One of the oldest and most enduring traditions, Powhatan has held Upper School Retreat at Camp Rim Rock in West Virginia over the span of four decades. 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.
Upper School Retreat sets the tone for the year.
We set aside two days at the beginning of each year because we think it’s important to start the year off right and come together as a school community. It is full of team building and tradition – and that’s how we build and reinforce our school culture.
A centerpiece of Retreat is the Full Value Contract.
One of the unique facets of the Upper School community is the Advisement program. Throughout the regular school year each faculty member meets with six students twice a week for Advisement. It supports student’s social and emotional growth throughout the year and it starts with Retreat.
Almost immediately upon arrival at camp the students break into their advisement groups and begin to work on how they will make the most out of their Retreat experience. They create written guidelines taking personal responsibility for how they will contribute to and make the most positive impact on the retreat.
The Pillars of our mission are 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 how we will treat each other for the rest of the school year.
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 problem-solving. “The students have to work together, communicate efficiently and problem-solve,” says Mr. Robb, the Head of Upper School. “Those are great skills to sharpen whether you are in the classroom or outdoors in a setting like this.”
The Golden Nugget focuses on critical thinking. We head down by the river and groups are given a “golden nugget” that they will need to float downstream for sale in town. They are to use only what they can find in the area or what they have with them to construct a raft and float the nugget as far downstream as possible. They start the float at the designated start point and leave their group marker on the shore parallel to where it stopped. Once it passes the start point students may not touch it (directly or indirectly) until it stops.
The Spider web activity is really about communication and critical thinking. The entire challenge group must get from one side of the web to the other. The group must carefully lift and pass members through the holes in the web. Every time one hole is used, it is closed to future use and the team must use other holes. They may not “walk around” to help on the other side. They may not toss or throw members through- it must be safe and in control with good spotting. Any member of the group who is not lifting or being lifted is engaged in active spotting. If at any time any member of the group touches the web, the entire group must start over and the web is “reset”.
The group practices a fire drill where speed of evacuation will determine the group’s chances of survival. There is only one viable exit- through a large rubber band. The members of the group may only touch the rubber band with their hands, if any other part of any group member (including t-shirts, shoelaces, etc.) touches the band the drill must start over. Once any person touches the rubber band (with their hands) and lets go, they may not touch it again until the drill is over. The whole group must make a successful evacuation in less than 20 Seconds. Then try it in 10 seconds. You may also choose to handicap certain team members (no hands, no talking, hop on 1 foot, blindfold, etc.)