Camp stays returned to the British International School of Washington with Years 7, 8, and 9 visiting the premiere educational North Bay Adventure Camp in Maryland and Years 10 and 11 visiting Camp Horizons in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. Activities included team-building exercises, watercraft adventures, climbing and zip-lining experiences, and more. These allowed the students to get to know one another while building confidence, learning life skills, and working together.
"We loved seeing the children be children," said Assistant Head of Lower Secondary Rachel White-Hunt, who accompanied Years 7, 8 and 9. "After a challenging 18 months, camp went a long way in making things feel better."
It was great to see a renewed sense of community after a year in which many experiences took place in isolation or virtually. According to Ms White-Hunt, the children showed team spirit and worked collaboratively. They oversaw looking after their dorm, waking up on time and making it to breakfast.
"We saw a lot of pastoral support," Ms White-Hunt said. The students encouraged one another through activities that, at times, pushed people out of their comfort zones. The students loved activities like the high tree ropes, where they walked through the treetops along a thin wire from one point to another. If someone felt nervous, other students cheered them on.
"It was spectacular," said Ms White-Hunt, who explained that the activity was perfectly safe but also high up off the ground. "The students felt like superheroes."
In addition, the students learned to trust one another. In one activity, they blindfolded a teammate and guided them around the campsite. Then, they also got to be brave and trust themselves. They rode a big swing ride that relied on confidence and courage. The students rode it as high as it would go before releasing it on their own and swinging back and forth.
Amid the daring, heart-pumping activities, there were occasions when students could relax and spend time getting to know one another. There was also a boat ride that the students loved, and one night, they made s'mores over a bonfire. There were academic moments, too, such as lessons about the bay.
Year 10 and 11 students enjoyed outdoor activities at Camp Horizons. For instance, Year 10 rode on a giant swing, and Year 11 did an exercise called the Leap of Faith where they climbed a big pole, stood on a small platform at the top, and jumped off to be caught by a harness.
"Our students were fearless," said Assistant Head of Upper Secondary and IGCSE Coordinator Tracey Churchill, who attended Camp Horizons with the group. "We saw sides of the children that we don't always see in school. Children who might have nerves about standing at the front of a classroom to read an essay or deliver a speech showed confidence in even the most thrilling camp activities."
"Our students were fearless!"
Years 10 and 11 also swam in the swimming pool, canoed on the lake, saw farm animals at a petting zoo, and participated in team challenges in the woods. Camp activities also included obstacle courses and races. In one game, the students imagined the ground was molten lava, and they had to walk along a path of wooden blocks without falling off. The children even learned how to build fires successfully in the rain.
"There was a camaraderie among the students that enabled support and growth," Ms Churchill said.
There was a team challenge throughout the experience. On Friday, this challenge culminated in the teams building handmade boats with supplies from the camp. Then, the students had to use the boats to get from one side of the lake to the other and back. They had to listen to one another and consider different perspectives and points of view. Finally, they had to choose someone to go in the boat, and that student had to be ready and willing to try new things.
The restrictiveness of the pandemic changed the school landscape for a long time. Therefore, Ms Churchill explained, even children who have been at the British International School of Washington for a year or more might consider themselves new at camp.
"The students need chances to be teenagers," Ms Churchill said. "They need to spend time together, share stories, listen to music, play games, and laugh. They need time and space to do normal things that kids like to do, and camp provides that and so much more."
We hope the happy memories that the students made will last forever.