It isn't possible, or even necessary, to walk through all of the planning and thought, all of the activities and experiences, that made this year's retreat such a delightful success for students and teachers alike. Instead, take a look at this picture of the kids and consider a few of the following recollections and observations...
1. The kids were open to all that we asked of them. Whether it was walking from one activity to another with someone they hadn't had a real conversation with since the start of school, or opening the prayer book and finding a passage that spoke to them, whether it was holding their breath, running and screaming across a bridge, or singing the shema at our evening campfire. Their openness and receptivity conveyed a maturity that was truly inspiring.
2. The kids were thoughtful and reflective. We had plenty of simple and unstructured fun on our retreat, but we also did a lot of hard work. Goal setting, meditation, spiritual journaling, outlining for the CLIMB Project, and much more. Not only did they accept these aspects of the retreat, but they embraced them. When given an opportunity to reflect, a simple question like, "How is being on this retreat different than being at school?" generated 30 minutes of respectful conversation.
3. Bringing it back home. While our retreat took place at URJ Camp Coleman it actually ended with a few hours back at The Davis Academy. On the bus ride home I found myself wondering how all the wonderful energy and work that we'd accomplished in the mountains would translate back to school. I got my answer when we held a short mincha service in honor of one of the student's upcoming b'nai mitzvah. It appears that the retreat evoked something in them as individuals and as a class that they want to preserve and nurture.
One of the numerous blessings in the Amidah prayer begins with the line, Barech aleinu et hashanah hazot... That means (adjusting for style), Make this a blessed year for us. We concluded our time together by reflecting on the steps that each of us can take to ensure that their final year at The Davis Academy is truly a year of blessing.