It Starts at Chingachgook

Nurturing a cohesive community is so integral to the culture here at Parker that it is written right into our MISSION. As such, the beginning of our school year is full of intentional events designed to strengthen our school community. Camp Chingachgook has a longstanding history at Parker of providing this foundational experience for our middle schoolers. We are thrilled to renew this beloved tradition this year, sending our 5th-8th graders for the first time since Covid. The experience is particularly poignant for this year’s 8th grade, as they were the youngest class to participate in Chingachgook the last year it was held in 2019.
Camp Chingachgook is a year-round outdoor center with a beautiful campus nestled directly on the shores of Lake George. This diverse landscape of woods, water, and mountains sets the perfect stage for an overnight bonding adventure. During their time at Chingachgook, Parker students and teachers work to develop leadership skills through team building and outdoor activities such as hiking, shelter-building, archery, and low ropes courses. This is a great opportunity for groups to come together, classes to begin forming cooperative relationships, and new students to become woven into the fabric of the community. Students also gain a sense of independence. After this experience, there are no “new” students at Parker.

Over the course of the past two days, students engaged in activities that required new skills and ways of thinking about being in the world and working together. For one student, who bravely voiced their fear and asked for help, it was their first time ever being in the woods. Other students had never slept away from home. Still others were anxious about new foods, new peer groups, and the discomfort of cabin life. What was universal, however, was way in which our students looked out for and encouraged each other through these difficulties.

One example was a group of students who conquered an adventurous low ropes challenge. Working together, they enthusiastically hyped up those on their team who were nervous or reluctant to participate in the course. After failing at a first attempt, the group worked collaboratively to both improve their plan and build each other up, ultimately completing the course. One student declared triumphantly, “That was terrifying and AMAZING!” These are organic experiences that cannot be manufactured in the classroom, but they give our students real world skills in solving problems and working together.

We have no doubt our students will be tired tonight. They will also likely be full of complaints about bug bites, cold cabins, and dark midnight trips to use the bathroom. But underneath there will be a quiet and newfound confidence in both themselves and their classmates: Trust in their own ability to do hard things; conviction in their understanding that learning comes in many different forms; and resilience in knowing that they have a community of support to help them make it through.