East Grand Rapids — Team-building, survival skills, dance parties — incoming fifth-graders at Wealthy Elementary School pretty much got to do it all during a recent trip to Mystic Lake YMCA Camp.
The annual outing took place Sept. 13-15. It’s held every year to help ease the transition to fifth grade, and to give students opportunities to make new friends and learn about their fellow students.
The trip spanned three days and two nights, giving students from each class plenty of time to experience nature and get to know one another so they can kick off the year right.
It was a success, according to three enthusiastic fifth-graders, just back from camp.
“It was a really good experience,” said Wolfgang Speer. “I think it let a lot of people get a chance to get away from their house and get away from school.”
He said he felt lucky to have the opportunity, “because not a lot of kids get to go to camp.”
The fifth-graders had to put their heads together to problem-solve during various team- and trust-building exercises.
Wolfgang said he enjoyed an activity that challenged students to work together to build a bridge.
“They had three platforms and you got two planks of wood,” he said. “The three platforms were all super far apart, and each plank wasn’t far enough to reach across, so you’d have to use both planks to get across. How we figured out how to do it is, one person would stand and counterweight one of them … and then you’d put the second one across.”
It was a group effort, and it took some time but paid off, he said.
Louisa Filkins her group had a different cooperative activity, and she excitedly relayed the details:
“We did a spider web thing,” she said. “You had to be connected to someone, so you’d put your hand out, or you could hold hands or do a conga line or something. But you’d have to go across this thing and step over it, and you couldn’t touch the lines. Every time you touched (a line), you’d have to start over.”
Learning New Skills
The time at Mystic Lake also included canoeing, football and soccer, group meals, shared chores, outdoor activities, crafts and more.
“We learned some basic survival skills, like how to build shelters and, like, how much time you’d have in the wild to survive,” Corinne Sisson said. “Building fires was fun, too.”
Louisa and Corinne said they had fun with the crafts, making bracelets and bead animals, and they added that they particularly enjoyed the dance parties that capped off each meal period.
Groups for the camp were pre-picked with a goal of getting kids to broaden their social horizons. While there was some initial nervousness, the three students each said that once it wore off, they had fun spending time with kids from other classes and friend groups.
“I think you got to know each other really well,” Wolfgang said.
Louisa concurred, saying she was glad to have spent some time with new faces.
‘It was a really cool experience. I think it let a lot of people get a chance to get away from their house and get away from school.’— Wealthy Elementary fifth-grader Wolfgang Speer
“In my groups, we probably wouldn’t have picked those people normally, but they were actually really fun to hang out with,” she said.
Wolfgang said the experience helped get him back in touch with friends he hadn’t seen in a while, as well as make new ones.
“It was really a confidence-booster,” he said.
Louisa and Corinne chimed in to say the camp upped their excitement about starting fifth grade.
Teacher Kelly Froehlich thanked parents who tagged along for their “amazing support,” and said it helped create a “great, safe, fun time.”
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