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June 9, 2020 16 minute READ

Summer Camp at Home

tags Inspiration | At Home
locations All

You've mastered being a teacher. Now it's time to pick up a different mantle – camp counselor. Whether you're “hosting” a day camp, overnight camp, or just a weekend experience camp, this blog has ideas for “programming” to keep your campers engaged and happy.

Arts and Crafts
Kids hands with paint on themAny highly-rated camp will have great craft activities. They provide works of art that will be treasured for years by the campers themselves as a souvenir or by the lucky recipient of the work when it's gifted. It also may develop into a lifelong skill and avocation. Here are a few suggestions:

Making pictures using sunlight combines science with creativity. Take a hike around the neighborhood or backyard and gather objects with interesting shapes – a bottle cap, a pine cone, a flower, maybe some wire to make your own shapes. Then, using the Solar Print Kit, place your objects on the paper and expose them to the sun. Keep in mind the use of positive and negative spaces will be viewed in the finished “photo.” Then, see what develops. The resulting photo can be framed or even attached to a notecard to send to a relative or friend in another neighborhood or town.  

Crocheting is the process of making chains and knots with a hook and yarn that eventually comes together to make a useful object like an afghan, pillow, scarf, or toboggan. It can be easily learned by watching a few videos or by following the instructions in the Easy Crochet kit. You'll find most everything you need – yarn, crochet hooks, tapestry needle, and instruction. Of course, sometimes a video is helpful, too. This video will provide some useful basics.  

Homemade potholders are easy, useful, and fun to make! I still have my potholder looms from oh, so many years ago. I made potholders for Mom's kitchen, potholders that were joined together for rugs, and even potholders as gifts (I just recently found a note from my kindergarten teacher thanking me for the one I gave her as a gift). All you need for this project is the Loom Kit and loops (you'll want to order another bag of loops, trust me). I also recommend a crochet hook, which makes it easier to finish off the potholder. It's a great rainy day activity for indoors or on the porch or on sunny days at a picnic table.  

Tying knots is a skill that has lifelong applications – from tying a fish hook on to a line to securing a load in a truck bed. There are dozens of knots to learn, and all it takes is a length of rope and a little practice. The Outdoor Knots Pocket Tutor Guide ($7.95) is a handy reference for uses of knots and how to tie them. It is available at Mast Store by calling 866-367-6278. 
Fun and Games
Pitching HorseshoesA summer camp's program of work always has some physical activity. If you can't go for a hike in the woods or it's storming, so you can't paddle on the pond, what do you do? Clear out the carport, make room in the living room, or head out to the yard. Everyone can participate in these activities – and some of them can even be played indoors.

Horseshoes – they aren't just for horses anymore. Actually, this has been a popular game for more than a century and even has its own governing body. As with any game, there are local variations, but the basics are setting up a “pit,” which is what the playing area is called for the game. It requires two stakes put in the ground at around 13 paces (or 40 feet) apart. The stake should tilt ever so slightly toward each other. Establish a line that each pitcher must stay behind for each toss. A ringer, a horseshoe that hits around the stake counts as 3 points and one that lands within 6-inches (or the width of the opening of the horseshoe) from the stake counts as 1 point. Each player tosses two horseshoes from the same end, then rotates. Play up to 21 points – or any other established number. Here's a set of horseshoes that has stakes for yard play and a separate one for playing inside in a basement, garage, or on a carport. 

Jumping rope is great exercise and is made even more fun with little rhymes to help keep count – Cinderella, dressed in yellow, went upstairs to kiss her fellow. Made a mistake, and kissed a snake. How many doctors did it take? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5... This one can be used jumping rope individually or having several children turning a longer rope. Here's another rhyme to invite another child to “run in” and jump with you: I like coffee, I like tea, I'd like for Janey to come in with me. Here's a LINK to individual and group Jump Ropes.  

Everybody loves bubbles! They are a little like magic contained in a bottle. From small ones to chase around the yard to big ones you can almost step inside, bubbles are fun for young and old. Here's a LINK to the Big Bubble Thing and Bubble Mix and here's another LINK to some experiments you can do to learn while you're having fun. 

Jacks is a game of speed and skill that can be played outside or inside. It is an ancient game that was first played with bones or stones. Today's jacks are made of either plastic or metal and have a rubber ball with them. To play, the jacks must be scattered on the ground, then a ball is bounced and the player must pick up the prescribed number of jacks and catch the ball before it bounces again. Onesies, twosies, threesies, etc. The first two are fairly simple, but when it gets passed that, even more skill is required. Here's a LINK to Mast Store's Made in USA Jack Rocks Set.  

