Category Archives: Just for Fun

How to Improve Your Improv

“Improv. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does, it’s like open-field running.” -Robin Williams

Improv is one of the many classes that we offer here at AstroCamp during the summer. To an outsider it might just look like a bunch of silly games, but improvisational theatre is a unique art form that mixes comedic acting with acute listening and reacting skills. Improv is hard to do well, so for those of you interested in taking it as a class this summer, here are a few essential tips:

Listen

Improv is a social art, and listening to the other actors on stage is crucial. Everything else revolves around this. Knowing what everyone else is doing and saying is the first step to being good at improv.

Always Say Yes

During a scene with other people, the goal is to continuously add things to the situation. And nothing stops this faster than somebody saying, “No.” When you deny an idea that somebody else added, you stop the momentum and take everybody out of the moment.

So say “Yes” instead. You don’t literally have to say the word, but accept what the other people in the scene are doing.

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Say Yes, And…

Not only should you accept what other people are adding to the scene, you should also be adding to it yourself! Give everyone else something to work with, and give them a chance to build off of you. The scene should always be evolving.

Share the Spotlight

Often times, it’s tempting to be the person in the front, saying all the jokes and getting all the laughs. But if you aren’t giving the other actors their time to shine, too, then you’re doing something wrong, and those laughs will quickly fade. Instead, find ways to have a back-and-forth with the other people on stage to keep the scene going. If all the actors are sharing the spotlight equally, the audience will be way more engaged.

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Let the Scene Play Out…

A lot of games will require “tagging out,” where one actor replaces another or will be in charge of changing the direction of the scene. Don’t be too quick with this. Let the scene play out a bit before you jump in.

…But Don’t Let it Fail

On the same note, if the people on stage seem to be struggling to continue, help them out by jumping in. Be aware of what’s going on at all times and be prepared to save a floundering partner.

Practice

Unlike traditional theatre, you cannot rehearse a specific scene during improv. But what you can do is practice doing improv, utilizing all the tips mentioned above. Nobody is going to be perfect the first time they try it. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. You’ll start to recognize pitfalls and how to avoid them. You’ll become comfortable saying “yes, and.” If you’re working with the same actors over and over, you’ll even start to anticipate what they’re about to do.

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—–

Improv is great, fun, and hilarious. If you take this class at AstroCamp, you’re sure to learn all of these skills and have a great time doing it.

Written By: Scott Yarbrough

Technology

Technology vs. Technology!

Technology is practically inescapable in today’s day and age. Everyone has a smart phone, computer, tablet, gaming system, or some combination. It is used every single day for communication, entertainment, or as a tool.

Here at camp we highly encourage all of our students to put away their electronics and focus on the experience at hand. However that is not to say that we don’t love using technology. In fact, we try to focus on technology that is mindful rather than mindless.  But how can you tell the difference between mindless technology and mindful technology?

Mindless technology can be the use of cell phones, video games, surfing the internet, etc. It is a way to simply pass the time with minimal interactions of thought processes or other people. It is the scrolling through a news feed or flicking through images. This is the technology that we are ditching at AstroCamp.

Instead, we have a few classes focused on mindful technology, the use of electronics to expand your brain. A few example are building robots in our robotics class, using special programs to design something to be 3D printed, making a windmill, creating extreme videos of awesome adventures such as mountain biking or scuba diving. Mindful technology is using computers, cameras, and other electronics as a resource and tool. This is the type of technology that we want our campers to get experience with and their hands on.

So the next time you are on your computer or smart phone ask yourself, is this for mindless or mindful reasons? If it is for mindless, is there a way that you can turn it into mindful? Your time is valuable and important. Don’t cheat yourself by wasting it away. Rather, create something or learn about something every chance you get.

 

Cooking Up Life Skills

No matter your age, knowing how to cook for yourself is an invaluable skill, and the earlier you start, the easier it is in adulthood. Whenever campers show up on arrival day, they can grab some lemonade or a snack at AstroCantina, but many will return for a cooking class later in the week. This class isn’t just about learning to cook delicious food, however; it also builds a sense of responsibility in what you eat.

