Sixth graders at Dempsey Middle School are spending the week learning how to use a compass, make candles, fire a bow, and many other things during their overnight trip to Camp Heartland.
Delaware City Schools officials said Tuesday the trip, which is an option for all sixth graders, used to be offered to fifth graders at Willis Intermediate School as a way to allow students from all the elementary schools to bond and get to know each other. The trip was offered to sixth graders after fifth grade classes moved back to the elementary schools and sixth grade moved to Dempsey.
The district said the sixth grade was divided into two groups with the first group spending Monday and Tuesday at camp before returning on Wednesday and switching with the other half of the sixth graders, who will stay in the camp Thursday and Friday. The students sleep in dorms, and high school students from Hayes volunteer as chaperones for the week.
On Tuesday, Ben Campbell, an outdoor education instructor, stood in front of students and showed off six locked boxes.
“Inside these boxes is candy,” Campbell said before explaining that students would need to use a compass and follow directions given in steps to find trees marked with numbers. When put in the correct order, the numbers could be used to open the combination lock on each box of candy.
“It’s a useful skill,” Campbell said after teaching basically path-finding using a compass. “It also helps with math.”
Campbell said the camp is a great learning opportunity for students.
“It’s a safe place to learn and a healthy way to fail,” Campbell said, adding the experience of failure and learning from mistakes is something students can carry for the rest of their lives.
Joshua Blank, a camper, said he enjoyed learning how to use the compass.
“This activity has been pretty fun,” he said. “I’ve definitely enjoyed the different activities this week.”
Evan Shadley, a fellow camper, said his favorite part was learning to throw a hatchet.
“We were allowed to throw things,” he said. “We’re not normally allowed to do that.”
One of the most popular activities was the archery range where Crystal James, another outdoor education instructor, taught campers how to nock, draw, and fire a bow, as well as bow safety and the right stance.
“It gives them an experience they would not normally have,” James said. “A lot of kids are into it. Some kids aren’t athletic, but this is something for them.”
James added she was pleased that during her instructions and demonstrations, all the students were attentive and responsive.
“They’re excited about it,” she said. “Have you ever done something one day and woke up the next day and wanted to do it again? A lot of kids go home and ask for a bow and arrow.”
One such former camper was Hayes senior Chloe Diehl, who picked up archery after attending a camp when she was younger. She and fellow counselors said they volunteered because of how much they loved their camp experience when they were younger.
“I remember that when I went to camp, my leader was pretty cool and I wanted to be an example for the kids,” Diehl said. “It’s a break from the regular schedule. I never did archery before I came here and then I got a bow by myself.”
Diehl said the camp also gives the sixth graders a little bit of independence from their parents. Fellow camper Katie Fleshman agreed, adding the trip is a great place for student to form new friendships.
“I wanted to make it a better experience for them so they memories to remember,” Fleshman said. “They get to interact with other people and have fun and make new friends.”
The $170 fee for the trip is paid for by families, but the district added there are fundraising opportunities and a foundation to assist students who cannot pay the full fee.