Class of 2028 Heads to Hulbert for Overnight Adventure
February 05, 2024
It was a cold January morning when the Class of 2028 arrived at TA with stuffed backpacks, snow pants, and gear – some nervous, some excited, all curious. They would soon board the waiting school bus and depart to the Hulbert Outdoor Center in Fairlee, VT, just 20 minutes away, for their first Thetford Academy class trip. It was the first school-sponsored overnight since the start of the pandemic, and for some, a first night away from home.
In April, the same group of eighth graders will head to Montreal, QC, and this close-to-home adventure was good practice. Kathy Hooke, science teacher and one driving force behind the Hulbert outing, explained the planning team’s thinking. “We envisioned restarting big trips (like Washington, D.C. and NYC) this year, but quickly realized that there were skills we needed to bolster – like communication, cooperation, and resilience. Hulbert’s programming is focused on team-building, and this was just the test-drive we needed for the bigger trip ahead.”
Hulbert’s Director of Education Katie Knowles talked about the organization’s commitment to supporting school communities. “We believe that, particularly post-pandemic, schools and students have a rising need for our programs that focus on social-emotional well-being, collaboration, communication skills, and fun,” she said. The Hulbert School Program Endowment helps them address this need, “keeping our programs accessible to local, public school students.” This year, the Endowment supported Thetford Academy’s 8th graders with a grant of 50% of the total program cost.
Over the 36 hours in Fairlee last week, Hulbert’s expert team of outdoor educators taught TA students to work together and persevere through challenges. Students learned, for example, how to balance 12 people on one tiny wooden box; to communicate with others through a maze that not everyone could view at once; and to master high ropes course challenges like a zip line, trapeze, and bridges. Over and over, students discovered that they could do things they never thought were possible.
“We wanted kids to experience support from peers, personal growth, confidence, cooperation, and a sense of community,” explained Hooke. “Hulbert’s staff designed a great progression of activities to help kids stretch beyond their comfort zone – like sitting at the table to eat a meal with people they typically wouldn’t eat with, speaking up during a group initiative, and persevering through a challenge that didn’t work for a long time… until it did.” (Like balancing on that box for as long as it took to sing “Row, row, row your boat.” Frustrating…but exhilarating when it happened!)
Staying overnight required much flexibility and positivity, and our students realized that things they thought would be bad, were actually kind of cool. “The food was really good!” effused one 8th grader. “My roommates were fun,” exclaimed another. One parent of an 8th grade student reported that her child “had an amazing set of experiences and feels like he knows his classmates with more appreciation and gratitude.” What an amazing outcome.
Like any adventure, there were bumps along the way and not everything went according to plan. But over two days together, the Class of 2028 showed they were willing to work as a team, to show kindness and empathy to one another, and to stretch outside of their comfort zones for the best group outcome. This bodes well for the next adventure – watch out, Montreal!
In addition to the generous funding from the Hulbert School Program Endowment, TA would like to express our gratitude for the hard work and generosity of our parents and community, who have supported this year’s eighth grade fundraisers and events to help make this outing possible.