Looking for a few more camp games? Head over to this Mast Store Blog: A Look Back at Summers Past.  

Music Appreciation
Playing a ukeleleMost every camp has a camp song and time to spend around the campfire singing and learning about different instruments, types of songs (remember when you learned about rounds by singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat?), and maybe even picking up an instrument for the first time? We've put together a collection of music from different eras that is in no way exhaustive, but it hits the highlights to show how music evolves and tells the story of the time. 

Let's start off with this video by Pentatonix called the Evolution of Music. It starts in medieval times and jumps to today. That's a lot to cover in a short video, but think about how music has changed, the instrumentation, the beat.  

Classical music falls into several different periods. We've selected some of our favorite pieces from each genre to share. The Baroque period runs roughly from 1600-1750. One of the most prolific composers in this era is J. S. Bach. In this recording of Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, you'll hear violins, violas, cellos, bass, and a harpsichord. It is an excellent example of contrapuntal music where several melodies are equally important. 

The Classical period runs from 1750 to 1820. The music composed during this period tends to be a little less complicated than the Baroque period, but compositions became bigger using more instrumentation, etc. It is also the time period with the piano is more widely embraced. Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most widely recognized composers from this era. Take a listen to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, which was composed in 1801. Close your eyes and see if you can see a beautiful full moon rising over your favorite lake. 

The Romantic period runs from 1830-1910 and features compositions that are inventive and expressive. We'll take a listen to two different composers from this period – both are Russian. First, enjoy this recording of Peter and the Wolf, composed by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936. It is called a symphonic fairy tale for children. This recording by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra introduces instruments in the orchestra to listeners as it tells the story.  

Another well-known composer from the Romantic period is Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky. He composed a wide range of works including concertos, sonatas, and symphonies. The 1812 Overture was composed to commemorate the Russians' success in their defense against Napoleon's advancing armies. This recording even uses a battery of cannons in its instrumentation.  

The 20th Century period in classical music starts at 1901 and runs through 2000. There isn't a dominant style that can readily be called out for this period which includes free experimentation and dissonance, impressionism,  expression, and more. It also includes influences from other genres of music like jazz. We've chosen two composers from the 20th century period – Debussy, who was a popular impressionist composer. You'll feel the moon in this composition called Clair de Lune.  

The other composer we'll listen to is Aaron Copeland. His works use a “certain songfulness” and embrace “a large canvas,” which made them easily embraced by mass audiences. This piece, Appalachian Spring, builds on a popular Shaker hymn.  

You can discover more about music and its evolution by visiting this LINK.

Blues and Jazz are often referred to as America's music. Using sounds closely linked to African American work songs, Blues, Jazz, and Ragtime flourished in New Orleans, Chicago, Memphis, and Kansas City. You will hear different beats and rhythms, different melodies and musical constructs, and on a more basic level different notes that are not part of a typical scale. The instruments might even be a little different with a washtub bass, a washboard, jugs, and even spoons being a part of the percussion section in addition to guitars, banjoes, clarinets, pianos, etc. Jazz and Blues came on the scene in the late 1800s and early 1900s and laid the groundwork for artists you may recognize from the mid-20th century like Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong. Give Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag a listen as it would have sounded in 1915. Here's the Preservation Hall Jazz Band performing New Orleans-style Jazz as a part of NPR's Tiny Desk Concert Series. Enjoy this recording of trumpeter and scat-singer Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, the Queen of Jazz, perform Summertime. For a little Delta Blues, here's Muddy Waters performing Rolling Stone (Catfish Blues) and a more modern recording from 1981 performing Baby Please Don't Go

Here's a good introduction to The Blues and more from the Library of Congress.   

Music isn't just for listening – it's for performing and enjoying. If you'd like to add a little more participatory music lesson to your camp experience, here's a LINK to Mast Store's musical instruments including a recorder, harmonica, and pennywhistle, which are perfect instruments for beginners.  

Outdoor Activities
Canoes on RacksCamp is a time for having new experiences and for building on already-learned skills. It's also a time when you might discover something you' had no idea would even interest you. Here are a few ideas to do outside.

Backyard birdwatching is an activity that can be enjoyed by all ages and just about anywhere. Birds have different songs and behaviors and eat different things. For instance, cardinals love seeds and fruits while crows will eat most anything – small mammals, reptiles, seeds, fruits, insects, even trash. Some birds migrate, so you'll only see them in your area seasonally or just passing through, and others live in the area year-round. You can get started with this GUIDE to Backyard Birds of the Southeast and maybe a journal to keep track of what kinds of birds you see and where.   

