What a blast it was on Sept. 1-2 to take all our sixth graders, several parents, and Miss Fausett on a 2-day retreat at Camp Tecumseh YMCA! I would like to tell you about what they experienced and the purpose for the trip.
This Outdoor Education program, designed for 6th – 8th graders, provides instruction and first-hand experience in certain character qualities: trust, communication, leadership, problem-solving, and self-confidence. Students learned good definitions of these qualities, learned some Biblical basis for them, and put them to the test in real situations. The tests (or “trials”) had names like “Mission Possible,” “Optimist’s Challenge,” and “Survival Simulation.” These were challenging, and they occasionally ended in failure of a sort. However, as we discussed with students in the debriefing session following each trial, huge lessons can be learned from failure.
Lessons from Failure?
We could all probably tell stories of how much we learned in a situation when it did NOT go well. Whether they learned it quickly or over a longer time, the 6th graders all saw that working together as a team to solve an unfamiliar problem can really push people beyond their “comfort zones.” Some students quickly thought of solutions, but had difficulty communicating them to others in a way the others could understand or trust. Others tried to show leadership, but were not heeded by classmates. In one group, all the students focused on the most interesting aspect of the problem while other aspects were neglected. Some groups worked really well together at first, then “hit a wall” when the success tapered off. Those that paused to determine where they were and where they needed to go, got back on track to success and learned a lot from the process.
Purposes of our Trip
We were all interested in having an extreme amount of fun, and we were not disappointed! The “Black Hole” slide, skits, absolutely crazy songs, the night hike for the guys, staying in the cabins, good food, and being with friends all made easy work of that goal.
The students learned how to work better with others and support one another no matter what. Friendships were strengthened while also being stretched in a safe environment. Relationships were taken to a new level that will hopefully serve as a source of strength and encouragement all year long.
The qualities and friendships that were developed at Camp Tecumseh can benefit the students all year long and beyond. Here is what several students learned:
“Everybody there was encouraging me. I didn’t make it to the top, but I was still happy that I got really close. I learned that when people encourage you, it helps you gain self-confidence.”
“God is huge and awesome because of what we saw that night [looking at the stars on the night hike]. If I was you, I would pay a million dollars to see it.”
“I learned [while looking at the stars] that God overpasses awesomeness far more than I thought.”
“I can do it when I try my hardest.”
“You have to work as a team and not individuals when you are doing an activity or helping in life.”