Chavez Camp Fire Student on the Big Swing at Camp Namanu

This fall over 120 students from our Middle School Program had the opportunity to spend their weekend at the Camp Namanu challenge course. Spanning the months of October and November, each Saturday and Sunday roughly 30 fearless middle school students, along with their equally fearless site managers, boarded a bus for Namanu. As one student approached camp on the bus he exclaimed, “Man! I get a boost of energy being out here in nature!” There were a total 6 individual day trips serving all 7 of the middle school sites. Half of the trips brought together students from multiple sites, allowing for new friendships and connections across Camp Fire.

With the guidance and facilitation of Camp Namanu staff, the students spent the first half of their day on the low ropes course. In teams they challenged their critical thinking and communication skills, as well as physical strength and balance, to complete a series of rope initiatives. As one 6th grade site manager said, “The only downside to the [low ropes] activities is the students enjoyed them way more than they thought they would, and they all wanted more time for them!”

After lunch students practiced more team-building as they split into new groups and constructed survival shelters using a single tarp and found objects within a set amount of time. During this period, students ran around excitedly in the mud and rain, exploring the more wooded and less developed trails while collecting supplies for their shelters. Students worked together to problem solve, practice communication, and reflect on challenges and successes of incorporating many ideas into the construction of a single object.


Lane student taking a Deer Selfie at Camp Namanu

Along with multiple deer sightings, the highlight of the day for most was the high ropes challenge. Students were able to challenge themselves by choice on the infamous “Circuit,” a winding wire course, hovering above the Sandy River, or the “Big Swing” a harness/pully system that allows students to be pulled to their desired height by co-participants. Nearly every student attempted and completed a high ropes element—some even did both! Site managers and students alike were proud of the individual bravery and risk taking required, connecting these experiences to their lives at school and as a whole. Additionally impressive, was the support and encouragement students gave to each other.

Overall, students left Namanu with a sense of personal accomplishment, deeper relationships within their cohort and a new connection and ownership of the outdoor space at Camp. As the day came to a close a student from HB Lee exclaimed, “I never want to leave! When can we come back?” Another student summed it up with, “my cheeks hurt so bad because I have never smiled this much before!” One Site Manager also described the trip as a “masterful blend of fun, meaning, challenge, and new experience.” Which is something the Middle School Program looks forward to expanding on with the students and staff next year.

HB Lee and Reynolds Middle School students attempt the balance beam

Check out more photos from the Middle School students’ adventures at Camp Namanu here.