazing! We also have done extensive interior and exterior work on both Junior and Pioneer Girl hills…there are beautiful new decks on these bunks and enhancements to the overall cosmetic aesthetic in each of these newly renovated cabins.

You can expect to see some additional “sprucing up” all around camp. In 2015 our “forever home” will look and feel more beautiful than ever! We can’t wait to see you all on opening day and look forward to sharing the next “best summer ever” with our Blue Star family!

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Last summer we brought “skill session” (a program reimagined from back in the 70’s and 80’s at Blue Star) back with a bang with a week-long Horseback Skills Camp. Our “skills camps” offer campers the opportunity to participate in concentrated skill development programs in key activity areas at Blue Star. It is with great excitement that we announce the introduction of an Outdoor Adventure Skills Camp to our program offerings this summer! We are thrilled to be adding a skills camp option for those outdoor adventure enthusiasts in our camp community! 

Our innovative week-long outdoor adventure focused program will be structured around the core activities of Rock Climbing, Mountain Biking and Kayaking. Learning the technical skills required to perform well in these activities will form the main curriculum for the program. Offering opportunities to work as a team, develop outdoor skills, and make new friends all while finding a love of and appreciation for the natural world is at the heart of what Outdoor Adventure Skills Camp is all about!

To learn more and view our new brochure, click here

To enroll, click here

Please let us know if you have any questions about our Outdoor Adventure Skills Camp…we look forward to sharing more about this exciting new program offering with you!

Happy adventuring to all our campers and camp families!​

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Blue Star Wins ACA National Award for Conservation Generation!

Carpe diem. Lauren and I just returned from a wonderful week in New Orleans at the American Camp Association (ACA) National Conference. Most importantly, we spent a lot of time attending various educational sessions that pushed and stretched us as we learned tons…so many ideas to bring to camp this summer and beyond. While we were there we also were humbled to be able to receive a prestigious award on YOUR behalf.

Blue Star won the ACA Eleanor Eells National Award for Program Excellence, honoring the Conservation Generation initiative we launched with you last summer. This program highlights environmental stewardship and allowed us to put into practice our “programs with a purpose.” Lauren and I believe that doing good (for others and for the world) is the central ingredient in creating the space within which children can discover what truly makes them happy. YOU all did good work this past summer, and we know you are continuing with that good work this school year in your home communities.

We want to be mindful of both celebrating the achievement AND reminding ourselves to “keep going.” What can we do next? How can we build on this? At the same time we want to make sure we place this award in a larger context, starting with Blue Star’s rich history. We have learned that Blue Star actually has won this award for program excellence before for the Camping Unlimited program (pretty unique to earn this national recognition twice). As one of my mentors from the Harvard Graduate School of Education reminds us, “let the work continue!”

*See the video presentation and learn more about the Eleanor Eells Award here…

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Horseback Skills Camp…Developing Friendships and Embracing Adventure in the ring and on the trail


Our horses are doing it all this winter! They’ve been participating in lessons and shows, winning trophies and ribbons, helping kids with disabilities, and a few have even been featured in magazines and newspapers! We are so proud of all of their accomplishments, but we can’t help but to reminisce about the truly unique camp experience that we all had at Horseback Skills Camp last summer! Our campers (and horses!) developed friendships and embraced adventure in the ring and on the trail.

We wanted to share some highlights from this fun-filled week with all of our camp families because we can’t wait to do it again in 2015!

The days were filled with lessons from CHA certified instructors that provided advancement in riding skills; with ratios of no more than 2 campers to 1 instructor, we could provide concentrated instruction all day that goes well beyond what is possible in a normal camp session.

The beautiful Hendersonville weather created the opportune afternoons to go on adventures with our horses. We went on trail rides all throughout Blue Star’s 500 acres, we met with Blue Star’s Equine Dentist and Farrier to have a well-rounded education about equine care, and we got to participate in many aspects of barn management and natural horsemanship. We even took the horses swimming the New Lake (but, no, they did not get to go down the Zip Line)!

You better believe that our traditional Blue Star Magic was sprinkled throughout this week as well! The campers were the first of the summer to play on the Blue Mat in the lake, and had an awesome time participating in evening programs. We even went on a few off-camp trips with all of the Horseback Instructors! It’s not every week at camp that you get to go bowling and get ice cream at Dolly’s Dairy Bar with the whole horseback gang!

