There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about how to make Religious School and youth groups more camp-like. We’ve had numerous conversations at Temple Beth-El, and these conversations are taking place in many other congregations across North America.
There are many reasons why Religious School can never replicate the camp experience, not the least of which is that it is not immersive. It takes place within the context of many other – and often competing – activities going on in the lives of our students and parents.
There is one way, however, that we can effectively emulate the camp experience, and this is it: Unplugging at Camp. While at camp, unplugging allows campers to connect in very real ways with their bunkmates and other campers, as well as with their counselors. It enables them to really connect with the whole camp experience.
I believe that the same would hold true at Religious School, were we able to enforce our “no electronics” policy. I’m not suggesting we do away with all technology; the opposite is true. I have spend significant time this summer thinking and exploring ways to utilize technology in our education program. In a sense, leveraging the electronics that our students bring with them every week.
However, when we’re not using mobile devices to further our learning, I believe that unplugging would lead to a stronger and more effective focus on students connecting with each other, with their teachers and with Judaism. To that end, this year we will be placing a basket on each teacher’s desk and asking students to turn off their phones and place them in the basket as they enter the classroom. That way, they will not be tempted to respond every time they feel the buzz of a new text message or email. For our older students, an electronics “fix” will be allowed during their break, after which they will be asked to return their phones to the basket.
By the way, this was a suggestion generated by parents of our upcoming 9th graders. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Please feel free to respond here, on my Facebook timeline, or send me a private email. Or if you’d like to chat about it, feel free to give me a call!
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