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School camp is a rite of passage for students from Year 4 onwards. Teachers may well be saying farewell to sleep for at least three nights, but students are saying farewell to their families, beds and the familiarity of their day-to-day life, all of which comes with equal parts nervousness and excitement. This week on School Stream, we are looking at the benefits of school camps, and what parents can do to support educators in preparing students for a taste of sweet independence.

School Stream makes it easy for families to return permission slips with digital forms and information that goes straight to their smartphones. Keep everyone in the loop for a great camp experience. Learn more. 

Why are school camps important? A teacher’s perspective

School camp is one of the most impactful enrichment activities on the school calendar. We spoke to a secondary teacher from Melbourne to hear about her experience with school camps and how they benefit students. 

“School camps are a lot of work, but I think they are really, really important. They are an overwhelmingly positive experience for the students. The kids get to try new things, things they might not ordinarily have the opportunity to have a go at, like raft building, kayaking or even just getting out in the bush. You see them making connections with kids from other classes and friendship groups. You do have to be on the ball the whole time and be ready to put out spot fires. For example, if there’s two kids that clash, you have to be ready to manage that because their relationship will not be better after five days together. But for other kids, camps are a great chance to build a bridge. They’re also a great equaliser in schools like mine where there is a significant socio-economic divide. For some kids who don’t go on holiday at all, school camp will be the only time they pack a bag to go away for a few days….  Was I tired at the end? Yes. Shattered! I have never been so exhausted in my life as I was after that first camp. But even though it’s so much work and you’re so, so tired, I still think school camps are important and so worth all the effort. I guess that’s why I keep putting my hand up to go.” 

Other benefits for students – and the whole school community too

Whether you’re a big city school heading to the bush for camp or a small coastal community school staying in the nearest capital city, school camps are self-development on fast-forward. They may only be a week or so long, but a lot can happen at camp, and research shows camps present a unique opportunity for rapid personal development. At a glance, some of the key findings are: 

  • School camps are an opportunity for students to develop social skills, demonstrate care and empathy, work in a team, build confidence and develop resilience.
  • They also help create positive attitudes to physical activity and be a place where kids are supported to step outside their comfort zone for some “safe risk-taking”.  
  • Camps are also a chance for students to flex their independence muscles away from their parents. Making decisions like what to wear, managing their possessions, and making sure they get to mealtimes on time are all life skills that will stand kids in good stead far beyond the camp.

When it comes to benefits to the whole school community, school camps are a case of teamwork makes the dream work. Everyone has a role to play in a successful camp and it’s a good opportunity for parents and schools to work together as a team. 

How can parents support the camp experience?

Whether you have a group of nervy, first-time students making their school camp debut or a group of (still nervy) Year 10 veterans, there are bound to be some worries about being away from home, family and all that’s familiar. Parents – and teachers – are likely to be fielding questions weeks out for camp. You’ve probably heard these before: Who will I be in a cabin with? What if I don’t have any friends? What if I am homesick? Who will look after me if I hurt myself? What if I forget to pack something?  For school camps to work, parents, teachers and students need to be on the same page. Keeping parents informed means kids will be informed, which means stress levels can be kept at a more manageable level. After all, once you know everything there is to know about something, the less scary it becomes. As always, effective home-communication is the answer.

Avoiding the communication vacuum – how schools get it done

We all know what happens when there is a communication vacuum.  People (and by people, in this case, we mean students) tend to fill in the gaps themselves with wild guesses and worst-case scenarios – and this doesn’t help anybody have a smooth run-up to camp, least of all the admin staff who can find themselves fielding an ever-increasing number of phone calls from parents who have ‘misplaced the forms’ as the date for camp nears.

Tried and Tested Communication Strategies for Camp

Thankfully, most schools are pros at keeping their community informed. Here are some examples of how a school-communication app like School Stream is an essential tool to support the planning and running of school camps.

  • Schools tell us all the time that using School Stream to send camp information home to parents lightens the paper load and decreases the number of calls to the office. A win for administrators!
  • Camps can be a complex logistics exercise with many moving parts and, as a result, buses can return to school later than anticipated. As we all know, waiting for a late bus with no idea where your child is or what is happening is the stuff nightmares are made of. Using a dedicated school communication app like School Stream keeps parents updated and alleviates stress.
  • The group who needs the most reassurance once school camp is underway are the families. We know School Stream schools that send a nightly bulletin and group photo to let parents know what their kids have been doing. This not only soothes the nerves of parents and caregivers, but it’s also a super helpful prompt for conversations about exactly what went on at camp once the kids are back at home. 

Wishing all the students, teachers and parent helpers with upcoming camps an enriching and fun learning experience! 

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