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Team-building trip takes students to highest potential

Standing 40 feet in the trees with nothing but your partner to trust. This is what went through the minds of 95 sixth-graders from Royal Oaks Elementary during their three-day team-building trip March 11-13.

Four sixth grade teachers -- Laurie Beebe, Andy Larson, Louise Hinz and Katie Ward -- accompanied their students to Camp Ihduhapi in Loretto, Minn. where students participated in a variety of team building and self discovery activities and tasks.

"It's challenge by choice," Hinz said. "Every kid sets their own goal."

Many of the activities during the three day trip included students putting on a harness and climbing to new heights, whether on a rock climbing wall, a climbing pole or up into the trees.

"The huge value here is letting kids think through their decision," Hinz said.

The three-day trip was brought to Royal Oaks by Hinz after she saw the benefits students took away from it with a similar trip at Woodbury Elementary.

"It was the change I saw in the kids from beginning to the end that made me want to bring it here," she said.

The changes and lessons that the students take away from the trip are becoming more confident and independent, developing trust, cooperation, and communication within a team and developing deeper connections and relationships with those around them.

"It really causes the students to think nice and hard about 'Who am I? How am I going to push myself?'" Larson said. "For each kid it was so different."

For the teachers, the increased level of confidence that the students take away from the trip is one of the biggest benefits of the trip in their eyes.

"That confidence building is huge in middle school," Hinz said. "Every time they turn around somebody is judging what they do. They change so fast in middle school, physically, emotionally and socially that everything they do is a foundation and it's weaving and bobbing and changing."

Larson and Hinz both said that it's that confidence that can help shape these students to be more independent.

"These activities just translate into being more confident as a person which brings more independence," Larson said. "We had a number of kids get homesick, but they were able to work through it which was great to see."

Another great benefit of providing a trip like this to kids of this age is that it gives an opportunity to dispel stereotypes of their classmates and hopefully bring more acceptance, Larson said.

"There's so many cliques that are formed between these kids," he said. "So to go out there and see them experience new people and realize 'This is not the only group of people in the world,' is a great thing."

The future of the trip is up in the air because of the transition to middle school, but the teachers hope that the trip can blend in because it is such a worthwhile experience for students.

"This is an opportunity to meet with some other people and do some bonding," Hinz said. "And I think the best thing to come out of this is kids coming back knowing that they can do more than they thought they could do."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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