25 Sep, 2019
10 : 00
This past week, there was a buzz of excitement on campus during Parent Information Sessions that introduced information about the 'Adventure Camps’ Upper Primary children will take next month. Parents had the opportunity to learn more about the amazing experiences their child will have during the upcoming trips to Zhejiang province, with a two-night trip for Year 5 students to Nanbeihu, situated on a picturesque lake, and a three-night trip for Year 6 students to Anji, a scenic valley area southwest of Shanghai.
Adventure. The word alone conjures up images of freedom, fun, exploration, and boundary-pushing. At YCIS Shanghai, curiosity is seen as an asset and a way for students to enhance their learning, and the school's students are always encouraged to explore the world around them. Students do this not only on campus, but also by taking part in the Adventure Camps where they see new things beyond the classroom walls, and find learning opportunities in nature, working with others, building new friendships, and in simply learning to take care of themselves.
The trips, which are organised by very experienced external providers who lead adventure programmes for children and that meet International and Chinese safety standards, are also highly supervised by YCIS faculty, who are involved in all of the activities and oversee the students' safety, welfare, and learning during the camps. With a very high teacher-to-student ratio of both staff from the camp organiser and YCIS faculty members, the students are exceptionally well looked after.
Participating in the adventure camps provides the students with a wide range of benefits, including trying new things that they cannot normally do at school or in a big city like Shanghai. During the trips, they have the chance to explore the beautiful, natural settings, to step away from digital devices and big city life, and to develop an appreciation for being in nature. This time in the outdoors adds to their perspective and understanding of the world around them.
The specially-designed adventure activity bases provide a wide range of appropriately challenging activities for the children, such as kayaking, catapult building, rock climbing, a mountain trek with where they learn wilderness skills, ropes courses, archery, and more. These activities require the children to push themselves, trying things that they might find difficult at first in unfamiliar situations, such as the physical challenge of trying confidence-building ropes courses that include a 'Leap of Faith' that pushes the students out of their comfort zones, but they are reassured that they are in a safe environment, and when they complete the challenge, the students find it very rewarding and experience a real sense of achievement. According to John McEnhill, YCIS Pudong Primary Coordinator, "By taking part in these boundary-pushing activities, the students develop faith in themselves and recognise that while something might not be easy, it's satisfying when they complete the challenge, and this gives them experience in learning to push themselves in the future.
According to YCIS Puxi Year 6 Leader Ms Ruth Ferguson, the physicality of the Year 6 trip presents some challenges for the students involved, especially activities such as rock climbing and the ropes course. "Through the physical challenges the students learn determination, perseverance, and helpfulness," said Ms Ferguson. She added that one of the main goals is to have the students actively participating and trying their best. "They can overcome the challenges by having a go at all of the activities, by using the skills they have, the skills they develop over the week, and through the helpful encouragement of others. The students end up with a sense of pride at what they were able to achieve during the trip, and they also leave with newfound confidence in their abilities," she said, adding, "They learn, through the challenges they have faced, a greater sense of compassion, empathy, and thoughtfulness for others and their situations."
For some children, heading off on their Adventure Trip may be the first time they have been away from home, and while this can also be a challenge for them as they are away from the support system of their home and families, but experiencing and overcoming all of these challenges presents benefits for the students, as it can be a considerable step toward learning to be independent, resilient, and self-disciplined. The residential element of the trips is vital as the children develop their self-care skills and their confidence in being able to take care of themselves. According to Mr McEnhill, "The children learn to solve problems on their own, and come away from all the more confident as a result."
One of the other beneficial aspects of adventure camps is the development of teamwork skills. With activities that require the children to work in teams to accomplish combined goals, the students learn not only how to lead a group, but also how to effectively participate in a group. They learn to help and encourage each other, and this also adds to their confidence. According to Mr McEnhill, "Collaboration is a key aspect of these trips and is something important to YCIS as part of our Principles & Practices. While working together during the camps, the children learn to develop their leadership skills as well as learn how to be a team member in a different environment, and this is also transferrable to the classroom when they return to Shanghai." Ms Ferguson adds, "The students leave with a greater understanding of cooperation and creativity through the many team-building activities undertaken throughout the trip." A bonus is that the connections the students make with each other encourage them to be more effective learners in the classroom as they learn to help each other throughout the year and because they develop their problem-solving skills."
During the camps, as the children try new activities in the new environment, they also get to learn more about themselves. According to Mr McEnhill, "I have seen children who were quiet in the classroom, but that became leaders by example during this trip, showing others how to make a raft, for example. For children, it's a wonderful experience as they learn to thrive and try new things in the new setting." Over the years, the school has intentionally shifted the adventure camps to an earlier part of the academic year because it brings the students together as a team, it allows teachers to get a better understanding of each students' strengths and abilities in a different environment, and it provides bonding opportunities for teachers and students that are not always present in the classroom.
For the teachers, this experience is also very meaningful, as they witness their students’ growth during the trip. According to Ms Ferguson, "Teachers enjoy seeing the students push themselves to their limits and succeed. They enjoy being able to facilitate such a positive change in their students. I cry each year when I see students who are absolutely terrified on the high ropes course take that Leap of Faith and abseil to the end. The joy on their face, the sense of accomplishment you can see, is evidence enough for me with regards to the value of trips like these."
After attending the Parent Information Sessions and learning about the benefits their child will gain while participating in the trips, many parents shared that they were impressed by the experiences their child will have during these learning opportunities beyond the classroom walls. Overall, the Adventure Camps have a profound effect on students both during the excursions and on their learning journeys once they have returned. The value of building their resilience, independence, and confidence, among other attributes, in Primary helps to support the students as they move through the school system and even through university and beyond.