By Marissa Frankel, Assistant Director, Eisner Camp
Two things that I am passionate about are camp and special education. Before coming to work for Eisner, I worked for five years as a special education teacher. Day in and day out, I would try and come up with creative new ways for my students to learn. More than anything, I wanted my students to be able to connect with the material and not just memorize it. Using multi-sensory approaches, I transformed my classroom into music class, PE, art, and computers. My goal was to create an environment where my students felt safe to learn, explore, and grow.
That’s what camp can accomplish. As the Bonim unit head last summer at Eisner, I saw first-hand that our campers were in an environment where they were free to do the learning, exploring, and growing that I tried so hard to create in my classroom. Stepping out of a traditional classroom and through the gates of Eisner, my eyes were open to the impact of experiential learning. Most Bonim campers were new to camp, and they were so open and ready to gain as much as they could in their time at Eisner. Some campers needed a little extra support in order to acclimate themselves to living in a bunk with 15 other kids and having a level of independence they had never had before. But they all succeeded and were able to build lasting relationships with their peers and with camp itself.
This is what we want to accomplish with Camp Chazak – a new special needs program for children ages 9 to 13 that will provide all the amazing camp experiences that Eisner and Crane Lake have to offer. Children with special needs have a spirit that is present and necessary in our community. The Eisner and Crane Lake family is growing; we are stretching our arms to be truly inclusive.
On August 21, just days after our second session wraps up, Camp Chazak will begin its inaugural summer. It will offer children with various needs a chance to have a Reform Jewish camp experience. For one week, Chazak campers will participate in a recreational and therapeutic program that inspires making connections, acquiring Jewish identity, skill building, and so much more.
Embarking on this new program is extremely exciting. I am thrilled to help combine the two things I feel so strongly about. Children with special needs work overtime all year long, many of them in extended school year programs and countless after-school activities, tutoring sessions, workshops, and doctors appointments. Camp Chazak is place for kids to come, make friends, build a community, and have fun. I know that the growth I saw from the Bonim campers at Eisner is the same growth I’ll see from our Chazak campers.
Through programming, opportunity, and experience, Camp Chazak will enrich the lives of its campers and help build their self-esteem. Chazak means strength. Together we will strengthen our Jewish identity and our camp community.
For more information and to download a brochure, visit http://eisnercranelake.urjcamps.org/chazak.