30 June 2018 Week 1:
What an incredible week we had for the first ever week of STEAM Vermont camp! Our founding group of campers is wonderfully quirky, fun, excited, creative, occasionally snarly and adolescenty...:), smart, athletic, sciency, thoughtful, poetic, and generally composed of lovely human beings. Parents, thank you so much for sending your children to our opening week, and campers, this thing may be a little weird, but you were brave enough to jump in and start something new - and that is an amazing thing to be able to say you did!
Here are a few things that we did this week (in roughly chronological order):
· We "broke the ice" and everyone decided what combination of writer/artist/mechanic, purple/green/loud, lime/onion/juicy steak, electric guitar/flute/drums they are.
· Sculptures made of old rusty tools and metal objects were made and reviewed by talented art critics.
· brainstormed and started to make personal logos with Liam
· heard a song written and performed by John on the guitar around the fire pit
· rode on the pump track with Ali
· recorded all kinds of sounds with Aidan and John
· found out that campers have strong opinions about gun control, marijuana legalization, education (and how it should be done), our president, immigration, North Korea, and the fact that Elon Musk has no business running a company called "Tesla" when he likes Thomas Edison more than Nikola Tesla, even though Edison was an opportunistic dullard that wasn't worthy of shining Nikola Tesla's shoes and the Tesla car company should call itself something different if they are going to be run by such an ignorant person. Did we mention that Edison was much worse than Tesla and that alternating current is clearly a better way of transmitting electrical energy than direct current?
· decided that maybe just because someone likes something (or someone) different than you do, this is not a good enough reason to hate them...
· made maps of the magical lands of the Bristol Rec fields
· heard a phrase, uttered by each group, that has never been made before in the 13.7 billion-year history of the universe
· played some basketball around the pools of water in the ice rink
· played some mini-soccer around trees and through ankle-turning holes where we will never be playing soccer again
· played "cross the river" with boards milled from cherry trees and blocks of wood donated to us by a local timber framer
· talked for a long time around a still-empty fire pit
· heard an intense poem, read by Iris, about appreciating what we've got
· did a bunch of stuff that no one seems to remember because we were so exhausted already at this point in the week...
· went mountain biking on the trail around the high school
· drove all over Lincoln because the road was closed when we were trying to get to a hiking trail
· hiked up a really steep, treacherous trail through jagged rocks and a gloomy wood until we all collapsed from exhaustion
· hiked cheerily back down the trail, through an enchanted forest, having really enjoyable, intelligent, witty and meaningful conversations about really important things
· went to "Tea Cups" in the New Haven river, where really brave souls jumped into the icy waters and several talented artists made balancing sculptures with rocks
· knocked down the balancing sculptures that the talented artists made (and part of one that a previous not-as-talented-as-we-are artist left before us).
· fought with quarter-staffs on a narrow plank high-up over a boiling pit of steaming, poisonous, viper-infested waters (well, actually, we used foam noodles, we were 4 inches off the ground, and a rope marked out the pool on the grass, but the plank was narrow...)
· learned that Antonia is vicious with a foam noodle and that no one can beat her unless they cheat
· played zen tug-o-war
· watched as Tierney flew through the air in the skate park on her scooter, impressing the crowd with her daredevil stunts
· watched Liam and Eric get a scooter lesson from Tierney but they were too chicken to ride the scooter down the really scary ramp
· John read us a poem he wrote
· Henry S. read a poem written by his aunt
· Alex read us a poem he wrote that was printed in the newspaper
· talked about power
· made some electronic music
· went mountain biking and discovered that Grayson will push through the pain of his injuries to be on his mountain bike, riding rough trails
· learned about sound and waves and played with slinkies
· tried to figure out how to make a PVC pipe instrument
· made personal logos
· Tony, Hannah and Iris made a junk person sculpture
· found out that spray paint cans sometimes get a little bit excited and start spontaneously spraying all over things that we didn't want covered in spray paint...
· it rained all day
· learned about tasers and tesla coils from Swan. Alex got shocked (and decided he didn't really like that...)
· learned more about electricity and voltage and current and energy and power and atomic theory than one should really be expected to learn about in the summer
· we did the "Cat-in-the-Hat Rap" to a beat created on Aidan's computer made of sounds that we recorded the first day of camp (to be included in our soon-to-be best-selling album "Hip-Hop Seuss"
· discovered the bass and drum talents of Wags and Ben
· wrote songs and heard an amazing rap written by Tony and Grayson, with a little help from Liam
· made more electronic music
· heard about Dakota's singing and dancing talents that we are waiting in anticipation to see...
· found out from Antonia that "people in Vermont are weird"
· built wacky sculptures to scare children away from our camp (and impress all the art aficionados who might pass by)
· successfully prevented the spray paint cans from going rogue (now that we know we have to watch for such a thing)
· watched "Mean Girls"
· played a rousing game of Catan, where all other players formed an alliance against the power-hungry team of Liam and Tony, only to still loose against them
· learned how to throw a "backhand" and a "flick" with a frisbee and played ultimate in the hot sun
· got unicycle lessons from Swan and were all duly impressed with his skill
· went mountain biking with Ali and Hannah up a really windy, steep trail, having to dodge trees that would suddenly jump out into the trail (well, some didn't quite dodge them all - but, don't worry, the tree was OK)
· got really hot and sweaty
· sunbathed on towels that we put down to cover-up the goose poop
· canoed in John's homemade, cedar Kestral canoe
· played frisbee in the lake
· Iris and Hannah swam to the island
· Ben almost lost his phone
· Aidan got a smiley face and a spiral on his legs made of sunscreen
· went to the Warren store and almost cleaned them out of bags of candy and ice cream after our strenuous morning adventures
· Wags almost read us a poem
· started to write a list of things we had done this week
· made rock sculptures next to a cool stream where Alex and Swan laid down in the rushing water
All in all, a pretty good start. We'll do more stuff next week, starting with getting our outhouse ready for the Bristol Outhouse Race on the 4th!
