June 5, 2008
Orthodox schools share concern for greener world
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Other organizations are looking toward bringing urban kids closer to nature to help them understand the importance of protecting the environment.
This spring, Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles (JBBBS), turned to the Rabbinical Council of California to make kosher the Max Strauss Camp in the Verdugo Mountains near Glendale, thereby opening the doors to students from Orthodox schools. Yavneh, Maimonides and Shalhevet fifth- and sixth-graders attended the pilot environmental education program, which was offered free this year.
"Once they heard it was RCC kosher, the school needed no convincing," said Lindsay Gordon, a fifth-grade teacher at Yavneh who accompanied the students for the Big Mountain program, which included night hikes, astronomy lessons and Chameides, such as Master Solar. She volunteers Sundays at the camp, which was previously used only for weekend mentoring programs or a summer camp for children who have never taken a hike. Big Mountain has partnered with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority to run the nature programs.
Boys and girls are housed at separate ends of the 112-acre campsite, meeting Orthodox needs for gender separation, and the camp was restructured to enable separate prayer times.
"We wanted to make it more accessible to the Orthodox community. Next year, we hope to have a full year of outdoor education for schools of all shapes and sizes. We'll do whatever it takes to make everyone comfortable," said Dan Witzling, JBBBS director of communications.
Added JBBBS camp director Barry Vigon, "We give the students a new sense of ownership to their responsibilities to the outdoors. We hope the schools will follow up using Jewish sources."
Even though the fifth-graders from these schools have a good knowledge of the concepts, "many were inexperienced at being outdoors," said Keith Jobson, naturalist and a camp director. "But the fear was replaced by a lot of excitement. We'd like to see them make nature a bigger part of their lives."
Tamar Sofer lives in Los Angeles and writes about nutrition and disease prevention.
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