Building on the Brotherhood at the Grade 9 Outdoor Education Camp

Whether they’re canoeing, swimming, climbing, or catching frogs, there are no shortage of smiles coming from the Grade 9 students up at Camp YMCA Wanakita this week.

The Grade 9 camp is the largest outdoor education programme offered at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) in terms of the number of students and leaders involved. This year, there are over 200 campers and 47 student-leaders participating in this programme alone.

“It takes a lot of coordination and help from everyone in the school to make it happen,” says Adrian Spagnolo ’02, SMCS teacher and outdoor experiential education coordinator.

Grade 9 SMCS students preparing to go kayaking.

Jalynn Bosley, executive director of ALIVE Outdoors, says this camp is similar to the Grade 7 camp in that there is a focus on building community and making friends, since about half the campers are returning SMCS students and half are new students experiencing the school for the very first time. 

“The focus is that by the end of the camp, it’s not so much of an ‘us versus them’ with the returning boys and new ones,” she says. By the end, they’re all brothers.

Grade 9 students working as a team for an outdoor education activity at camp.

“If there is one thing I took away from my experience [as a camper], it’s that brotherhood triumphs over fear,” says Seung Jae Yang, a head camp leader. “Prior to coming to St. Michael’s College School, I had just recently arrived in Canada and was not familiar with the culture, and did not have any hobbies, let alone any friends.”

He adds, “Here I am now, proudly one of the leaders and representatives of my school. It is all thanks to the outdoor education programme, which taught me how to conquer my fears, and more importantly, gave me brothers who would support me along the way.”

In addition to building friendships, the Grade 9 campers work on outdoor skills such as portaging and shelter-building that will prepare them for the outdoor education programme they’ll experience next year at Camp Northland and, in particular, Camp Arowhon - Physical Education Canoe Trip.

A Grade 9 student learning how to carry a canoe at camp.

On their last day, the campers will participate in a final eco-challenge.

 “The students get to put together all the skills they’ve learned and come together to go through the massive challenge,” says Spagnolo.

“It’s an hour long race with running, swimming, paddling, and portaging,” says Bosley. “It’s very intense and the boys get right into it!”

At the end of the day, the goal of the programme is for the students to be engaged in experiential learning opportunities, have fun, and create memories they’ll have for life.

Find more information about the outdoor education programme at SMCS here.

To learn more about our partner, ALIVE Outdoors Inc., and their philosophy on education, visit their website.