One of the hidden gems of a summer at Ramah Wisconsin is the experiential programming planned by the cabin counselors. These thematic experiences combining Jewish content, interactive fun and multiple intelligences are thoughtfully planned by our college age staff with the support of a team of consultants in the Mercaz Educational Resource Center. Please enjoy the third in a series describing a few such programs from the 2015 season, written by veteran Rosh Aidah Louisa Kornblatt.
2015 Garinim Program: Heroes
by Louisa Kornblatt
Last summer Garinim, campers entering 5th grade, dedicated a day of programming to the concept of heroism. They explored how a gibur (hero) is a person who encompasses three major qualities: kindness, courage, and individuality. The staff introduced the theme of the day through a series of skits, each of which exemplified one of the characteristics that make up a hero.
Following the mini-skits, the aidah watched three YouTube videos of different people who demonstrate kindness, courage, and individuality. The first video was part of a Pay It Forward campaign that showed how little acts of kindness can influence people to do something kind for someone else, and the second was a clip from The Wizard of Oz. The third video was a musical number from the TV show, Glee, where the group performs Lady Gaga’s song, “Born This Way,” and each member wears a t-shirt with the characteristic that makes them stand apart from their peers written across their chest.
The aidah then split into smaller groups to begin the core activity of the morning. Each group received a large piece of paper and the name of a historical figure whose actions are widely considered heroic around the world. They then researched the individual and discussed what makes that person a hero. One group learned about Nelson Mandela, the South African activist and former president who led to the end of apartheid, while another read about Malala Yousafazi, a Pakistani advocate for girls’ education and the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize. The third group talked about Rosa Parks and her heroic act on a Montgomery bus and Claudette Colvin, the first woman arrested for resisting bus segregation nine months prior to Rosa Parks. The last two groups learned about important individuals in the history of the state of Israel: Herzl, the father of Zionism, and Hannah Senesh, who enlisted in the British army after making aliyah to Israel and parachuted into Yugoslavia to rescue Hungarian Jews on their way to Auschwitz.
Based on their discussions, each group prepared a large piece of paper that depicted their particular figure acting according to the three heroic qualities of kindness, courage, and individuality. They presented their posters to the aidah, which were later hung on the walls of the chadar ochel (dining hall). As a fun closing to the morning activity, Garinim played Jeopardy that contained questions about the heroes they had learned about, fictional heroes, and other famous heroes and role models.
In the afternoon, the campers went on a “Picture Tour of Kindness.” This involved traveling around camp in groups and performing acts of kindness and photographically documenting the kind acts of others. The staff provided the campers with a list of possible acts, but also encouraged them to come up with their own. A few of the suggested acts included: picking up garbage around camp, helping someone carry something, complimenting an aidah-mate who has been a leader.
An energetic game of capture the flag with rules inspired by the theme of the day concluded the afternoon. Captured campers were able to return to the game by writing a Shabbat-O-Gram to someone in camp whose work often goes unacknowledged. They had the option to write thank you notes to a member of maintenance, office, or infirmary staff. That night the aidah celebrated individuality with a talent show.