Going back to Middle School: The trials of a 6th Grade camp counselor

Foothill Horizons serves up festivities and fun for Modesto students

Going back to Middle School: The trials of a 6th Grade camp counselor

Jason Woods, General Editor

Foothill Horizons, a camp that fulfills kids’ needs for adventure, learning, and fun, gives returning students, who now bear the title of counselor, that same sense of outdoorsy whim that they had back when they were there in 6th grade. 

The week began with some minor confusion with the location of the bus, causing everyone to shuffle around the parking lot before being able to load their luggage on the bus. After our temperatures were checked, we were filed into a spacious bus which was only about a quarter full.

To pass the time on the bus, many of the counselors took to talking to one another, playing games, or just sleeping until the bus got to camp. After arriving, all of the luggage was unloaded and the first meeting commenced. It consisted of a brief overview of the upcoming week, what to expect from the students, and ways to. 

A display of utter pandemonium rolled through the hallways once the students arrived. Thunderous stomping rumbled through the building as the students toppled over each other to catch a glimpse of what all of the counselors were doing. 

Following the meeting, it was time for the first impressions of the students. Difficulty arose whenever it was time to arrange everyone into a line. Without knowing anyone’s name, the easiest way to sort and count them was to assign numbers and line them up chronologically. 

After lining up, it was time to get some grub on. Spaghetti was the main dish in the mess hall. It was greatly improved since the 2016 camp that many of these counselors attended. Everyone was taught how the meals would work and the clean-up procedures; getting assigned a clean-up role that they would need to complete by working together. 

Cleaning up proved to be a learning curve for some kids, but it was some experience they could use for the rest of their lives, as it taught them teamwork and responsibility. 

Following the clean-up was the first opportunity for the counselors to try and connect with the kids. After getting dismissed from their tables, the race was on for the kids to get under their dorm banner first. It was time for the counselors to start learning names and establish themselves as the enthusiastic, yet authoritative leaders of their dorm.

Each counselor had to orchestrate a straight line to lead their dorm to grab their luggage and haul it back to the dorm. It was the student’s first glimpse of their quarters for the first time and many quarrels broke out between the kids on who gets what bed. Arranging a simple game of rock-paper-scissors was the easiest way to settle these arguments. 

The excitement of seeing the dorms was short-lived because they only had a few minutes to drop off their luggage before their first hike. This first hike would set the record for how the rest of the hikes would work. Each dorm was assigned to a naturalist that would lead the hikes and teach the students about the many intricacies of the outdoors. 

For these hikes, it was the counselor’s responsibility to place themselves between the talkative kids and make sure they pay attention to the naturalist and enjoy the great outdoors around them, but also ensure their safety. 

At the end of the first hike, it was the kids’ first opportunity to spend some time in the dorm to get unpacked, as well as interact with their counselors. It was a great opportunity to start memorizing names and further establish the counselor role.

Dinner was no different than the first lunch other than the fact that the students were more familiar with the process of the meals.

The first campfire followed the dinner and it allowed a team meeting for all of the counselors. It went over how counselors are allowed to hand out detentions and talk to their teachers for additional disciplinary action. This power gave counselors something to back up their words of discipline to the kids. 

With the kids mellowed out after the campfire, it was their first opportunity to get ready for bed. It was the responsibility of the counselors to conduct the students to shower and brush their teeth. 

After the kids were ready for bed, the counselors picked a storybook to usher the kids to a sweet slumber. With some whispers being silenced after an announcement of detentions, it was a quick transition from silence to snores. 

The morning came early for some with Giovanni Zanella, a senior from Downey High saying that one of the things he disliked most about camp was “waking up early”. However, the early rising came with an upside for Gio when he, “Woke up early and saw a family of deer.” A sight anyone wouldn’t mind waking up early for. 

The subsequent plans after the first day were mixed up for all of the other dorms, as they were in different hiking groups. The second day rained on the camp’s parade, no pun intended. It forced all of the hiking groups to stop their activities and take cover. 

The major activities were as follows: an opportunity to take a dip in the freezing creek water and earn a spot in the polar bear club, a quiet observation of the different birds one may see in Sonora, walking through a hands-on lesson on geology, and erosion, exploration and climbing of the Boulder Caves, visit of the “Disco hut”, a silent night hike, 165 feet deep spelunking of Moaning Caverns, a friendly “Dorm Olympics”, and a chilling tour of Calaveras Big Trees. 

The opportunity to immerse yourself in the chilling creek water was not only an accomplishment for the counselors but an opportunity to fortify comradery with their dorm. 

By being able to closely observe the rocks around them and the water that carved them, the students can widen their horizons on the world around them and understand it.

Crawling through and climbing over rocks is a basic necessity for all humans. Exploring the Boulder Caves satiates this natural necessity for students and counselors alike.

The “Disco Hut” insights academic experiences galore for the students without sparing the fun. It presents many specimens that are found throughout the Sonora area and allows for entertaining, hands-on learning. 

The night hike is a chance for students to silently march together through the forest. This allowed the students to unwind a little and immerse themselves under a blanket of twinkling stars. The major event of this hike was the tower that led the students up closer to the beautiful stars. 

A trip down a stone staircase with too many stairs to count leads to a spectacle that makes the trek worth it. Students get the opportunity to take a look at the amazing formations in the awe-inspiring deep cavern. One activity that takes place during this exploration of the cavern is getting your sight stripped away and finding yourself in a true pitch-black cavern.

Calaveras Big Trees is Earth’s one testament to being evidence of aliens using some interstellar technology to grow unfathomably tall trees. All jokes aside, Calaveras Big Trees is a sight to behold and learn about. What made the experience extra special this time was that it was modestly covered in a powdery blanket of snow. This allowed for an excellent opportunity for the counselors to bond with their dorms. 

“Dorm Olympics” was the ultimate opportunity to finish building solidarity in the dorm. It was a huge competition between dorms and involved completing fun challenges that required immense amounts of teamwork. Succeeding in these challenges would allow the students to select an article of clothing: wig, blouse, tutu, etc, and decorate their counselor with it. This inspired many of the students to work together to create the silliest-looking counselor. Following the challenges was a mock fashion show that would present the counselors strutting down the runway. 

Brooklyn Orr, an Enochs ambassador, recalls “When we went to Big Trees, Anani and I attempted to make a snowman but failed. Which resulted in a snowball fight”. This proves that even the counselors can have fun with each other too.

These activities gave the students many learning opportunities. They also presented the counselors with experiences with the students that would help further strengthen the bond between the counselors and their dorms. 

A week of wonder, exploration, and bonding led everyone, students and counselors alike, to become a little emotional when it was time to part from the camp. A few tears were shed when the counselors and students were separated into their respective buses. There is no doubt that this week would be remembered for the rest of everyone’s lives because of the experiences and adventures shared.

“Never ever saw the stars so bright, counselors are hecka tight, All the trees reach amazing heights, My time outside has made me feel alright.” – Closing song.