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Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA Berkshire Outdoor Center

District 7 Program Proposal

"Berkshire Outdoor Center understands the value of reaching back into under-served communities to provide its renowned service to all students, which is a truly unique facet of their outreach. Their engagement strategy is keenly framed around equity and opportunity, which is integral to the development of our students around college and career readiness, preparedness, and persistence. Their dedicated staff along with engaging programs, allowed our students, many of whom had never traveled outside of the South Bronx before, to experience life in a new way. As an educator, what I experienced firsthand on numerous occasions was both refreshing and enlightening. Our students were not only challenging themselves to be better individuals, but were enjoying every minute of it."
- Bronx Academy of Letters, Bronx NY


Why District 7 Students Need This Opportunity

  • Students visit an environment and region that is away from home and the regular distractions in life, to focus intesnively on themselves and their peers.
  • Students have the opportunity to try leisure activities they rarely get to experience, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, ice skating, climbing tower, campfires with S'Mores and night experiences
  • Students get exposed to nature, hearing owls hooting at night, finding fresh porcupine tracks in the snow, checking out the beaver lodge
  • Students spend time focused on developing healthy relationships.
  • Students learn experientially, with new facilitators, reinforcing social and emotional learning that begins in the classroom


Rites of Passage

Designed for middle school, this program could include any component as follows. Each component is a progression for the other, so all are recommended. However, where price and available time are issues, we highly recommend the overnight retreat and the at-school day program as introductions.

  • At School Teambuilding - day program for 7th graders
    (Can be during school day or a Saturday)
    • Introduces teambuilding and leadership concepts
    • Establishes groups
    • Prepares students and gets them excited about their future (8th grade) trip
  • At School Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)
    (1 hour sessions)
    • Can be run at school or after-school
    • Focused on Self-Awareness/Self-Management then Social-Awareness/Relationship Management/Responsible Decision-Making
    • Involves journaling and reflection time - relating lessons learned to real life
    • 10 x 1 hour SEL sessions that build on the previous day program, in the lead-up to 8th grade
  • At Camp Rites of Passage Overnight Retreat for 8th Graders
    • Overnight Retreat to Berkshire Outdoor Center that ties together all previous learning
    • Continued focus on SEL and what it means to be a leader
    • Can be a stand-alone trip


District Wide Rites of Passage

Importantly, I would love to do a variant of the Rites of Passage program with all your schools, or at least all of your 7th and 8th graders. You could either blend schools or they could be managed independently. If District 7 were willing to spread out the visits to Becket to encompass October-May, then we could incorporate winter programming, such as Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing, and we could offer winterized lodges.



Urban Leadership Day Camps (Summer)

This is the program I am most excited about, as we have seen the greatest success in students through this program. It is a summer 4 week program (although students can enroll in 8 weeks). It is run at-school (the school would provide classroom space/large room space/outdoor space (when possible) and lunches. We would provide the staff, program equipment.

The program is a long-term (4 week) version of what we do with students who come to Becket from KAPPA III - teambuilding games and activities with debriefing to help develop self-awareness/management and social awareness/relationship management along with problem-solving and responsible decision-making. It is also heavily focused on community service and developing a community-mindset. Students identify community-based problems, work together to research solutions to those problems, and then present those solutions to stakeholders in the community. The program requires no effort from the school or teachers, other than that we would like to have them present at the presentations if available.


This is much more affordable than:

  • Summer day care
  • School-run programs

There is an article here that illustrates how one school worked with us to adapt the program. We can make this program whatever each school needs it to be.

Students can attend 4 weeks or 8 weeks and it is geared towards middle school students. It is a great opportunity for kids to be engaged in wholesome, healthy summer-long programs that are physically and mentally healthy, stimulate SEL and help prevent summer learning loss. Post-Summer, students return to school with a community mindset, new friends and a healthier understanding of themselves and their relationships.


Ecology & Environmental Education

  • Meet objectives in NY curriculum
  • Experiential
  • Reinforce classroom knowledge
  • Incorporate teambuilding, problem-solving, communication skill development activities (challenge course low elements)
  • Incorporate adventure-based recreation including canoeing, archery, hiking
  • Tailorable based on school’s goals

More Information on Ecology Program

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