We capped the week off with an exhibition of all the campers had learned by participating in an in-camp Horse Show complete with judges and an awards ceremony. Parents who came to watch the show were so proud of the culmination of all of the rider’s accomplishments throughout the week!

If you are interested in learning more or in joining us for an incredible 7 day, sleep away Horseback Skills Camp, click the link below!

We can’t wait to see all you Horseback campers in 2015, but for now, enjoy the slideshow of all of the happy campers and instructors learning lots and having the time of their lives during the 2014 Horseback Skills Camp!

Click here to learn more about Horseback Skills camp for Summer 2015!

Click here to see our 2014 Horseback Skills Camp Slideshow


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Face-to-Face Time: What about screen time?!

Carpe diem.  With winter break on the horizon Lauren & I wanted to share our evolving thoughts on technology with our camp community. Our children will be home for the holidays for a week or two, soaking up much needed re-charging and decompression time. Parents will be faced even more with the question of how much “screen time” to allow. Full disclosure: While our Eli is only two and a half years old, we already face that very real question. Eli knows how to work an iPad and iPhone; that seems wild to me! Lauren & I have to set boundaries around how much time he gets to watch his (PBS Kids only) shows and play with his Wheels on the Bus app. This too is our dilemma.

One of our summer leadership team members recently submitted his thesis for his M.Ed. He chose to focus on the powerful emotional intelligence education that campers learn at Blue Star (of course, Lauren & I are deeply honored). He even quotes from Herman Popkin’s book, Once Upon A Summer. Paraphrasing his thesis liberally, technological frills distract a person from living life fully awake.

Thoreau echoes this idea: “with a hundred ‘modern improvements:’ there is an illusion about them; there is not always a positive advance…. Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.” Thoreau, [Vol 4] Walden, 57

At Blue Star we have the increasingly rare opportunity to provide a safe space for children to really BE PRESENT with other children (and older mentors in our incredible camp staff). They can engage directly in “face-to-face” time, learning how to navigate the labyrinth of social dynamics and how to read social cues from their peers. Do they need their screens in this setting? Do their screens help them discover their best selves, build intentional community, and do good?

We leave you with more questions than answers and another article (and short podcast) that we have found to be instructive…

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Conservation Generation Art Projects!

IMG_9388Check out this amazing slideshow documenting the art projects made by our campers and staff this past summer as part of our participation as the pilot camp for the Conservation Generation program! Read on to learn more about these art projects, which highlight water conservation and speak to our camp’s deep commitment to environmental stewardship.

This summer at Blue Star, our campers created….

Rain barrels –Senior Girl campers designed and painted rain barrels to be used for rain water collection at camp.

Rain chains – Andrew “Pottery” made collection pots out of clay and our Pioneer Girl campers painted and glazed the items. Members of our staff purchased chain material, connected the pots together and hung them.

Two of the barrels were used with the rain chain to collect water for the purpose of watering our camp’s living wall. 

Water Colors Paintings – Campers used collected rain water to do abstract and landscape paintings of our camp’s beautiful scenery.

Photo-collage triptych – Jaime “Photography” and campers in her option took pictures of water on camp and then photo-collaged them on wooden boards.

Screen print water drop tees with corresponding personal statement piece (Multi-media collage).

Teen Village campers screen-printed tees (a single rain drop design) with the help of a visiting artist, Lia Naor. Campers also wrote their own personal “statement” about water conservation (why it is important, what it means to them, ways to conserve, etc). The drop on the tee is the symbol of that statement; when they wear the shirts, they represent that idea to the world. Statements were documented in a collage piece (on wood) that is currently hanging in Joe’s Place.

Art Installation…Water drops and Umbrellas

An interactive “public art” installation was created by campers with help of visiting artist, Lia Naor and members of our staff. The goal was to create a beautiful and thought-provoking, “statement piece” that would grab the attention of our camp community, encourage all of us to see the world from a different perspective and to feel inspired and empowered about conserving our natural resources.

PB Public Service Announcement about Water Conservation (video project), created by Pioneer Boys. Pioneer Boy campers made wonderfully funny and cute “PSA’s” to encourage good practices regarding water conservation at camp and at home.

Our campers and staff can and do make the world a better place, a core value of the Conservation Generation program and Blue Star. We are so proud of our Blue Star family for helping to “heal the world” with these acts of conservation and creativity!





