Sixth-grade camp has returned with a few changes


For the past two years, Upper Arlington schools’ sixth-grade camp has been canceled, along with many other opportunities. This was a huge disappointment for students, as they would miss out on what many would consider their favorite activity of the year.  With Covid restrictions slowly lifting, sixth-grade camp returned this year.

Taking place at Camp Oty’Okwa, near Hocking Hills, sixth-grade camp is a multi-day adventure filled with new experiences. However, it has been changed in various ways. 

“One of the major differences is the amount of time that camp is occurring,” said Jordan Walker, a science teacher at UAHS. “In the past, it was three days and two nights, and now it’s going to be two days and one night.” 

This change decreased the amount of time students spent at the camp, but it was a decision that had both positive and negative connotations. The main positive is that fewer days can help with homesickness, as the camp is most likely the student’s first time in the wilderness without their parents. 

“The reason why they opted to do that was to help address the fact that sixth-graders, you know for a lot of them, this is their first time away from home, the first time in a camping situation,” Walker said. “Homesickness is a really big deal, and, you know, it’s a lot of changes and you’re away from home and so they’re trying to help with that.”

This is beneficial because it allows the students to step out of their comfort zone without making them too stressed by being away from home for an extended period of time. Students could have a better time as they won’t be burdened with homesickness and can have a better experience with the camp.

On the contrary, this schedule change also removes time that could be spent doing more activities, as they will not be able to do everything that people in the past have done. However, the change to fewer days may have more positive effects than negative as the sixth-graders will still have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors with less likelihood of becoming homesick.

The sixth-graders will arrive at Camp Oty’Okwa by school bus, and they will immediately be assigned to their cabins. They will not be able to choose their cabins, and instead, will be assigned to a cabin by school administrators based on their questionnaire answers. There are some restrictions concerning who is permitted in cabins together. “

Cabins are divided up by gender, male and female,” Walker said. However, this rule is flexible. “For students who are identifying as a different gender, there are opportunities for them to have sleeping quarters that both make them comfortable and other campers comfortable. That way, everyone is able to be included and participate.”

In each cabin, a high school counselor will be in charge of the group. They are responsible for the sixth-graders in their cabin, helping them with whatever they need. They are also there as a familiar connection for the middle schoolers. 

“The juniors and seniors are essentially there to, number one, make kids feel welcome and support the students who are maybe a little uncomfortable and have never been away from home before,” Walker said.

Juniors and seniors were given a chance to apply to become a counselor for the trip towards the end of last school year. 

“I felt that it was a really good way to give back to the community,” Caden Colombo, a senior at UAHS, said. 

With sixth-grade camp occurring on Sept. 20 and Sept. 30, the counselors are given many opportunities to engage with the future generations of students and to become role models.

As the juniors and seniors have most likely gone to sixth-grade camp before, they are familiar with the camp experience and understand the significant difference a good counselor can make. 

“I remember [sixth-grade camp] being a lot of fun, and the counselors were a big part of that,” said Ryan Nichols, a senior at UAHS. “So if I’m able to serve back to the younger kids who are in sixth grade, that would be a really good experience.”

They are also there to encourage the kids and help them in multiple ways. During hikes, one to two counselors follow the group in the back to make sure none of the sixth-graders falls behind. They are also the first people there in the event of an accident, helping students and contacting teachers if there is a major emergency.

“I went to Oty’Okwa a bunch when I was a kid,” Nichols said. “And it would be cool to go back there one final time before college.”