One of the oldest and most enduring traditions, Powhatan held it’s 37th Upper School Retreat at Camp Rim Rock in West Virginia. A wonderful event that encourages teamwork and collaboration through two days worth of fun and sometimes challenging events, it is an experience that bonds classmates and teachers alike and is one of the important milestones in the Upper School.


“Retreat sets the tone for the year.”

Full Value Contract

A centerpiece of the retreat is the Full Value Contract. Almost immediately upon arrival at camp the students begin to work on how they will make the most out of the experience. Students work in small groups with their faculty advisor to create written guidelines taking personal responsibility for how they will contribute to and make the most positive impact on the retreat. Civility is the theme for the 2018-19 academic year and the theme was woven throughout the framework of creating the Full Value Contract. As Retreat comes to a close students are reminded that the Full Value Contract is not just for Retreat, but is a contract for the rest of the school year.

Posts & Rails Captains

In a tradition that spans decades, Post & Rail Captains are selected for the coming year during this annual right of passage. Applicants are required to make a presentation in front of all Upper School students as selections are made. Rail students in Upper School then vote for Rail captains, and Post students in Upper School vote for Post captains. This is a significant honor and applies to all areas of the school community.

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Challenge Activities

The first afternoon is full of activities. Students might go on a hike or participate in team building challenge activities. This year’s activities focused on a common theme of communication. “The students love the challenge activities, says Mr. Royston, an Upper School Art teacher. “They have to work together, communicate efficiently and problem solve. Those are great skills to sharpen whether you are in the classroom or outdoors in a setting like this. Retreat sets the tone for the year.

Challenge Activities Overview:


Students have been allotted an hour for this activity. This includes a brief description and overview, travel to solo sites, 40 minutes of solo time, travel back, and a collaborative debrief.

When talking up this challenge, here are a few points that may be helpful:

-Solo is a concept used in many outdoor/survival type retreats and camps such as “Outward Bound”
-In most cases, these students are asked to spend a day or even three on solo (which is significantly harder than a half-hour)
-So much of our time these days is predestined and organized that we rarely take the time to simply sit, think, reflect, and be in nature…we feel we always have to be doing something.
-This is a challenge; sitting quietly by oneself can be extremely difficult, especially for a product of today’s fast paced, digitally connected society.
-This time is theirs and its outcome will be determined by their attitude alone.
-Feel free to listen to the leaves, stare at the clouds, or watch a bug. If they give this short challenge a whole-hearted try…they might be surprised what they get out of it.
-This is time for reflection and bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis.
-Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment.

Team Pit Fall

In this challenge you simply have to work the ball through the maze while avoiding the pit falls. Every member of the group must hold one of the ropes on the maze.

Feel free to make this increasingly difficult by switching positions, doing it backwards, limiting talking, etc. Make sure the maze is picked up and put down carefully…dropping it could break the board or toes.

Magic Carpet

The group stands on an 8’x8′ “magic carpet” (tarp). The entire group must be on the tarp completely. Once everyone is settled, the group is told they have risen 100 feet in the air and are ready to go. Unfortunately, the instructions on how to steer and land the carpet are on the other side of the carpet. So, they must flip the carpet over while standing on it.


The group task is to keep a beach ball or balloon in the air for a specified number of hits without letting it hit the ground. Additionally, no one person can touch the object twice in a row. Set a goal with the group for the number of hits that the group can make following the rules. After the group meets its goal, it can increase the target number or go for a “world record” and see how many hits the group can accomplish. This fun activity is much harder than it seems, strengthening teamwork, communication and crtitcal thinking skills as the group reviews their strategy and creates a plan for the next attempt.

Lift the Pail

Everyone removes their shoes and socks and sits on the ground in a circle around a bucket of water. -The teams are asked to balance the bucket using only one of their feet. -Their hands must be on the ground at all times.

Helium Hoop

For the final challenge, groups will have a simple mission: To lower this hoop to the ground smoothly and efficiently. Have the group repeat the mission a couple of times… The technical rules to the group are as follows: everyone’s index fingers MUST remain in contact with the hoop at all times, and the hoop must rest on top of their fingers at all times (no grabbing, finger curling, etc.)

-The group stands in a circle and extends their index fingers at waist level.
-Lay the hoop across the group’s fingers. -At that time, the group must work together to lower the stick to the ground.
-Inevitably, the stick rises almost instantly – causing laughter, frustration, or confusion. The rise is caused by the small ripples of upward pressure as individuals each try to remain in contact with the stick.
-After refocusing, the group will be able to lower the stick.


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