By Hand Camp, Day 3

What a day! With the fourth of July we only had 5 kids show up to camp today. In the morning we hot-glued nails face up to paper and wood. Then we dropped paint-filled balloons from our 20-foot kid-made tower. It was possibly the most dangerous art I have ever been a part of. In the afternoon we did coke and mentos experiments till we where soaked and tired.

We had 12 bottles of coke, enough for everyone to try twice. The result was amazing. The first try most people played it safe, but with the second bottle people got really creative. There was the “shower head” modification and the double-bottle fuzz catcher. Trial and error, the most powerful teacher.

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More photos here

By Hand Camp, Day 2

Today we worked on three major projects: our own personal accordion notebooks and suminagashi prints, and continued work on our drawing machine.

We climbed high to put paracord over our rafters.

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We did so very attentively.

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The kids took the camera.

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They got some really great shots.

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The afternoon was all suminagashi and pendulum building.

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More on the pendulum tomorrow.

The End of an Era

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1 year ago, just about this time, I purchased 1000 ft of black paracord for the school. It’s likely the most useful chord in existence. Small, thin, and strong. The width of most yarn, it can hold 550 lbs of weight. Yesterday, at summer camp, we used the last of our first roll. I almost teared up a little.

We are also halfway through our second roll, and ordering our third. Most useful cord, ever.

By Hand Camp, Day 1

We are off again. This week it’s Justine and me on staff, with intern and volunteer support from Anna and Kellie.

We focused today on painting. Specifically chaotic and random painting. We splattered and splotched our way to some amazing works. After a nice long park time we came back and started working on our pendulum drawing machine.

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After working small, we started on a bigger canvas. 10ft by 9ft.

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Starting tomorrow’s project today, we began collecting parts for our pendulum.

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More photos over on our flickr!

Construction Camp, Day 5

The 5th and final day of camp. We didn’t touch the ceiling and that’s ok. We built the tallest thing Brightworks has ever built, faced big fears, made new friends, and supported each other through some fantastic moments.

One of my favorite moments was when one of the older groups where showing off their hideout over in Kid City. A line formed to climb the ladder and head in when one of the older kids who was hosting the tour said, “Hold on, I’ll come over to make sure kids don’t fall.” A tiny gesture with so much meaning wrapped up in it. Conscious of others, conscious of the limits of their creation, conscious of the abilities of others.

Anna, our most amazing volunteer, helped build a cardboard house.

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Our first attempt to raise the new tall tower failed. It was too heavy, we didn’t have a pulley system in place and we couldn’t figure out how to get the base to slide backwards once the top was limited by our rafters.

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All hands!

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The older kids showed off their hideout.

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And their sweet digs.

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Off too the park, where some kids flew!

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Attempt two was much more interesting and well thought out. We had 4 teams. Lifting team, Foot team, Rope team 1 and Rope team 2. Lifting team would lift the beam with their brute force, Foot team would keep the whole thing from sliding away and Rope team 1 would pull on our rafter-based pulley system (a rope over our rafters) to help the Lifters. Once the the tower was high enough, Rope team 2 went in, grabbed a rope that was tied to the base and pulled the base under the top. It took almost every member of camp to accomplish.

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As usual, we ended the day and the week with a circle, highlights and thanks.

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Construction Camp, Day 3

Today was another beautiful day at Brightworks Summer Camp. Day 3 and we are finding the edge of our bravery, the depths of our kindness, and the improvement of our skills.

The day started with a lovely surprise from Isaac and his father: plums from the tree at their house. They were so red that they looked more like big cherry tomatoes, but one bite was all the convincing you needed to know that these were sweet delicious plums with just the right hint of tart.

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We built more and learned about how to drill holes.

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We chopped more.

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I got more photos from 3 feet lower.

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Our base took shape!

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It got very strong.

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Drawing and math are a strangely spontaneous occurrence here.

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The kids took our new game “Fire in the forest” very seriously.

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I took park time today to re-experiment with the powerful and empowering tool of narration. The kids clamored “Josh! Push us!” as they spun them selves on the local merry-go-round. Instead of responding, I hopped on for a ride and said,

“I see Tessa pushing. I see Cayden hanging of the edge. I see Milo dangling…”

And so on, name after name of every person in the group and exactly what they were doing over and over again. The kids (and any group of kids I have ever known) respond to this incredibly well. It seems to do two very important things. It lets them know they are known and seen, and it makes their life a story. They exaggerate, they play, and the group always grows. Slowly but surely half the camp gathered to have their story told. It was never fancy, I didn’t use funny words or a big voice, I just narrated what I saw and was excited about it. I got this idea from Teacher Tom. He is one of my favorite teachers in the world. He does narrative play very well.

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Today was also a day of fear, bravery and kindness. Kids who where unafraid to admit they where afraid. Kids who faced their fears head on. Kids who faced their fears with a little support from a friend. Kids who were wonderfully gracious when something they found easy was nearly impossible for another. There was one moment where Cayden just simply could not bring himself to jump from a high height at the park. Jaewon jumped off and said to Cayden, “I know it looks easy for me, but it really is scary. Don’t worry if you can’t do it”.

Milo wanted to jump off a wall.

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He did, with a little help.

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The older kids are building a giant cube, and a new house in kid city. Projects they picked and created. I am excited to see how far they get.

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