How many wildflowers are growing in your backyard? You might be surprised! From clover and daisies to violets and bluets, there are flowers and plants of different kinds at every turn. With Audubon's Field Guide to Wildflowers Eastern Region, you can learn more about them – when do they bloom, do they produce fruit (many wildflowers do), are they edible, how can they be used. Who knows, you might be able to forage what you need for a salad at home.  

Look up! The night sky has many wonders to discover, and you don't necessarily need a telescope. For instance, the moon can easily be observed with just the naked eye. To get a better idea of just what you're seeing, the Moon Folding Pocket Guide is a great resource (available at Mast Store for $7.95 – call 866-367-6278). It has information about the lunar cycle, lunar phases, lunar eclipses, and the names and locations of the “seas” on the lunar surface. You can also observe with a pair of binoculars, but it's best to observe when it is not a full moon (there's too much light then). Here's a good reference on what to observe from Astronomy.com.  

For even more astronomy resources and guides, try these links:
NASA STEM Engagement (At home resources for K-4, 5-8, and 9-12) 
What to see tonight from Earth and Sky  
My Sky Tonight for Young Learners (Pre-K resources from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific)  
Spot the Station – Look up to see the International Space Station zoom across the sky at around 17,000 miles per hour. This website will help you find a time when you might see it near where you live. 

Spend the night under the stars – what a great way to wrap up summer camp week with a backyard campout. Each year the National Wildlife Fund urges families to unplug from devices and head outside to discover their own backyards. You don't need any fancy equipment, just a spirit of adventure! The Great American Campout is usually the 4th Saturday in June, but it can be just about any time. Here's a LINK to the National Wildlife Federation website to find out more tips and ideas. And, here's a LINK to a Mast Store blog from the past that includes information and recipes to enjoy outdoors.  

Field Trips
Going on a Field TripWhat would summer camp be without a field trip? While you may not be able to hop on the bus or load up the van to travel somewhere else, there are plenty of opportunities to have a field trip from home. 

The North Carolina Museum has a plethora of resources for virtual field trips. You can view the exhibits through digital tours and even go behind the scenes. There are videos on demand and some great podcasts that cover issues and interests for everyone. There are even programs that are for adults only, like History and Highballs (just in case your day camp includes older campers).  

The South Carolina State Museum has lots of online learning opportunities including virtual tours relating to NASA's Apollo program and South Carolina and Reconstruction. If you enjoy astronomy, the staff astronomer has videos to showcase the local night sky and how to “star hop” around. They have live streams from the telescope at scheduled time and science experiments to perform. 

Do you like art? The Columbia Museum of Art offers virtual tours of exhibits, interviews with artists, and art-related activities to enjoy on your virtual field trip.   

Take a walk back in time at Old Salem through the Exploratorium. The Exploratorium has a variety of programs addressing foods, geology, archaeology, architecture, and gardening. There are even a few episodes where you'll pick up a recipe to make and enjoy at home.  

JournalingIn summers past, when we went away to camp, your experience always involved some sort of writing activity. It might be morning devotions or maybe journaling after supper and letters home almost every day. Summer camp at home should incorporate these activities, too.

Make it a point to write a letter or postcard to grandparents or a favorite aunt at least once or twice during the week to share what activities the campers are taking part in and enjoying. Put pen to paper and send them in the mail. Maybe the recipient will write back and your youngsters will discover the anticipation of getting a letter in the mail! Here's a LINK to some fun notecards or you can always make your own with drawings and paintings (how much fun is that??).  

Journaling is a wonderful development tool for kids (and adults, for that matter). It can help you remember your life's milestones and how you felt at that particular moment or it can help deal with situations that can be overwhelming, scary, or sad. It's also a good place to develop better handwriting skills, vocabulary, and grammar. 

A journal doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. It can be as simple as a spiral notebook or a bound volume. It can be plain or decorated to give it personality. Here's a LINK to some fun journals at the Mast Store. To get started journaling, you may need to provide a prompt like: Write about the hike you took today. What did you see? What was the weather like? Who went with you? How did you feel?  You might ask them to imagine what life will be like in 50 years and ask them to write about that. Here's a LINK to more journaling prompts that may come in handy. 

Spending time at camp is a memorable time for kids of all ages. This year it might be memorable for different reasons, but working together, you can make it a positive experience for you and your campers. Good luck, and let us know about your camp experiences.

Around the campfire




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