Building Confidence Through Camp

Posted on 20th Jun 2022 in The Junior School, Outdoor Education

This term marked the joyous return to School Camp for so many of our Junior School children. Jill Roxburgh is Assistant Head at ESMS Junior School and Head of Pastoral Care (Primary 4-Primary 7). She explains why it’s such an important milestone for the pupils: 

If there is ever a time in a child’s school days where memories are created, School Camp has got to be up there with those that last a lifetime.  I recently returned to Ardentinny to accompany the Primary 5 children on their first School Camp, just a ‘short’ 40 years after I had attended as an S2 pupil from Gourock, just a ferry ride away.  The incredible scenery hasn’t changed nor has the abundance of opportunities for children to develop new skills, interests, friendships, and confidence.    

One of the casualties of the pandemic, sadly, was that we were unable to take the children to various parts of Scotland and across the border for their annual residential trips; Primary 4 to Belmont, Primary 5 to Ardentinny, Primary 6 to Lagganlia and Primary 7 to Lakeside.  Last session, the children thoroughly enjoyed a week of local, outdoor adventure activities, but it was with great excitement that the organisation of camps resumed this session.  There were many ‘what ifs’ but I am delighted to say that our Primary 4 children have enjoyed a more extensive activity week to introduce them to their outdoor learning journey, while the other Year Groups experienced some time away from home without their family; the first time for many.   

An integral part of the planning process was to ensure both children and parents felt confident about experiencing all that Camp brings with it as we got back to living life without Covid constraints.  Children had the opportunity to attend drop-in ‘Camp Clubs’ and much preparatory work was in place, including opportunities to practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques as well as Karen Beveridge’s ‘Calm Minds for Camp’ session offered to parents to help alleviate any anxieties – a recording of which is on our Pastoral Resources Page for Parents and well worth a watch for dealing with general anxieties.   

We need our children to grow up ‘risk confident’ and they need to learn how to recognise, assess and mitigate risk to serve them well in many aspects of life.  Doing this as part of a team, supporting and encouraging each other, adds to their skill set and it is a privilege to see this in action at Camp.  Conversations amongst staff at dinner always include tales of children who have smashed their own limitations by stepping out of comfort zones and we couldn’t be prouder of them.    

A highlight of this year’s Primary 6 camp was on a group hill walk where we were hosted for lunch by a most interesting elderly gentleman who had helped to restore the old bothy.  He told us of a path we could take to return to camp, one which the instructor wasn’t aware of.  Our children set out with myself and the instructor at the back as he shared the quote, ‘I must follow them, as I am their leader.’  Watching them stride out and work together to determine what direction we should go in and what we needed to do when the path ended and became a marsh or how we were all going to get across the river, was a joy.  Education comes in many forms and watching the emotional, creative, problem-solving and social growth was fascinating – the children probably didn’t notice, but they will reap the benefits. 

There are always surprises at Camp and we must remember never to underestimate our children.  They were able to get covers on duvets, make beds and keep their rooms tidy, remember to brush their teeth and shower (mostly!), clear up dishes and vacuum the floor and be sent away with a list of things they needed and return with the right equipment.  Not once did I hear any child say they were missing their devices or electronics.  

Camp doesn’t just happen and I would like to thank the camp organisers for their incredible efforts and attention to detail in bringing everything and everyone together.  Just as the children work together, it’s a team effort, and the accompanying teachers and staff from all areas across the School care for the children 24 hours a day, with late night reassuring conversations, knocks on doors in the early hours and VERY early wake ups, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.   

Jill Roxburgh 
Assistant Head Teacher and Head of Pastoral Care (Primary 4-Primary 7)
ESMS Junior School 

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