Twelve ODA Upper School students and faculty chaperone Mr. Marc Roberts spent five days on a North Carolina Outward Bound School (NCOBS) expedition to the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina last week.
Time on the trail was punctuated by stops for trail mix, encouragement to stay hydrated, and conversation that distracted the travelers from the fifty-pound packs they hauled up mountain inclines and lowered over rock faces. NCOBS courses are designed to teach “power skills:” decision-making, independence, group collaboration, leadership, self-understanding, teamwork, and navigating challenges.
Students worked together to conquer the physical challenges of the course. During their time on the arduous trail, they came together as a team to support each other. They learned patience, tenacity, and communication skills during their time working as a group.
“I’m not really a hiking and camping guy, but spending time like this with my classmates and bonding as a group, that was a really special experience,” said Joe Sparma ‘22. “At the end of every day we’d go in a circle and have headlamps in the middle so we could see. Sometimes we just stood around the fire and talked about the day. We’d also talk about what we appreciated about the day. It was cool to see what was on people’s minds – I enjoyed that,” he reflected.
On some days, the team was so tired they turned in as early as 7:00 pm after their last chore of the day, cleaning their dinner bowls in a leave-no-trace method.
“What was really cool about rock climbing was that when you got to the top of the wall, it was really beautiful, just looking out at the amazing mountains,” said freshman EJ Robinson ‘22.
An important part of the trip was connecting with the group. Leaving electronics behind was an essential part of the course.
“I’m one of those people who spends a lot of time on my phone. This was the longest time I’ve ever spent not on my phone. It’s crazy how much you get to know people when you’re talking to them face to face,” said Claire Karp-Hauser ‘22. “I think for a lot of people it’s hard to make time, but maybe it’s just important to take time to talk to other people and to make relationships with people I we might not otherwise take the time for. People assume that because we’re in a smaller school that everyone knows each other really well, but we learned a lot more about each other on this trip.”
Besides getting to know and support each other through the challenges of the course, all felt strongly that the time away gave them time to recharge and refocus.
“I had so much time to just think and write. We had time to think about things like how we’re like mountains - sometimes tall, sometimes eroded. It was good time to think,” offered Cate Paxton ‘22.
“If you’re at home you can always do something. You can watch Netflix or go on your phone. Here we could just take time to think. It was really good. When we got back, I just felt so much more relaxed, so much more together. It was only five days but it felt like it was longer,” said Grant Massey ‘21.
Facilitators hope that this experience becomes a reminder of the importance of getting out of our comfort zones. The students who attended this trip agree that stepping outside of this zone will encourage positive and exciting new experiences.