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Camp Galil Food Justice Curriculum

Sophia Weinstein's picture

Throughout my time in our Eco-Literacy 360, I have grown to have a better understanding of what it means to be thinking and acting ecologically, honoring the ‘environment’ as an intrinsic aspect of our lives as individuals, and of the communities that we are part of. Teaching and learning with the intentions of ecological literacy can have mind-opening effects on how we perceive and interact with the world, its people, and the environment. With this in mind, I want to take my curriculum to where eco-literacy has been most present in my life and the lives of many of my friends and family members. My curriculum is designed in a very location-oriented fashion, as a learning experience for the oldest age group at Camp Galil. Galil is one of many camps that make up the Labor Zionist Youth Movement “Habonim Dror”, and is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The ideology of Habonim Dror is based on five pillars: Progressive Labor Zionism, Judaism, Socialism, Social Justice, and Hagshama (actualization of values).  These ideals are rooted in the Hebrew phrase “Tikkun olam”, or “repairing the world”, and are the basis of the unique experience that is Galil. This ideology plays a strong part in generating its eco-centric, environmentally conscious community, but I also see eco-centricity rooted in the camp’s physical location, the style of interaction between peers and between counselors and campers, as well as in the playful, fun-spirited, and non-traditionally educational learning that takes place. I spent 7 summers at Camp Galil, and will be returning this summer to be a counselor. As our semester is nearing its end, our discussions about empathy and connection have come to be about how building connections is not a one-and-done notion, but rather a process. We are manifesting this need for continual connection through our follow-ups to the Story Slam, but I also want to make sure I extend these new connections beyond this semester, beyond our 360 family, and beyond the Bryn Mawr community. I hope that my curriculum can serve as this continuation for me, as I intend to bring our 360 – particularly the education component – with me to camp this summer through some manifestation of this curriculum.

            I want to help build stronger connections between campers and their food, and help them to better understand the role that the environment plays in this relationship. There are so many factors that play into where our food comes from, how we get our food, what food we eat, and the processing that goes into these foods. Food means so many different things to different people; hunger, survival, culture, religious beliefs, wealth and prosperity, health, access, social interactions, and taste preferences all play a role in how we think and interact with food. Food is a basic fact for all living beings, yet our relationships to food are very singular and unique. It intersects so well with issues of individual, societal, and worldwide concern, and therefore really embodies the goals of ecological education – to connect our own lives to the different systems that exist between us and our world.

            A major aspect of being a kvutzah (group) at camp is participating in what we call ‘kupa’, literally meaning ‘cash register’, but what we use to mean ‘cooperative fund’. Rather than have a money kupa, like us counselors, each age group has a food kupa. Campers bring snack foods with them at the beginning of the summer, and it is compiled into a collective stash. Generally, they will agree by consensus to an ‘open kupa’, where everyone in their kvutzah has full access to the food. Kupa is practice for socialist, kibbutz-style living, but I want to motivate campers to be thinking critically of the food aspect of kupa as well.

When I first began picturing my lesson plans, I made a list of words to capture the essence of my curriculum: Initiative, understanding, responsibility, impact, exchange, empowerment, connections, and communication. I am focusing on Eve Tuck’s Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities, and Gillian Judson’s A New Approach to Ecological Education to think about pedagogy that inspires these traits. In her open letter, Tuck notes that “in damaged-centered research, one of the major activities is to document pain or loss in an individual, community, or tribe…It looks to historical exploitation, domination, and colonization to explain contemporary brokenness, such as poverty, poor health, and low literacy…it is a pathologizing approach in which the oppression singularly defines a community” (Tuck 413). She goes on to suggest desire-based research that highlights “survivance” – the motion of sovereignty and the will to resist dominance. I think that in order to prompt feelings of responsibility, initiative, and empowerment, there will need to be awareness of the trappings of damage-based learning. Since I will be focusing my curriculum using resources with very damage-based research, I am calling on Judson’s imaginative approach to ecological education to gear our learning in a desire-based direction. “The gains of rational thought such as clarity or precision can come at a cost if a form of rationality develops that largely excludes Somatic and Mythic kinds of emotional engagement from processes of meaning-making. Imaginative Education strives to maximize the gains that come with Philosophic understanding while maintaining the powerful emotional and imaginative dimensions of previous kinds of understanding” (Judson 47). At Galil, there are generally two age group activities at different points during the day, which are often focused on the same topic. One will focus on the topic with a more active and fun-based approach, while another will be more serious discussion-based learning. This works perfectly to balance learning about issues that are presented in a damage-centric way, and more positive desire-based imaginative play.

My intentions are for campers to feel empowered to engage in conversation and discussions about food, and feel more ownership of and responsibility for any issues that they are faced with, in connection to food justice. My curriculum will span over 4 weeks, where weeks 1 and 3 will each be one-day programs, with one ‘serious’ and one ‘fun’ activity. Week 2 will start with a ‘fun’ activity, but span throughout the week (continued as a permanent responsibility), and week 4 will be a reflection that prompts some sort of action to be taken, in the way that we planned our story slam. I have chosen to design my activities for the oldest age group, who are 14 and have just finished their first year of high school.

