Freshman Camp Goes Virtual!
First year transitions in a pandemic
February 8, 2021
From icebreakers to school tours to some friendly competition with games in the gym, freshman camp has become an unforgettable piece of any incoming freshman’s first experience at SHS. And though the Covid-19 pandemic may have prevented it from looking the same as normal, it did not stop freshman camp from taking place this year.
In a normal year, according to Mr. Tilton, an SHS math teacher and freshman camp coordinator, the eighth-grade classes are brought to the high school for a day of activities led by high school student leaders in small groups. But, due to Covid-19 restrictions, “we instead had to have the eighth graders remain at the junior high in their first-period class while the high school students logged into a Google Meet” said Mr. Tilton. But regardless of its unconventionality, the virtual edition of freshman camp held on February 3, 2020, “went as good or better than I could have expected” explained Mr. Tilton.
While the camp as a whole exceeded expectations, some aspects of the in-person experience were harder to translate into a virtual setting than others. The most prominent of those difficulties was building personal connections. “When you are in person and in small groups, it’s much easier to make that personal human connection which is one of the main pillars for freshmen camp,” said Mr. Tilton. In addition, generating freshman camp’s patent school spirit and positive energy was more difficult through a screen.
Nevertheless, the challenge of transitioning to a virtual setting also allowed for greater innovation and creativity as student leaders planned freshman camp activities. “The fact that we had to do it through a Google meet allowed us to try to get creative and think outside the box” explained Mr. Tilton. The team of student leaders were able to develop virtual school tour videos and even incorporate a Kahoot with Sycamore trivia. “So those things would not have come to fruition without Covid-19 restrictions” added Mr. Tilton.
Even in the uniquely virtual setting, many of the key characteristics of freshman camp remained steady. One of the main goals of freshman camp has always been to ease some of the incoming freshman’s apprehension about their new settings, “so many of the questions that they asked were the same things they would have asked in person” said Mr. Tilton. The continuance of orientation events like freshman camp has been critical in making this transition from the junior high school to SHS as smooth as possible for our incoming freshmen.
And freshman camp’s student leaders are committed to making that transition even smoother as they keep in touch with their groups throughout the remainder of the year. “I think that one of the things we’re going to try to do as we move into the spring is each of these high school student leaders who were assigned to a first-period class at the junior high, we’re going to try to figure out some ways for them to stay in touch with the kids at the junior high” explained Mr. Tilton. To make sure the incoming freshmen know that someone is here for their questions, student leaders will maintain that human connection through periodic Google Meet calls and emails.
All in all, making the transition from junior high school to high school during the unprecedented circumstances of Covid-19 is not an easy feat. But, the continuity and adaptability of programs like freshman camp is critical to making our incoming freshmen feel as welcome as possible at SHS.