Returning to the Garden: Al-Bustan’s 20th Summer Camp in Bartram’s Garden

Posted On:
28 July, 2021
Al-Bustan CampNews

In Al-Bustan Camp’s 20th year, campers explored meadows, shaded pathways, the river boardwalk, and historic landmarks of Bartram’s Garden capturing the same creativity and intrepid spirit which lay at the heart of this year’s theme, Ibn Jubayr’s Rihla. Like the 12th century traveler, our campers recorded their new experiences and observations in their own creative travelogues. Writing notes on the oldest ginkgo tree in North America and drafting maps to the tree swing, recording a recipe for peach ginger shrub and copying new Arabic vocabulary, they explored a world both new and familiar.  

Returning and new campers formed friendships as they engaged in inventive lessons in art, science, storytelling, Arabic language, dance, and theater. These experiences were crafted by Al-Bustan’s dedicated teaching artists and carried out with the help of our hard-working counselors and interns. Al-Bustan’s youth summer camp continues its long tradition as a welcoming space for all people to learn, explore, and celebrate Arab art, culture, and language. 

Storyteller of Peace Nashid Ali led our young explorers on the many paths of Bartram’s Gardens, teaching our campers how to stop, notice, and record their observations of the world around them. They visited artists working in a nearby field who were braiding grasses along the river to create organic sculptures and discovered a “stage” amongst the boardwalk’s paths to tell their own stories. Campers documented their surroundings in poetry, personal maps, and illustrations. 

Teaching Artist Lisa Volta connected the campers’ surroundings with the experiences of Ibn Jubayr in her science class. Campers visited the Cider Press at Bartram’s Gardens and concocted their own shrub using cut fruit, ginger, vinegar, and sugar, while learning about the preservation techniques that existed in Ibn Jubayr’s lifetime. Campers also learned about the medicinal uses of both the plants in the gardens and those encountered by Ibn Jubayr in the lands between Granada and Mecca, creating their own Myrrh salve to take home.  

Each day, campers connected their experience at camp with those of the 12th Century traveler, while learning about the contemporary artists who live and work in the cities Ibn Jubayr visited. In Visual Art, also taught by Lisa Volta, campers took inspiration from Egyptian artist Naguib Moen when they aged the maps they had created through tea-staining. This parallels Moen’s contemporary artworks which are deliberately made to look ancient. Stopping next in Sardinia, Italy, campers worked together to create a loom using their bodies and strips of cloth.  This mimicked the collaborative weaving style of Italian artist Eugenia Pinna.  

With Master Percussionist Hafez Kotain, campers strung together dumms and taks on the doumbek to learn Arabic music compositions which they later performed at the final performance. Many returners have been drumming with Hafez for years at camp or in our after-school programs, while others, such as our youngest campers, held a doumbek for the very first time. Our campers impressed their friends and family with their coordinated compositions. 

In Arabic with Basma Jaber, campers learned the vocabulary of a traveler and the relationships between words in Arabic and Spanish like azúcar and sukr. Integrating language learning into games and crafts, Basma exposed our campers to new words, phrases, and concepts in the Arabic language with care and creativity. The Arabic language and themes of Ibn Jubayr were woven throughout the camp connecting the past and present with their experiences. 

This summer, our campers were fortunate to take part in special workshops with New York-based performance and teaching artist Esraa Warda and University of the Arts Professor Fadi Skeiker. With Esraa Warda, campers learned about the importance of traditional Algerian dances, both historically and today. Following the beat of the frame drum, our campers learned to shift their weight to the down beat and turn at the eight-count in a coordinated group dance.  

Fadi Skeiker led campers in a reenactment of the story of Ibn Jubayr with an extra dose of imagination. Featuring appearances by creatures created out of newspaper and duct tape, our campers connected with Ibn Jubayr and his journey in a new, whimsical light. 

In the moments in between the classes, campers enjoyed popsicles and playing soccer with our dedicated counselors. During the 10 days, our campers left Bartram’s Gardens having explored its grounds with through the eyes of an explorer, and, like Ibn Jubayr, having made more than a few friends along the way. ALF SHUKR to our teaching artists, counselors, and funders, including the University of Pennsylvania Middle East Center and Hazami Sayed Camp Scholarship Fund. 

Read about camp from a counselor’s perspective on Al-Bustan’s blog!

Take a look at the camp Facebook album!