Ramah Outdoors Update

The reader of this blog (I am assuming that there is at least one) might think that I just decided to close up shop, as I have not posted in three weeks. However, despite my recent absence from the blogosphere, I am still doing well and Ramah Outdoor Adventure is still very much around. I am actually writing this at 30,000 feet somewhere between Denver and Austin. Dina and I were out in Denver for a few days looking for a place to live when we move out there in June, and I am headed to Austin for a Shabbat with friends and then two days of meeting people in the Austin Jewish community on Sunday and Monday. Tuesday, I return to JTS for my final week of classes as a Rabbinical School student!

I wish I could say that this trip to Denver was as exciting as the last trip out there, when I met Rancher Bob, but sadly it was not. Instead, we spent hours looking at houses and apartments and trying to imagine where we could live. I could bore the reader with all the details about floor plans and easements, but instead I thought I would give a brief update on other elements of the Ramah Outdoor program:

Summer 2009

Our summer 2009 training staff has been selected. They are four excellent outdoor Jewish educators from the East coast and the West Coast. (Josh Ackerman, Sarah Schulman, Adi Siegel & Charlie Schwartz). We have already begun putting together the 8 days training program for college students for this summer (which will be taking place in Colorado from August 2-10, 2009). We are using much of the materials that are on our website as a basis for the training

We have accepted 12 participants for this summer’s training program. They come from all over the US and are a fantastic group of students. We still have room for three more people, and would especially like to have participants who live or grew up in the Colorado and Texas communities. The ideal candidate would be passionate about Judaism, love the outdoors, enjoy working with youth and have an entrepreneurial spirit.

Marketing

I am in the final stages of selecting someone to help Ramah Outdoors develop a marketing plan. This person will be working with me to sketch out a plan that will enable us to recruit the best campers for the summer of 2010 and beyond. The plan will rely heavily on the use of the internet and hopefully will enable us to market to as wide an audience as is possible. This person will also be responsible for designing our printed materials and the website to enable us to have a consistent look and feel.

We plan to role out all our new materials and to begin marketing the camp in earnest towards the end of August 2009. Until then, we will continue to rely on the informal “word of mouth” approach that has sustained us until now.

Community of Practice

If you are reading this blog, then you probably realize that the community of practice (AKA our website) is up and running. I do not feel that we are still using the content on the site or the people who are members of the site as best we can, but am sure that over the coming months as more people join and the site becomes more active, it will also become a more useful tool in planning programs and curriculum for our camp as well as other Jewish environmental programs.

Summer 2010

In the summer of 2010 we currently envision running two sessions. One four week session and one two week session. We are debating whether the sessions will be open only to rising 8th and 9th graders, or whether we will also open a session for rising 10th graders. The following year we foresee running two full sessions for all units (rising 8th through rising 10th). For those of you wondering when we will give our edot real names, the answer is, not until the fall. In the fall we plan on running a movement wide naming contest. Any Ramah alumni or camper from any year will be able to vote on the names for our new camp. More details about this will be forth coming towards the end of August 2009.

Lindsay Frenzin, our program associate in Denver, has been hard at work developing our four year progressive program for hiking , rafting & rock climbing. Her initial thoughts on rafting are on our website, and we would love to have people comment on it. Click here to check it out. Of course, there will, also be an equestrian program, though this does not fall under Lindsay’s domain.

We have also confirmed that we will be running the camp at the Flying J Ranch in Decker’s Colorado. We are working on specifying the details of the platform tents that will serve as our bunks. In particular, we are trying to figure out the optimum size of the tents, and also whether they should have an electric hookup, or whether they should be more rustic.

We are still in the process of figuring out what the camp day will look like when we are at base camp. On our website, I placed one possible camp schedule . If you are so inclined, please take a look and comment on the current version. Realistically, we will need to make a decision in the next month or two so that we are able to advertise accordingly. The main issue with which we are struggling, is to find an appropriate balance between having structured outdoor activities and as well as less structured free time. We do not want to create a schedule that ends up being a long litany of activities that participants simply shuffle from one to the other without actually learning new skills and really appreciating what they are engaged in doing. The other issue that we must consider is the fact that rising 8th graders are developmentally very different from rising 11th graders, and while 11th graders want and need more unstructured time, 8th graders often do better with more structured time. In a small camp like ours, we are not sure how many different schedules we will be able to have.

In a future post, I will write more about the tension listed above about finding the balance between free time and structured time. If you have any thoughts of articles to suggest on the topic, please leave a comment below or email me directly.

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