The past three days I had the pleasure to enjoy nature with a 150 grade 9 students. Part of the heavily subsidized grade 9 welcome orientation of the school, students got to bond, eat, sleep, play and trust each other over the three days at Camp Pine Crest (YMCA).
The amazing YMCA staff and teachers took the students through activities from 7:30 am until 10 pm each day. Activities included archery, hi/low ropes, canoeing, games, photography, hiking and much more. Each station stressed the importance of teamwork and community. Meals were all about community where each group had a job to do and everyone helped each other from setting the tables, serving to cleaning up. Senior students came along to be mentors and were assigned to different groups.
It was great seeing students experience, for some, their first night away from their parents and in nature. One amazing teacher at the school brought his personal telescope up and found Saturn and Jupiter to show the students. The look of amazement when they got to see a sky full of stars was great. Students got to enjoy and express themselves across many aspects. New friendships were formed and self confidence was built. One student looked down on the last day and asked how the trip was. He said it was amazing but he didn’t want to go home. He said, here, he got to try new things he was never allowed to / couldn’t do before. He also enjoyed the break from looking after his sisters and could just worry about himself. I am so happy the school could provide this opportunity for him.
It is great that a school would plan an event like this to build community and form a family with the students. Making students feel welcome and appreciated goes a long way and doing this within their first month in grade 9, sets them up for 4 years of success.
Personally I had a great 3 days out of the classroom as both my grade 9 science classes were here and just through conversation about what was up here I covered nearly the entire science curriculum. Ecology, invasive species, weather, solar energy, telescopes, abiotic/biotic factors, food web / chain, ecosystems and the list goes on. Although it was long days of 24/7 supervising and one day of rain the experience was well worth it and makes me proud to have one of the best careers of making a difference in students’ lives.