Posts

Director of Inclusion, Moss Herberholz

Over the past two years, Ramah in the Rockies has moved away from a stand-alone Tikvah program, transitioning to a full inclusion model that provides a high level of integration and support for young people with autism spectrum disorders. More than anything, this change has been made in order to fulfill the needs of our chalutzim (campers), as well as enrich both our program and community as a whole.

Our masa’ot (backcountry excursions), which run every other week throughout the summer season, have historically caused challenges for our Tikvah campers that we were unequipped to handle. We realized that, as a community, we are much better able to serve a population of campers who are high functioning but need additional support in dealing with emotional and social issues, particularly when it comes to providing these campers with an enriching and empowering masa experience.

Since transitioning to a full inclusion model, we have been able to serve up to eight inclusion campers each session. By expanding the number of our Inclusion Specialist staff who work directly with these campers, we have been able to provide the structure and support that allows them to have a successful camp experience. In the coming years, we hope to increase the support we provide for all staff that work with our inclusion campers on a day-to-day basis, so that our tzevet (staff) feel empowered to engage more fully with our inclusion campers.

In addition to strengthening our Inclusion Program, we hope to continue expanding our Vocational Education Program by welcoming between four and five vocational education participants, including one who is a former Tikvah camper from Ramah in the Rockies. With the support of our inclusion team, they will be working in specialty areas throughout the ranch. As this program continues to grow, we hope to eventually have the ability to accommodate up to eight Vocational Education participants at a time!

We are excited to see how these programs flourish in the years to come,  feel confident that these changes will strengthen the culture of inclusion at camp, and know that they will bring us closer to our goal of providing  transforming experiences of Jewish summer camp to as many individuals  as we can.

Click here to learn more about our inclusion program!
Click here to read about how an inclusion model benefits our whole community!

Picture two boys running after each other – laughing and smiling as they dart through the tent circle. Picture a group of girls sitting crosslegged in their ohel (tent), shuffling a deck of playing cards. One of them calls out to a girl sitting on her bed and invites her to play with them. It may appear as though there is nothing extraordinary about these interactions, and yet these were some of the most remarkable moments of the summer.

Summer 2017 was full of countless new adventures; I’d like to tell you about one of them.

In years past, Ramah in the Rockies has offered an Amitzim edah (special needs group). However, this summer we made the decision to implement a full inclusion model for our special needs campers instead. What does a full inclusion model mean, exactly? It means that all campers, no matter their ability, are included into their age appropriate edot and participate in all the wonderful activities our machane (camp) has to offer alongside their peers.

To ensure the success of this program, the Director of Inclusion, three phenomenal Inclusion Specialists, and the rest of our Camper Care team worked together to support not only our inclusion chalutzim (campers), but also their madrichim (counselors), activity staff, and the rest of our kehillah (community).

This support came in many forms. The Inclusion Team would float throughout camp helping to support the campers and the staff as needed. They provided training sessions to both staff and campers about what it means to be inclusive. They were there to lend a helping hand or to be an ear to listen to campers and staff.

When reflecting on the summer, one of our Inclusion Specialists said, “It filled me with joy to witness how the chalutzim in our inclusion program excelled and grew during their time at camp this summer. I look forward to watching this program expand and transform as we accept new chalutzim into our inclusion program in future summers, and as we see the overall inclusivity of our camp grow to be even greater than it already is.”

Why did we decide to implement this model – a model that brings about logistical hassles and additional work? Ramah in the Rockies decided to go the way of the full inclusion model because we know that inclusion benefits everyone.

Inclusion benefits neurotypical campers because it teaches them to be accepting of all people, no matter who they are. It teaches patience, understanding, and gives them an amazing opportunity to interact with individuals who are different from themselves, broadening their perspective in the process.

Inclusion benefits campers with special needs because it gives them an opportunity to socialize with their neurotypical peers. Our special needs campers have the chance to get out of their comfort zone and practice being independent!

Inclusion benefits staff as it teaches them how to work with a wide range of individuals. They are challenged to be more creative as they plan programs, problem solve, and serve as a leader and a role model. It teaches our tzevet (staff)  to be patient and pushes them to be the best counselors they can be.

Furthermore, inclusion benefits you at home, because the lessons that chalutzim learn at camp are lessons they will carry with them for years to come.

