The new sensory tent at Ramah in the Rockies is a huge success!
Thanks to a grant from the Harvey and Gloria Kaylie Foundation, we were able to build a new space filled with therapeutic equipment for use by campers with special needs. Shai, a counselor in Amitzim [the division for campers with developmental/intellectual disabilities] said, “It is a safe and relaxing haven, a place that instantly puts kids at ease.”
One half of the sensory tent is a quiet oasis where chalutzim [campers–literally “pioneers”] who feel overwhelmed can relax, while the other side is for chalutzim who need to expend excess energy or experience sensory stimulation. “The sensory tent is a very beneficial addition to the Tikvah program here at Ramah in the Rockies,” said Alec, another Amitzim counselor.
The active side of the sensory tent
The active, bright side is filled with equipment and sensory tools such as a ball pit, a table with balance-ball chairs, Playdough, dry rice and beans, mini-trampolines, balance boards, and weighted balls. On the more calming side, we hung light- absorbing, noise-reducing, stage-quality black fabric, installed a carpet, and furnished the room with a large bean bag, pillows and a small backpacking tent. This side allows campers to relax in a quiet and darkened space.
The calming side of the sensory tent
Behind the tent we built a fenced-in privacy area and installed hammocks. We will be hanging an additional “birdsnest swing” in the next few weeks. This outdoor space enables campers to relax outside and experience motion while being cradled in a hammock or on a swing.
The sensory tent is used on a regular basis. Campers use the space during free time, and also as a safe place to go when they are feeling overwhelmed.
An Amitzim camper in the ball pit
Ramah in the Rockies Tikvah Director Elyssa Hammerman remarked: “I see the effect of the sensory tent on a daily basis. Campers who are upset or frustrated with something going on in camp can go into the tent, curl up on a beanbag, or lay in the ball pit and over time become more calm and able to reintegrate into the group.”
We hope other Jewish camps can also learn from our experience to build their own spaces for their children with special needs. While this is not a space for intensive therapy, for which some Snoezelens (sensory spaces) are intended, it meets the needs of our relatively high-functioning children who need their own space within the broader camp community. “It feels like a shelter from the crowds and outside noises,” says Michal, another Amitzim counselor.
We expect that the sensory tent will continue to be used for years to come and look forward to keeping you informed about how this space continues to help children with special needs succeed at Ramah in the Rockies each summer.