When Whitney Decker was the “new girl” at Mason, timing was perfect; her class was embarking upon an Outdoor Education Experience (OEE) at Camp Joy. Being with her classmates in this setting launched the beginning of many wonderful friendships. Whitney’s husband, also a Mason student three years older than Whitney, attended Joy’s OEE. His dad chaperoned – and their entire cabin shaved their heads…including dad! Later, Whitney’s husband returned to Joy for a company team-building experience and lost his wedding ring in a rambunctious game of GaGa. Fortunately, a colleague found it. Now Whitney teachers sixth grade at her alma mater; she’s made multiple return trips to Joy with students/colleagues for their annual OEE.
Whitney is as lovely and colorful as her classroom! She adores her students; her eyes light up when she mentions them and her teaching team. Her warm smile glows and her dimples flash as she offers a “teacher’s-eye-view” of their shared Joy OEE:
A – Animals – kids celebrate seeing everything from frogs to deer
B – “Better than my mom makes!” (Joy food – sorry, mom!)
C – Counselors are knowledgeable and help all feel at ease
D – Desserts are fabulous!!!!
E – Empathy – kids learn it and feel it for each other – they cheer each other on
F – Family style dining teaches and reinforces good old-fashioned manners
G – GaGa Pit – game loved by all (except those who lose their wedding rings!)
H – Having fun ‘being unplugged’ without social media or cell phones
I – Included and accomplished – how everyone feels at Camp Joy
J – Just being at Joy with kids/colleagues having fun enjoying challenges together
K – Kids all getting along with each other
L – Leveling of playing field – kids are all equal – no hierarchies or cliques
M – Mini-vacation from the demanding world – a step off the hamster wheel of life
N – Noticing the shy and introverted kids having a chance to shine brightly
O – Outside of school environment – seeing kids being themselves is invaluable
P – Playing games – the kids bring some back they learn and play them at recess
Q – Quality team building skills gained that carry over into classroom teamwork
R – Really accommodating to special needs kids – Camp never says never!
S – Shared experiences that leave us closer and knowing each other better
T – Twelfth grade graduation speeches in which Joy is mentioned annually
U – Underground RR Enactment – extremely beneficial experience allowing all to make…
V – Valuable and appropriate historical and current connections i.e. holocaust, bullying
W – We have kids who have never been in a wooded environment – life-changing
X – (e)Xcitement on the kids’ faces when they master the ropes
Y – You see kids loving getting dirty and smearing clay on their faces
Z – Zip lining! Priceless look on a special needs child’s face when he mastered it!
1 – Remarkable Place – Camp Joy
2 – Nights filled with educational fun
3 – Days of camaraderie with kids and colleagues
Mrs. Decker’s Evaluation: ABC’s + 123’s of Camp Joy = Life-Enhancing Experiences
A+ … Keep up the good work!