Those boys that we asked you to picture? One of them had been a shy, quiet camper in our special needs edah in previous summers. As an Amitzim camper he had not wanted to participate in activities and had difficulty making friends. But this summer, in his age appropriate edah, you would find him eagerly participating in group activities and creating and maintaining friendships. And those girls? One of them struggles with creating friendships at home. Thanks to the inclusion model, she was able to form friendships and connections that she will continue to deepen in summers to come.

Inclusion is not easy. It takes time, effort, energy and work. However when an inclusion model is implemented and supported by a team of dedicated specialists, the results can be life changing for everyone involved.

Campers with arms around each other

Written by Abby Gavens, Director of Inclusion

Masa 2016
Mushon Samuels, Tikvah Summer Director

For chalutzim (campers) at Ramah in the Rockies, the masa (outing) is an integral part of camp. This summer, our Tikvah campers spent three days and two nights at Chatfield State Park, a very well-organized site with all of the necessary facilities for our campers, including showers, toilets, lake, playground, etc.  

After setting camp up, our group headed over to the lake and took a stroll along the beach. When we returned to ourcampsite, we cooked a delicious meal of veggie burgers accompanied with roasted sweet potatoes and onions. We played some games by the campfire and headed to bed early. The following morning, we hiked along the dam overlooking the lake and then went swimming. After lunch, we met up with Amber, one of the park’s rangers, and she taught us about the wildlife in the park. She showed us skulls, skins, and furs of the different animals. Then Amber took us to clean the beach of the lake as part of our service project. We concluded with a scavenger hunt along one of the park trails. That night, we had a Mexican fiesta, complete with salsa, chips, guacamole, rice, and beans. Each of our campers enjoyed a different part of their masa experience. The facts that we had such an organized site and that our vans had all of the food and games needed to keep our campers occupied and entertained made it very easy! 

Other than some rainy moments, our campers had a great time. All agreed it was a positive experience and that they would happily do it again! 

Howard Blas, director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network, was very impressed when he learned details of our masa during a recent visit to Ramah in the Rockies. “I have been taking Tikvah campers on masa (we call it “Etgar”) for the past fifteen years at Ramah New England. Many Tikvah programs don’t have such camping trips. I thought our one-night, two-day hiking, canoeing, and rafting trip was impressive. But, wow! The Rockies’  three-day masa is amazing!” 

This blog is being reposted in honor of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month.

 

At Ramah in the Rockies we believe that all Jewish children should be able to experience the transformative experience of Jewish summer camp. We know that each child has his/her own special needs, and whenever possible work closely with parents and guardians to develop a customized plan to enable their child to succeed in our community. At the same time, we know that there are some children we are not able to serve for a variety of reasons, and whenever possible will work with parents to find a Jewish summer camp that is suitable for their child.

The Ramah Camping Movement has been a pioneer in serving campers with developmental disabilities. Our first Tikvah Program started in 1970. Since 2011, Ramah in the Rockies has run a Tikvah program for children with developmental disabilities. What began as a standalone program, where campers with disabilities lived in their own tents, has evolved into a combined integrated and stand-alone program. We have served over twenty campers in this program for the past few summers.

Starting in 2017, Ramah in the Rockies will only run an integrated program for children with special needs. We will focus our efforts on providing a high level of integration and support for young people with autism spectrum disorders. Potential campers must:

1. Possess ADLs (activities of daily living/self-care skills)
2. Participate in daily activities at the base camp and on extended masa’ot (excursions) with their neuro-typical peers.

Campers who exhibit self-injurious or violent behavior will not be accepted for this program.

Ramah in the Rockies is committed to providing a number of special services and supports before, during and following the summer. We believe these will help participants integrate more successfully into the broader community.

Prior to the summer:
Parents of our campers in the Tikvah program will meet, virtually or in person, with our head inclusion specialist (i.e Rosh Tikvah) to design an appropriate program for their child. Our goal is to work with parents, teachers and therapists to learn what supports and strategies their child needs to succeed at camp.

During the summer:
-All bunk staff at Ramah in the Rockies with Tikvah campers will receive additional training to help integrate campers.
-Inclusion specialists will help Tikvah campers integrate into their bunks and activities, and better manage transitions and free time.
-There will be a space at camp for campers in our inclusion program to go when they are in need of sensory breaks/respite from the broader camp community.
-Staff will work with each camper to develop skills to better integrate into communities at camp and at home.

