Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s 9th grade class, including Stephanie Scheuermann, Sally Megargee, Lucy Pearson, Anna Shea and Wesley Jordan pictured here, participated in Outward Bound, a five-day hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail. SCH senior Theo Gregson captured the essence of the bonding trip outdoors in a recent piece he wrote for his journalism class.

by Theo Gregson

The SCH freshman class started its first year of high school on Outward Bound -a five-day hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail. The trip, which began on Sept. 4, was centered around self reflection and growth, as well as bonding time with new classmates.

The students were tasked with navigating the woods, cooking their own food and setting up camp along the trail. This is the fourth year that SCH freshmen have gone on this trip to begin their Upper School careers and learn a bit about themselves and their classmates. Over the past four years, more than 400 SCH students have ventured into the wilderness on an Outward Bound journey.

For Outward Bound, the students split up into eight groups, each with two counselors and an SCH senior who had gone on multiple Outward Bound journeys and had taken an Outward Bound leadership course over the summer. This was the first year having seniors on the trip, and their presence really made a big impact.

“I liked having a senior on the trip,” said freshman Ava DeLisle. “She had a different perspective than the counselors and was more like a friend than a teacher. I think everyone was more open to listening to directions from someone closer to our age.”

At the beginning of the trip, many students were nervous, but once they were in the woods, the nerves started to go away.

“I think I was mostly nervous because I didn’t know what to expect,” said freshman Ryan Comisky. “Once we started hiking and got into a rhythm, I was fine.”

Another nerve-inducing aspect of the trip was the fact that many of the students knew only one or two other students in their groups. Throughout the trip, however, they had lots of time to talk among themselves and bond through conversation and other activities. The more they talked, the more comfortable they felt with each other. The students learned not only about themselves, but also about things they wouldn’t expect from each other.

“I learned a lot about the people in my group,” DeLisle said. “We figured out that the hiking went a lot faster when we were talking, so toward the end of the trip we were always talking. People were a lot more open than they usually are in school.”

Despite the nerves the students started the trip with, most felt comfortable in the woods after just a few days, and many were enjoying the experience by the end.

“Even though I didn’t like it at the beginning, I was able to tolerate it for most of the trip,” DeLisle said. “The last night I was happy that I would get to go home, but part of me was sad that it had to end and wished it had lasted a little longer.”

SCH Head of Upper School Matt Norcini went on the trip in 2015 and has had nothing but good things to say about the experience and its long-lasting effects.

“It gives everyone something to connect about,” said Norcini. “This trip is one thing that every freshman has in common.”

It can be awkward at the beginning of Upper School for the boys and girls, having never taken classes with each other before, but Outward Bound can build relationships between students right at the beginning of the year, as well as build confidence in students who may feel daunted by entering such a big, unfamiliar territory that is the Upper School.

Norcini believes that completing the trip is a much more impressive feat than the students (or their parents) give themselves credit for, and that everyone at SCH, students and faculty, could improve themselves with the addition of skills learned on Outward Bound.

When asked if there was anything he would change about the Outward Bound program if given the opportunity, Norcini said: “I wish I could make every teacher go on this trip. Not only does it provide an opportunity to connect with and learn about students in a context outside of the classroom, but there are lessons in the field that are transferable, applicable, and, at their core, about knowing, nurturing, and challenging students to grow. And that is at the heart of why we do what we do as educators.”

This article was written by Springside Chestnut Hill Academy senior Theo Gregson for his journalism class. English teacher Marshall Bell instructed students to write about the freshman Outward Bound trip.