Starting middle school can be a challenge.
“Friendships change, cliques start forming, and that sense of independence is evident,” said Laurie Murphy, sixth-grade advisor and St. Joseph Middle School social studies teacher.
This transition is why our BCACS sixth-graders attend a weeklong camp near the start of the school year. No mom and dad, no homework or tests – just their classmates, the great outdoors, and the opportunity to grow closer together.
“Camp is a wonderful experience,” said Tina Sprague, St. Joseph Middle School science teacher. “It allows the students time away from their parents and pushes them out of their comfort zones. It is a great team-building experience for the class.”
The entire sixth grade went to Sherman Lake YMCA Camp from October 9-13th this year.
Beforehand, camp counselors met with our middle school staff to better understand the kids and the goals the staff had for them.
One of the camp’s counselors was a familiar face – BCACS Alum Nick Reincke, Class of 2012.
“I explained to the class that he had attended our schools and that I had had him in class,” Mrs. Murphy said. “I thought it was great he was there.”
This year, the middle school staff wanted to emphasize HCRR, which stands for Honesty, Caring, Responsibility, and Respect. Students embraced these concepts through a series of outdoor activities that included low rope and high rope obstacle courses, swimming, rock-wall climbing, archery, crafts, a giant swing and, of course, campfires.
The middle school staff, who took turns being on site that week, was impressed with their growth.
“I saw students who are not typically buddies supporting one another with positive words and actions,” said Molly Williamson, St. Joseph Middle School math teacher. Crossing social boundaries can be uncomfortable for middle school students, and it was inspiring to see them rise to the challenge.”
They impressed their camp counselors, too. The boys’ cabin counselor even nominated them for the HCRR Award. He wrote, “You, as a whole, have been the most respectful, fun, and HCRR cabin I have ever had. In my eyes, you are all HCRR leaders.”
The most rewarding part was how that unity carried over into the classroom after camp ended.
“It was affirming to witness a shift in mindset in the classroom the week following camp,” Mrs. Williamson said. “I found students to be more supportive and patient with one another and far less critical.”
“After camp, I notice that they ‘know’ each other better through skills and team building, and are happier and more confident when they are in the classroom,” Mrs. Murphy said. “Camp is a bonding experience that extends into the classroom and beyond.”