Archive for April, 2010

To DYE for

Last week we hosted a group of 8th graders from Chapel Hill, NC. The group was particularly unique because there were 30 Belgian exchange students accompanying the 45 American students.  To add further excitement, there were several  video journalist recording their visit for an upcoming PBS documentary!  (Click here to see the footage that Blue Ridge is featured in!)

The group enjoyed our Odyssey course as well as participated in many team games and initiatives. Basic communication was a slight struggle due to the language barrier but fortunately the students knew a limited amount  of English, had several French teachers to help translate, and their American counterparts (many of whom who had studied abroad the previous year) were happy to help as well.

One afternoon the group requested to do Tie Dye, an easy and  fun craft that is very representative of our country. Tie Dye is the process of resist dying textiles/clothing and is a modern version of traditional dying methods used in many cultures throughout the world. Tie-dying became fashionable in the late 60s and remains popular with many teenagers today.

The shirts first had to soak for about 10 minutes in a washing soda & water solution. After that, students were instructed to begin twisting, folding, tying, binding or crumbling the fabric based on several design options. Common Tie Dye patterns include: Spiderweb, Joyful, Starburst, Sunburst/Circles, Spiral, Friendship, Pleats/Stripes, The “V”, Crumple or they could create their own!

After the shirts were tied, the dye was applied to the shirts. We used primarily Red, Yellow, Black, and Blue (4 colors that  represent both the Belgium and American flag). After that, the shirts were put in plastic bags in order to sit overnight and the next day we hung the shirts out to dry. Washburn Center has never looked more colorful!

It is important to remember that the end result of tie-dye can be predicted and controlled to some extent, but the element of surprise is what makes Tie-Dye an adventure! Each design is  always special and one of a kind. Here are some of the most creative (and patriotic) shirts from the group:

The students had a blast and the tie-dye turned out wonderfully! Hopefully the shirts will be lifelong souvenirs and reminders of the student’s time visiting our country. Merci beaucoup to them and we hope to see them again soon!

Students wearing their tie-dye shirts


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Sunshine and warmth, FINALLY! April has blessed us with gorgeous summer-like weather so far. Here are a few pictures of the daffodils blooming in the Butterfly Garden outside of Washburn Center.


Our Ambassador, Andrew McKinney, arrived safely back to the States after a month of service to the Romford YMCA in England. To read about his adventures abroad, see his posts below. Welcome back, Andrew!


Spring is an exceptionally busy time for visiting school groups. Last week a 6th grade class from Savannah, GA participated in “Appalachian WILD”, a wildlife and nature presentation hosted by Carleton Burke, program director of Carolina Mountain Naturalists. Carleton is a former employee of the WNC Nature Center as well as  a state and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Last week Carleton serenaded the students with his guitar and then introduced several of his furry (and scaly and slimy) friends. He showed us  a Red Salamander, Woodfrog, Black Rat Snake,  Timber Rattlesnake, Barred Owl, and the always-friendly Ground Hog named Penny.

Fun Facts:

1) Scientists consider the Southern Appalachians to be the “Salamander Capital of the World”.

2) The Barred Owl gets it’s name from the barred pattern on its chest and wings. It’s unique call is very easy to recognize and is remembered by the mnemonic device ” Who cooks for you? Who cook for you all?”

3) Woodfrogs, aquatic insects, and salamanders often habitat “vernal ponds”, which are temporary pools of water that are generally devoid of fish and change based on the season.


This month we recognized “National Cancer Control Month”.  While there are many various forms of cancer, Nurse Nancy’s focus for this particular event was Lung and Colon Cancer. In addition to lots of information, literature and resources available, there were several of  examples of cancer fighting foods – Brazil nuts, carrots, grapes, and green tea- for our staff to sample.  A local hospital also donated hand-made caps in the event any of our employees, a family member or friend was undergoing chemotherapy. Please visit the American Cancer Society for more information.

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