Shortly after returning from ODA’s Winter Break, our fifth graders departed campus for a leadership retreat to Circle F Dude Ranch in Lake Wales.
They were the first group to scale the ranch’s new Odyssey Course, a three-story high ropes obstacle. Each team was challenged to make their way across the wires, ropes, and platforms together by working together to develop plans to get each member safely to the other side while offering physical support on the course. The focus of the trip was team-building, and the students eagerly participated in many collaborative activities from STEM competitions to nature challenges. They enjoyed s’mores by the campfire, archery, a hayride through the beautiful and rustic property, and hilarious singing and dancing competitions. The overnight experience left the group of fifth graders stronger and more unified as a class.
When the students returned to campus, they were asked to reflect on a “Small Moment” that made a big impact during their time at the ranch. Two students’ recollections captured their feelings beautifully:
“I slowly walk over to the giant net. I choose my steps ever so carefully, but at the same time, I’m exploding inside my mind. I watch as all my other classmates climb to the top. When it’s my turn, I don’t hesitate at all, and I start climbing away. I reach the tunnel and attempt to climb in, but I fail a few times before I get on the platform. Now the rope that attaches to my harness is connected to a wire above my head. When I try to step on the wire, I quickly take my foot off. I do it a couple of times before I make my first step on the Odyssey Course.” —Mia Amdur ‘26
“Looking down made me feel sick. I felt the wind in my face with such ferocity it threatened to whisk me off with one great gust of wind. I stepped up with quivering legs. Hooked to the zipline, I jumped off. The wind racing in my ear, the ground rushed up to meet me.” —Phinn Monsul ‘26