So, You Want Your School To Be More Like Camp?

From Section:
Formal Education
Mar. 20, 2012
March 20, 2012

Source: The Jewish Week


Jeffrey S. Kress, associate professor of Jewish education and academic director of the Experiential Learning Initiative at the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at JTS, in an article in The Jewish Week writes that many educators have been recently suggesting to make Jewish schools more like camps, which provide meaningful, lasting experiences for their campers. He asks, what is it about camp that offers positive outcomes and that can be replicated in non-camp settings?


He writes:

"To think about the active ingredients of camp, we can learn from a tradition of research about how educational environments can be structured to promote growth and development. It is possible to identify five key elements of impactful experiences related to how learning and growth take place that are, at least in the ideal, central elements of camp:

  • Attention to Social and Emotional Dynamics: Campers learn with and from their peers. They are brought into contact and caring relationships with adults as well as with youth of varying ages. They feel safe enough to take risks and engage the emotions and spirit.

  • Multiple Entry Points for Diverse Learners: Campers have different ways to shine and a variety of ways to contribute — Jewishly and otherwise — to the community. The diversity of participants — range of interests, preferred learning modalities, special needs — is accounted for in developing experiences. Campers, especially as they get older, help to shape their own learning environments.
  • Integration of Content and Process: There is (ideally) a blurring of the line between learning and having fun. Activities are shaped to include various Jewish outcomes. Jewish participation feels genuine because it is integrated into the life and rhythm of the setting.
  • Opportunities for Reflection: Campers have structured and spontaneous opportunities to think about and discuss the meaning of activities and experiences and to draw connections with their broader identities.
  • Interconnectedness of Experiences: A web of experiences — concurrently and across time — is developed around values, skills, relationships, and knowledge. What is learned is reinforced elsewhere, and can be put into action in different places and at different points in time."

See the entire article on the Jewish Week website.

Updated: Feb. 07, 2017
Camps | Experiential education | Formal education