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Preparing food yourself is one of the easiest ways to start eating healthy because you are choosing everything you’re ingesting. There are no secret ingredients, no set menu, just what you specifically choose to prepare. Even then, you might want to eat something, but not know how to properly prepare it to your taste; that’s where classes like the ones campers take at AstroCantina come in.

Cooking

For instance, all campers can make a vegetarian quesadilla during their first class, but are given some freedom to choose how much of their ingredients they use or adding spices they want. This helps them learn how to make a delicious, nutritious meal. Once that opportunity is put out there, it forms a framework they can apply for the rest of their life. The more experience they gain, the less intimidating cooking becomes in the future as well, allowing it to be a more normal part of their daily life for years to come. It doesn’t hurt that they learn the satisfaction of eating something they just worked hard to create either.

Cooking yum

 

Art and Creativity at Camp

Art is subjective, it is different and unique to each and every person and comes in different forms and mediums! We believe there is no right or wrong way to pursue art and we strive to foster our campers imaginations and creative abilities in a positive direction. That is why AstroCamp offers many outlets for expression of creativity, as well as provides a space for creative development.

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There are many different mediums of art around camp. We are excited about expanding our repertoire this summer with the introduction of a few new classes. Art is all about exploring a medium that is interesting or fun to you.

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Arts and Crafts is a general exploration of creativity. It is a project based class, where an instructor will lead the group through an activity like tie-dying or screen printing, but the freedom of design is up to the camper.

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We also offer more specified classes. Whether it’s ceramics, painting, blacksmithing, cooking, film or photography, animation, acting, or music, AstroCamp has it all. So put those creative hats on and get to making something!

Building Character at Camp

Summer at AstroCamp means throwing out preexisting ideas of what people think of you and finding yourself instead. It is a place to build upon you as a person, while being surrounded by a network of positive and inspiring individuals.

AstroCamp prides itself in being a safe space for campers to be the people they want to be. It is a community based off of openness, respect, understanding, and acceptance. This summer is a great time to branch out, try new things, and ultimately take steps toward discovering your own voice, who you are, and who you want to be. Don’t hold yourself to a standard that is impossible to reach, or confine yourself in a box that society has tried to label. Create your own label…or don’t!

Don’t be afraid to be silly and goofy, or color your hair and paint your nails. Just because some people consider it “normal” doesn’t mean that you have to too. What is normal anyway? And why does someone else get to tell you what that means?! While at AstroCamp, learn about yourself by fueling your imagination, asking questions, and accepting those that are different from yourself.

Facing Your Fears

Going to camp for the first time can be nerve wracking for some kids; they’re in a new place, away from their family, and facing all new challenges. Luckily, there are ways to face these fears and come out of camp stronger and more confident than you went in.

The easiest way to become comfortable with a new place is familiarity; the more you get to know it, the less intimidating it becomes. The first step in that familiarity is the tour every camper takes, but it also just comes from spending time here at camp. A spot on camp may seem scary at first, but any fun activity taking place there begins to replace the fear associated with that location with a fond memory.

Homesickness is one of the most common issues students face on camp, and with good reason. For many campers, AstroCamp is their first overnight camp at all, and feeling separated from your normal support system can be really isolating and frightening. That’s where the counselors and other campers come into play, however. The counseling staff are there to help campers through the struggles of camp, and the cabin groups quickly form friendships that can last for years to come. They may start out feeling isolated, but it’s hard to stay isolated for long at camp.

The other big place campers deal with fear is on our ropes course, even those not normally afraid of heights. Our motto here is “Challenge by Choice,” meaning a camper only has to do what they feel comfortable with during a ropes course element. Often, instructors will have them set a goal before starting to climb, and then once they reach it will ask them if they’d like to push forward.

Often, taking that first step past what they thought they were able to do will embolden them to keep moving and complete the element, achieving something they thought was impossible for them. This experience teaches them how to face their fears and push themselves in a healthy way, an experience they will take from camp and be able to apply for the rest of their lives.

