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Monday July 28 & Tuesday July 29

Yesterday and today were stunning.  Just sunny comfortable temperatures and mild breezes – what a blessing to be on a lake in Minnesota this week!  Even the mosquitos are less prevalent than earlier this summer – all the better to enjoy the Great Outdoors.

Last night girls were thrilled to do “Open Waterfront” for evening activity.  This meant our huge waterslide was open and they could cool off from a warm sunny day by playing in our enclosed swimming areas.  Girls who didn’t want to swim just read or conversed on the beach, but most took advantage of the opportunity and jumped right in.  It’s extra fun to swim right now because the water is nice and comfortable – not too cold and not too warm.   It’s chilly enough to feel refreshed but warm enough that you get used to it immediately and hardly want to get out.

Ten happy campers took a camping trip last night and returned this morning on mountain bikes.  They pedaled back from their sweet spot on Leech Lake before lunch — thanks to Minnesota’s “rails to trails” project.  Now miles and miles of perfectly paved trails run to the north and south of us, over old unused train tracks.

Tomorrow another group of girls will kayak down the Necktie River.  This small meandering waterway empties right into Steamboat Lake’s west side and is home to a plethora of wildlife – bald eagles, beavers, otters, loons, ducks, etc.  To make a day of it, girls will leave in the morning and enjoy a picnic lunch in their banked canoes before paddling back into camp.

Today was another great day of rehearsal for the play!  Girls practiced singing and dancing in Goss Lodge so loud you could hear them across the lawn to Windsurfing.  Friday night is the big night!

Everyone in camp is rehearsing some fun choreography tonight – as they prepare their performances for Lip Sync tomorrow night (Wednesday).  Though we do not take it too seriously, girls still have to work together to agree on a song and coordinate their show.

It can be a HUGE challenge for some groups to listen to everyone’s ideas and come to a consensus!  Thanks to our mature and well-trained staff, our counselors observe the process carefully but only intervene when necessary.  Despite what anyone’s issues are during the planning of lip sync, campers always manage to deliver one heck of a show!  Afterwards counselors will help girls reflect on their night (and the whole process) by asking simple questions such as:  “What went well, what didn’t go well?” and “What would we have done differently if we did it again?” and “What was hard about it, what was easy?”  Each of these questions are powerful, thought-provoking inquiries that help kids pause and reflect on their achievements – as well as learn from their mistakes and make a plan for a better future.  It’s so cool to hear these discussions – they are always so mature and insightful – bringing home the fact, once again, that kids teach us as much as we teach them.

Saturday July 26 & Sunday July 27, 2014

Saturday proved to be a very warm and sunny day – us Northern Minnesota types would even describe it as HOT.  Girls were lovin’ the waterfront – Open Swim was super busy all day long.

Our outdoor adventure department, known as “wilderness” offered a great sign-up activity Saturday.  Since earning the first badge in “wilderness” takes learning the basics in kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, and camping, girls have to dedicate at least one hour a day for nearly a week.

To encourage girls to partake in these fun activities and gain a sense of achievement, our oldest campers who assist in ‘Wilderness’ came up with the idea of “Camper in a Day”.  Girls can sign up for a full day of outdoor adventure activities, and with some hard work and memorization (of equipment parts and safety rules), they can earn this cool badge in just one day.

So this past Saturday four girls earned their Camper in just one day.  The proud teens who helped make it happen happily presented the badges to the younger girls in the Dining Hall after dinner.  Super cool.

After dinner Saturday night, the whole camp played DISASTER.  This game involves cabin teamwork as groups of girls attempt to travel from one end of camp to another, without getting hit by a “natural disaster”.

Our counselors each represent a natural disaster of their own creative making.  Last night Emily L was “fashion disaster” with mis-matched color knee socks, neon spandex shorts, and a crazy shirt and wild hair.  Other staff dressed up as “Chicken Pox”, “Earthquake”,”the Black Plague” etc.  If they tag a group, campers must yell for a Medic.   Two our three counselors dressed with white coats with red crosses then arrive.  They ask kids to do a task to earn their health back, like “dance up and down and sing Funky Chicken” or “do 10 jumping jacks”.  All in all, it’s as entertaining of an activity as it is exciting.  Girls run a ton in the great outdoors – but none of it feels like exercise – the way it should be for growing kids!

This morning (Sunday) we enjoyed our tradition of waking up late and having homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  Our two oldest campers (Jillian and Tiffany) helped make them so they could learn the age-old craft of baking from scratch – an activity Rachel Bredemus leads with intention every session.

After breakfast the teen leaders in camp offered their own activities – over 12 crafts were presented in the Dining Hall plus yoga, drama games, creative writing, and a photo scavenger hunt.

This afternoon girls are yelping and hollering on the soccer field as Maddie and Emily lead an-all camp activity called “Birthday Party”.  This is a large group rendition of popular games played at birthday parties.

Soon we will join back together for our big outdoor BBQ dinner on the lakeside deck of the Dining Hall and at the campfire circle after that.  Tonight is Friendship Campfire so each cabin group will do a small presentation about friendship and what it means to them, here and elsewhere.  It’s a meaningful moment to kick off a fun and busy last week.

Thursday July 24 & Friday July 25

Another fabulous day at Birchwood – the severe weather south of us only provided a little more wind this morning and a couple sprinkles.  Otherwise it is almost 80 degrees and sunny right now and it is supposed to stay this way all day long!

