The Outdoor School in Horsham has proven to be an ideal site for instilling a sense of confidence and collegiality in our Perelman 5th graders. Five stations in the middle of a forest were the site for mixed groups of Forman and Stern students to work with Outdoor School staff in a series of collaborative exercises. While the tasks gave students time to stretch beyond the boundaries of their usual friendships, they, more importantly, demonstrated the significance of listening, attempting, reflecting, critiquing, and refining. Confusion or frustration give way to smiles of satisfaction and accomplishment, as students problem-solved and succeeded. These are skills emphasized at school, and it's wonderful to see that the world can be our classroom and that powerful lessons may be learned there too.
Students took advantage of the resources on site - a working organic farm and a fully staffed environmental center. Activities included fishing with traditional bamboo poles (catch and release), an archeological station, low ropes challenges, nature walks and learning how build structures for survival. Outdoor searches, group games, a bon fire, and the simple camaraderie in the bunks all added to the magic of these days as did spirited morning services, led by our students. The fifth-graders confidently assumed responsibility for leading the prayers in a place that was not their own, reading from the Torah and chanting a joyous Hallel service on Rosh Chodesh to celebrate the new Hebrew month of Kislev.
It's been exciting to witness the children making new friends and enjoying new experiences. Seeing them do so with respect and appreciation for all the members of the group has been gratifying, and has validated the Jewish values we teach every day. Days like these demonstrate that our students have the ability to venture forth and succeed. They have incorporated not only academic tools, but social, emotional, and physical skills as well. They have also balanced courage and determination with patience and self-awareness.