I want my curriculum to embody the values that the Center for EcoLiteracy says are essential to Ecological Education programs, namely that “they be project-based and involve students in projects that make a different in the local community” (Judson 16). As the oldest campers, they are already given many responsibilities, mostly related to setting a good example to younger campers, but also for planning and running a camp-wide event (nearly) independently for younger campers at some point during the summer.  My main goal is for them to be translating ‘macro’ issues to the smaller Galil community, and feel inspired to plan a camp-wide event focused on whichever aspect they most connect with.

Each week will be focused on one food issue: food production, food waste and food disposal, food access inequality, and a day of reflecting upon these issues and guiding towards initiating change.

Week 1: Food Production and Processing

 First activity: location: Gan (Garden)

For our introduction into talking about food and food systems, we will be questioning the different places our food comes from, and what steps are taken in food production. I think the camp garden, where a lot of our vegetables and fruits are grown, is a great place to stage this conversation, and to start our conversations about food. The garden is a positive version of food production that campers can feel proud of. Talking about the mass- produced, overly processed foods we buy and eat can feel very pointed and negative to our own actions. That is something I want to steer away from.

(Re)Introduction to the garden! Have a tour from the gan specialist, showing any new additions to this summers garden, tell how we use the crops at Galil, and how much produce is expected to come from the garden. (About 10 minutes)

Trigger!  I think it would be a fun way to start off with a fun game of popcorn, where we throw around a vegetable (like a pepper) to people across the circle and each say some unique fact about us and food, such as “I was raised vegetarian and have never eaten meat” or “Mashed bananas saved my grandmother’s life when she was a baby”.  Don’t throw to someone who already went or you need to eat (some of) the pepper! (About 5 minutes)

Start in a big group, and have people call out different foods that they buy at home, and make a list on a paper (taped to the outside wall of the building nearby). Prompt questions about listed foods, such as: “What do they have in common?”, “How are they made?”, “What ingredients do you think are part of these foods?”, “What makes these foods different from home-cooked food, or the vegetables from our garden?”. (About 15 minutes)

Split into groups of about 5 people, each with a different article related to food manufacturing, genetic engineering, pesticides – some against, and some in support of ‘manipulating’ food. (About 15 minutes)

Potential articles:

Combine into one group.  Share with the other groups about your article and what you were all thinking. Open to a more discussion-based form, ‘pop-corning’ to anyone whose hand is raised (About 15 minutes)

Second Activity (“Fun activity”)

Location: Chadar Ohel a.k.a. the Kitchen and dining hall

For the second activity, we will host chef game show cook-off competition. Two teams will compete with each other to make foods that best resemble common processed and packaged foods and drinks, such as twinkies and kool-aid, and do so from whatever ingredients are provided. I am visualizing this activity as bringing in Judson’s imaginative approach to education. This fast-paced activity will engage campers through most senses, calling into question the associations between touch, texture, color, and taste that are often missing with processed foods. By working with many strange ingredients, campers will use their imagination to create foods that look one way, but are clearly different in all other aspects, playing on how foods look versus what they are made of. Judson asserts that humor “supports learning by contributing to a flexibility of mind, to imaginative and creative thinking” (40). The humorous aspects of this activity may lead to a more critical sense of irony about the food industry.

 Week 2: Food Disposal & Waste

 The topic of food disposal and food waste will be explored through a week of more active, camp-wide involvement. We will be exploring the amount of food that is made in comparison to the food that is eaten, as well as what is done with uneaten food. We will start with a ‘fun’ introductory activity, and carry on a designated program throughout the week.

Starting activity: Location: cabins and surrounding area.  

Trigger: Watch this video!

(Re)Introduce the BizBuz Busters! (See Previously, there was an age group that was responsible for monitoring the food waste after every meal. They were the Bizbuz Busters (beez-booze, meaning ‘waste’), and we are bringing them back! For this initiating activity, campers are going to decorate their own bizbuz busting shirts, where they are all prompted to create and suppose superhero food-saving personas. Judson says, “Children of approximately eight through fifteen years of age do not so easily accept the existence of [the mythical]…Instead they become increasingly interested in making sense of the real world” (44). I think it would be powerful for their personas to be rooted in real-life examples of responsible action with food. (Ex: ‘Compost Woman’, ‘Sir Leftovers’, ‘SuperSquash Hunger’ – I am sure they can do better than me.) We will write a catchy new song about bizbuz, and make posters in order to teach the song(s) to the rest of camp. After each meal, they would be responsible for putting on short skits in character, encouraging less wasted food. Every meal they will collect the uneaten food in a rolling trash bin, and weigh it. They will track the weight of each meal on posters that they hang in the dining hall. We will reflect on what has happened or changed throughout the week, and what we want to see happen the rest of the summer.

