In April 2016, Krieger Schechter Day School (KSDS) and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s Center for Jewish Camping (CJC) partnered with five overnight camps, hosting the first annual Camp@School Day. (School staff captured this day on video: tinyurl.com/jboeaxt.) KSDS students and faculty were introduced to a variety of local area Jewish overnight camps as they participated in engaging, meaningful and informal Jewish educational experiences. Our ambitious goals for the program went well beyond a fun break from classroom learning: having camp educators model experiential teaching for faculty; brand and name recognition of the camps by our students and families as they choose overnight camp for themselves; collaboration between camp and school on the senior administrative level that fosters long-term partnerships and trust that will impact future programming, fundraising and possible shared staffing models.
The idea for the program originated from four KSDS parents, all of whom also work year-round at local area camps: Alicia Berlin, director of Camp Louise, Rabbi Miriam Burg, director of Jewish life at Capital Camps, Jonah Geller, executive director of Capital Camps, and Jodi Wahlberg, recruiter at Camp Ramah in the Poconos. With the support of KSDS, other local camps and the CJC, we jointly development the vision for the day and this unique collaboration took place.
The KSDS administration took the lead in planning this program, and several teachers were involved on the planning committee. The rest of the faculty was given responsibilities. Each camp designed a station and an age-appropriate activity related to a symbol on the seder plate, since this program took place right before Passover break.
B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp wanted to create a sense of what it meant to be a slave in Egypt (charoset). They designed relay races and activities requiring students to complete a near impossible task in a short timeframe, first individually, and then working together collaboratively.
Camps Airy and Louise sought to capture the bitterness that the Israelites experienced in Egypt and the bitterness in today’s world (maror). With the help of Jewish Volunteer Connection, they arranged a mitzvah project for Sarah’s Hope, a shelter for homeless women who are pregnant or have young children. Students flipped bitterness into love, creating posters and decorative bags filled with sweet treats for the shelter’s residents.
Camp Ramah in the Poconos creatively illustrated the symbolism of the beitzah through an egg race game. Students built a path to the Temple, strategized how to overcome obstacles on the journey, and delivered the unblemished ritual sacrifice to the Temple.
Capital Camps portrayed the renewal and hope (karpas) of springtime by having students create their own wishes and dreams garden, decorating a flower with a picture and sentence about their wishes and vision for the future. They took their flowers and created a “wishes and dream” garden in their classrooms.
Habonim Dror Camp Moshava used an orange at their station to symbolize inclusiveness. Students decorated a plate as an orange and wrote a sentence about how they make everyone in their community feel welcome.
The day included a camp-style lunch (yes, we served bug juice) in the KSDS courtyard served by camp directors, a camp-inspired Birkat HaMazon led by Camp Airy and Louise staff using their camp melodies and a recess period in which each camp led a sports activity with that “only at camp” feel.
After the program, we received much positive feedback from parents, students, faculty and camp staff. KSDS faculty were impressed by the learning that took place throughout the camp activities, and remarked on the thought and depth that went into their planning. Camp staff appreciated the time they had to spend with students, and the ability to use their imagination to develop a program that mirrored their camp philosophies and values.
All partners determined that collaboration between Jewish camp and Jewish day schools is significant and should be continued. Currently, a third of eligible KSDS students attend a Jewish overnight camp. In the 2016-2017 school year, KSDS will be partnering with The Associated’s Center for Jewish Camping more frequently so “camps” can be offered to students on days when school is not in session. KSDS and area camps are hopeful that these types of partnership opportunities will result in an increase in camper enrollment, and vibrant, experiential, educational experiences for youth year-round.