Innovative Arts & Crafts

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Arts & crafts instructor Rayah prepares dyes for a camper project.

There’s no place like summer camp for letting your creative side shine! From Doodle Daze to Face Painting, arts and crafts programs offer valuable opportunities for self-expression.

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Face Painting elective, summer 2016.

In addition to providing a safe creative space, art classes are a great place for campers to practice social skills and develop as individuals. Instructors in these sessions facilitate activities, moderate discussions, and offer advice.

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Ceramics class, summer 2016.

For those who enjoy sculpture or prefer to create more permanent projects, ceramics class is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Students in this program build whimsically shaped pinch pots as well as experimenting on the pottery wheel.

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Instructor Mimi models her yarn beard.

This year’s breakout craft elective? Beard-making! We can’t wait to see what next year’s campers inspire.
Written by: Caela Barry

Adventure Lessons

To most natives of Southern California, AstroCamp’s hometown of Idyllwild is a quaint tourist destination. Some are drawn to this mile-high haven’s local businesses, secluded vacation homes, and panoramic vistas. Then there are those for whom the mountains aren’t a background, but a playground.

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Idyllwild holds a storied place in the development of rock climbing. Lilly Rock, an imposing buttress on the side of nearby Tahquitz Peak, is the birthplace of the Yosemite Decimal System, and the the greater Tahquitz area is known as Little Yosemite in the traditional climbing community. World-class hiking trails, including a stretch of the PCT, criss-cross the majestic San Jacinto range. An extensive network of fire roads doubles as a resource for mountain bikers.

AstroCamp clients experience this natural playground under the guidance of adventure instructors as passionate as they are capable. They learn to climb, for instance, from teachers who have explored historic granite from Tahquitz to Joshua Tree and beyond. Day hikes to the top of the mountain are led by instructors whose idea of a great weekend involves backpacking or peak-bagging.

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Our many outdoor programs are united by a common philosophy: challenge by choice. We know that everyone comes to camp with unique life experiences and attitudes. We’re here to give campers opportunities to meaningfully expand their horizons in a fun, safe space.

No matter your comfort level or skill level, AstroCamp has just the adventure for you!

Written By: Caela Barry

The Real Life Skills of Fantasy!

Elves, dwarves, hobbits, spaceships, lasers, dragons, knights, princesses and more! Science fiction and fantasy have been huge in the popular scene over the past decade, with huge feature films from Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter to Star Wars. These fantastic adventures allow the imagination to run wild, and offer a fun temporary escape from the world we live in.

Perhaps not coincidentally, our most popular summer activity for years has been Dungeons and Dragons. The reason for this is simple: it’s a ton of fun! While a major focus of camp is to enjoy it, we also like our activities to have a positive impact on campers lives. For some, this is obvious, such as  involves learning a life skill like cooking or overcoming a fear of heights on the ropes course. For Dungeons and Dragons (commonly called D&D), the benefits are a little less obvious.

D&D is basically storytelling mixed with improv. The instructor takes the role of the dungeonmaster, telling the players about the world they are in and what is going on around them. These can vary tremendously from traditional kingdoms and damsels in distress to laser beam firing spaceships deep in outer space. The campers will choose a character with a unique set of skills and take a few minutes to give each one a backstory, complete with a name, goals, and motivations. Then, the players decide what their characters would like to do in the situation. To decide how well that works, they roll a die, and the dungeonmaster describes what happens based on the results. This can lead to some wonderful stories and ridiculous events, which is where the fun and popularity of the game comes from.

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Unlike movies or video games, there is no screen showing what is going on. All of the imagery is inside the players’ and the dungeon master’s minds, which allows everyone to exercise their imagination and creativity. It also fosters strong communication skills on the parts of both the players and the dungeonmaster, as if not everyone is picturing the same thing, the players won’t be able to see the options their character might have in front of them. Often times the most fun and effective solutions come from thinking far outside the box and being creative with the skills and items that a character possesses. .

