Upperclassmen Supervise Sixth Grade Campers

The sixth grade camp trip is an annual tradition of Kennedy Middle School. Transpiring in the fall, practically all of the sixth grade class will be going. A trip this large requires planning and supervision, however, that the school simply can’t always provide. To assist, a handful of high school students are selected from a pool of applicants.
The trip, usually taking place around the beginning of October, has been a tradition of Kennedy for years. The trip has a variety of activities planned for all the students, from camping to rock climbing to trail hiking. All the activities are guided and monitored by YMCA staff, teachers, and counselors. Thankfully, the weather around this time of year is ideal for such a trip. Several indoor activities are included as well, such as group singing and dancing. All meals are provided by the YMCA as well, with three meals a day and a very adequate mess hall to accommodate the crowd.
For a high school student to apply to be a counselor, requirements must be met. For one, students must be 16. This include most of the junior and senior classes. In fact, students may apply in both their third and fourth years in high school. “There have been students who have counseled as a junior and senior,” tells Neal Gillich, 6th grade science teacher. There are a few other requirements as well. “Letters of recommendation from high school teachers seems to be a sticking point with some applicants, along with deadlines,” says Gillich.
Every year for the trip, there are a total of 12 counselors, six male and six female. “The camp recommends a 1:10 ratio of leader to campers,” says Julie Geise, 6th grade math teacher. The counselors live in the same bunks as the students, and become very close to the students during the trip. It’s a very personal experience for the students and counselors. In fact, the interpersonal relationships formed between student and counselor are one of the many reasons for counselors to come back for the experience again.
Despite a usually fantastic experience, there can be some hitches in the process. “Collecting paperwork and payments, configuration of cabins, and balancing the number of students to cabin leaders are all problems,” says Geise.“With the number of students going, just getting all the paperwork organized and making copies that the camp requires organizing what cabins the different students will be placed in and coordinating all of this with the YMCA Camp staff,” states Gillich. Problems arise between counselor and student, although not in a severe manner. With all the good times, counselors can forget their role, and leadership problems arise. “Sometimes counselors confuse their role of leader with the role of being their students’ friend.  This becomes a problem for the counselor when expecting students to respect their role as leader,” says Geise.
The annual sixth grade camp trip is a phenomenal character building experience and embodies the transition from elementary to middle school. Students are able to explore their limits, physically and socially, and are given chances to make friends and stay active. Overall, it’s a memorable trip that most kids will remember throughout their life.