Experiencing Winter in the Woods: Grade 8 Outdoor Camp

A welcome highlight of the January calendar whether you are a Grade 8 student at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) or one of a handful of staff members who support this annual winter excursion --- is outdoor camp.

This week, more than 110 Grade 8 students, 25 student leaders/mentors, and six faculty members will experience winter in the woods with an SMCS twist!

St. Michael's College School Grade 8 students tobogganing during their first day of outdoor education camp with ALIVE Outdoors.

Organized by ALIVE (Adventure, Leadership, Individuality, Values, Empowerment) Outdoors, ‘an experiential and outdoor education company,’ which has led the SMCS camp programme since 2002, the Grade 8 winter camp experience is focused on the themes of: team-building, acceptance of others, and goal-setting.

“Many of them have never had the chance to be involved in a real winter camp,” says David Lee ’94, Vice Principal and one of the SMCS faculty members who will attend the five-day excursion. “The goal of this programme is to encourage them to challenge themselves and step out of their comfort zone by trying new things. One of the main goals is to have them ‘unplug’ from technology for four days, to be present with each other and themselves, and to connect with nature.”

St. Michael's College School Grade 8 students at YMCA Camp Wanakita this year.

Set in Central Ontario, on Koshlong Lake near Haliburton, the YMCA Camp Wanakita is about a three-hour bus ride from Toronto. Students will experience a vast array of outdoor winter activities including: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, tobogganing, and hiking at night. They will also be taught winter survival techniques and participate in group workshops.
 
SMCS faculty are on hand in a large part to support the programming specifically developed for this age group by ALIVE Outdoors staff, while at the same time customizing the experience for SMCS students.

St. Michael's College School students playing Mukluk flip, a game played in the Arctic region at Grade 8 winter camp this year.

“We always try to make it a St. Michael’s camp,” says Lee. “The activities are the same for the most part, but we use them to help the boys form meaningful connections with each other and their teachers. We also run some of our own programming where possible.”

A long-standing annual highlight of the camp is an evening mass with Fr. William May, CSB.

Learn more about the St. Michael’s College School Outdoor Education Programme.