By Catholic Review Staff
NORTH EAST – More than 300 sixth-graders from Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore developed their leadership skills and scientific knowledge of tidal wetlands the school week of March 14-18 in Cecil County.
The students spent the week at NorthBay Adventure Camp in Elk Neck State Park, on the Eastern Shore, atop the Chesapeake Bay, but they weren’t the only ones testing themselves.
“Our teachers and chaperones learn as well,” said Madeline Meaney, the principal of Immaculate Conception School in Towson. “On one of the exercises, an instructor asked me, ‘When are you going to try?’ By the end of the week, I had been on a zip line and held a snake.”
Whether they were from a suburban parish school offering an extensive STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum, such as Immaculate Conception, or from one of the community schools serving Baltimore City, administrators and teachers described students leaving their “comfort zone” and having a transformative experience.
“A lot of our students come from the inner city,” said Meghan Cosgrove, the assistant principal and intermediate grades science teacher at Holy Angels Catholic School. “Being on the Chesapeake Bay, boarding a boat, clamming or being reminded why trees are important to the environment, our students are able to take what they learned back home.”
Helen Jackson, Margaret Gouker and Kate Stadter, students of St. John Regional Catholic School in Frederick, listen intently to NorthBay Adventures Camp educator, Lisa Wilson, as she talks about the various conditions that impact water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)
Cosgrove, as well as Marie Snyder, the sixth grade homeroom teacher at St. Casimir Catholic School in East Baltimore, described exercises that built teamwork and trust.
“What struck me most was watching our kids push themselves, physically and emotionally,” said Snyder, who had 14 St. Casimir students at NorthBay. “Battling homesickness or without mom and dad’s support, students were asked to climb high rope courses, muck around in a marsh or fly in a giant swing over the Bay.
“What makes that possible is NorthBay’s support system. There is no booing or negativity. When boys cry from missing home, peers provide encouragement. … Because of that foundation, students felt safe.”
The program’s spiritual component included Mass March 16, celebrated by Father Michael Triplett, pastor of Our Lady of Grace in Parkton. Its parish school, a National Blue Ribbon School in 2014, was among those participating.
Other schools were Archbishop Borders School, Baltimore, Cardinal Shehan School, Baltimore; St. Clement Mary Hofbauer School, Rosedale; St. Francis of Assisi School, Baltimore; Immaculate Conception School, Towson; John Paul Regional Catholic School, Woodlawn; St. Jane Frances School, Pasadena, St. Joan of Arc School, Aberdeen; and St. John Regional Catholic, Frederick.
Of the 318 students from the archdiocese at the camp, 62 were from Immaculate Conception.
“We send our entire sixth grade,” Meaney said. “It’s something the children look forward to all year, because the seventh- and eighth-graders who have been never stop talking about it. Students learn so much about the environment, and the importance of doing whatever they can.”
For a video report, click here.