Blue Star Blog

The Art of Wonder

Written by Blue Star leadership team member Stacey August

In our current information age, the power of curiosity and the space to explore questions can be limited. Although we are more connected and possibly more efficient, there is less time to sit and think about “what ifs.” The art of problem solving becomes limited because so many answers are at our fingertips. The art of wondering is so important to keep creativity alive and better understand one’s full potential to affect change. One of the many beauties of camp is that we retain an almost sacred space where we intentionally create time to wonder.

Without technology and without their parents in close proximity, it truly is incredible to watch campers explore nature, their own creativity, and the questions they generate naturally. Camp encourages children to experience new activities including mountain biking, photography, and music. But they even show curiosity in supervised, unstructured free time. 

During Twilight most evenings, campers follow fireflies simply to see where they are going and watch them light up. I spoke with two campers who were curiously turning over rocks in the “Triangle” on Pioneer Girl Hill just to see what was on the other side. Unit leaders regularly encourage campers to “think outside the box” whether they are trying to complete a wacky scavenger hunt or are designing a creative act to perform in front of their peers. Our staff often modify an idea to create entirely new activities from what is around them, such as an awesome obstacle course that was imagined from our collection of lake inflatables. Pure wonder! And the list goes on…

When campers are curious about something, they are given the gift of time and space to explore a question. In a “real world” setting, campers could have easily asked Alexa for information about fireflies and would have spent no time wondering. Further, they may have become distracted by the “next best thing” and never could have figured out the answer to their original question. Being in an environment that allows for curiosity to explore and even think up more questions is totally magical and wonder full.

Curiosity declines over time when we accept more and more answers with little thought. As the lawyer Gerry Spence writes, “I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.” If we want to see positive change in the world, we need the ability to wonder about what it could be. Camp helps create a brave space where people can wonder more freely, alone and together.


The Blue Star Green Team

Hi Blue Star families! My name is Emma Zelkowitz, and as the leader of the first Green Team at Blue Star I wanted to share what it is all about. As a Teen Villager this past summer I wanted to make my last summer as a Blue Star camper one to remember for many years to come. The Green Team 2019 was a group of villagers that were committed to coming up with ideas and physical projects to make Blue Star a greener camp. This was our way of practicing being kind to the planet. Alongside Blue Star’s long-time eco partners at Green Camps, working with my friends and teammates changed my perspective of what teamwork and commitment can accomplish. If it wasn’t for the rest of the Green Team (and now my friends for life), I couldn’t have completed these three impactful and amazing projects.

Our first mission was to check every shower head at Blue Star to make sure all shower heads in every cabin across camp had the most eco-friendly water usage settings. This means that instead of the general flow of 3 gallons of water per minute, the ones at Blue Star only emit 1.5 gallons of water per minute. These eco-friendly shower heads are now in every single cabin and bathhouse!

Our second task was to cooperate and meet on-site with a solar power company to see if Blue Star could take most of Teen Village completely off the grid by next summer 2020. This would be a huge step at Blue Star for saving energy in Teen Village and educating the villagers about what is powering their cabins and their summer home.

Our last physical project of the summer was designing a recycled bottle cap decorated Green Team bench that will live in the Village forever. We collected bottle caps around the campgrounds and also from Granny’s where we had placed a collection bin. Some of us then worked together to decorate and paint the bench to present it at the Friendship Service. As our time as Green Team 2019 came to a close we decided, as one Village, to have everyone in Teen Village sign the bench to remember the ultimate summer we experienced.

I hope that the Green Team can be carried on by future generations that are just as passionate as the team of 2019. As a student I am bringing this mindset into my household, and I am recycling and collecting bottle caps to add onto the same bench at Blue Star. Your family can be kind to the planet at home by recycling your waste, trying to use less plastic overall, and composting on a small scale. I hope you have a beautiful green year!









Mt. Pinnacle and the Blue Star Summer

Written by Blue Star leadership team member Matt “Fish” Eisenman

Emerson wrote that “in the woods is perpetual youth.” For generations, Blue Star campers have emerged from the pines and mountain laurel with sweat dampened T-shirts and dirt under the finger nails to look out from the top of Mt. Pinnacle. No matter how many times I make the trek, I am always filled with the same sense of awe. There is no better feeling than to gaze out over the rolling hills and pastures of the Blue Ridge mountains, filled with accomplishment, and realize, just for a moment, that the world is bigger than you thought or remembered. That the world is more beautiful.

In 2019, we have so few opportunities for real time in the wilderness that my annual hikes up Mt. Pinnacle have a therapeutic effect on me. I breath deeper. I settle into the world around me and can “be” in the moment. In fact, the way I feel is supported by the science – In her book, The Nature Fix, Florence Williams talks deeply and with research about the benefits of time in nature on physical health, happiness, and creativity. One study even correlated the feeling of awe (impossible NOT to feel on Pinnacle) with an increased capacity for generosity towards others. As our kids spend more time in class and in front of screens, the time at Blue Star, and on Pinnacle, has the power to improve health in the short term and build a life-long love of the natural world.

For better or worse, I also look at the world through the eyes of an English teacher – and Pinnacle is the perfect metaphor for the camp summer. It takes some effort just to get to the trail head. On the trail, you know it is hard – you grab roots, sweat, and work together. While on the trail, you don’t quite realize how far in you are or how much you have to go. Suddenly, the trees thin, and you finish up a few stone stairs into the campsite. You turn around and realize what you have accomplished – and most importantly – as a group. Similarly, the camp summer goes the same way: A little work to get to camp. Day to day, you know it is a challenge but when you are in it, you can’t quite anticipate what the top will feel like. And then, as if suddenly, you are sitting around the keylog fire, looking with awe and wonder at a camp summer well spent.

Additional reading:

The Nature Fix by Florence Williams (2017)

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Luov (2005)

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.

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!

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?!

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 ( 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 (

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

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