Pinat Teva- Spotlight on CRNE’s Nature Program
There is no better place for a child to connect to nature than in camp! It was with this idea in mind and the desire to create a Torah connection between the earth and her people and all things that inhabit the land that the Pinat Teva Program was created at camp. When the chanichim (campers) come to Pinat Teva our goals are that they think about their interactions with nature and animals, where their food comes from, and our responsibility and relationship with the environment. Torah is used as a springboard for the lessons that are taught in the Pinat Teva (nature corner), drawing lessons from the Tanakh (the Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim) and looking at the interesting foods that are talked about in the Torah.
The Animal Corner~
Rabbi Joshua Ackerman, Rosh Pinat Teva, runs the Pinat Chai (animal corner). In this space, we discuss what our relationship is and should be with our environment. The themes that we explore include how the Torah believes that a person should be connected to the land, which means the ethical ways that we are supposed to produce our foods, and our obligation to ensure that those who are involved in this process should be compensated fairly. Unfortunately, in today’s world, we are so far removed from nature and actually caring for animals and the land that it can be difficult to remember the responsibility that we have towards God’s world and how we are supposed to care for it. The Pinat Chai gives our chanichim (campers) a hands-on experience in understanding what an animal needs to survive and thrive, and what our job in that cycle of taking care of them is. We are in the process of a very special experience where we are incubating the eggs that were laid by our ducks and waiting for them to hatch and for the little duckling to be born. It is a real cycle of life lesson when you can literally watch nature “hatch” before your eyes.
Barak and Vered Laness run the garden part of Pinat Teva. This is their first year on tzevet here at Ramah in Palmer, though they have spent many summers as part of the Mishlachat at Ramah Wisconsin. Both Barak and Vered are extraordinary educators who bring with them a spectacular way of teaching our chanichim at camp. The approach that they use in the garden is innovative and exciting. They have built a greenhouse, a koi pond and an aquaponics system. They are working with the chanichim on farm-to-table meal prep using the fruits and vegetables that grow in our garden, as well as teaching them about the delicious things that grow wild at camp when they take the chanichim on foraging walks to collect delicious treats.
David Green ran outdoor cooking machzor rishon (first session) and Rabbi Andrew Katz and Rabbi Andrew Pepperstone run it this machzor. They all approach the program with the idea of the chanichim having a farm to table experience, in which they often use ingredients that have grown in our garden or the eggs that the chickens in our Pinat Hai have laid. The other focus of the outdoor cooking program is to show the chanichim the incredible range of foods that can be made on an open fire, from camping-friendly foods to caramel chocolate popcorn, to pizza made in our brick oven. All of our outdoor cooking staff leaders come with years of formal and informal educational experience and are able to bring a special Torah perspective to the program. The beauty of the experience for the chanichim is that they relate to eating differently when they have had a hand in growing, prepping, creating and being a part of how their food gets from the ground to the table. When you are invested in creating something, you relate to the world in a different way.
We have exciting plans for the program as we have seen how successful it has been this year. Our hope is that in coming summer we can open new gardens and expand the range of vegetation that we are able to grow. We want to thank our amazing Pinat Teva tzevet for all of the hard work and love they put into making this program such a success for both machzorim (sessions) of camp. Thank you to our Rosh Pinat Teva Rabbi Joshua Ackerman, Barak and Vered Laness, the heads of the garden, and David Green, Rabbi Andrew Katz, and Rabbi Andrew Pepperstone, the heads of outdoor cooking. Thank you also to tzevet-members Nell Schwartz, Ezra Schwartz, Gideon Molkner, and to our trainees Helena, Eli and Ariel.