Summer Camp

Just dropped off the kids at Eden Village camp

Eden village camp

The drop-off went smoothly and the parents were treated to a tour of the campsite which is very impressive – gorgeous landscape with fabulous buildings and a vibrant buzz. Really makes one wish we could go back in time and experience this as a young camper.

Later that evening after arriving back home (a 4 hour drive), we received this message (below). It is my youngest daughter’s first time away from home and I was really happy how well the camp communicated. It makes a big difference when other teachers/caregivers connect to parents in this way. We are not helicopter parents but, as a nuclear family whose closest relatives are 4000 miles away, this type of communication allows us to connect to the outline of our children’s experience and helps us as parents as we reflect/amplify/complement/interpret/educate etc, with our children. Thank you to Vivian Stadlin for allowing me to share this email.

Dear families of these AMAZING YOUNG HUMANS who are all snugly tucked away in their bunks! 

This summer’s theme at Eden Village is “Attitude of Gratitude.” Being grateful is at the core of Jewish practice, and science is bearing out our ancient wisdom: turns out it’s a key to feeling happy and rich. Day one of Summer 2013 and gratitude is everywhere: the team here in the office is marveling at how smooth and lovely opening day was, the vast vast majority of the campers are psyched to be here, Yoni and I are so happy about this year’s staff and how Eden Village has risen to a new level of intentionality around program design, ongoing staff training and more; we’re grateful to you for trusting us with the most unspeakably precious beings in the world so we can share in guiding and inspiring them….. Gratitude!


Below is a window into what it’s been like since drop-off time.

After the activity stations on the farm, each cabin group set out on the “Havurah (friendship) Hike” – a tour of camp places and people to get to know the lay of the land. Stops included our herbalist’s apothecary; a music circle where our music director, Pesach, taught our mission song; the health center to meet our live-in nurses and for lice checks; the art room for a collaborative project; a brief yoga and jumping-around session with “Pulse” director Michele Dana; an intro to the Beit Shefa (“House of Abundance”, aka dining hall); colorful presentations from our Specialists about the diverse interests campers can explore here, and time for each bunk to craft a skit that introduces their bunk, which they later presented at the opening campfire.

After the Havurah Hikes, we met as tribe groups: Yesod (foundation) is 3rd and 4th grades; Tiferet (balance/harmony) is 5th and 6th grades; and Keter (crown) is the Specialty Immersion folks. We played games that got us knowing each others’ names, running around, learning about each other and enjoying ourselves, then went to unpack and create our nests. 

After the unpacking time, we gathered on the field outside the dining hall for the full-camp opening ceremony. People called out the range of places they’d just come from – the 73 campers here came from at least 11 states this morning. In Eden Village tradition, we re-enacted our coming together by first running away from the circle for 10 seconds while yelling…. and then soaring like birds back towards the center, where we blew a looooong shofar blast then taught & sang the “shehechyanu” song. This is a prayer that means “thank you for bringing me to this day,” which we say when we’ve reached a new and important moment. From here, we sat down where we’d been standing in a big clump around Yoni, and he gave over guidelines for living here – rules that help everyone feel grounded and know that everything here is grounded in rigorous supervision and safety, both physical and emotional. 

In his characteristic funny, accessible, dynamic way of communicating, which gets kids of any age laughing and also totally on board, Yoni shared that here, what’s “cool” is being kind. Everyone agreed that they like getting “kind-ed”, and they like being kind to others too. We also shared that every staff person wants extremely much to help them have the best week of their lives, and if they could use even more support, one of their biggest jobs as a camper is to communicate to us. Our staffers are all cultivating their intuitive superpowers, but we also need help by hearing what’s going on in words.

Generally speaking, the beginning of camp focuses on creating community and welcoming everyone, both returning and new campers, and helping everyone settle comfortably into camp life. We have many tools to that end, including getting everyone familiar with the schedule and layout of camp, games to help campers learn names and be playful, and activities that help build trust and connection among everyone in the bunk, including staffers. 

Food is important too. We had a spirited dinner outside on the lawn, all organic as usual, of extremely tasty (and free-range, local) grilled chicken or grilled portobellos and tofu dogs, corn on the cob, roasted sweet potatoes, extensive salad bar, and watermelon for dessert — easy, familiar food, with gluten-free, vegan, etc. diets accounted for as always. At the blessing after the meal, kids rekindled the tradition of standing up to really sing it out.

From dinner we went to the beach, where a witty and wackily costumed pair of MCs (Program Director Simone and Summer Assistant Director Josh — both extraordinary leaders along many dimensions) hosted our opening campfire. Each bunk shared their inventive skit/cheer and staffers theatrically introduced themselves. A personal highlight was seeing how the whole camp ended up circle dancing around the fire afterwards, with the sunset reflected on the lake and the kids’ energy so high. Somewhere in there, Yoni saw a blue heron flying over the lake and pointed it out to a bunch of kids who were wowed right along with him.

From there, Yesod and Tiferet went to their bunks for some cabin time and bedtime, and Keter met with their mentors of their specialty to map out their upcoming projects – a lot of buzzing excitement within that group. For one thing, they are planning an overnight in the woods, with the cullinary arts kids planning all the cooking!  Yoni and I peeked in on the Yesod bunks’ bedtime rituals and saw beautiful goal-setting sessions where cabinmates brainstormed plans for these upcoming days, circles where cabinmates shared highlights from the day and hopes for tomorrow, and Shma prayers and lullabyes sang.

I would love to hear from other parents what type of summer overnight camp experiences they choose for their kids, and what are the goals and considerations that go towards in making that choice.



One thought on “Summer Camp

  1. My son came back from camp last week – his first year as a madrich, and is already talking about next year. It was very strange dropping him off and realising that I didn’t have to hand over medication, authorisations, confirmations…
    He has been going to Noam (Masorti youth group) since he was nine and has a wide group of contacts and friends though it. (Goodness knows how we managed to keep in touch before Facebook!)
    Other than the daily updates (posted on a secure website) I have no idea what goes on there – other than ‘stuff’ and, sometimes, ‘things’.
    Deb in the UK

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