Team Bonding for Team 5!

This past weekend Edgardo, Leana, Rokya, and I had the pleasure of taking 18 8th graders to Ramapo Retreat in Rhineback, NY. Even though the kids were not thrilled about the 8:30 departure time, we had all 18 students surprisingly arrive ON TIME! After the 2 hour van ride, we arrived to a ready staff (Patrick, Jasmine, and Molly), who helped us unpack our things in our cabin. After settling in, we headed to our first activity.

We then split into 2 groups with Rokya and I taking half of the 8th graders and Edgardo and Leana taking the other half. After making group agreements and making goals for what they wanted to get out of the weekend, each team began a variety of team building activities that required them to work together, communicate, and have fun in the process. Each activity started off chaotically with each student trying to work independently. After several tries the students started to understand the power of communication and support and were able to complete the activities. Shout outs to Kendra, Jamal, Kieara, and Arionne, who stepped up and helped the groups succeed.


After lunch, our groups took a hike through the woods. After about 15 minutes of trying to find the perfect walking stick, the students learned about different trees and animals that live in the forest with only a few complaints here and there. From there we went into the gym for our high ropes challenge. Students paired up and were tasked with climbing a 50ft ladder-like structure together. Highlights from this: 1) Seeing Kendra and Kaiya setting an example for everybody by quickly and collaboratively making their way up the structure and everyone cheering them on. 2) Inaijah conquering the whole structure by herself and not giving up when she got stuck in a certain spot, 3) Briocha persevering and making it to the top! and 4) watching other students actively help on the belay team (team that pulls the slack out of the rope).

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After dinner, we had an hour of open gym time and the students quickly realized that it was a bad idea to trash talk the staff in basketball. Shoutout to Jay-len for showing her athleticism in volleyball and basketball! After getting beat in basketball, the students made their way into the dark forest for a campfire and smores, where many of them experienced the taste of burnt marshmallows. We ended with a fun singing game. Shoutout to the girls for beating the guys!

The next day, the students had the Iron Chef challenge. The two groups had to create two dishes for staff to rate. The ingredients were a banana, Chewy bars, marshmallows, chocolate chips, graham crackers, Nutrigrain bars, and applesauce. Trying to stay positive and optimistic, the staff cautiously tried each dish and realized how badly marshmallow and bananas taste when mixed, and that applesauce is best eaten by itself. The students had a blast making their dishes and they did a great job collaborating with each other. Shoutout to Inaijah and her group for creativity in naming and presenting their dishes!

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After lunch we loaded the vans up, said our thank yous and goodbyes to the Ramapo staff, and within minutes of driving the kids were passed out! Overall, the kids really enjoyed this trip (some didn’t want to leave) and I do think they built better camaraderie with each other (not perfect yet, but its a start). Shoutout to Edgardo, Leana and Rokya for helping make this trip fun and a special shoutout for Rokya for taking all the pictures!

Additional highlights: Naheem thinking acorns taste good and quickly realizing they aren’t, the students giving up their phones to Edgardo for two whole days, the support they showed to each other, and for the most part being ENGAGED and having FUN playing games together.  (No one was too cool to participate!)
Caleb, Academic Director