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Hip, Hip, Hooray for Hippies!

August 31, 2018by Josh Niehaus

One of my favorite chuggim (activities) at camp is Hippie Chug. While it’s true that our campers missed the boat by about fifty years on the hippie heyday, something still resonates about that iconic era and all of the brightly dressed people strumming guitars and singing groovy folk tunes about peace, love and understanding. In fact, Hippy Chug is a perennial favorite at camp and usually draws in about 10-15 campers. Although most campers probably sign up to make friendship bracelets or tie-dye shirts, it’s not long before concepts like the Age of Aquarius, events like Woodstock, and the all-important social justice movements become a topic of conversation.

This summer, Karli Schiller created a week-long curriculum for the chug, which gave campers a brief overview of the era, an introduction to notable individuals, and some of the goals and causes that hippies believed in and advocated for. Of course there were also plenty of hands on crafting activities. Our wonderful staff members Rachel Coskey, Naomi Meyer and Jordan Zwetchkenbaum helped bring the curriculum and activities to life. One of the first activities was finding a new hippie name for each camper (my personal favorite was Celestial Harmony). It became evident pretty early on that our campers were most interested in the social justice aspects of the hippie culture, as they decided to hold an impromptu protest at the basketball courts over the pay disparity between WNBA and NBA players.

Not content to put down the protest signs and call it a day, our young hippies decided that they wanted to take on a cause and show support for it outside of camp. It was incredible to see how this group of motivated young people already understood the power they could have by joining together and sharing their voices. The first amendment guarantees all citizens the freedom of speech and assembly, and our campers wondered what that basic right might look like when put into action. After careful consideration the campers decided to take on single-use plastic straws, which are so prevalent in our fast-food chains and coffee shops. They made signs, created cheers, rewrote lyrics to “Blowin’ In The Wind”, and marched on the Washington State Capitol building to sing and cheer about reducing the amount of trash that ends up in the oceans.

After we cheered for a while we went inside the building to look through the chambers where our lawmakers work. The security guard told us that our megaphone would have to stay outside. This led perfectly into a discussion about how even if they took everything else away from us, we would still be left with our voices. And how it is our great fortune to be born into a country where are voices matter, and it is our duty to ensure that we never forget to use them. After a few moments of contemplation inside the spacious rotunda, we all headed back to the van.

In Judaism there is a tradition of rewarding new knowledge with a sweet treat, so we decided to thank our campers for their newfound civic engagement with a trip to Starbucks. Of course there was one condition… no straws!

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Josh Niehaus