Bonding from the Beginning

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The start of a new academic year is an inherently exciting time, but some of the most impactful experiences for Ross’s middle school students occur during retreat days. In a longstanding tradition, time is set aside for each grade level to participate in a shared activity intended to help them get to know one another and build camaraderie with their peers.

This year, Ross seventh graders, led by teachers Carol Crane, Jon Mulhern, and Cathy Yun, visited East Hampton’s Cedar Point Park for a day of collaborative activities that included kayaking and icebreakers. As in years past, eighth grade students went on a two-day camping trip to Pennsylvania’s Camp Bryn Mawr. Team Leader Mark Tompkins, who has organized the trip since 2007, keeps many of the retreat details private to preserve the mystery surrounding the trip each year, but the activities are meant to drive students out of their comfort zones, promote self-discovery, and inspire courage.

Guidance Counselor Carl Brandl suggests that these types of trips are incredibly helpful for students as they adjust to life in middle school. “It’s easier to make friends in elementary school . . . but middle school can be a bit more competitive,” Carl said. “Any shared experience that people can draw on over the remainder of their lives is invaluable, especially those that promote the idea of succeeding together instead of individually.” In addition, having the chance to spend time together in a less-formal setting, talk to other students, and learn about new expectations is helpful for both the students and teachers.

Students in grades 9–12 ushered in the academic year with fun group activities as well, including a quiz bowl, a campuswide scavenger hunt, and the ever-popular senior desk lottery, in which senior students get to choose the individual desk in the Senior Building that will serve as home base for their final year at Ross.