Twenty-five fifth graders. Four days. Countless exercises and challenges to strengthen character before middle school. Rick Kleine’s Classroom Grant for a Marin Headlands Camping Trip for his Jefferson fifth grade class tackled personal growth, collective communication, leadership building, and even some World War I & II history.
Kleine writes in his Classroom Grant application, “As students end their elementary years and move on to middle school, they are greatly in need of the social/emotional tools that will sustain them during the many physical, emotional, and academic challenges of 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Students who can manage these issues more effectively and make better decisions will be more successful individually and within small and large groups. This year-long project that culminates in this camping trip is designed to place students in challenging projects, activities, social settings, and moral dilemmas with the subtle guidance to teach them more productive communication strategies and the courage to make independent choices.”
Kleine partnered with Dave Nettell, founder of Cooperative Adventures, who leads a variety of workshops for teachers and business leaders on conflict resolution, community building, and effective decision making. Kleine writes in his follow-up report, “Every aspect of the trip was designed to naturally simulate the problems people have when they live and work together and the communication and conflict resolution skills necessary to make a healthy, thriving society where everyone is valued.”
Kleine explains a bit more about some of the social and emotional growth students experienced: “As always, students chose personal challenges for themselves surrounding values that would make them successful in middle school and beyond such as integrity, persistence, respect, patience, effort, and problem solving. They also worked together to choose a group challenge: Dealing with the consistent lack of listening between the students and the lack of equity in how students’ thoughts and ideas are received by the group.” The group did intensive work on overcoming personal history, social pressure, and confidence issues to address their goals.
Strong emphasis was also placed on making connections between obstacles faced on the camping trip and academic struggles. Students developed strategies to overcome problems that have direct transferability to classroom and schoolwork issues. From bringing one’s “A game” to every task to listening to others, students absorbed life skills that can help them throughout their academic careers and beyond.