At The Out-of-Door Academy, eighth graders are the leaders of the Middle School student body. Knowing that they are role models for sixth and seventh graders, these students understand the importance of their actions during their final year before moving to the Upper School. Click for photos.
At the beginning of each school year, the eighth grade educator team takes their students on a retreat to DaySpring Conference Center in Parrish. During the three fun-filled days, students focus on team building, problem-solving, and communication skills, bonding as a class while learning how to be the leaders of the Middle School. The students work together in small groups to complete a variety of activities, conquer the high and low ropes courses, and learn to navigate and successfully problem-solve challenging scenarios.
Each year, one of the unique, cross-divisional highlights is the senior visit–when a group of senior volunteers come to the camp as mentors. The seniors hold a Q&A session about what to expect during their eighth grade year as well as when they move up next year to the Upper School. Following the Q&A, the students all played games of Trivia and Name That Tune, skills they will use in fun competitions throughout their years in Upper School.
Senior Annabelle Basler reflected on how positive her experience visiting with the eight graders was. "ODA truly has a strong community no matter the person, grade, or age…Walking in, I didn't know all of the eighth graders, but with everyone I talked to it felt like we were friends for years. Giving advice and answering questions for them about high school created an older sibling bond, which is a unique characteristic of ODA that should take advantage of more often. Playing Trivia and Name That Tune brought out my group's competitive side, uniting everyone, and this strong team bond allowed us to win the game.
"I will remember that night forever. When you have a group of people who are able to form a strong bond minutes after meeting each other, it is a very special experience. The laughs were endless, and I hope the eighth graders felt the same way."
Throughout the year, Middle School educators implement the lessons learned during the program to remind students of their strength and ability to persevere as they face challenges and set goals. A key component of the program, these new skills help students to have the confidence to push beyond their comfort level and find new motivation inside as well as outside the classroom.