Muddy hands, Happy hearts!

The day is done and boy, what a day it was! We started early, with feet stomping the cob and making it into balls. We loaded up wheelbarrows with clay that we dug up from a hillside near by.  Participants trucked wheelbarrows and buckets back and forth to the work site, then began stomping cob. The most efficient and fun way to get a heavy load of cob from your mixing tarp to the building site: a cob toss.  Balls of mud flew through the air as kids tossed them in a line from hand to hand.

Cob flying
Cob toss!

Animals moved through the hustle and bustle of hard working kids, and the sounds of collaboration & excitement were punctuated only by the comedic bleating of the freshly shorn sheep who watched as we mixed.  Before you knew it, lunchtime came around and the usual game of “Zombies” ensued. After all of the bellies were filled, slow moving feet gave way to furious stomping. Time flew by and just like that, we had everyone on the structure working and laughing, this is what I like to call getting into “The Zone.”

Even Molly tried to help out.



Then again, maybe not

Molly sleeping

Work was not in short supply, Then the goopy clay slip came in and everyone got a handful as they formed handfulls of straw into “straps” to weave through the mesh structure that would eventually provide the dome for the frog’s open mouth. Straw straps, similar to metal rebar in a building, provide good tensile strength and will distribute the weight of the arch.  Children wove the straps as sun dipped lower and lower and the structure started to take shape. The kids didn’t even notice when the parents came to take their EXTREMELY muddy children home.

Goofy faces after a day of weaving straw straps through the form work for the arch!


Moms and kids mix together!



Muddy Feet
Splooshy feet are the best way to cool down!

Smiles and Stories

As the day draws to a close, the kids are tired, covered in clay, and have smiles on their faces. They climb into their cars, gabbing about their experiences at the Urban Farm. They used all sorts of skills in the different events of the day, beginning with a scavenger hunt for patterns in nature and human settlements. As they looked out into the farthest mountains and in deep to their brains to notice patterns, they began building a language to draw upon as they worked on their designs.

Finally, the competition came down to two designs. Tomorrow, students will present their designs to the board of directors at the farm and receive feedback before the next phase of the building process begins!


Design teams prepare to “sell” their designs
Design Teams sketch, plan and build their play scapes
Design Teams receive feedback about how to “sell” their designs based on design criteria.
Baking cookies in a solar oven is a great way to demonstrate the processes of building with cob!
Mixing gluten free cookie dough
Design Teams are finally ready to “pitch” their designs to the rest of the group before presenting to the Board of Directors tomorrow!
Participants gathered design patterns from the farm to incorporate into their designs.

Great Start!

Camp has begun and already there are happy faces all over the place, The kids have been planning their “Dream Play-scapes,” making a diagram of what they would wish to build. Design teams will work together and collaborate to take their design visions through the process and bring them to life! IMG_0413

After an initial brainstorm, participants went on a scavenger hunt for patterns in nature and on the farm.

Camp String Game

They found their new design journals waiting for them in the Children’s Garden- the site of our future play-scape!

Scavenger Hunt in the Children’s Garden

Meet your Design Journal from Ex Libris Anonymous!


Here we go! Geniuses Prepare for Take Off!

As the first two weeks of Natural Genius Summer Camps draw closer, I have to say I am OVER THE MOON with excitement! It seems like there are a million great ideas we could build upon, and I am finally seeing some of these seeds grow to fruition. Not only that, but some of the most BRILLIANT kids I know will be joining me to build & create using permaculture and natural building principles!

Here are a few things that are waking me up before sunrise with child-like excitement:

  • Touring Denver junkyards & up-cycling building centers to harvest materials and scavenger hunt for treasure
  • Designing & building models of biotecture houses which include: renewable energy, passive solar design, greywater & rainwater catchment systems, indoor gardens, natural materials, permaculture design patterns, and RAD special features
  • Daily design challenges & design spotlights featuring amazing designers and their cutting- edge ideas
  • Using the mind-blowing pattern language for designers to guide our thinking
  • Getting MUDDY building our own giant sculpture / climbing structure at the Urban Farm in Stapleton
  • Teaching kids about tool safety and putting tools in their hands!
  • Upcycled design journals from to contain our genius!
  • Baking gluten-free shortbread houses in our SOLAR OVEN!!
  • Daily blog entries on the Natural Genius Blog, written by kids as they design & build! (stay tuned in for more details about all of the above as the weeks unfold!)

Here are some photos from natural builders and designers that will be inspiring our work over the next 2 weeks:

1) Ex Libris Anonymous Journals: EVERY “camper” gets a hand-made, up-cycled, vintage children’s encyclopedia as a design journal, bound with acid free paper to hold their brilliant designs.

book journals

2) Michael Reynolds’ Earthship Biotecture (

Earthship Biotecture


3) Malawi’s up-cycled-windmill inventor, William Kamkwamba

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

3) Teen solar designer Aidan Dwyer, who used nature’s pattern language, the Fibonacci sequence, to design solar arrays

Aidan Dwyer

4) Denver’s own Julee Herdt, who just won the Solar Decathalon for her new sustainable building fiber made entirely from trash

Julee Herdt

5)  Academy Award winning short film maker, PES, who took 5 years to collect the salvaged metal for his new film, The Deep

PES Under the Deep

6) Orcas Island’s famous kinetic sculpture artist, Anthony Howe

Anthony Howe Kinetic Sculpture

Keep checking in, and we’ll keep you updated on the ways that these designers &  inventors have inspired us to tinker, build & create!