School camp, in one form or another, is a rite of passage for many children the world over. Here in New Zealand they are a feature of the school year from about Year 5. This week it was my eldest son’s turn to experience the fun and adventure of three days at camp, and I was one of four parents who went along for the ride. We are fortunate that Christchurch is fairly close to the mountains and camp was at Pudding Hill, nestled at the foot of the Southern Alps.
Shortly after arrival we headed off up the hill into the bush to walk to a reserve where we picnicked and played games in the sun. Our school is fairly unique in that half of the children come from countries other than New Zealand. This means that firstly, the food provided by parents for camp was delicious, and secondly, walking in the bush (as well as many of the other activities) were first time experiences for many of the children, and they LOVED it. We made bivouacs (just like Bear Grylls) and it was hard as parents not to help out as we had so many fond memories of making huts ourselves, so we blew the rules and got stuck in.
The class teacher was particularly looking forward to the water slide that was in store for the afternoon – a giant sheet of black plastic, held down by tyres, that ran down the hill in front of the lodge. Covered with water and dishwashing liquid it becomes an adrenalin filled ride down the hill. It wasn’t long before the parents and teachers were hopping into line with the kids for turn after turn of whooping and laughing.
The weather the next morning reminded us that we were indeed in the mountains and we set off in grey, drizzly conditions wrapped up for warmth. A short hike over the hill took us to Pudding Hill stream and we practised our river crossing skills group by group, as we made our way back down the stream to camp for mugs of steaming Milo.
Abseiling was something I’ve done before and enjoyed, and standing at the bottom of the rope I felt so proud of the kids for placing all their trust in a rope and harness as they leaned backwards over a cliff and slowly worked their way down. More bravery than tears, and a lot of encouragement from our Camp Guide and every one in our team made it down.
Having seen them grow as a team I was hopeful they’d complete the Low Ropes Course well, and they did. A series of challenges designed to foster strategic thinking and team work, they balanced along ropes, laughed as they helped each person scramble through a tyre, and transferred the team along a log without falling off. Now chilly and still grey I was looking forward to a blat on our bikes and we headed off down the road, across a farmers track and back up to the reserve.
Feeling much more energised after a good dose of endorphins it was time for the kids to make their own pizzas, a newspaper costume competition and finished off the evening with toasted marshmallows.
The final morning saw a beautiful sunrise and the weary kids emerge from their bunk rooms ready for another day. Archery is something I’ve never tried, and the kids were very keen to give it a go, some having seen ‘The Hunger Games’ and some the movie ‘Brave’. They were surprisingly good and three in our team shot bulls eyes. One of the other parents enjoyed it so much she’s thinking of taking it up as a sport. Time to clean and pack and head back to the stream with our packed lunches for a final picnic and play in the water. Some impressive dams were built and most feet got wet. Packed into cars we headed back to Christchurch, all tired, happy, and with a fair number of new experiences under our belt.
As a parent I felt privileged to be part of these kids’ lives for three days, to watch them grow as individuals, work together as a team and bond as a class. I was so proud of my particular team and how well they encouraged each other, enjoyed success and became friends. Thanks very much for having me Room 3!