Outdoor education is an important part of the informal education component of camp. We live up here in the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin for two months, so it is only natural that we want our campers to have an appreciation for nature and its beauty. Outdoor education director Yaela Garr says, “The outdoors in general is something that we kind of live within but don’t really notice that we’re a part of, both in our lives at home and at camp.” So, the outdoor education department does its part to help campers take notice.
Outdoor education is divided into two sections—the ropes courses and camping, and there are several components to each. Within camping, the main program is the campouts. Campers in Garinim, Halutzim, Solelim, Shoafim, and Tikvah each participate in an overnight campout in which they first go on a hike on one of the many trails in the area and then spend the night at one of the campsites located on the other side of Buckatabon (just across the street from the main camp). Campers in Bogrim take a special trip up to the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan and do their hike and overnight there. Campers in Nivonim have a three-day, two-night canoe trip in the Upper Flambeau area in Wisconsin. In addition, individual cabins can request to do a bishul erev or bishul boker during which they have a cookout for either dinner or breakfast.
The camping staff also do tarbut activities for Shoafim and Bogrim in which they teach scouting and survival skills such as lashing with ropes and fire-building. They have recently added the “Ohel Avraham” (Abraham’s Tent), which they started on Visitors’ Day, as a way to teach the concept of hacnassat orchim, welcoming guests. In the tent, which has been set up on the Kikar, campers see a skit about hospitality and then make their own pita and drink tea.
The ropes course component includes the high and low ropes courses, which are also located across the street from camp. Every cabin has the chance to participate in both courses. The low ropes course consists of many teambuilding exercises and is a way to help cabins work together and become more united. The high ropes course consists of more individual exercises, with the rest of the cabin offering support to help everyone complete the course.
All of these outdoor education activities are important, not only for helping the campers become closer to nature, but also for the Jewish values that they teach—such as groupbuilding, hospitality, and caring for the world around us. There are also many Israelis on both the camping and ropes course staff, so Hebrew is a big component in these activities.
Yaela Garr thinks these activities are so important because “the kids are taken out of their daily routine and have the chance to do something in a different kind of setting. They learn to be comfortable with themselves in nature, and that opens the door to a lot of different things.”
Ultimately, it’s about connecting with our world. As Yaela says, “Our life is so far away from the natural world. It’s important to know what’s around you and appreciate that and be able to see something else, see where the beginning was, see the places that are untouched by people.”