With the happy return of the 6th and 7th graders from Camp OTX this week, the sequence of Middle School Trips wraps up for the year. As Middle School Head Charles Gramatges shares, organizers had to pivot plans due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but in light of last year’s cancellations, students and faculty were grateful to have the opportunity to travel together.
This year, all three grades trekked to the Texas Hill Country for Camp OTX. The five-day 8th grade trip was March 6-10 and the four-day 6th and 7th trip took place this week, April 25-28. Classes commuted by bus to Camp OTX’s sprawling and remote 700 acres near Bandera, Texas. After students and faculty arrive and set up cabins, group activities kick off with chapel services as well as pursuits that include water sports like fishing, canoeing, and water slides and land sports like putt-putt, riflery, volleyball, and a challenging ropes course. In addition, the middle-schoolers help prepare meals and enjoy downtime to play games, learn crafts and just relax.
Gramatges says the purpose of the trips is for students to bond and have fun, and to learn how to navigate conflict and develop an identity outside of classes or organized sports. “There’s a thematic pathway for the trips, like a trilogy,” he explains. “The 6th grade trip is about individuals joining a large new group, the 7th grade trip strengthens class bonds and gives students the bigger picture, and the 8th grade trip is about conquering the world,” he says with a smile. “As part of the whole eighth grade year, we focus on building traits like confidence, empathy and perseverance to prepare students for high school and life.”
“The faculty buy into it and are often surprised by the quiet student who transforms into a leader on the ropes course or a top chef in the kitchen,” he says. Many times after a trip he recalls a student’s surprising about-face and thinks, “I never saw that coming!”
PS Lifer Emily Bolton ‘22 agrees with Mr. Gramatges that the trips helped her class become one big team. “The class trips allowed us to become closer, and our respect for each other definitely grew as a result of the camaraderie. I’m so grateful that throughout middle school, we only missed one class trip due to the pandemic."
“I became a better friend to everyone in my class because of these trips,” she admits. “I wouldn’t have gotten to know some of the students as well if it weren’t for sharing a cabin, meals, and adventures with them. I also realized the importance of being a cheerleader and how much a little bit of encouragement or empathy can mean to not only myself, but to others.”
The outdoor setting contributes to the positive impact. “Even though we were with the same teachers and classmates, something about being away in the outdoors changed the dynamic of our relationships,” she explains. “It allowed us to let down our guard a bit and learn more about each other. During the ropes course, it was interesting to discover which of my classmates had crazy determination, the loudest and most encouraging words, or even a quiet strength.”
8th Grade Takes Time Out for Board Games
8th Grade Poses for Group Photo
7th Grade Preps for the Ropes Course
7th Grade Gets in the Game
6th Grade Tackles Tie Dye
6th Grade Accepts a Team Challenge