Seventh graders embarked on their annual trip to Camp Wyman, a technology-free overnight experience in the woods of Eureka, Missouri. Middle School Teacher and Class of 2029 Dean Eric Taylor said, “The purpose of the trip is to grow closer as a class as we think about all of the new students we have in the grade, so we work together to accomplish a variety of challenges.” Students embraced time away from school to problem-solve and support each other while traversing climbing towers and low ropes courses and navigating other team-building activities.
Middle School P.E. Teacher Rachael Maurer loves getting away from school and the normal grind with seventh graders to bond. “Our goal is to have the students branch out and get to know each other outside their friend groups. We see a lot of new friendships form, which makes the whole class tighter. Students build confidence and trust, and overcome fears while having their classmates cheer them on and support each other. Whether all of the students see it now or later in the year, seventh-grade camp is a pivotal time for these young students,” she said.
When students arrived at camp, they were assigned to groups such as Barred Owls, River Otters, Bobcats, Red Tail Hawks, etc. Taylor said, “Students stayed in cabins overnight, which for several of our students was a first! The groups bonded over the two days, creating group chants and working through all the efforts together.”
The Class of 2029 immersed themselves in several endeavors that would put their teamwork and perseverance to the test, ultimately forging new bonds with classmates. Students learned “Crate Climbing,” an exercise where the group stacks plastic crates with a climber safely roped at the top while, at the same time, not letting the enormously tall stack of crates topple over. They also tethered into climbing gear, pulled themselves up on a steep climbing wall, and zip-lined through the forest. The intentionally designed activities were curated to foster deeper relationships and, most importantly, to have fun.
Katherine Speckhals ’29 shared, “Something I found challenging about the trip was trusting my group not to drop me when I was climbing and they were belaying me.” Theo Cheynel-Bertomeu ’29 added, “I was eager to experience new things. The crate climbing was my favorite because everyone cooperated and supported each other during that time, and overall, we functioned as a team.” Wilson Froehlich ’29 also enjoyed the intensity of the crate stacking, “It was really fun to be up that high and balancing at the same time. Working as a team, whether it was at crate stacking or team building, it was a really good bonding experience,” he said.
The Camp Wyman experience is also a favorite for Middle School Science Teacher Michelle Bouchard. “As teachers, we see the students in a completely different way than in the classroom. When asking the students about the most challenging part of their experience, several will mention working with classmates they don’t know very well and trust them to catch them, hold them up, or support them in many other ways, and that’s the point! Getting students out there to experience each other as just another person slightly different than themselves and working together in groups that have never been formed before while doing it in a way that isn’t a history project, science experiment, or book discussion can be very impactful. Some groups gel instantly and work together well from the beginning; others take a bit. Either way, it is a joy to watch,” she said.
On the ground, students engaged in target sports with slingshots, archery, and axe throwing and enjoyed other problem-solving activities like trust falls, team carries, rope swinging, and slacklining. The students had to exercise their leadership and communication skills with their classmates to achieve their goals, and many had to forge through discomfort or nervousness to find solutions.
Middle School History Teacher Blake Whitney appreciated watching students dive into nature, form strong friendships, and face exciting challenges. “As a teacher, I love seeing the students work together and leave their comfort zones. The students created lasting connections that will hopefully last long into the future,” he said.
The seventh graders and their faculty chaperones enjoyed dinner and gathered around the campfire with Kenya, a storyteller and musician who shared African proverbs and encouraged the students to make music with him. They quickly roasted marshmallows for Smores before heading out on a night hike led by Middle School History Teacher Mike Fitzgerald.
Bouchard added, “As an Advisor and group leader, I provide not only positive support but also an encouragement to try new experiences outside of their comfort zone, whether it is going on a night hike (Thank you, Mr. Fitzgerald!) to listen for owls or climbing a wall hooked up to gear, many are surprised at themselves when we leave. Watching the growth, happiness, and camaraderie that happens while there is truly magical!”
Ashini Craig ’29 expressed that while there were literal and figurative highs and lows, she was most excited about the communication and support of her classmates. She said, “My favorite part of camp was crate climbing. I saw my group come together the most as we supported each other, improved with positive feedback even when we failed, cheered on successes, built each other’s confidence and communicated so we could help each other out when our arms hurt from supporting the tower from both sides. This was one of the more challenging and motivating activities we did because it was fun, and we realized that to be most successful with the activity, we had to do all of the above together.
“Camp was a good experience for us as seventh graders because, as so many people (including me) joined the school this year, I could connect with people better than at school. It was cool that we got to experience something like this with our peers because a lot of people showed different sides of themselves that you might not see as often at school. Overall, Camp Wyman gave us more of a sense of connection as a class!”
Forge ahead, Class of 2029, on supporting each other and strengthening your bonds!