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Why Camp?!

Carpe diem. Lauren & I hope everyone had a meaningful High Holidays and is having a wonderfully sweet fall season. As we continue to explore different ways we might connect more with our camp families during the school year (our “off season”), we wanted to weave through our Directors’ Blog a series of posts that pose difficult questions around the “point” of the summer camp experience. Of course, Lauren & I believe passionately in the transformative possibilities of the Blue Star experience, and we know there are many parents who are not quite sure of the value of a summer at camp. Rather than “preach” one side of the debate, or worse yet shy away from it completely, we choose to embrace it.

Should we send our children to summer camp? There it is.

Last summer we came across the article posted below. It centers on an ongoing dialogue between two friends and colleagues (both active parents!) about the merits of a part of the summer away from home. While I will let both writers speak for themselves, I will offer my brief take.

In short, Lauren & I believe that the Blue Star experience is an integral part of a child’s whole education. At Blue Star we believe that children can and must make their own choices as it relates to what pursuits and activities they want to explore on a deeper level. We believe that children growing up today, including our own Eli, need to learn how to interact face-to-face with other children, reading social cues and navigating peer dynamics. We believe the pure fun that campers enjoy at Blue Star, in addition to the strong community they help build each summer, is essential to their positive growth. *Now see what some others think…

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Summer 2014 Recap…Be Bold, Be Bold, Everyday Be Bold!

The leaves have changed at camp. We have celebrated the Jewish New Year and have reflected during Yom Kippur. As we head further into the fall season and busy school year, we wanted to take a moment to share with you, our camp families, some highlights of this past summer at Blue Star. Summer 2014 was one for the record books, and we are grateful to have been able to share it with your family!

This past summer at camp, our first ever 4-3-7 season, gave us countless opportunities to be Bold! We welcomed rookie campers to Blue Star in our 67th season and began a Horseback Skills Camp too! These new session offerings gave campers and their families more options for Blue Star summer “magic,” created a more harmonious experience for our campers, and infused the summer with excitement.

Creating a seven week summer season allowed us to truly think “outside the box” with all aspects of our camp program. Spirit Day, Color Run, Campstock Festival, Dinner & A Show in HeRo, and camp-wide Shabbat were a few new programmatic elements that we introduced in 2014. We also hosted a wonderful Visiting Day for camp families with a coffee truck, a bluegrass band, and fun camp activities. As always, new evening programs and trip options for some units were enjoyed by our campers this past season. AND we began a “Blue Star options sampler week,” a first in Blue Star history! Campers were able to select different Blue Star options each day for the first week of second session. Returning and new campers loved getting to experience BSC options in this way!

We continued the traditions and camp-wide programs our campers and staff consider “staples” of a Blue Star summer as well with an awesome Red, White and Blue Star Color War on July 4th (what a break-out!), Pinnacle Beach Resort, Camp Carnival, Zimriah, Night at the Granny’s, four team Maccabiah – Battle of the Elements (teams for life), camp-wide Havdalah & BSC TV in the HeRo, Lantern Ceremony on the final Friday night of the summer and so much more.

We sang together in the Chapel at Friday night and Saturday morning Shabbat services, we played at the beach parties and enjoyed Camp’s new AWESOME water toy, we ate delicious food in our lovely newly renovated dining halls.

We learned about our camp Living Wall, a statement of our camp’s commitment to sustainability with a LEED certified landscape architect.

As a camp community, we fully embraced and participated in the Conservation Generation program…we conserved water and other natural resources. We became more aware of ways in which we can become a more sustainable planet and implemented them! And we made some amazing art projects as part of our participation in Conservation Generation too (stay tuned for a full blog on these art projects with beautiful pictures)!

Together we shared so many spectacular moments; the feelings of being in our “forever home” as one Blue Star family, the spirit of friendship, community and open-heartedness that make camp a magical place to be, the individual and collective connection to our best selves. This summer, camp was happy, healthy, innovative, exciting, fun and a truly beautiful experience for campers and staff!

Seth and I (and our entire year-round team) are already eagerly, excitedly, busily planning for Summer 2015! What new and exciting developments can you expect to see at camp next season? Stay tuned to find out!

Here’s a quick “teaser” for you though. Four words…NEW CUSTOM CLIMBING TOWER!


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