When I arrived at Cornerstone with the other fellows from CPLV, Jorie Cohen, Bill Porreca, Hayley Roher, Steven Underweiser, and Yoni Geisler, it seemed as though we were in for a crash course on Jewish programming. We were right, but in a completely different way than we had originally imagined.
Each morning, our first activity was to spend an hour discussing certain aspects of camps with other camps. These sessions, called Morning Mingles, were more focused on sharing ideas than learning from the Cornerstone staff. “My favorite part of Cornerstone was comparing programs with other camps to get new ides for summer 2012,” said Hayley Roher, junior girls counselor and programming specialist for Camp Poyntelle. Ideas for camp-wide Jewish programming and Maccabiah were shared, among many others. Some of these ideas will be on the calendar this summer, and would not have been without Cornerstone. In addition, when discussing these programs, fellows would question one another about the functionality of some programs. Jorie Cohen, programming specialist for Lewis Village, said “it was amazing to share and get amazing ideas from other counselors facing the same obstacles that we had.” Both she and Bill Porreca, supervisor for Lewis Village, attended sessions about overnight programming, learning from other camps how to make overnight experiences more interesting for teenage campers, specifically girls.
Over the course of the program, we each attended a different specialty track session. Mine was focused on using food as a tool to teach Jewish values and tradition. We began by discussing how we are all connected through spices, as the different spices led to trade routes, political connections, and wars. We discussed how different food cultures were developed as a result of the available spices, and examined how food is part of the Bible. We used ingredients mentioned in the Torah to make new dishes, some of which could have possibly been made by our ancestors. We made foods mentioned in stories of Jews during the Inquisition and the Holocaust, and read stories of the foods’ role in the characters’ lives. By the end of the three session, we learned how people can be connected and build culture through food and how it has impacted our history as a people. We created fun memories and built connections that we other wise wouldn’t have, and brainstormed techniques for bunk bonding, and programs that can improve each of our camps.
The theme for Cornerstone this year was “Tell A Story,” and in this fashion we each met with one Cornerstone educator to hear their stories. Said Steven Underweiser, lifeguard for Camp Poyntelle, “I really enjoyed the activities that involved expanding on camp’s values. We did an activity that incorporated our personal stories and how that can relate to camp.” In a session with Naomi Less, Poyntelle’s Cornerstone advisor, Steven and I were asked to write our stories and tell them to people we did not know. While our life stories may be considered very personal, we found the activity easier than we expected. At the end of the activity, we had received feedback on the delivery of our stories and felt more comfortable sharing them, learning to value the trust of those who became our audiences.
Throughout the week, we broke out into Camp Rooms, during which each team would discuss their sessions and come up with an action plan to implement these ideas in their camps. Half of our time was spent split into Lewis Village, led by Assistant Director Mallory Saks, and Camp Poyntelle, led by Poyntelle supervisor Jonah Zinn. The other half of our time was spent together, so that we can discuss changes that can be made to improve both sides of camp similarly. At the conclusion of the program, we presented our action plans to Director Sarah Raful Whinston, editing them with her input. Our Cornerstone advisors, Naomi for Poyntelle and Amy for Lewis Village, would also attend portions of these sessions so that they could enhance our thought process and push us to create the best action plan possible. They will be visiting Camp Poyntelle Lewis Village for Shabbat during the summer to check on our progress.
When we left Cornerstone on Thursday morning, we all were happy to have attended. We were excited for the summer to begin, so that we may begin implementing all that we had learned these past few days in the everyday operations at Camp Poyntelle Lewis Village. We are excited to improve the lives of our campers through teaching values and reshaping our approaches to some camp experience. I wish I could say more without giving too much away, but you’ll just have to wait and see when Summer 2012 begins on June 24th! See you then!