In Upper Elementary (UE), children begin taking yearly multi-day class trips which are designed to further develop their skills of independence and bring the children together as a community. These trips are central to our curriculum. The early ones lay the foundation for the more extensive trips in 6th grade and Middle School. During the second week of school in September, the full UE full class travels to Camp Hazen, a YMCA camp in Chester, CT. Over the three days and two nights they spend together at the camp, the students learn to trust and support each other through a variety of activities. These activities are led by a team of counselors with years of experience in community building who offer specific tasks that incorporate physical, intellectual and creative challenges. Prior to leaving, the children learn how to set personal and community goals for the trip that are attainable and measurable, but also challenging. For example, a child may set a goal to speak up (or listen more) during a team activity or to sit with a new person at each meal. For some students, the biggest challenge is simply spending two nights away from their family, while for others the challenge may be climbing to the top of the Alpine Tower. Whatever the goal, each child grows from the experience, often in unexpected ways. Friendships are forged, running jokes are created and the memories that they take with them become touchstones for the rest of the year. It is a wonderfully powerful way to start each year.
Our Turn to Host
Quest has been attending Camp Hazen for over six years now. We have developed a strong relationship with the Camp community and have been told by the director that the staff always look forward to our visit because our students are well-behaved, engaged, curious and respectful of each other and the adults. With each trip we work with the counselors to customize the program in a way that fits the Montessori approach and the needs of that year’s specific group of children. Over the years we have talked about our objectives in the classroom so the counselors have a better idea of how to debrief with the students after team building activities. This year, Camp Hazen’s director asked if he and several counselors could spend a morning with us in our environment so that they could get a first-hand experience of our school and have an opportunity to revisit some of the themes we explored during our time there. Alex, Jake and Juan (who has worked with our children for seven years) came to visit on November 15th.
Students took great pride in hosting three of their favorite counselors. They carefully planned the visit leaving enough time for their guests to have a tour of the school, observe in the classroom and enjoy a cup of tea. UE decided they wanted to set the tables up just as they do at camp, complete with homemade cookies and fruit salad, then it was time to play some games. These were new games that the counselors picked based on what the children had worked on previously at Camp Hazen. We played three different games that covered themes such as following directions, creative problem solving and collaboration. After each team building game, there is always a debrief that highlights the purpose of the activity. The students, as usual, were active participants in the debriefs and were able to relate the purpose of the activity to their everyday work. Upper Elementary enjoyed their refresher course and took pride in the opportunity to host three of their favorite counselors from Camp Hazen and are that much more excited to see them next fall. The students also made sure to provide the counselors with the same sendoff they show them during their departure from Connecticut, a joyful, curbside version of "YMCA".