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What's New at Summer Camp? An Eco-Village

December 23, 2010 By:
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Project architect Justin Gebhard traveled to Camp JRF in August to show campers plans for the new bunks. Photo courtesy of Metcalfe Architecture & Design

Children at Camp JRF will get a taste of construction work this summer as they take part in building an "Eco-Village" of yurt-style cabins, canopy-covered platforms and environmentally friendly bathhouses.

The project comes as the 120-acre Reconstructionist camp in the Pocono Mountains celebrates its 10th anniversary and growing enrollment.

Despite the bleak economy, the camp has had a waiting list of about 10 people for the past two years -- enough overflow that they stopped recruiting, said director Rabbi Isaac Saposnik.

The new, $2.5 million Eco-Village will add 72 bunks. With two sessions each summer, that makes room for up to 144 more campers, said Saposnik.

The housing area is expected to be completed by the end of next year and ready for use in summer 2012.

A second construction phase will include a program building, complete with an indoor amphitheater and meeting rooms.

Although the village will be designated for ninth- and 10th-graders -- the oldest age group before leadership training -- campers of all ages will take part in building it because "down the road, they'll live there, too," said Saposnik.

Like the '70s

And what more powerful way to learn about sustainability than by picking up the recycled bottles that will be incorporated into the structural walls or seeing firsthand how the bathroom water heaters use solar energy, posed architect Alan Metcalfe, principal of the Philadelphia-based Metcalfe Architecture & Design.

"This is like the '70s recycled, only with a lot more sophistication," he said.

While the village won't be ready in time for the current group of high-schoolers to use it, they did get a chance to give their input on what it should look like when a team of Metcalfe's architects traveled to the camp in August to present preliminary designs.

"The energy at that camp is infectious, and it really energized us as designers," said Metcalfe. "We really tried to create something that resonates with the mission of the camp, telling a story about taking care of the earth."

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