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Defining the boundaries of your own 'classroom'

Sophia Weinstein's picture

Camp Galil (my sleepaway camp where I went 7 summers, and am returning to work this summer) is what I immediately think of when I think of outdoor spaces as sites for learning and education. Our camp is part of a Jewish Labor Zionist Youth Movement called Habonim Dror ("The Builders-Freedom") that has roots in over a dozen countries. At camp, I was taught many ideals of social justice and activism in a very laid-back outdoorsy environment. Every day, we would have 'peulot' (activities) that our counselors planned for us, where we would sit together outside in the grass in a circle having a group discussion. It was a very different kind of classroom. There are so many things to be said about convening with nature together in this way, but I think the 'boundaries' that it gave (or did not give) were very powerful.

The traditional classroom - indoors, white walls, square, windows that you should not be staring out from - give a very particular message as to how to learn, and what to be learning about. To be thinking outside the white square box is to not be present in your learning, and to be disrespectful of your education. It artificially cuts off your mind and body from the outside world.

In stark comparison, our outdoor classroom was infinite. You can look anywhere, think about anything. No one will stop you - you are at camp and this is not mandatory. You chose to be here (assuming your parents didn't send you by force!). It fosters such a different dynamic with learning and thinking when you only move indoors if you have to, because it is raining. It is up to you to define the boundaries of your own 'classroom'. At these peulot, I was always counscious of my surroundings, always facing a choice to be present 'in' our classroom, or not. It is intentional. I learned that it is a mental distinction rather than a physical one, to distinguish between playing and running around, or to be sitting and talking. For me, my time at camp has really built a love of learning. I value it differently, and I value the earth differently.