What does a day of Blue Heron CS Look Like?

August 29th, 2020

Dear Potential Great Blue Heron Families,

Several of you have been asking about what this year may look like.  Here is a sketch of what a day of Blue Heron is likely to look like based on our summer camp experiences.

A Typical Day 

Before leaving home for a day of Blue Heron, you will do a health check – make sure your child doesn’t have a temperature, and hasn’t been exhibiting any signs of illness.  If your child is developing symptoms or are not quite fully over being sick, please stay home.

Arrival: Approximately 9am

You will be arriving, parking, and waiting in your car with masks on.  The Site director or assistant will come by and do a health check including a temperature check with a no-touch thermometer.  (We can skip that step if you are able to take your child’s temperature at home and report it to us during the health check) – just confirming that all is good.  Once your child is checked in, then they can go join their group.

Each pod of 5-6 students plus a lead instructor and helper/intern, will be spread out with specific Drop-off & Pick-up locations to reduce mixing and congestion.  We will send you more instructions for that as we get closer to the first day.

Once everyone in a pod has arrived, they will head out into the woods for a day of exploring, playing, learning, and taking care of each other.  

We have successfully found a lot of ways to be together while being mindful of reducing the risk of passing on airborne viruses.  This includes long time favorite games such as Eagle Eye, Firekeeper, and Reverse Capture the Flag (a sneaking version of Capture the Flag).  We have adapted ways of learning fire making and cooking over the fire.  Exploring, tracking, building shelters, and fairy houses continue to be totally possible.  And storytelling as well!

Each pod will develop their own rhythms adapted to who is in the group, their interests, their character, and their learning edges.  Each pod will have a base camp with a shelter that allows for varying levels of physical distancing and has one or more firepits.  Each pod will be doing morning pod check-in and an end-of-day check in.  What happens in between is the magic of the group!

Here’s one pod rhythm that happened for a pod I was leading this summer.  This particular pod was made up of 9-11 year olds who have a passion for fire making, cooking, and crafting:

  • Arrival and hanging out until everyone has arrived – sometimes with an awareness activity that involved observing or looking for objects hidden in the arrival area.
  • Once everyone has arrived, doing a group check in.  How is everyone?
  • Head further into the woods to our basecamp.  Our base camp had a tarp rain shelter and then three spaced out firepits so that youth could work on fires and fire-related projects in pairs.
  • Fire-challenge followed by or combined with snack
  • Focus projects and chatting while working on hands-on projects – wearing masks whenever within 6 feet of each other.
    • Periodically take a movement break by playing Jedi Training Center or other game modified by COVID safety awareness.
  • Lunch
  • Venture out on a wander with games mixed in.
  • Return to base camp.  Pack Up.
  • Closing Circle – Best Part of the Day, Ideas for Next Time, Any Challenges from the Day
  • Head to pick up

Storytelling from me (and occasionally others) was interlaced throughout the day – sometimes as part of the morning challenge, sometimes as part of a pause in the afternoon wander.

Pick up Approximately 3pm !


What will be different from previous years?

We are missing some of our pre-COVID favorite activities, such as large Morning Circles, large group games (like Bobcat Dodgeball), and direct contact games like Palm Tag, and the End of Day Story Circle packed in together.  

AND, we are finding good ways to be together.  Family after family and even campers have been speaking up sharing their gratitude for getting out on the land with others beyond their immediate household.  Parents have been reporting their children becoming re-enlivenened and connecting with parts of themselves that had gone dormant with being at home and often on computers.

For veteran Great Blue Heron youth and teens, programs this year will both feel quite different AND familiar.  For many of us, this is a new experience of illness awareness.  AND it is actually not a new human experience – in parts of the world today (example: Ebola and SARS) and in periods of our ancestors (Spanish Flu, Bubonic Plague, Small Pox, Measles), we have had to adapt due to highly contagious, deadly illnesses.

Amy Hyatt, Bob Etzweiler, Ani Schaeffer, Ash Young, Sam Stegeman, Elissa Pine, and our emergent field staff for 2020-2021 are working to create a good year of Great Blue Heron for us all supporting our ongoing need to learn, grow, interact, and deepen relationships outside while including mindfulness of our collective health.  We hope you will join us in this venture in taking care of each other!

Masks & Hand Sanitizer

This year we are requiring everyone to come with two masks and their own personal bottle of hand sanitizer.  If you need help in acquiring these, let us know.  

Masks need to have two layers of cotton cloth to reduce the amount of droplets that go spraying from you out into the environment immediately around you.  There are a variety of options including using a doubled up bandana – masks can be used for a variety of looks.  Have fun with this new addition to our clothing preparedness.  We ask each person to have two in case the one you are wearing gets wet, gets lost, etc…you have a back up!  

Over the summer many of us experimented and found which mask styles that were effective, relatively easy to use, and fairly comfortable to wear for extended periods of time based on our head shapes and sensory experiences.  It is not the same mask style for everyone!

Some campers jokingly tried to eat while wearing their mask – I think one child did forget until the food didn’t go in then she turned it into a comedy routine.

Avoid using thin porous materials such as the polypro single layer neck gaiter.

With hand sanitizer, we found it useful to have a small bottle with a good sealing cap that we could slip into our pockets for easy access.  For youth and adults prone to losing small things, have a bottle with a clip that you could clip on a belt loop or backpack came in handy.  The hand sanitizer needs to have at least a 60% ethanol alcohol or 70% isopropyl alcohol content – plus emollients to protect your skin (like aloe!).

We ask everyone to use hand sanitizer upon arrival, before and after eating/drinking, before and after going to the bathroom in the woods, and before and after taking your mask on or off, or before and after using shared tools.  This doesn’t happen 100% of time but does bring consciousness to the ecology of spreading viruses and bacteria.


Do I have to Wear A Mask All the Time?  Nope!  But There are Definite times when you do…

During arrivals, we will ask everyone to be wearing a mask.  When there is a lot of shifting and moving around, we do ask everyone to wear a mask.  Once a group settles and is maintaining 6 or more feet in distance from each other, masks can be taken off.  Whenever someone needs a breather or needs to eat or drink, all they need to do is move 8 feet away, letting everyone know they need to take a breather.  (We recommend the further distance out of an abundance of caution.)

If students and staff want to work on something or look at something close in together (ie 6 feet or closer), then masks need to be on.   We are asking that there be no touching except in the case of an emergency.  If touching happens (or sharing of tools), hands need to be sanitized before and after.