The Grade 7 and 8 class at Immanuel Christian School in Oshawa recently completed a four-day wilderness hike in Algonquin Provincial Park.
The main purpose was to develop leadership among the students as well as help them learn to accept leadership, according to Ingrid Reinsma, teacher of the class.
“To be a leader, you also have to be a good follower,” she points out. “You need good followers as well as you need good leaders.”
Sixteen students and three adult leaders hiked about 10 kilometers a day through a portion of Algonquin’s 7,630 square miles.
As the trip progressed, the students were given increasing responsibility for decision-making. Eventually they had to decide when to stop to eat, where to go based on direction from a topographical map, and who was responsible for which tasks.
On the last morning, the leaders left camp early, remaining within hearing distance, but staying far enough away that the students were required to get going on their own. They had to pack up, appoint a person to be in charge, and decide on which direction to take.
As the students were leaving the site they met a hiker who wasn’t part of their group. They asked if she had seen three adult hikers farther up the path. When she confirmed she had, they were quite relieved, says Reinsma.
“They thought this other hiker was an angel. She had led them the right way.”
Reinsma says incidents like these were used as opportunities for life lessons.
With this particular event, the students were reminded that along their lives people may offer guidance and that they can gain a lot by listening to those who have been where they want to go.
Besides building leadership, the hike helped students develop appreciation for each other as well as face and overcome significant challenges, says Reinsma. “In the middle of the hike it’s very difficult,” she says. “They’re carrying packs of at least 20 pounds on their backs, walking about 10 kilometres a day. They get very tired, they get blistered and sore. They’re wondering why we’re doing this.”
But once they complete the hike, they have an incredible sense of accomplishment and pride.
“Their self-esteem just goes through the roof. They’re so excited they did something they weren’t sure they could do,” says Reinsma.
On reaching the end of this year’s hike the Grade 7 students said they could hardly wait for the trek next year.
Immanuel school has been organizing these wilderness events for ten years now. The school is considering a celebration hike for next year, in which students from past treks will be invited to participate.