Dungeons and Dragons is a role playing game, which means that players are not playing themselves, but are rather trying to see the world through the lens of a character they have created. In making their decisions, they are keeping in mind their own character’s motivations and histories. While this can be difficult, it helps to teach the campers about empathy, and seeing things from different points of view. This is an incredibly important social skill, which is somewhat ironic considering some of the popular stereotypes of the game.

Our dining hall is often filled with campers recanting epic tales of their latest sessions of Dungeons and Dragons. It is like hearing people walk out of a movie theater, or passionately describing their favorite books. This common ground sets a terrific foundation for long lasting friendships that often transcend the mystical world of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the unique and diverse atmosphere of summer camp!

You Are Here! It’s Earth Day!

We live in a tiny place in the middle of a vast emptiness. Our rocky planet orbits an average-sized home star at an almost unimaginable distance of 93 million miles.The fastest spacecraft in history, as of this writing, are Helios I and II; at their peak speeds of over 150,000mph, they’d take three and a half weeks to make the trip– one way. Even light, so fast that to the human eye it appears to travel instantaneously, takes more than eight minutes to reach Earth from the sun.

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The scope of this image is absolutely incredible. It shows four entire clusters of galaxies colliding! Credit: NASA/ESA.

Beyond our solar system, the space between objects scales up exponentially. Light takes eight minutes to travel from the sun to Earth; it takes more than four years to reach us from Proxima Centauri, the next-closest star. This stellar neighbor, like our own sun, is one of hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy– which is one of hundreds of billions of galaxies spread throughout the observable universe. Our closest neighbor galaxy, Andromeda, is two and a half million light-years away, and contains about ten times as many stars as the Milky Way. By order-of-magnitude estimates, there are more stars in the cosmos than there are grains of sand on Earth.

This planet is a small home in an immense universe, but it’s probably far from unique. Our knowledge of other, relatively Earth-like planets has exploded in recent years thanks to the Kepler telescope. This space-based giant surveys the sky near the constellation Cygnus, looking for dips in the brightness of stars between a few hundred and a few thousand light-years away. If the same star dims by the same amount at least three times at regular intervals, an orbiting planet is likely to be blocking some of its light.

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The Kepler Space Telescope’s field of view. Credit: NASA.

Since its launch in 2009, Kepler has directly observed 2,700 planet candidates. Keep in mind that this telescope scans just one-quarter of one percent of the night sky, chosen for its conveniently observable location. We have no reason to believe that this patch of sky is particularly rich in planets or otherwise special. If there are 2,700 planets in this tiny field of view, it’s likely that the whole sky hides over a million! With so many exoplanets out there, some will probably have habitable conditions.

The question of whether another Earth exists is, however, mostly an academic one. At this stage in history, humanity is taking baby steps towards visiting (and eventually colonizing) another rock in our own solar system: Mars. It seems to be an achievable goal, and organizations like NASA have outlined plans to make it a reality within a handful of decades. The spacecraft and life support systems necessary for such a trip are currently being developed and tested.

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Earth from four billion miles away, as seen by the Voyager 1 spacecraft. This iconic image inspired Carl Sagan’s description of Earth as “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” Credit: NASA.

At its shortest, the journey from Earth to Mars covers about 55 million miles. The closest known exoplanets are millions of times farther away, well outside the reach of foreseeable space travel technology. A visit to our red neighbor planet represents a physically small step into space, but nonetheless a monumental development in our species’ practical abilities. Until that happens, this pale blue dot in space, as Sagan famously said, is where we make our stand.

Cover Photo Credit: NASA

Written By: Caela Barry

WELCOME TO ASTRO BLOG

We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. AstroCamp is a hands-on physical science program with an emphasis on astronomy and space exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and astronomical happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree in Physics or Astronomy, however it is not uncommon for them to have a Masters Degree or PhD. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science, space and astronomy information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.astrocampsummer.org for additional information. Happy Reading!

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