When Meryl Poku of Macon, GA, signed her fourth grade son Adam up for one of three two-week sessions at 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy, the Union for Reform Judaism’s new science and technology sleepaway camp—and the first Jewish summer camp of its kind—she knew she had found the perfect summer home for him.
“Adam’s older sister went to the URJ sports camp, which he thought about attending,” Poku said. “He’s very studious, loves school, and is extremely interested in science, so this camp is definitely up his alley.
Adam, who has opted for the camp’s computer science concentration, will join other middle school-aged campers this summer at the SciTech campus, located in a former boarding school about 30 miles outside of Boston. His bunkmates will select concentrations in robotics, environmental science, digital media production, or video game design.
“The camp is going to attract kids that wouldn’t otherwise consider attending an overnight Jewish camp,” said Greg Kellner, the camp’s director. “We did research on the amount of kids’ science programs around the country, and there’s a rising demand for it. The amount of STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] jobs around the country is also growing at a fast rate, and the camp will allow kids to learn the topic they are interested in.”
Campers will also chose two electives, selecting from courses in flight science, app creation, game theory, magic and illusion, audio lab and sound affects, or nutrition and food science. And while the camp may or may not breed the next Mark Zuckerberg, Kellner emphasizes that the applied sciences will be taught to coincide with Jewish values as well.
“There are abounding connections between Judaism and science,” Kellner said. “The kids will learn how to build a robot, and brainstorm how their robot can solve a world problem, like obstacle avoidance robots for the visually impaired. When they learn how to make a video game, we’ll stress the idea of telling a good story without the violence.”
Sci-Tech was funded by a $1.1 million grant from the Foundation for Jewish Camps and is one of 14 URJ-run summer camps. Kellner said he expects 150 campers to sign up for the two-week sessions, which cost $2,850 per camper. So far, 20 campers have signed up.
Chavie Lieber has written for The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, the Huffington Post, Business Insider, the Times of Israel, and more. Follow her on twitter @chavielieber.