Sunday, July 29, 2018

URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Camp West: Judaism, Science and Values

I am home from the Union for Reform Judaism's (URJ) 6-Points Sci-Tech West camp. The past several days have been remarkable and I find myself at a loss for words.
For three days I watched 7 - 15 year olds creating computer games, grasping the basics of astrophysics, robotics, statistics, roller-coaster engineering, and so much more. They synthesized the science they learned with their Jewish identities.
The camp embodied its six values: Jewish Heritage, Curiosity, Innovation, Radical Acceptance, Patience, and Persverance. The staff affirmed and honored every camper, embracing their differences and respecting the individual skills.
As a member of the Rabbinic Faculty I had the challenge of connecting Judaism to science. First thing in the morning I took one of the traditional morning blessings and talked about it's relationship to science and the camp's six values.
I also taught J-Lab, an activity based session about Judaism and science. I chose to connect with their astro-physics workshop. We looked at the constellations of the zodiac and learned their Hebrew names. Then I had the campers think of their Jewish heroes and rename, or create constellations that honored them. When the campers needed help finding Jewish heroes and famous Jews, at the suggestion of a staff member I played version four of Adam Sandler's Chanukah song. Learning Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is Jewish sent the kids over the top with excitement.
While the campers thought the evening "Big Bang" (Click here to see a Big Bang video) was the highlight of the day, for me, the best part of camp was sitting and talking with the kids and camp staff, getting to hear their stories. Why science thrilled them. How they saw the world. Sitting with them while they worked on their projects humbled me. I was a pretty good science student back in the day. My technological literacy is good for my generation. Yet, these campers' science and tech skills surpass anything I could ever imagined.
These campers are our future and it is a future I want to be a part of.
If you are a student who loves science or, have a child or grandchild that loves science, I definitely recommend the URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech West.