ECFS Students Forge Connections and Explore the Outdoors on Class Trips
Before beginning another academic year, Fieldston Middle and Fieldston Upper students ventured to the great outdoors for grade-wide overnight trips. After several years of the COVID-19 pandemic limiting field trip opportunities, the 8th, 9th, and 12th Grade students enjoyed a chance to connect, expand their comfort zones, and recognize the power of their community in a new environment.
The 8th Graders’ visit to Lake Owego Camp in Greeley, Pennsylvania, marked their first Fieldston Middle overnight trip. When they weren’t ziplining, roasting s’mores, or enjoying an evening dance party, students participated in team-building exercises that also taught new skills, such as starting a campfire. “We had to work together and problem solve in this activity, and we ended up beating the record,” shares Noah L. ’28.
“This trip's purpose was to start the year with a stronger sense of connection for the class,” says English Teacher and Class of 2028 Dean Debora St-Claire. “This was an opportunity for them to be with each other for an extended period outside of school and strengthen their sense of community, interact beyond friend groups, and work together.”
Stepping into Middle School leadership roles, 8th Graders are embarking on a year of lasts. Meanwhile, the 9th Grade’s foray into Fieldston Upper signals a new beginning. Ahead of an orientation session on the Fieldston campus, 9th Graders traveled to Iroquois Springs in the Catskill Mountains for a camping excursion.
Accompanied by 11th Grade peer mentors, the class swam, explored rope courses, and organized basketball games and tennis matches, but peer mentors pointed out that the group’s free time was what sparked new friendships.
“Being away from school-oriented things helped to make kids feel relaxed and get to know each other,” one mentor notes.
For the Class of 2024, beginning high school carried far more uncertainty than anticipated. Having started 9th Grade in the fall of 2020, the entire class was only on campus together for about two days that year. Navigating the intricacies of the pandemic’s following years and forming a group identity was a challenge for the class, but their own trip to Iroquois Springs promised a celebratory kickoff to senior year.
“After beginning high school during COVID-19, the overnight trip was an incredibly important milestone,” says Colin B. ’24. “Our class was able to bond before we entered into our final year.”
Having missed previous overnight trips, seniors knew their own Iroquois Springs adventure, a Fieldston tradition best known for its whitewater rafting activity, was particularly special.
“I've been at Fieldston for thirteen years: for the most part, that means knowing everyone I'm surrounded by,” says Lucia R. ’24. “The overnight was a space away from campus where I could swim with someone I haven't spoken to in a while or sit by the lake and have an interesting conversation. The rafting activity was a ‘stretch zone’ for me, forcing me to sit and collaborate with my peers on the raft, both uninterrupted and undistracted, for around three hours.”
Paralleling their resilience throughout the pandemic, seniors also turned the disappointment of a thunderstorm interrupting a s’mores roast into an indoor celebration with dancing and games. “We understood that to make the best out of a bad situation, we all needed to be unified and work towards a common goal: having fun,” Lucia says. “The storm ended up being my favorite part of the trip!”
When college visits and family obligations prevented some seniors from attending the trip, Stephanie Harris, Ethics Teacher and Class of 2024 Dean, emphasized making the most of friends’ absences. “I expressed to them that there's going to be some of you who realize that your closest friend isn't there, and I want all of you to be looking for those folks and welcoming them in,” she says. “I wanted them as seniors to step up to the bat and say, ‘We can be inclusive.’”
No matter how old students are, a lesson that these overnights made clear was the value of fun. “Sometimes, at this point in seniors’ lives, college is all-consuming, and sometimes you just need two days of rest and fun,” says Harris.
“The overnight was a chance to focus on the moment, breathe a little, and spend time with one another in a space outside of school,” says Lucia. “This trip allowed us to make up for lost time and to have meaningful moments together before we embark on the next stages of our lives.”