Keats Camps – Junior Retreat Day 1

Our new Grade 8 students are enjoying their first retreat!
What a great trip over to Keats – I am applying the Vancouver definition of "great" – dry! As an added bonus, it was amazingly mild on the high seas with warm temperatures embracing those on deck – at least, that is what I was told as I was on the lower, inside level of the boat, drinking hot coffee. Walking around the Britannia there seemed to be students everywhere doing what kids do darn well – making lots of noise, eating food, and making a mess! All in all, just having fun. The boat is 3 levels and they were all in use.

Jacob Rubin, Grade 8, and Shai Rubin, Ishay Levin, Matthew Armstrong, 
Yair Cohen, and Yair Infeld, all Grade 9

We arrived at Keats just after 11:00 a.m. after a 2-hour cruise; it was an extremely low tide, and for the first time in my memory we used the low dock at Keats. This sure made the luggage transfer much easier – we should always order the "low tide arrival" option. From the dock, we walked up and over the hill to the camp. It is possible I walked at the rear to act as a sheep dog rounding up strays… or it could be I am just getting to be a very old dog – be kind in making your selection please.
At camp, Matt Dichter, our leader in all things related to Outdoor Education, informed the students of the "lay of the land". Of course, many of the students have been here before, which is really helpful. Mr. Dichter then assigned them to cabins – I was really pleased with how few of the students asked me for a cabin change, as we really do try to preach inclusivity. As they sprinted off, literally, to get bunks and to organize themselves, staff did the same (without the sprinting). Everyone was given an hour and a half or so to eat lunch and explore within the boundaries. It was a lovely time with soccer balls, footballs, volleyballs, and basketballs all in use. Nice weather is such a gift and it is hard not to smile watching kids having fun and running around and not being "tethered".
Just before 1:30 p.m. we gathered at the meeting place (fancy name, to be sure) and the students were divided into their activity groups, and with their teacher activity companion they went off with Keats Staff for their first of 2 daytime activities today. The activity list included Field Games, Canoeing, Low Ropes, High Ropes, Hiking, Laser Tag, Archery, and Climbing.

Our Grade 9s get fired up for laser tag!

Following activity 1 there was a 15-minute break where lots of kids ran to get snacks or take a break, and then at 3:15 p.m. activity session 2 started. Time just sort of flows here. I walked around during the sessions and then after – the kids do not stop and I have no idea where they get their energy from. During the break from 4:45 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. they were playing every manner of sport – those I already mentioned, plus Frisbee and that game they play at the beach with the ball and the spring mat (that is its technical name).

Some of our Grade 9 students practice their balancing act!

Grade 10 students Adi Gortler, Chloe Shacham-Dupont, and India Harris

At 5:30 p.m. we had everyone gathered for dinner and after an introduction by Mr. Dichter and some words from our wonderful Kitchen Leader, Stacey Kettleman, it was taco night. You name it and we do it. Gluten-free. Lactose-free. Vegetarian. Vegan. Hard taco. Soft taco. Truly something for everyone. And for those of you who have not eaten with 118 adolescents before, you really are not missing anything! But within an hour we had eaten, cleaned up, and given everyone an hour of freedom. In the hour of freedom Mr. Dichter really encouraged the kids to have showers – there are showers in each cabin, and I am praying that more than a few decide to follow his advice… pray with or for us!

7:45 p.m. and it was time to go for a trail walk to the – let’s call it a "natural amphitheatre"- where a roaring fire was waiting for us as the sun set. We joined the setting with music maestro Johnny Seguin and the Grade 10 Music class greeting us with guitars and percussion. Mr. Dichter focused us and we soon joined in the singing of Hebrew songs. One of our new shinshinim, Omer, then led us in song too! The kids were really good at repeating what he said, repeating what he said, repeating what he said…
Then Rabbi Berger told a very personal story of a time 18 years ago when his life was turned upside down. For those of us that had just attended FEDtalks days earlier, the message could not have been more clear –  every day matters and we should embrace and support each other – the future is most uncertain. We should always reach out for help and give assistance – miracles happen. The students were very respectful – I am always impressed at how they know when to listen and show care (and of course it reminds us that they can successfully meet our expectations).

A personal moment with Rabbi Berger.

It was then karaoke time – 9:00 p.m. on our activity dial. The students do seem to love karaoke, as do many of the staff. If only I did not have to write this update… I would rock their world! At least that’s what happens in my dream… 

After karaoke we take a rather unconventional approach and we feed the students before bed. You do not need to tell me this is not a sound idea… but hey, we love them, and it is the Jewish thing to do, isn’t it?
As you can tell the night is getting on and I am working with Breanne Rogers – we are sitting outside amidst the little flying creatures to get this update out, so we are going to call it a night on the update – the actual time is classified. I am hopeful that the students will let us go to sleep before midnight… but I am wiser than that. Hopefully at least we will be joined by many of the island deer to keep us company.
Your kids have been outstanding – 8:00 a.m was many, many hours ago and they have been stellar Energizer Bunnies – and I have to add that my 16 colleagues have put their heart and soul into making sure that I get to hear laughter and see smiles everywhere that I go…
Laila tov cheverim.


Some of our fearless staff!

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