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Nueva middle school students recently spent two days hiking, playing games, and enjoying unstructured outdoor time together as a way to officially usher in the school year. Each fall, middle school advisories partner for an overnight camping trip at state and regional parks in the Bay Area.

Disconnected from their day-to-day lives, students join together to cook, clean, play, and spend relaxed time together over the course of the two-day camping trip. This year, advisories travelled in pairs to fourteen different campsites. As part of the advisory camping experience, students in fifth and sixth grade camp with one another while seventh- and eighth-grade advisories partner for the trip. The mixing of grade levels allows younger students to preview aspects of the upcoming school year and gives many of the older students an opportunity to offer insights into their own experiences at Nueva. It is not uncommon to hear advice from eighth graders to their younger counterparts about the seventh-grade trip to Yosemite or about the Shakespeare experiences that are heading their way later in the school year.

Sixth-grade humanities teacher Gary Kaplan explained that “the purpose of the trip is to enable the students to interact on a nearly equal level and get to know each other; also, it is a chance to appreciate the year difference in ages, and for students to learn from each other.” Advisory pairing also allows for greater community building beyond the advisory unit itself. Gary shared that the best part of this year’s trip was witnessing “how well the kids worked and played together, sharing responsibilities and contributing to the total welfare of everyone.” Spending two days together at a campsite requires each student to pitch in and help with food preparation, camp setup, and everything else that needs to happen for the trip to be a success.

Each campsite provided students and teachers with different adventures and challenges. Whether carting supplies to the campsites or solving the problem of forgotten stoves, each group worked together to function cohesively. The groups also had differing adventures that allowed for group bonding and memory making. Sixth-grader Santiago C. said that “going to the beach, sleeping in a tent with my friends, and basically doing everything together,” made his camping trip to Bodega Bay a success. “Creating special memories and inside jokes is what I like most about the advisory camping trips,” he explained.

Teachers also found joy in thinking about memories from this year’s trip as they returned to school this week. “Stargazing and identifying constellations was a bonding moment,” recalls eighth-grade writing teacher Jennifer Perry. “The camping trip provides downtime outside of school to play games, go on hikes, prepare food for each other, clean up after each other, and to work to set up and break down tents,” she explains. As advisories continue to develop relationships and a sense of community, the camping trip serves as a foundation for much of the work ahead.

The trip would not be possible without the amazing support of the larger Nueva community, especially the parent leaders who coordinated and organized all of the camping supplies and food, and, of course, Vivian Rhodes, who made the arrangements for all the campsites. Thanks to everyone involved, Nueva had another successful advisory camping trip to start off the 2017–2018 school year.

Earlier in the year, upper school students spent several days in nature, connecting with classmates and the environment, before diving into the school year. Senior Scott B. gathered reflections from his classmates. Photo Credits: Libby M. (Grade 11), Sinead C. (Grade 12)


Nature makes us all uncomfortable. The majority of us are used to lounging around indoors for most of our day
every day, typing up papers or reading books. For this reason, Nueva’s annual camping retreat is important in bringing students together and helping them bond. Students work together in a series of bonding games and activities like canoeing or river rafting.

Even so, the wooden cabins and sunlight are not all the freshmen took away from their camping retreat. “We were able to bond over the shared awkwardness,” said Aliya G. of sharing a room with other new students. Anam T. said she had a similar experience, becoming good friends with her roommates soon after meeting them. Uncomfortable silence gave way to excited chatter as the freshmen met the classmates they will be spending the next four years with. By the end of the trip they were thankful for the break from technology and for the new friends that they’d made.

Frigid water, strong winds, and metal canoes greeted the sophomores at the beginning of their retreat. They had been told that no previous class had capsized, a claim they thought was dubious at best. The first day was tough. Students crashed into trees, rocks, and other canoes, but — after a grueling eight miles — they reached the camp. They played bonding games and relaxed around the campground before heading to bed to rest up for the next day. The second day went by quickly compared to the first, and soon after pushing off from camp, the sophomores found themselves laughing, roasting marshmallows, and playing games of “mafia.” They set out early the next morning, more experienced than before, and had many proud experiences to share by the time they reached the beach.

After an hour-long bus ride, the juniors arrived at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, ready for the outdoor experience that would start the year. The camp was a large open space, perfect for football and bonding exercises, and the juniors clustered in different spots to prepare for the next day’s hike. The following morning, students woke up early and got back into groups for three-, seven-, or eleven-mile hikes through the forest. They came back exhausted but eager to sing songs and roast marshmallows around the campfire. The last morning was loud with the sound of excited students, discussing their expectations and worries for the year to come.

Upper School CampingAt the beginning of the year, the seniors knew what to expect: WOLF Adventures staff and bonding games, nature hikes, and advisory time. Yet, as it always does, their trip proved to be different than expected, with rain forcing the students out from under the stars the first night, and Alex L. falling from his raft at the Satan’s Cesspool rapid the next day. (Classmates helped him get back on the raft.)

After lunch, the students calmed down and drifted lazily down the river together toward root beer floats and a bus back home. Once more, camping retreats have helped to bring the students of Nueva together to form stronger individual friendships and closer bonds as a community. A few days away from technology helped students focus on each other and the world around them, becoming more excited for the upcoming year and all the new experiences they would have.

 October 6, 2017



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