Voices from the field

Letters from Camp: Curious Minds Explore Science, Technology…and Israel

6 Points Sci-Tech West

It’s the last night of the session at 6 Points Sci-Tech West, and everyone is excited for Sci-Fest! All campers and staff gather in a large indoor space where campers showcase the projects they’ve been working on all summer.

Along a wall, laptop computers display a variety of programs developed in the coding workshop. Robotics and astrophysics labs have produced irrigation systems based on Israeli drip irrigation and other projects using flash drives and more. Campers eagerly describe their work and the processes that led to these impressive results. At the end of the evening, there’s a video of the Doctors in Training group diagnosing a patient (a staff member who provides answers about a hypothetical medical condition).

Suffice to say, it’s unlike any last-night-of-camp you’ve ever seen. “This camp appeals to kids who want to learn more,” says 7th-grader Matthew. “I’m learning college-level things here.”

Sci-Tech West appeals to a very specific kind of camper⁠—people who probably wouldn’t attend a more traditional Jewish camp. “Because we’re a specialty camp, we’re always looking for ways we can relate to Jewish and Israeli themes,” says Camp Director Jordanna Flores. “That’s just how we work.”

“A lot of our campers think that science and Jewish things don’t go together,” says Jewish Life Director Emma Jasczcak. “But they’re both about taking curiosity and seeking meaning. We encourage campers to ask questions all the time.”

Now in its second season, Sci-Tech West is laying foundations for what will become camp culture and traditions in the years to come. “We’ve made a great start to building the foundation for Israel at camp,” Emma says. New initiatives include stressing the impact of Israeli innovation on the fields of study campers choose, introducing Hebrew words that highlight the challenges of making an ancient language modern, and more.

“The camp is growing and developing,” she concludes, “and we’re finding great ways to integrate Israel into all that we do.”

Each summer, The iCenter, in partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camp and the Jewish Agency for Israel, collaborates with dozens of Jewish camps across North America, helping their staff members infuse Israel into the magic of the summer season. Whether camps participate in the Israel @ Camp Intensive or another regional program, or receive the educational resources we send each spring, their work helps make Israel an integral part of the camp experience for tens of thousands of young Jews. As members of The iCenter team visit camps across the U.S. and Canada, we share Letters from Camp that highlight some of the innovative and effective ways that camp staff members are helping campers engage with Israel.