Yesterday girls enjoyed a full day of activities.  Over 20 girls are in the play, (High School Musical), so rehearsals have been going full force every morning.  The same instructor for drama, Nikki, leads Dance classes as well.  Her morning yoga classes are full every day, along with water aerobics and lessons in ‘Bollywood’ dancing.

Every other activity is very busy as well.  We have a lot of awards to hand out each evening as girls gain skills in tennis, horseback riding, sailing, wilderness activities, archery and riflery in particular.

Tomorrow our wilderness adventure department will offer a full day sign-up.  Girls who attend this all-day activity will be taught all they need to know to gain their first badge in wilderness, the “Camper” badge.  This includes how to pitch a tent, how to canoe, how to kayak, how to climb the easiest side of the rock climbing wall, and some basics about wilderness first aid.  Girls also have to go on a trip out of camp so the counselors have designed a one-day canoeing outing that meet this qualification.

As for today, we have opened our entire waterfront for every period.  Girls are able to jump on the water trampoline, play on the “mountain”, have fun with all kinds of water toys, and – best of all – go down our huge waterslide that starts two stories up and lands campers right into Steamboat Lake.

Tonight before dinner we will begin our Camper-Counselor tennis tournament.  This casual competition is a ton of fun to watch as staff members try and play their hearts out for the sake of their beloved camper partners.  Since not many of us are any good at tennis, it is a hearty show of excellent sportsmanship as we attempt to win doubles over our peer opponents.  Thankfully the matches are short so girls can fit them in before dinner and not have to miss out on anything else to participate.  Winners will be decided by the end of next week – we’ll keep you posted about that and many other things here at camp!

Wednesday July 23

Last night was a great evening at Birchwood.  Girls enjoyed all kinds of cool activities after they cooked their dinners over a campfire – some swam, others played GaGa ball, one cabin kicked a ball around the soccer field, and the girls in Hilltop enjoyed a sauna before cooling down in the lake.

Today is gorgeous and sunny.  Our outdoor adventure enthusiasts – the girls who have gone on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area trip – have “spotted” in and are doing well.  Thankfully, they did not go through any storms despite the bad weather that passed through some other areas in the BWCA.  Instead, the sun was shining, the wind was to their back, and their first day of paddling was simple and relaxing.  They reached their campsite early and enjoyed a night on a small island just on the other side of the U.S. – Canadian border.  With good weather forecast for the rest of the week, they are sure to have a grand time camping and canoeing together.

In camp tonight we will have our Senior Carnival so girls are already excited.  This candy-filled extravaganza will be led by our teen leaders (called Senior Campers).  They each will run a booth that offers a fun game for kids to do.  Girls can also have their face painted or fortune read.  We will cap the night off with a big raffle drawing as well – so kids can win all kinds of Birchwood shirts and other goodies with our logo on them.

Tuesday July 22

The rain came last night, but the super high winds and “torrential” rain fall originally forecasted for our area rolled north of us – thank goodness!  This morning we woke to happily chirping birds, comfortable temperatures, and bright beautiful sunshine.  It’s the quintessentially perfect day at Birchwood.

Thanks to a great travel day yesterday, our new two-weekers are already off and running this morning – taking part in a full day of activities.  Included in the schedule is a quick visit to the waterfront to do their swim test.  Calm waters are making it an easy morning for swim strokes and treading water.

Last night while our new two-weekers were oriented to camp, our four-weekers participated in a photo scavenger hunt.  Cabin groups were given a list of posed photos to capture on a digital camera.  Every camper in the cabin had to be included in every shot as well as the counselors  This made for a super funny night of teamwork!  Examples of shots they posed for:  crazy roller coaster ride, dramatic earthquake, birthday party, and ‘we cannot believe we all fit in this small space’.  These creative and humorous shots will be posted as soon as we can collect them!

Tonight is TNCO (Tuesday Night Cook Out) so each cabin group will spend some time together at a remote location in camp where they will cook their dinner over an open flame.  These campfire dinners are a long-standing tradition so our cooks can have a night off.  Girls enjoy roasting turkey dogs, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and best of all, making s’mores!!

Afterwards, counselors treat their groups to activities like outdoor “neighborhood” games (freeze tag, stuck in the mud, sardines) swimming, playing sports on the soccer field, or learning creative crafts in the cabin.

Our oldest girls in camp however — our specially chosen leaders called the Senior Campers — will be preparing for their big Carnival night that will be held tomorrow evening.  Each of them will choose a type of “carnival booth” to run – like Duck Pond, Bozo Buckets, Face Painting, Go Fish, or Cake Walk.  Then they will make huge posters, prepare their supplies, and decide how they will transform the dining hall into a carnival within a short time after dinner.  These all-group event-planning sessions are a great way to set goals, multi-task, pay attention to detail, and take initiative.  They are also a grand time for every other camper – just another “win-win” situation at Birchwood. :)

Monday, July 21

WELCOME new two-weekers!  We are excited to have over 50 campers join our current four-week campers to finish off this amazing session together.

Our new campers arrived a bit early yesterday thanks to easy travels and efficient ladies helping us in the airport.  When the bus pulled in, our staff and current campers all gathered around to greet girls and help everyone move in to their cabins.

After dinner at 5:30 our new campers attended Orientation Skits where our oldest teen leaders in camp, our “seniors” introduced each camp activity and highlighted the clothing kids would want to wear to each one (ex:  swimsuit at open waterfront, long pants for horseback riding, closed-toe shoes for pottery etc).

Afterwards, girls had their cabin photo taken and lifejacket assigned before going to the sign-up window to choose their five activities for the next day.  Tomorrow girls will be off and running – a full and busy day will be had by all!