Imagine: All in the Circle

All in the Circle Creative Arts & Nature Camp sprang forth from AJ’s vast experience as an educator and program director over the last 30 years. She holds a deep interest in exploring what elements are critical in nurturing the developmental growth of children. She gave these remarks at the Premiere of the All in the Circle Documentary.

Hello, you beautiful hearts and Imaginations! You children young and old! My heart is full of gratitude. This camp has a big spirit that has drawn so many gifted people. I am marveling tonite!

The seed for the vision for All In The Circle began a long time ago. As most stories do.

When I was a child. Sitting high in my grand banyan tree imagining beyond what my eyes could see. And it began while riding my horse bareback imagining him wild, with the wind in my hair.

And trying to fly from the trees, diving into mountain lakes, smelling the salty air of the ocean as I quietly followed a heron in a tidal marsh.

And those nights in the neighborhood hiding in the bushes with the bugs trying not to be caught by whomever was It. And the adrenal rush of running to kick the can. And making my secret hideouts, swinging from vines in that vacant lot. Making delicious mud pies with my friend to sell to the extraordinary passersby who joined our imaginations by buying our pies. And my ken and barbie went on long outdoor adventures with their family. Riding horses of course.With them, I told never ending stories. I hated the sound of the dinner bell calling me in…I never wanted to stop playing outside. Now I call such play children’s natural passions.

As a teacher, I saw such opportunities for children nearing extinction- that imagination that comes only from play in nature. It is a heart and soul play that creates a sense of belonging to something grand. Such play is an experience that builds a healthy foundation for Kindness and community and love of the natural world we are all interconnected. I also noticed that the social, emotional, and creative intelligence were not subjects in the school curriculum. But it was in my classroom. So I set out to create such a curriculum in the last school I taught. I taught every class from pk-6 grade using this curriculum. I was given a special position to do this at a school with a visionary principal.

The Bullying ceased. We worked out our conflicts sitting in circles. We made the rule you can’t say you can’t play.

In that school was Mary Helen Solomon the Orff music teacher you will see in the film. She opened my eyes to the language of music as an important part of this camp. And then I realized we needed Dancing and singing and making masks to become the creature…to live in another’s shoes, paws, hooves, or claws creating compassion and understanding.Telling stories. Thus were the seeds and roots of All In The Circle.

I will have more to say later the wonderful imaginative souls who have joined up with creating this camp, but I wanted to share a poem that speaks to what All In The Circle is About: this poem is the lyrics of local folk singer Peter Meyer Called Awake.

Join me in your imagination as you open your heart and imaginations:

Clouds are swift
Rocks are ancient
Mountains are high
Oceans great
Winds are restless
Trees are patient
And you my child are awake

All the splendors of creation
Are very happy that you came
Are very happy that you came
Because they needed someone to see them
And you my child are awake

Seeds are hopeful
Dewdrops fleeting
Oak trees are crooked
Redwoods straight
And they are NOT known to the sleeping
You, my child, are awake

To perceive these wondrous things
To count the beats of a blackbird’s wings
To tell a story and dance and sing!

We live in a world of perceived disconnection, though we are all connected. All In The Circle is about the re-enchantment of connection and belonging. When we open our hearts, awaken our sleeping senses, and awaken to the natural world outside our doors we open ourselves to imagine possibilities…

We are so happy that you are here because we needed someone to see us. To see why the children, youth, and adults of All In The Circle feel such passion for being part of this creation.We want you to join us in imaging possibilities for All In The Circle. Here is a brainstorm. You may have ideas too!:

Imagine people willing to write and oversee grants
Imagine funding for staff and youth counselors
Scholarships so that All Are included in The circle
How about a bus so we can make the camp accessible no matter where?
We imagine that All In The circle will have its own place
Imagine programs to teach teachers how to do circles in their classrooms
Imagine the development of intergenerational family style All In The Circle

We imagine you joining us. We need you.

There are many beautiful souls here that imagined with me the possibility of creating All In The Circle. They imagined it into reality.

First I have to thank the amazing person who grew up playing in her imagination outside my door. And then became a wilderness therapist and program director at MNIPL. This person has continually helped me create this camp. Without her, it could not be going into its 9th year! She is very kind: Erin Pratt.

Nancy Olmsted a visionary teacher saw this vision and as she says jumped on the bandwagon! She has been core to this camp in many countless ways and organized all of the vast numbers of volunteers needed. She brings kindness and wisdom.

Tammy Rogers, also on our camp planning team all of these years. Being patiently steadfast through all of the challenges of an emerging idea! like the patient trees yet dancing her way with children in her endless imagination and kindness.

Lori Cocking and Judy Greg have been on going logistical support on the originating camp committee. So grateful…