After the summer:
-Tikvah Director or one of the inclusion specialists will provide a written report on the child’s progress at camp.

Ramah in the Rockies is committed to offering the highest level of care for our Tikvah campers, and will limit the number of campers in any given session.

For more information or to be considered for the Tikvah program, please contact the Camp Director, Rabbi Eliav Bock eliavb@ramahoutdoors.org or our Rosh Tikvah at Tikvah@ramahoutdoors.org

We sent this email out yesterday to all of our camp families. 

 

Dear Camp Families and Friends,

We hope the school year has started off well for you. With the opening of our Summer, 2017 registration, we have some updates to share also.

SurveysValues

We are enjoying reading the survey responses so far received and will be publishing results once we finish compiling them all.  If you have not yet completed our survey and would like to give us the gift of feedback on your summer experience with us, please click here.  Your responses to our surveys help us shape our program updates and changes for next summer.


Midah Tile Project

Throughout the summer, we told our campers about the new Midah Murals we will be creating around camp, using their artwork to fashion mosaics around their summer experiences. If you have not yet created a tile as a part of our Tile Project, it’s not too late to submit one! If you chose to create digital artwork, you can send that to us via email at arip@ramahoutdoors.org.  Please read the full instructions on how to participate at ramahout.s466.sureserver.com/tileproject.

Registration and Program Updatesisrael

Registration for Kayitz 2017 has been open for a month now and we already have a number of registered campers. If you want to receive your super comfy Ramah fleece, please register before October 31st!  While we still have room in all sessions and all bunks, we do expect to begin filling some by the end of September. To register now, please click here.

While we are using this time immediately after camp to still fully evaluate our 2016 program, we want to let you know about a few upcoming changes that might affect your registration choices. We hope these modifications for 2017 will improve the Ramah in the Rockies’ experience for all of our chalutzim (campers).


IMG_79322-Week vs 4-Week Programs

Traditionally when our campers have arrived for their sessions, whether attending for two or four weeks, all of our older campers would spend over an hour “leveling” into (choosing) their electives at camp. While this is useful for our four-week campers, we realized that our two-week campers were passing over an hour choosing activities in which they would participate for a total of three hours in the following days at base camp.  Additionally, our four week campers were not able to experience the full programmatic arc of our speciality programs because there were often two week campers transitioning either in or out of their activities.

To improve this system, we are making the following change for our 2017 programs:  our two week campers (all ages) will travel to our different activities in camp as members of “mishpachot” (families).  This will give our new and returning campers the opportunity to experience all that base camp has to offer in their two weeks with us. We think this will enable our two-week campers opportunities to do more activities while also creating a more communal feeling among our four-week campers.

dancingTwo and four week campers in our older age groups will continue to live in different, but adjacent, tents.  Our rising 3/4th grade campers will continue to live in mixed tents, while most of our rising 5/6th grade campers will live in separate tents, unless our registration numbers warrant otherwise (likely in our August session).

Please note that our six-week campers will spend their four-week session as four-week campers and their two-week session with the different activities.

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to reach out to Rabbi Eliav Bock or Julia Snyder, and we will be glad to answer your questions about these improvements to our program.

JOLI

The goal of our JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute) program is to create future Jewish outdoor leaders. As such, the program is designed to push participants physically, spiritually, and mentally to take on new challenges and find new areas of growth.  While our JOLI program is incredibly rewarding for those who complete it, it is not suitable for all rising 11th/12th graders.

For a number of years, we have required JOLI applicants new to our community to have an interview and complete essay questions.  Because of this
process, these individuals have often been the best prepared because they fully understand the challenges that they are going to undertake while participating in JOLI.  For our 2017 season, we will expand this intake procedure to include our
Bogrim graduates wanting to join the JOLI program.  

For those who have applied or will be applying to JOLI 2017, we will be sending information about interviews and essay questions, and will begin the interviewing process in early October.  In the meantime, anyone who registers for JOLI 2017 will have a spot saved for them, but no one will be confirmed until after we decide, together, whether JOLI is a good fit for each applicant.  (Don’t worry, anyone who registers prior to October 31, whether or not s/he has gone through the interview process will still receive a free Ramah in the Rockies fleece).

