Why Students Need Adventures Like an Overnight Camp

10:14 AM

I just got back from being at Camp Pepin with 110 5th graders for 3 days and 2 nights.  Students look forward to this trip all year; we build it up starting in September!  We go in May, all 5th graders in the district have the opportunity to go.  The camp sets up early, just for our schools, and hope that some of our students come back in the summer for another round!

While there, I am always awed by the students when they are taken out of their natural habitat, because they flourish.  They play with each other--cliques are dissolved.  They get out of their comfort zone--climbing a ladder and zip-lining!  We put them into groups for cabins and classes with peers from the other 5th grade homerooms they might not have had a lot of interaction with so far this school year.  They perform skits in front of each other by the campfire (5th grade humor is something I am sill trying to understand...)

We had a few homesick students, but no one actually had to call parents and go home--they survived!  For many of them, this is the first time they have been away from their parents for an extended amount of time, especially overnight.

Within all of this, students also learn some life skills.  

Meal Time:
We eat "family style," which seems to actually be a dying trend in households.  They have to stack the dishes at the end of the meal, clean-up the garbage and sort out the food waste.  The first meal, this was a DISASTER!  I swear, some students have never had to clean-up after themselves before.  They had to learn how to work together and organize the dishes so they fit in their bus tub.  Additionally, the tables are round, so they have to talk to each other and ask for items to be passed around.

Recreation Time:
There are so many different activities going on, the only option students don't have is to sit in their cabins.  Students are forced to be active and get fresh air!  The kids need to learn how to get themselves involved in an activity; how to join into a game.  If something is not started, say basketball, they have to figure out how to get the game going. Students have to pick-up the equipment after themselves and be responsible for what they take out of the shed.

Cabins and their "stuff":
Sharing space is hard, and can be even harder when you don't know everyone or aren't comfortable with them.  Students have to keep track of their things and stay organized to make for easy pack-up.  We make all students take a shower each night we are at camp; some students are clueless as to why, but when I explain how "ripe" they smell after a day of outdoor activities and running through the woods, they seem to understand a bit better...  

These vary year to year, but there are a few staple skills students need to make the most of these-teamwork, patience, active listening, etc.  The biggest one is teamwork and encouraging classmates to complete the task (zip-lining, rock climbing, etc.)  When you are at the top of a tree stand and hear everyone chanting your name, you get the boost of confidence and courage you need to walk-off and trust your harness!

I could go on and on....as I am sure my students are doing right now at home, talking mom and dad's ear off!  Going to Camp is a highlight of 5th grade and something our students NEED to experience.  I know not every school or district is as fortunate as ours is to have this set-up, but I encourage upper elementary teachers to look into building a partnership with an overnight camp nearby, Camp Pepin is part of the YMCA system, and see if you can start an adventure with your own students!

by Sara from Draz's Class

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