What do apples, paddle boards, and laundry baskets have in common? Enough to create an incredible immersive and educational experience. To explain, let me go back in time to late March when our summer Leadership Team gathered for its annual pre-summer planning retreat. We presented the group with three items and asked them to brainstorm as many words to describe these items as possible. Scattered across the wall were post-it notes, color-coded by item with a litany of descriptors. From this eclectic grouping of words, we instructed the team to select one post-it from each color. These three selections would be the basis for a program that they would build together. Each team had a different age group and educational theme on which to focus.
As you might imagine, the programs we created that night were pretty incredible. Wacky, fun, bizarre are all words to describe them. But beneath was our mission: find innovative ways to educate our children through immersive programming. One of the programs: “Hungry, Hungry Hippos at the Pool” caught everyone’s attention. Participants would use the laundry baskets to catch the apples floating in the water. Meanwhile, a team of coordinated members – connected by paddle boards – would band together to tether themselves to the side of the pool while “navigating” the hippos’ mouth/basket along the way.
There was enthusiasm as people turned to one another and said, “This one could be something we really run!” In fact, we did run the program, one night in July, for our rising sixth and seventh graders. After the fun and games, we sat with the campers to extrapolate a lesson. They quickly picked up on teamwork as a core theme. But then one of them said, “I don’t think I would have been a good tether, but I was a really good navigator.” Another chimed in, “I couldn’t navigate, but I could be the strong base.” As the discussion progressed, it became clear to the campers that teamwork isn’t just for its own sake, but it is meant to capture the variety of abilities of each camper. We must always celebrate an individual’s talents and gifts, seeking to discover what makes that person special.
Of course, there are many ways to facilitate and inspire creative thinking and to draw out educational outcomes from children. It happens all the time at camp and fuels our staff’s thinking toward evening programs, informal times as they walk from activity to activity, and planning their “cabin time” before lights out. We treat every moment at camp as a “teachable” moment – a chance to delight our campers, give them something special to remember, and also teach a few lessons.
More than 50 Capital Camps campers are students at CESJDS, and we are so grateful for the continued partnership between our two institutions. While CESJDS shapes our incredible young people during the school year, we continue that process during the summer months, creating a complete educational cycle.
An extraordinary opportunity of partnership occurred this summer when Head of School, Rabbi Mitch Malkus, visited us to teach at our Capital Camps Institute for Leadership Learning (CCI), a program designed to train emerging leaders to be successful individuals in and out of camp. Rabbi Malkus met with the CCI cohort, as well as our summer Leadership Team, to discuss our weekly theme: “Owning Mistakes and Overcoming Challenges.” I was particularly inspired by Rabbi Malkus’ ability to weave together common themes relevant in both the formal and experiential educational contexts.
During my tenure at Capital Camps, it has been a great privilege to partner with and learn from colleagues at CESJDS. Both at the upper and lower schools, I am frequently reminded of our shared educational mission, and I look forward to many more partner opportunities together, including the upcoming InterCamp games on Sunday, October 14!
Adam is entering his ninth year at Capital Camps. His leadership has resulted in increased staff retention, a variety of program improvements, and more efficient day-to-day operations of camp. Prior to his time at Capital Camps, Adam worked at Hillel International, recruiting and training young professionals to work at Hillel locations across the country.