The Ides of March

Today is the Ides of March, and it seems like only yesterday that I wrote my last real blog. Of course it was more like six weeks ago that we stopped servicing our original website in favor of building a new one. For the past five days we have had a small group of people testing the new site and we are ready to have the next group of people join. So if you are reading this blog, you are probably on our new site!

Today’s post will serve as an update for those who do not live in my head and who want to know where we are in the process of establishing Ramah Outdoor Adventure: I will continue later in the week with more theoretical questions I am pondering.

Site

We have agreed in principle to run our opening season program in 2010 on the Flying J Ranch (AKA RAMAH Rockies) in Decker’s Colorado. While we were always going to use the site for some of the programming, we have decided to actually use the Decker’s site as our base camp when we open for campers. The folks in charge of the Flying J will be spending the months leading up to the opening getting the place in order, which means, building platform tents for us to sleep in, building a new shower house (currently there is only one) and also doing some minor repairs to the dining hall. Overall, the ranch is in great shape and is perfect for an outdoor adventure program.

Staff

I am pleased to say that we have hired two new part time staff people. Lindsay Frenzin joins the Ramah Outdoors team as our chief safety officer and head of logistics. Lindsay has spent 18 summers on the site of the Flying J, first as a camper in the Girl Scouts, then as a counselor, and eventually as the head of the outdoors program and the camp director! We are very fortunate to have Lindsay returning with us to the Flying J to coordinate the logistical elements of the program. She is already working with the local Forest Rangers to build out a four year adventure program for the camp and ensuring that we will have the permits we need when we open in 2010. Colorado rangers love bureaucracy the way that New York loves their health department (am I the only one who gets this joke). Basically, permitting for all trips must happen over a year in advance! Sometimes I wonder whether we should be opening this camp in Canada insteadJ

In addition to Lindsay, Dan Carmeli (as in the guy who did the website) has agreed to work a few hours each week helping with the overall program development. He joins Adi Sigel as a program associate.

I also have already had numerous conversations with experienced Jewish outdoor educators who are interested in working at the camp in 2010. While we are not hiring just yet, it is never too early to begin discussions. If you know of anyone who is interested, please pass on their information or ask them to be in touch with me directly.

Program

The program for 2010 is starting to come together. As you will notice in the I have posted a draft of the schedule for 2010. wiki.ramahout.s466.sureserver.com/bitweaver/boards/index.phpI am curious to hear people’s opinions on this draft. I am trying to strike a balance between enabling serious outdoor adventure and also allowing for enough time at base camp, so that we are able to form an intense Jewish community.

Staff training

My biggest concern for this camp is being able to find enough highly qualified wilderness guides who are also expert Jewish educators. I know that this is a combination that is hard to come by, and that many Jewish camps have given up on finding Jewish educators for their outdoor programs, and just focused on the wilderness part instead. However, we cannot afford to sacrifice our integrated model! Therefore we are beginning this summer with training younger staff members who will grow into being guides and already thinking forward about how to create a culture whereby Ramah Outdoor graduates go on to do some sort of intense staff training, perhaps with an organization such as NOLS, before coming back to work at the camp. We are also looking into the possibility of sponsoring a Ramah Wilderness First Responder course during the 2010 winter. Basically, there is little Ramah infrastructure for training guides, and so we will have to develop this along with the rest of the program. Ideally, we will become the model training site for all Ramah Outdoor guides at the different camps and be an example of a camp that is able to incorporate Jewish texts, values and traditions into a rigorous outdoor adventure program.

2009 Summer program

I have been spending a fare amount of time recently on recruiting participants for the 2010 summer program. I am pleased to say, that currently we are about 50% full. We have a great group of college age students who are participating this year in the program. The training is going to be integral for us to begin to build community and learn how to work together so that when we open in 2010, we will be a well oiled machine! Our next deadline for application is April 1st, so if you have applied and not yet sent in your application, please do so, and if you know of a qualified college-age student, please ask them to be in touch as I would hate for qualified people to be locked out.

Where to from here

Now that we have the website up and running again, I hope to pick up where we left off. There is place on the website to engage in discussionwiki.ramahout.s466.sureserver.com/bitweaver/boards/index.php and a place to help with actual curricular/ lesson planning wiki.ramahout.s466.sureserver.com/bitweaver/wiki/books.php. The more voices we have participating, the stronger our camp will be. I would like to encourage everyone to again register with this site (sorry for the inconvenience of having to do this again) and come on board to help out. In addition to the bi-weekly cash drawing, we will also be featuring a different community member each week on our homepage. So if you are one of the more active members, we would like to thank you by featuring you at www.ramahout.s466.sureserver.com.

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