By Jordanna Flores, Camp Director
Since we are in the inaugural session of URJ 6 Points Sci Tech West, I am asked at least once a day, “How is camp going?” Let me answer with a math riddle.
Yesterday evening, after a fun and exhausting field trip day, the campers and staff were relaxing with games and a movie in our dorm lounge. One of our Leadership staff posed a math riddle to the group: Each equation must use 1, 2, 3, 4 exactly once. Create 22 equations: one for each number between 0 and 22. Example: (4 x 3) + 2 – 1 = 13
Several people—both staff and campers–got out pencils and paper, and went to work. Others saw what was happening and joined in. Soon the wall in the lounge was covered with sheets of paper showing their calculations. Once the challenge was met, some decided to continue on for numbers 23-50, collaborating together. Today, campers and staff were exchanging tips about summations and factorials to see if anyone had figured out the hardest equation: 39.
How does this exemplify what is going here at camp? First, the staff member who shared this riddle was touched and amazed when he told me that this is a game he has played for about 10 years, challenging friends with it at different times and in different settings, but never has he seen a room full of people dive into it this way. When you are surrounded by “your people” and you offer a bit of yourself, you get an unprecedented response.
Secondly, at Sci Tech West, one of our core values is curiosity (sakranut). We are curious about the world around us, from the mundane to the spectacular. We yearn to understand how and why things work, what makes people tick, how Judaism and science connect, and what makes the world go around. Of course, they didn’t stop when they finished the challenge! Of course, they had to push themselves to another level! When you are challenged in a nurturing environment and see role models who show you that being incredibly bright is incredibly cool, you reach beyond your comfort zone.
Lastly, the riddle moved from being a race to a collaborative effort because we are individuals who have come together to live and learn in community. We are establishing the norms and customs from scratch which means that our actions and our words carry tremendous weight. When you bring people together and empower them to create a new world that functions like the world as you wish it to be, you replace competition with community.
So, how is camp going? Well, I can tell you that (23) +4 -1 = 11.