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  • Writer's pictureCharlotte Wells

A New Tradition: Weekend Bee Camp Trips (Rosita Power)

The three-mile hike that starts just behind The Barns and winds through avocado orchards to the ridge above Gobernador Creek has been trekked by almost every ninth grader. Weekend Ninth Grade Bee Camp trips are a new tradition that introduces all ninth graders to backpacking and camping. Although it is not new that trips have been run for ninth graders to spend the night at Bee Camp, this was the first year the hikes have been spread out through all three trimesters. Previously, ninth-grade seminars would go together, all during the same weekend. Ninth-grade TAs would lead the trips, but now, sophomores, juniors, and seniors can volunteer to be leaders. One of the major flaws of last year’s program was that if there were weather issues, the trip would have to be postponed or canceled for the whole grade. Unfortunately, due to weather conditions, the current tenth graders never got the chance to go to Bee Camp with their seminars last year.

Mr. Smith took the lead in finding a different way to expose ninth graders to the outdoors through Bee Camp. When creating the program, he said that one of his goals was “to show ninth graders the beauty of the wilderness just behind campus.” The route offers beautiful views of campus and Carpinteria, giant boulders, the sound of Gobernador Creek, and endless opportunities for stargazing. The views of the mountains and the ocean especially blew away Nina Bhatia ‘27. She said, “[Bee Camp] really helped me appreciate nature more because we have to treat it with respect, and I’ve learned that it takes so long for nature to become what it is.” Bee Camp teaches ninth graders to look around and be grateful for the wilderness that lies right by Cate. These overnight trips give students time to enjoy the outdoors, while still being close to campus.

Bee Camp is also a learning experience. According to Mr. Smith, the ninth graders get to practice “sleeping outside with classmates in preparation for Yosemite.” All tenth graders backpack in Yosemite for five days during Outings Week and Bee Camp provides basic outdoor education for rising tenth graders. Students carry their own belongings, gain hiking and camping skills, and are encouraged to be more adventurous while wading through the creek. Ninth graders are responsible for their sleeping pads and bags, personal items, water, and some group gear like tarps and food. They set up camp under the stars to sleep on the tarps and pack everything up in the morning. After eating Nutillas (Nutella in a tortilla) for breakfast, they hike down to the creek where they continue walking downstream. Students then have the choice to push their comfort zone by sliding into waist-deep water to peer over a waterfall. Overall, Bee Camp sets a strong foundation for Yosemite where students will learn even more.

Mr. Smith’s last goal for Bee Camp was “to expose ninth graders and upperclassmen to skills and leadership they might like to develop.” Tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders also volunteer to lead younger students on Bee Camp. The leaders help the ninth graders pack, get to know each other, and are there to give encouragement. On many of the trips, Mr. Smith has been able to step back and let the student leaders guide the ninth graders up to camp. Leadership opportunities like Bee Camp help older students form connections with the ninth graders and make their introduction to the outdoors more comfortable. Many ninth graders have said that they’d want to go back to Bee Camp and maybe even lead some trips next year.

Although most of the ninth graders had positive experiences at Bee Camp, one shared “But it’s never the right time to go,” saying that dealing with the “repercussions of Bee Camp for the following week” is difficult. Spending about eighteen hours outside is draining, and having to bounce back can be challenging. However, since the program is very new, improvements will be coming next year, while still preserving the goal to encourage students to step out of their comfort zone.

These frequent trips also give other students opportunities to enjoy Bee Camp with their friends. Small groups are welcome to join the ninth graders and spend the night outside. Weekend trips to Bee Camp have opened up the outdoors to the entire community. For the ninth graders, these excursions have sharpened their wilderness skills, pushed their comfort zones, and encouraged them to be leaders. 


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