AmBo Buddies: Campers in the oldest age group (Bogrim) are paired up with campers from the youngest age group (Amelim), and all campers have an Amelim-Bogrim, or AmBo, buddy. Since fourteen-year-olds likely already have a grasp on composting, this would be a great opportunity to take a leadership role by educating and interacting personally with younger campers, ages 7-9. We would take a trip from the dining hall to where we keep our compost, discussing how waste can become compost, and how we can use compost. The next day, the Amelim will help the with bizbuz busting! 

Week 3: Food Inequality

This activity is similar to my groups lesson plan for our last day in Camden. We will recreate an instance of food inequality, and play out different ways we can fix it as a community, and later reflect on why this problem persists.

First Activity: Location: Dining Hall

Trigger: (Sitting/Standing in a circle outside) Play a clapping rhythm game that goes around in a circle. Someone starts with the name of a food, and the next person has to say a food that start with the last letter of the previous food, while keeping to the beat.   

Gather in the dining hall, where there are piles of different foods laid out: Apples, oranges, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, potato chips, cookies, bread, oatmeal, candy, eggs, soynut butter. Campers count off into groups of 3, and are given varying selections of the foods. One group may have all of the chips, and only chips. One could have apples, eggs, soynut butter, bread, and cookies. Another may have one carrot. One group may have no food at all.

They will be challenged to trade amongst one another, making it so everyone is happy with their groups’ food resources, and be satisfied with the food resources of other groups. In silence! Afterwards, we will sit together, and reflect on what was happening. What, to you, was the main problem in this situation? What problems did you run into? What might you try differently in the future? Then, we will start over (same groups), but this time with talking.

Reflect on both rounds. Did things go more smoothly when you were able to communicate with one another? Were there more problems that arose? Were people motivated differently/ wanted different outcomes?

Second Activity: Shetach (bunk area)

Revisit the activity from earlier, and consider how the ‘game’ portrayed real life issues. Break into smaller groups of about 5. Have short segments/quotes about food deserts, and food disparity in America. Define ‘food desert’, likely with terms from here, selected to give a broad understanding of what living in a food desert would be like, and how many people are living in food deserts:

Read out loud together within groups, and talk about it. If not already done, prompt connections between the different food issues. How does this relate to food production and food waste? How does the food industry, full processed, packaged foods filled with preservatives, play into the issues of wasting food, and food inequality? Begin this conversation now, in order to start campers thinking about these issues, and to guide a reflective silent discussion in week 4. Also introduce the idea of following through with some kind of event, so they can start thinking of ideas on their own.

Week 4: Reflecting, Connecting, and Follow-Through Planning

First Activity: Location: inside group area in cabin (Where the kupa is)

Silent Discussion: Have posters in different locations around the room, including some on the floor. Questions are prompted by week 3s final conversations, but also are tying in ideas of activism and changing gears to think about what we can do, rather than What is the problem, and why is this so horrible?  “Why should this matter to us?” “How does food/the food industry impact your life?”  “How can we work towards food equality?” “How can we educate others for change?” “What does food mean to you?” “How can we, as individuals and as a community, prompt change?”

When people seem to have circled around to most questions, there will be time given to browse what people have said, and like we have done in class, anyone who finds something written that they’d like to share can read out loud.  We will wrap up with prompting campers to see if they have any thought or ideas for a camp-wide event, and to start thinking about what they might like to bring from their activities to the rest of the camp.  Our second activity, later in the day, will be focused on planning something for the camp, separating into tafkidim (tafkid meaning purpose, but meaning planning groups). A potential event I am picturing is a before-dinner carnival-style event, where the Bogrim run fun stations that other campers can go between. The dinner could have a ‘no waste’ objective, where they work to move the trash weight down to zero pounds.

With each week, my outline becomes less structured. This is not because I intend to have free-formed activities, but rather that I am trying to maintain more latitude in respect to what campers will be interested in.  I would be talking casually with campers about their experiences in our activities in order to get a sense of where they would like to go next.

Our last day in Camden felt really successful, and it was really powerful to see so much energy and excitement in response to an activity where you pretend to buy food. It reestablished in me a certainty that teaching happens best when children are having fun, and are doing something that they want to do. The camp atmosphere creates ultimate opportunities for learning, where students approach activities with the assumption of fun. However, the most important part of this curriculum is teaching campers to be critical thinkers, leaders, and educators. To me, this focus is the essence of ecological education: understanding how systems function together, between self and the environment, as well as between ourselves and others. Though it is unlikely that I will be able to follow through with this exact curriculum, I am intent on bringing desire-based imaginative learning into my role this summer as a counselor and as an educator.


Tuck, Eve. "Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities." Letter. Summer 2009. Harvard Educational Review.

Judson, Gillian. A New Approach to Ecological Education: Engaging Students' Imaginations in Their World. New York: Peter Lang, 2010. Print.

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