A Journey of Connection and Growth

A Journey of Connection and Growth

A Journey of Connection and Growth

Unveiling the Magic of an Overnight Bonding Trip

By Kristen Silberberg, Sixth Grade Dean and English Teacher

For decades, the tradition of bonding days has woven its way through the fabric of the Middle School community, offering a special time for students to forge connections with their peers and teachers. This September, the usual camaraderie of this tradition took a transformative leap. For the first time in the school’s history, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders eagerly joined each other on an unforgettable overnight bonding trip, marking a new chapter of unity and togetherness among the three grades.

The idea behind this momentous trip originated from the desire to foster stronger connections among students of different grades and to introduce the sixth graders to the overnight tradition, which had been enjoyed only by the seventh and eighth graders in recent years, and even then, as individual grades. It was a chance to build a more cohesive community, open opportunities for sixth graders to have new experiences, and create efficiencies for the school, too.

Nestled along the Chesapeake Bay, the Sandy Hill Camp and Retreat Center played host to this year’s trip. Over the course of two exhilarating days, Middle School Saints were immersed in five distinctive activities—waterfront, high ropes, team building, a grade specific focused themes and creative project—each crafted to promote unity, teamwork, and leadership among the three grades.

The sixth graders delved into the theme of community, learning how to craft egg carton projects—an activity they will lead with the preschool children at the Child and Family Network Center—offering a tangible bond with their community. Meanwhile, the seventh graders rallied around teamwork, fashioning fleece blankets for AART (All Ages Read Together), another community partner, illustrating the power of collective effort and kindness.

In a focus on leadership, the eighth graders underwent an immersive experience in which they learned to guide and inspire. The pinnacle of their journey was leading a culminating activity for the entire Middle School, split into individual Saints Squads made up for students from all grade levels. This awe-inspiring moment left an indelible impression on the eighth graders, who discovered what they were capable of while giving our younger Saints a peek into the future.

“As an eighth grade team, we want our students to grow as leaders,” said Lucia Simpson, eighth grade dean and science teacher. “Giving the students a time to work on the skill and then practice what they learned was an invaluable experience. Saints Squads will continue throughout the year giving the eighth grade the opportunity to continue practicing being a leader of our Middle School community.”

The preparation for this ambitious trip was a labor of love. Deans from each of the three grades, Kristen Silberberg (sixth), Erin Daly (seventh), and Lucia Simpson (eighth), and the dean of students, Jon Japha, poured their time this summer into meticulously planning and orchestrating an experience that would etch lasting memories in the hearts of students.

The benefits of this initiative were as varied as they were profound. For many students, it was their maiden voyage into an overnight adventure, where they stepped out of their comfort zones and into a realm of discovery. Teachers, too, found this experience invaluable, fostering deeper bonds and understanding with their students beyond the confines of a traditional classroom.

In a recent chapel talk, Laura Walker, Middle School French teacher, said, “At Sandy Hill Camp and Resort, we got to see each other beyond the academics. I heard students encouraging each other to take just one more step and then cheering when that next step was taken. I saw the courage and pride in making it across the ropes and I loved the trust we placed in our new found friends to get us from one end of the course to the other.”

The trip marked an undeniable success, serving as a testament to the power of shared experiences and unity. As the campfires flickered on beaches and campgrounds, marshmallows melted, and laughter echoed, it became evident that the spirit of togetherness had woven its magic through the hearts of all who were a part of this incredible journey.

With the resounding success of this inaugural unified bonding trip, the anticipation for next year’s adventure is already building. The sixth, seventh, and eighth grade teachers are already buzzing with excitement, eager to recreate the magic and reinforce the invaluable bonds forged during this transformative experience.

In the end, the bonding trip is not just another school trip, but a collective narrative of growth, friendship, and learning—a tapestry of shared memories that students and teachers will cherish for years to come. The journey not only marked a beautiful first but laid the foundation for a tradition that promises to continue nurturing the spirit of togetherness for generations to come.