The importance camping holds for each class, each child and each teacher can’t be underestimated. Some of the important social and emotional learning occurs during camping trips, and students learn lessons that last a lifetime.
Camping trips begin with a 2nd grade overnight and extend up through 8th grade where they have a short trip in the fall, together with the whole upper school, and an 8-day trip in May.
These trips are intentionally not highly scheduled — students indulge in simple pleasures such as talking, playing games or music around a campfire, independent walks, cooking and, of course, cleaning up from cooking. Camping this way presents ideal opportunities for essential life lessons.
In many ways, most of the lessons of the camping trips are encapsulated in cooking. Cooking for a camping trip with a whole class of students and teachers is an enormous task that requires detailed planning, discussion, and forethought, and students are active participants and decision-makers at every level. Each meal requires a class conversation to ensure that every child’s dietary needs are met. For each meal, students draft a recipe, they compile a detailed shopping list, and they choose their cooking responsibilities for the week. This process alone is an exercise in empathy, community, and caring.
The actual cooking at the campsite is a group project where small groups of students must work cooperatively to complete each task such as cooking 3 pounds of bacon, cutting a couple of pounds of strawberries, chopping enough potatoes to make home fries for 20 people, and reserving space for gluten free and vegetarian options. If an important food item is left off the shopping list, problem solving, flexibility, and ingenuity are key to delivering a complete meal to a hungry class.
Each class bonds closer as they spend more time together and have more shared experiences. They get to know their teachers on a deeper level (and vise versa); they take responsibility for themselves, their belongings and each other; they learn more about their peers; and they grow socially and emotionally with each passing day.