Why Camp Week?
Often when the school year begins, the objectives of students and teachers are in direct, and perhaps irreconcilable or even catastrophic, conflict.
In a typical classroom on the first week of school, the teacher has one main objective, establish classroom rules and procedures, while making sure that students understand what they need to do to be successful in the course. On the surface, that sounds perfectly reasonable. However, the problem is that many students do not share that singular focus during the opening days of school.
Boys of middle school age are much more focused on building friendships than on listening to grown ups talk. When they return to school, most of their thoughts and questions are social, especially when starting out at a new school. Will I have a friend? Will the other kids be nice to me? Will they think I’m cool…or funny…or at least not a complete loser? Will my teachers like me and… will I like them?
Of course we’d like to make the boys more mature, responsible, and better able to prioritize through our sheer force of adult will, but the development of their brains is in the way. With lower levels of impulse control and often weaker executive functioning skills than what is normal for same-age female peers, boys often struggle with middle school, especially in the transition from summer-to-school.
At Seven Hills, we start off with Camp Week, so the boys can answer those burning social questions first. No classroom learning was going to happen before they did anyway. In fact, it’s much more likely that boys in classes the opening week would act-out to score “cool points” with peers or try being the “class clown” as a way to make friends.
During Camp the boys get to know everyone in their grade groups and houses, lots of other boys from shared time outside, as well as all of the teachers in the school through a variety of team building and communication-centered activities. In addition to those activities, they help write the honor code, learn the rules, take a tour, walk through their schedule, and make friends along the way. By the end of Camp Week, the boys have learned that this IS their school and that they have friends here; they know the kids are nice and the teachers are, too. With that established and those social needs met, then, and only then, are boys ready to learn.
Dagan Rowe, Head of School