Trading Textbooks for Broomball and Bunk Beds

Milestones abound with each school year and grade completed. Arguably, 6th grade seems to be one of the most exciting and transformative. For the last 20 years, leaving the classroom and going camping with classmates has been one of those much anticipated experiences for our Jenison 6th graders.

All students are given the opportunity to attend camp at some point during their 6th grade year. Each student comes with a unique life story; and we find time and again that the shared social and experiential education aspects of camp helps draw the students closer, allowing friendships to develop and compassion and understanding to grow.

1383307166f1e61842c61877dd33d4ec3d7faff9Although, this year’s Bauerwood trip was scheduled for the end of February and they started their camp week at 29 degrees upon arrival; the class experienced an amazing 4 days together with their classmates and teachers.

Bedtime came pretty easy at the end of some very busy days. Outdoor activities included broom ball, snow tubing, archery, team-building exercises and campfires. Indoor fun included ropes courses, group games like capture the flag and glow dodge ball and so much more!

In true Wildcat fashion, our amazing Jenison staff goes above and beyond to invest in their students. Enjoying the experience alongside them, encouraging them to have fun and be fully engaged while they unplug from technology and escape the average routine of their every day lives. Some camp activities are just plain fun, while others are challenging and require that the students stretch themselves and give their best effort. All while in a supporting environment – getting to know each other (and themselves) better with each task they accomplish.

Many students are stretched beyond their comfort zone, often making the experience a pivotal moment for students as they grow leaps and bounds in self-confidence. If you know a Jenison 6th grader, share in their excitement and ask about camp!

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The Bauerwood staff had a great time connecting with their students at camp.

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The junior counselors are former Bauerwood students. The current Jenison High School students were very excited to partner with the teachers and Grace Adventure staff to create an awesome camp experience like they had when they were 6th graders.

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There’s Nothing Quite Like 6th Grade Camp!

If you grew up as a JPS student, chances are good that you attended 6th grade camp! For at least the past eighteen years, each school in the district has set aside 4 days each year for the 6th grade class to spend at a camp in the area.

The students take part in various activities such as ropes courses, horseback riding, biking, archery, team-building exercises, campfires, and group games like capture the flag and glow dodge ball. They also spend time with the students in their cabins to continue to build and develop peer relationships.

6th grade teacher, Heather Chatfield, is the Camp Director for Bauerwood and says the Tuesday to Friday camp experience at Grace Adventures is an important experience for the students to learn new skills, unplug, and enjoy being together. Of course, the students can’t go alone so each school depends on volunteers. Bauerwood typically takes 9 – 10 teachers from the building plus 6 – 12 junior counselors who are willing and enthusiastic high school students eager to make camp amazing for every student, just like it was for them.

In order to make camp a meaningful experience for these rising junior high students they are encouraged to expand their comfort zones and be brave. “We focus on this time being a team building experience. We also look at it as a way to get students to challenge themselves to do something new.” When students are encouraged by their peers and feel safe to try new things, they feel changed and teachers see an improvement in their demeanor and self-image. “We have so many kids that come back from camp feeling more confident and successful.”

Other wonderful benefits of camp is the opportunity for students to put down their devices, engage with their friends, and be challenged in new ways. “6th grade camp is a time for kids to “unplug” from today’s technology that is readily available. They are able to be physically active for four days. They have to communicate and push themselves more than ever before. The teachers love the experience because we get to know our students even better during this week at camp!”

Thank you to all of the teachers and high school students who attend camp and make it amazing for our 6th graders! We know that these experiences are helping to shape them into strong, confident, junior high students!