To read more about the program, please visit https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/about/joli/

TikvahTikvah

We are currently re-evaluating our Tikvah program to figure out the best model for our camp and our participants.
We invite all of our current and potential Tikvah families to discuss their child and what type of program is the right fit for them with our former Tikvah Director, Elyssa Hammerman (
elyssah@ramahoutdoors.org).  Rabbi Eliav will be convening a group of stakeholders  in the coming weeks to discuss the future trajectory of this program.  If you would like to be part of this group, please be in touch with him directly.

Financial Aid

In an effort to move the process of need-based financial aid along more efficiently, we are starting the application process three months earlier this year. Requests for financial aid are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis.  Families are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.  If you have any questions, please visit ramahout.s466.sureserver.com/scholarships or email Douglas Wolf at douglasw@ramahoutdoors.org.

Dear Families of Chalutzim (campers) in the Tikvah program,

moshe-pic-e1435590866176-144x150I would like to introduce myself- my name is Moshe Samuels, also known as Mushon, and I am the new interim Director of the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in the Rockies. I am an experienced informal Jewish educator, with vast experience in both Israel and North America. Specifically, I have spent 16 summers on staff at Camp Ramah- I’ve spent 12 summers at camp Ramah in Canada, where I served as both the unit head and the Jewish educator for the Tikvah program (8 summers with the Edah in total), and for the past couple of summers I’ve served as Rosh Chinuch (Educational Director) at camp Ramah in the Rockies.

I am honored to lead this superb program, which offers more opportunities for inclusion, growth and challenge by choice for your children than any other Tikvah program nationwide. That said, while the foundation of the program is solid, there is always room for improvement. Based on my experience and observations over the past couple of summers.

I would like to inform you of three key changes to the Tikvah program we intend to implement this year:

  1. Masa: Masa’ot (excursions) are the highlight of our camp and what sets it apart than any other Jewish camp in North America. They serve as an opportunity for our Chalutzim to leave their comfort zone and challenge themselves. This year we intent to run a 3 day Masa to a nearby State Park that will include spectacular day hikes, outdoor camping, swimming and participating in a service project along with the park rangers. Our campsite will include a bathhouse with toilets and running showers.  We will also have a camp van along with us just in case we need to make any runs for camp.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  1. Chugim (specialty tracks): Our daily routine at camp is divided into 4 Prakim (periods) a day in which our Chalutzim enjoy all of the great outdoor activities our camp has to offer. This summer we will be shortening the length of the Prakim to an hour each (instead of 70 min’) in order to allow a bit more rest time and a smoother transition time between activities. Our Edah will be offered all of the “trademark” chugim we offer- biking, wall climbing, farming, outdoor cooking, archery, and the Tikvah all-time favorite- mining. The chalutzim will be accompanied to
    each of these by one of our trained Madrichim (counselors), who will remain with them throughout the Perek. In addition, we will have a Madrich covering the Tikvah sensory tent at all times, allowing any camper who might feel they need a break to leave their activity and head over to a quiet, familiar and supervised area.
  1. Inclusion: One of the hallmarks of our camp is the inclusiveness of or Kehillah (community). We are hoping to take the inclusion of our campers in Tikvah to another level this summer. We are going to implement a buddy system, in which Chalutzim from our oldest Edah, Bogrim, will be voluntarily paired up with our campers in Tikvah. In rotation, these buddies will sit at our Edah during meals and attend the Chugim that Tikvah attends. They will also be spending time with the Edah during the daily rest hour and during free time on Shabbat, which tend to be less structured and often challenging for our Chalutzim. We are also intend to have a few Peulot Erev (evening activities) with the entire Edat Bogrim during the session.

Over the next few weeks I will reach out to each of you individually by phone, introduce myself in person, and be available to answer any question you may have. In the meantime please feel free to contact me, I would love your feedback regarding all of the above.

Last but not least- we still have room for a few more Chalutzim in our program, especially in our female camper bunk. If any of you know any potential camper that is suitable for our program please reach out to them and tell them about our camp! Please inform me as well and I will follow up on them ASAP.

Looking forward for a wonderful summer at ROA!

Best regards,

Moshe (Mushon) Samuels

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.

sensory3

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.

sensory2

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.

sensory1

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.