Breaking Down Barriers to Inclusion

NateGotlieb RamahBy: Nate Gotlieb

Cabin 8 and cabin 9 at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin joined together for a morning activity at the ropes course.  What was unique about this is that Cabin 8 is a Tikvah (campers with disabilities) cabin and has campers ranging in age from 12-15.  Cabin 9 is a Bogrim cabin of campers entering 9th grade.  The two cabins share a bathroom and porch. Before this trip to the ropes course, the two groups of boys hadn’t had many opportunities to interact due to different schedules and a general hesitation to get to know people who are different.

At the ropes course the boys from Cabin 8 were paired with the boys from Cabin 9.  Each pair had to introduce themselves to their partners and each partner had to teach the other something new.  In one partnership, a Tikvah camper taught his Bogrim partner how to contort himself into a pretzel by putting his feet over his head.  Another Tikvah camper taught his partner a segment of the Pokémon rap that he performed at the all-camp talent show the night before.  Another camper taught his Bogrim partner the entire Chicago White Sox roster.  Each partnership then introduced the other to the entire group and presented what they had learned.

With much of the initial awkwardness out of the way, the cabins split into two groups to partake in several team building activities.  One group attempted to line up from tallest to shortest on a thin log while the other attempted to balance on a wooden see-saw.  Each group initially struggled to complete the task.  However, after several failed attempts, the campers began to work together to accomplish the tasks.  The team on the log began discussing different ways that they could line up without falling off.  On the see-saw, the group began planning out the most effective way to balance.

Campers in the Tikvah program at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin

Campers in the Tikvah program at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin

The results of their teamwork were staggering.  After a few minutes of struggle, one group managed to balance on the see-saw for 100 seconds until the counselors finally stopped them.  All the groups successfully completed the tasks and felt a unified sense of accomplishment, which was evident when they debriefed the activity.

During the debriefing, the campers spoke of how they were proud that they were able to work together to accomplish the tasks.  Many of the campers were honest with how they felt about the boys in the other cabin before this activity and how their feelings had changed because of it.  It was evident that the campers had a new understanding and appreciation for each other.

In just a short time I felt a strong sense of goodwill and friendship coming from both groups of boys, a connection that has the potential to last for many years to come.

Nate Gotlieb was a counselor at the Ramah Wisconsin Tikvah program in 2011 and 2012. He is from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is currently studying journalism at the University of Minnesota.

Please note: The blog will be “on vacation” until after the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. We will return on Tuesday, October 1st.

Read our last post: The Inclusion Confession

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