By Tamara Ohayon
Camp Shalom enjoyed an earlier start to our day camp this summer, as well as a change in location. As a result, the campers were able to play, swim, and learn through two weeks of near perfect weather around the grounds of Temple Adath Israel.
We had many activities on the front lawn, enthusiastically played many rounds of gaga in a shady corner of the back parking area, and ran games, arts and crafts, and even rest and story time in the religious school classrooms and social hall.
For a large portion of each day, we had one big adventure. Week one we walked to the local Woodland Park pool twice for splashing fun. The little ones enjoyed climbing, jumping, and sliding in and around the awesome pirate ship zero-entry pool while the older campers played tag in the deep pool, bounced off diving boards, and conquered the water rock climbing wall. On Tuesday, the children went to Raven Run Nature Sanctuary and split up into three groups for age-appropriate hikes to different areas of the property. Our littlest campers were true troopers and made it successfully through a moderate hike for their little legs. We all learned about animals and plants in the Kentucky area and were able to practice using Hebrew words for some of the animals and insects we saw, thanks to Rabbi Sharon Cohen. After, we had a picnic lunch on site before heading back to TAI on the bus. Bus rides were always accompanied by exuberant singing of camp songs!
Wednesday, we visited the Explorium in downtown Lexington. The campers participated in a water-themed Jeopardy game, and then learned how to make water filters in teams. This gave us an opportunity to practice the many Hebrew words we learned for different bodies of water. Then, after playing throughout the two floors of the awesome interactive exhibits, we walked across the street to Triangle Park for a picnic lunch.
Week 2 brought different adventures. Tuesday we traveled to the Hummel Planetarium on the Eastern Kentucky University campus, and learned all about our solar system, the night sky, and how the days, nights, and year are changed in our sky, reinforced by ideas and stories within Judaism about the lunar calendar and seasons.
Wednesday, we learned a little about agriculture and seasonal harvesting at Eckert’s – Boyd Orchard in Versailles. The children took a tractor trailer ride to part of the peach orchard and were able to pick two peaches each to enjoy at home. We learned a lot about the various crops they grow on the property as we traveled from and back to the main building. We also visited the petting zoo and fed the goats and small cows. After a picnic lunch in their shaded picnic bench porch, we hopped back to TAI on the bus.
During week 2, we also went to the Woodland Pool three times, followed by lovely outdoor picnics in our new favorite picnic spot.
Rabbi Cohen did a beautiful job of enhancing and reinforcing our theme of appreciating the world around us through a Jewish lens. Daily Hebrew vocabulary, a couple of new Jewish songs, and lots of PJ Library books helped tie it all together. To further round out the theme, we created related art activities (like a moon rock painting after the Planetarium visit, or books and related art activities run by our new PJ Library Director, Jori Sussman), and Rabbi Wirtschafter led a thoughtful learning and discussion block for the oldest campers in the Temple garden.
Our beloved recent camp traditions of morning song and a closing Shabbat circle remained, as well as a mini version of camp favorites Maccabiah (Field Day), baking challah Friday mornings, and playing in the gaga pit. We also introduced some new camp traditions, like all-camp life size games (try to imagine a giant Kosherland board on the floor!), and the writing and sharing of Shabbat-O-Grams on Friday afternoons.
Overall the staff felt it was a lovely and fun two weeks, and we hope our campers and parents felt the same!