Having returned from a productive yet exhausting few days away at prefect camp, it is time for some reflection.
1. The location was absolutely great for this type of camp. We had the luxury of being close to civilisation if we had an emergency (which thankfully we didn’t!) But far enough away for the students to really soak up nature at its finest. In addition, the park is a sanctuary so is pest free. Having no where but a gazebo to store food was not an issue. Food needing refrigeration was dropped off. The weather was beautiful but for next year I’d suggest that ‘skins’ would be a must-wear item of clothing. No amount of sunblock could stop the sunburn, particularly when you do so many water based activities.
2. Time of year: I missed out on two to three lessons with my classes which I feel I can easily recover, given that all my work is available on line. I’ll spend some time at the start of the week to look for any gaps of knowledge. The prefects will have also lost about two to three lessons per subject. Again, I assume that they can access their work and will need to put some effort in after school hours to recoup the time lost. I will review this with them later on in the week.
3. The stand up paddle boarding from the SUP Shed was a highlight. After some safety instructions and the basic techniques, they set off. After a brief paddle they were all up and even ended with a race. This activity was well worth doing as it catered for everyone, regardless of your fitness or skill set.
4. Master Chef is always an interesting challenge, particularly when cooking under the trees. The winning group stuck to the basics and produced tasty, hot food.
5. The 10km walk is a tradition and is a good time for house leaders to bond with their new prefects. The views were spectacular, but that could be said for pretty much any camp in NZ. They were able to say their mihimihi, discuss goals for the year and even plan their assembly dance.
7. We reintroduced the house performances this year. We tried to include activities that would draw on a range of talents. The entertainment was hilarious and the sunset priceless.
8. Raft auction and race: this was the last activity. I thought the energy levels would be low and that they’d quietly complete the task. Was I wrong! It was the most animated I have seen some of them, bidding for raft items as if their lives depended on it. Even though their rafts looked sturdy, it wasn’t enough to keep them afloat for very long.
9. One of the highlights for some: the solo sleep out. This camp ground was the ideal setting for this. Not out of eye sight for us, although they felt isolated. The ridge where we dropped them afforded students the most magnificent sea views, on both sides for some. The easterlies meant that they fell asleep to a cacophony of bird sounds wafting across from Tiritiri Island. It sounded like a zoo. When I went to collect them the next morning, the chatter was about the magnificent sunrise over the water. And the stars. Some saw a shooting star and also satellites. Having teenagers talk at length about the stars and the view was refreshing.
10. Finally, their downtime was spent under the trees singing to two guitars, two ukuleles and a mini keyboard. They were complimented by members of the public on their excellent behaviour and manners.
So to sum up: the things I’d keep would be the above mentioned activities, keep a mixture of activities catering for all talents, and constantly mix the groups. We had some activities with friendship groups, some ‘names out the hat’ groups, number groups and then random selection. The whole aim was to start working as a team rather than as distinct pockets depending on their role for the year. I’d also keep the clean up at school as part of the programme. That’s when energy is at its lowest so you really need all hands on deck.
What I would change is the meeting time at school. Teachers need about an hour to get equipment ready, before students get there to load gear. I’d double the quantity of food. It’s a hungry beast when you add all that physical activity to the mix! We made sun hats compulsory at all times, but in retrospect I should have insisted on ‘skins’ or rash vests for water based activities. I will ask for student feedback and then adjust this reflection if necessary. But as for me, I’m no camper, but I might just be a convert now.