8 July 2018:
Week 2 of STEAM camp brought us more incredible moments, more challenges and closer to seeing the incredible teens that make up this wonderful group. The week started in pretty unbearable heat and didn't really cool off until our last day (when we were all too exhausted to fully appreciate it...).
We made music and art. We learned about center of mass and balance. We struggled to write our own songs and make our own logos - sometimes having our creative juice squashed by the oppressive heat, but persevering to create some great things. We made an incredible, racing outhouse that was clearly the most creative, interesting-looking outhouse ever made and our brave runners (and even braver rider) ran it down the street against 19 year-old athletes with annoying, bulging muscles. We put our hearts and our souls into it and we left it all out there on the pavement, amid the loud cheers and waving flags.
We were sorted into "houses" and competed in really important contests (Avocado House put up a valiant fight but couldn't catch the Almonds after their 10,000 point victory in the tattoo-guessing competition). We talked about the first and second laws of thermodynamics, to find that some 14 year-old boys can explain it as well as a tenured physics professor. We soaked in cool rivers and piled stones into sculptures representing family bonds and the precariousness of adolescent existence. We captured leeches in frisbees, attached them to our fingers and then hiked up steep hillsides with a leech in its new aquarium to impress other creemee stand customers with our new pet. Through intense focus and effort, we overcame our fear of spiders, mountain bikes and social embarrassment. We rode 6 kids on a single truck inner tube in 13 inches of water. We broke up our cliques and stretched our social worlds. We drew blood and gritted our teeth to push through the pain. We got sunburned. We cooked sausages, zucchini and pancakes over an open fire. We split our own wood.
We heard poetry about Neruda's passion for living (in English and in Spanish!) and Rupi Kaur's god who dwells among us; and how Langston Hughes' "soul has grown deep like the rivers". We heard about what it is like to live our lives being so different from everyone else. We talked about power, and money, and dreams, and race and different genders and sexualities. We flew off of bike jumps and covered ourselves in clay found at the bottom of a river. We made our own raps and "riddum dubstep". We tried to play Catan. We rolled giant inner tubes over jumps in the skatepark and played basketball and ultimate frisbee. We decided that maybe people are weird in Florida, too... We talked about Pink Floyd albums and Monte Python movies. We ate some delicious food (and some not quite so delicious...). We used spray paint and didn't get any on the pavilion. We crowned a king and pushed him down the river in a throne made from a pile of inner tubes. We overthrew the tyrant that the king had become. We made the best sun tea we had ever tasted. We played capture the flag and got lost hiking in a gravel pit. We jumped out of tree, into a river. We stayed up all night, sweltering and covered in ants, waiting for a powerful storm that never came. We uncovered our dry wood and started to lay our morning cooking fire just before the real rain decided to descend upon us. We welcomed some new friends into our group, and we said goodbye to some that we were just getting to know. And, through it all, we were alternately inspired, board, fearful, articulate, anxious, angry, sad, joyful, hopeful and having just a little bit of fun...
Another week starts tomorrow...
Summer 2018, Session 1, week 3:
sitting in a circle, around the fire pit - all boys this week (except for the counselors); searching for interesting things to learn about each other and ourselves - hearing about favorite colors and pets turns to sports and hobbies and, slowly, to a few thoughts, ideas and passions. Some of us think we know people in the circle already, but it is soon clear that what we thought we knew isn't whole - there is a lot more beneath the faces that have come to our circle. Fears, anxieties, anticipation that first morning slowly simmering in the sun and playful ultimate frisbee games, drum circles and adventures down steep slopes that give way to dust sliding under loose footing. Dropping stuff off of tall walls we learn about falling objects, and then we are dizzy from rolling out of our own falls. River detritus becomes our medium of expression - making our human mark and letting nature steer our tribe for a moment. On bikes, performing hip-hop songs we wrote, tie-dying t-shirts and at the tops of rocks, perched over deep pools, we were boys - egging each other on, but seeing the flash of fear, we softened, looking for safety, and team and support. And, we all rode together, giving the last of us a chance to rest and to stay with the group. We talked about our dreams and we cooked our pancakes and eggs over open fires. We were suddenly responsible to do things ourselves that someone else had always done. We made our beds in the woods and slept after an exhausting day, pushing limits. We listened to a 14 year-old boy sing an epic tale to his peers around a smoking fire. Games of ideas and words forbidden in polite company played by flashlight in crowded tents turned to discussions of respect and inclusion and consent. Steam-punk operas played as we drove along, learning about the rich cultural stew that we were making together. Through all of it, we each looked for our way to be more a part, but still ourselves - taking those baby steps on tender feet, over sharp rocks toward our place in the ether of our short-lived tribe, sometimes hearing harmonious voices, just for a moment, before dissolving into a cacophony of adolescence.