A Day At Dawson’s Leadership Camp
By Bridget Griffin
It’s eight am, and you wake up in a cabin full of your classmates. You’re at Dawson’s Fall Outdoor Education Camp, a five-day intensive organized by the Community Recreation and Leadership Training program (CRLT), where “you get to make really good bonds with the [students] that you’re in the cabin with,” according to third-year student and cabin leader Kathleen Collins. She is one of the many students who helped run the camp this year, having dedicated much of her fourth semester to prepare for the intensive.
“As a group, they’re known as the steering committee,” says Dawson CRLT teacher Marc Sauvé about the third-year students. “During the winter semester, [they] take a forty-five hour course called Organization and Management of Recreational Services.” In this course, students spend their time deciding on all the logistics of the upcoming camp, such as who will have which roles, and what events they will run.
After breakfast, students typically do one of the many student-run workshops. “It’s just a chance to learn a specific skill,” says Collins. The workshops can consist of anything from physical skills such as canoeing or camping, to something less specific to the outdoors, like creative expressions, which Collins ran. “It’s about getting people to be creative in ways they wouldn’t normally [be],” says Collins, “it was run [...] by one of our teachers twenty years ago and we thought it’d be really cool to bring it back.”
“It’s almost like an intensive five days where you’re doing the entire program,” says Collins. Then, at school, “you break down the little things that you learned into more cohesive things so that you can then implement [them into running] camp two years later.”
After the workshops, students will usually do an activity. “Whereas workshops are more learning-based,” says Collins, “activities are almost all about having fun and learning without meaning to.” After lunch, the students do another workshop and activity, and then they have dinner. “After dinner, we would usually have what we call our special events,” says Collins, “it’s basically uniting the entire program to do an activity together.”
“The special events that we run are somewhat standard when it comes to outdoor camps,” says Sauvé, “One being a campfire, another being more of a community based arts and crafts events, and another being a variety show.” An individual student's experience depends on which year of the program they're in. “First year, we were more [focused on] the workshops,” explains second-year student Terrian Julien, “We were in nature, we had time to relax, and we had time to do our activities.”
In the second year, students delve deeper into the educational aspect of being outdoors. “We went into the benefits of things in nature,” says Julien. Finally, in their third year, they're the ones doing the teaching. “It’s almost like an intensive five days where you’re doing the entire program,” says Collins. Then, at school, “you break down the little things that you learned into more cohesive things so that you can then implement [them into running] camp two years later.”
On one of the last mornings, the entire program will do their service project together. “We give back to the place that has given us their space. [It’s] a project meant to improve the facility that we’re using,” explains Collins, “we insist that we do it every single camp.”
This year, they focused on the site’s erosion problem. “[When] it would rain, the runoff would basically create these huge divots in the ground,” she says, “if we do nothing about it, in a few years, there’ll be no ground to walk on. It’ll all be eroded and some of the cabins wouldn’t be stable enough to be there.” Students therefore spent hours planting trees. Sauvé says that the Fall Outdoor Education Camp is important in order to take advantage of “outdoor education opportunities.”
“The big reason behind it all is to use nature as the mentor,” says Sauvé, “to remind people that most of our creative thinking [and] a lot of our advances when it comes to being human have been influenced and inspired by nature.”
“I would definitely say [my relationship with nature] is different now. It made me more aware and [...] a little more protective,” says Julien, “it opens my eyes to see that I have a job to do. I need to be more mindful and [have] more sustainable actions.”
“I learned better leadership skills, better communication skills, [and] how to work with a very diverse group of people and make something incredible,” says Collins. As for learning more about the Fall Outdoor Education Camp and the CRLT program in general, Collins suggests people stop by room 3F.2. “Definitely stop by,” she says, “we're always welcoming to visitors.”