Each year, students from the upper grades attend an overnight trip with their classmates and teachers. The Montessori School at Hampstead’s Upper Elementary class (4th – 6th) recently attended an overnight trip to the Montgomery YMCA’s Camp Chandler. These trips are designed to create shared experiences and help build a cohesive classroom community capable of tackling the emotional, social, and academic growth that comes throughout the academic year.
I was fortunate enough to attend the Upper Elementary overnight trip to Camp Chandler. The YMCA staff on-site did an excellent job facilitating. They helped each student push his or her comfort zone and strengthened the bonds the students have been working to form through activities at school. Further, the staff made everyone feel welcome and respected the diversity of students that attended.
I was able to watch the students grow in just two short days at the camp. I saw new friendships develop right before my eyes. I saw community being built and trust being developed among the students. I saw great shared laughter and shared tears. I enjoyed the verbal dance among the boys as they talked into the wee hours of the morning. I saw younger and older students working together in an environment that draws out the best in everyone. I saw students step into leadership roles for the first time, and I saw students develop their roles as team members. I saw students overcome fears with the support of the group and staff. I saw the students’ deep respect for the fears that others have in a way that allowed each student to be more comfortable expressing themselves clearly. The various activities allowed the students to grow in self-confidence and begin to recognize they have the power, within themselves, to tackle problems and issues that will confront them throughout their lives.
Growth wasn’t limited to the students. The school staff, including myself, also grew from this experience. As I watched the various team building exercises, I was struck by how clear some of the group dynamics were and how well the students were able to navigate those dynamics without interference from adults. Further, I was able to interact, talk, and learn about these students in a way I would be unable to do in the typical classroom environment. The same is true for my interactions with the faculty on the trip. Like the students, we all now have a shared set of experiences that helps deepen our bonds, empathy, and commitment to one another as we work to achieve the goal of educating the students at Montessori School at Hampstead.
The parents of the students grew as well. This trip represented the first time several students were away from their families overnight. I talked with several parents as they wondered and worried how things were going for their child and the rest of the group. Making room for our children to grow is not easy, as it is natural to want to protect our children from the discomfort that can come from peer interaction and being asked to perform new or difficult tasks. However, the process of allowing our children to develop their independence as they grow toward adulthood is critical and the flexibility and trust the parents showed by allowing their boys and girls to go on this overnight trip cannot be underestimated.
In a way, the trip was just an extension of our goals in the classroom. We want to provide a safe place for the students to learn and grow through guided self-discovery. This trip showed that as we loosen our grips on protecting our children they will grow in ways we might not imagine. I am deeply grateful for the parents, the students, the MSH staff, and the YMCA team that functioned beautifully to allow this growth to take place.
If you are interested in seeing some photos from the trip, you can see them on our Facebook page by following this link: https://goo.gl/KrOLbN