“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole.”
—Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods
It’s hard to notice the growth in our own children. Fortunately we have flashing lights of change, like when the shoes we just bought them burst at the seams, or the sleeves of that expensive uniform they need suddenly don’t reach their wrists, or the day we see them hauling a box full of stuffed animals, LEGOs, and action figures down to the basement.
After we’re done wincing, we can remind ourselves that growth is good. Growth has been the plan all along. So see ya later, Barbie. Buh-bye big trucks. So long superheros. It’s perfectly healthy to let teenagers let it all go—with one exception. Nature.
Your teen may be done climbing trees and playing in the mud, but it doesn’t matter how old they are, they are not done with nature. In fact, now is the time to reinforce their connection to it. Prepare them for the next leg of their journey and all the growth that comes along with it by giving them an opportunity to live in concert with nature in a teen summer program like Tel Yehudah.
Mother Nature has a lot to teach
Spending time in nature is way more than a spontaneous science lesson. Shabbat on the water’s edge gives teens new ways to think about spirituality and beauty. Camping in the wilderness offers lessons in responsibility and fuels confidence. Free time inside 150 wooded acres promotes peaceful thinking and inspires creativity.
Adolescence is not necessarily a multi-sensory experience
While high school is a busy time for our teens, for many it’s hectic in a routine sort of way. Hours of homework or practice for an instrument or sport. Part-time jobs, which often require repetitive tasks like scooping ice cream, making pizzas, folding clothes, or packing groceries. Screen time—even with an exciting game or movie—is still nothing like real time, being outside and connecting where teens can connect what they see, hear, smell, and touch.
Connection today turns into commitment tomorrow
Just like any of the values we want to pass on to our kids, we need to find ways for them to discover their own meaning and attachment. Immersing our teens in a natural space and helping them create experiences and memories in it is foundational to building their long-term appreciation and respect for it.
Former Tel Yehudah camper and staff member, and current Israeli leader in environmental studies and activism, Professor Alon Tal exemplifies this with his own path that started at Tel Yehudah:
“…The simple harmony of camp life with the lovely and gentle environment of the Delaware River and the apple trees in the New York mountains surely constituted an ideal that continues to resonate—and set a standard for the harmony that we need to reestablish between the Jewish people and their homeland.”
—Professor Alon Tal
Chair of the Tel Aviv University Department of Public Policy and veteran environmental activist