Growth in the Woods

The thought of taking 163 students camping for three days in four different states can be a little daunting. A big thank you to Laurie LeClair, Brooks Johnson, the kitchen crew, and the Outing Club for all the work they did organizing the logistics of our fifteen different trips!

Two weeks ago we spent some time talking as a faculty about why we take the whole school on camping trips. I feel it is always important to evaluate traditions and study how they support our school’s mission. For this year’s discussion we used a framework developed by Shanterra McBride, who spoke to our faculty about the needs of young people as they develop into adults, to evaluate the camping trip tradition. Ms. McBride provided seven different adolescent needs and as a faculty we found that our camping trips, when done right, helpful fulfill the seven needs she outlined. Below I have listed the seven needs and some of the ways we believe our trips address them.

1. Need for Belonging and Membership

-Youth need to know they are cared about by others and feel a sense of connection to other in the group.

Maybe the most important goal of the trip is to provide yet another circle of peers and adults in their Dublin lives. Camping creates an uber-community very quickly. During our first lunch we allowed the students to sit together and nobody said a word! At 10:30 that evening they were still laughing and talking around the campfire. I was exhausted, but was so happy that they were bonding and let them stay up a little later! These trips force us all to depend on one another. I love the organic conversations that only start after miles of hking or paddling together.


2. Need for Safety and Structure

-a perception that one is safe in the world and that daily events are somewhat predictable.

-We try to provide the students with as much information about the trips and what to expect before we travel. We try to match the adventure level of the trip to the readiness level of our students by giving them choice in their trips.


3. Need for Self Worth and Ability to Contribute

-Youth need to feel their lives have meaning and purpose.

-This need is so important. Sometimes adults can get in the way of student growth by trying to do everything for them. Part of the reason we have work gang and student jobs at Dublin stems from the need of people to feel like they are contributing to the community. Something as simple as washing dishes can make students feel like they have a meaning and purpose.


4. Need for Self-Awareness and Ability to Reflect and Assess

-insight into our own and other’s strengths and weaknesses and how this affects our abilities to deal with challenges.

-Ahh, self awareness. Such an important need. Camping trips help us slow down and reflect on our daily lives. We try to provide many opportunities for campers to consider their own strengths and weaknesses. We even did daily meditation on our trip.


5. Need for Independence and Control Over One’s Life

-Youth need to know that they can influence people and events through decision-making and action.

-We try to include students in the decision making and planning process of each trip.


6. Need for Closeness with at Least One Lasting relationship with an Adult

-neighbors, friends’ parents, teachers, and anyone who takes the time to care.

-We hope every student connected with at least one of the adults on the trip. It’s amazing how many conversations we can have with students in just three days together.


7. Need for Competence and Mastery

-Youth need to feel and believe they are capable and experience success at solving problems and meeting challenges to develop their self confidence.

-Students learn how to cook, hang tarps, climb up a cliff, support an injured hiker, and work as a team.