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Camp Inquiry Rocks

Angie McQuaig

September 14, 2009

“Where can you find science,

Nature, art, and magic, too

Making music, paper airplanes

So many things to challenge you?”

Camp Inquiry

The high rafters of the camp lodge rang out with the sound of voices set to the exuberant strum of Monty Harper’s guitar. Forty-five youngsters, aged 7 to 16, over eighty of their parents, 14 staffers, and one of world’s leading cosmologists joined in the song collectively written by the campers over the previous week, with the expert guidance of Mr. Harper, a professional children’s songwriter. Then came the answer, in chorus:

“Camp Inquiry, Camp Inquiry, Camp Inquiry

I-N-Q-U-I-R-Y

Inquiry makes your brain cells fly!”

Camp Inquiry

This theme song for Camp Inquiry was one of dozens of original compositions that were showcased at the emotional Saturday evening closing ceremonies of the Center for Inquiry’s innovative camp for critical thinking located in Holland, New York, now in its fifth year.

“We ended up with lots of great songs,” Mr. Harper commented. “The kids were incredibly creative and talented and enthusiastic. I guided them where needed, but mostly I tried to just stay out of the way and let them do their thing. The ones that performed on Saturday night were so proud and excited. They created many lasting memories and the kids came away feeling empowered to express themselves artistically whenever they feel the need.”

Songwriting and performing was just one activity of a well-rounded program featuring outdoor education, art, scientific inquiry, team-building, and recreation.

“Where can you hear lectures

To learn about the planets and outer space?

Where can you see magic

Popping up all over the place?”

Throughout the week, kids were entertained and taught by three magicians presenting the physics and psychology behind feats such as sleight of hand, mind reading, and walking on glass. One of the magicians, Scott Dezrah Blinn, observed:

“It was thrilling, inspiring and a little bittersweet to see how eager the kids were to be in an environment where they were free to express themselves and encouraged to question everything. They didn’t have to accept things just to fit in. They were in a community of peers and leaders who knew what it was like to be bright, to be curious, opinionated and misunderstood.”

Camp Inquiry

Proving that reality is as amazing as illusion, stellar speakers like Kevin Grazier and Lawrence Krauss led discussions and hands-on activities to illustrate principles of physics and cosmology.

“Who would have thought a crew of kids ranging from teenagers on down would be excited to listen to a talk about cosmology and would have the attention span to survive the whole thing and then ask questions! I came away feeling amazed at the polite kindness the kids showed toward each other and their excitement about learning anything and everything.”

Camp counselors, many of whom were trained scientists, marveled that one seven-year-old camper was able to readily answer a question posed by Dr. Krauss by listing all four of the fundamental forces of nature.

Lead counselor, Laurie Tarr, shared the consensus of the staff, “The children who attended Camp Inquiry ’09 were an exceptional group. Not only were they all smart, friendly, funny kids who enjoy learning, they also asked the most amazing questions and provided even more amazing answers.”

“Where can you make new friends,

Sometimes crazy, always smart?

Friends from around the country;

You’ll always hold them in your heart.”

In the end, Camp Inquiry was about creating a community of inquirers. As Monty Harper put it, “It was an I-have-found-my-people moment.” They parted with hugs, tears, and, for many, promises to return for Camp Inquiry 2010.

“Camp Inquiry, Camp Inquiry, Camp Inquiry

It’s the place we love to go.

Come and feed your need to know!”

Angie McQuaig

Angie McQuaig's photo

Angie McQuaig, PhD, is a curriculum designer and Camp Inquiry director. Learn more about Camp Inquiry at campinquiry.org.