Senior Retreat – Day 1

Our students aren’t letting the rain get them down!
I think by now you’ve read enough of these from either Russ or me (some of you still may be reading some of Russ’s updates from your child’s Grade 8 trip to Israel) to know what is to follow. I have started my account of today’s activities under the shelter of the roof of the boardwalk, which is the main meeting area where we assemble before splitting into different activity groups. The rain is playfully dancing on the metal roof above, and a generous line of drips patter on the decking at my feet. 

Olivia Zanotto, Natasha Klass, Ellie Khalifa, and Yael Toyber, 
 all Grade 12, take a break out of the rain

All the students have just headed off to high ropes, kayaking, archery and other activities under a steady, heavy drizzle. I’m not sure where the meteorological distinction is between drizzle and rain but we have been more firmly situated in the rain side of things for most of the day. And despite the ongoing precipitation, the only other sound I hear right now is a group of Grade 12 students who have started a spirited game of Bump on the basketball court. And although there is laughing and smiling, the kids are demonstrating clear competitive tendencies (including Ms. Uzan, who has already "schooled" a number of kids with some great shots – I’m going to protect some members of our boys’ senior basketball team by not revealing names). 

Josh Switzer, Grade 11, gets off a good shot in archery

Mr. Gorski explains the art of rowing – apparently the oar goes in the water?!

These good spirits have been the prevalent characteristic of our day so far. Despite waiting in the rain this morning before boarding the ship, not being able to bask in the sun on the upper deck while we sailed away under Lion’s Gate Bridge, and then arriving at camp to even more rain, the kids are really keen and enjoying themselves. Some of it is the fun things to do here at Keats, but the bulk of it just comes from being with each other. I have remarked to our teachers already that we could have left them on the boat for three days and they’d have almost as much fun; though I think part of that is they weren’t aware we teachers were on the boat with them until we disembarked. 
For fear of electrocution, my laptop and I have moved indoors. Everyone is off to their second session of camp fun – the giant swing, an eco-hike (which I have learned means walking outside without a side walk), the giant climbing wall and a game of frisbee golf, to name a few. The rain continues to fall but it has not dampened the morale of our kids (see what I did there? Dampened – wait for it, it’ll come to you!) However, there is no need to worry moms and dads, everyone seems to have what they need to stay dry and, of course, we’re fulfilling our primary role, which is keeping everyone fed. 

Jessie Miller, Grade 11, tries her hand at the climbing wall

Sagiv Fadida, Grade 11, is ready for his turn on the high ropes

But along with the typical retreat happenings, there are things that happen on Keats that you wouldn’t normally see. For example, during snack time, Rabbi Berger transitions into a master popcorn vendor with a call that would best the most seasoned vendors at BC Place. Miss Cameron displays her hidden talents on the high ropes – so much so you would think she was an expert trapeze artist! And Mr. Dichter is an expert marksman with a bow and arrow – skillfully piercing an apple this afternoon from hundreds of feet away (according to him, though to the average onlooker, it was more like 20 feet).

I certainly know that one of the attractions at retreat is the meals – okay, it’s my raison d’etre for going! Tonight we started with one of my favourites – burrito night!! And while the fare is fantastic, eating with 80+ adolescents is less of a dining experience and more of a Lord of the Flies experience. One thing I’ve learned from attending multiple retreats is that you do not want to get in between an adolescent boy (most of whom are taller than me) and food – at any time, even if they’ve just eaten. But despite the food fervor, our kids still manage to do all the things you’ve taught them: "pleases" and "thank-yous" and cleaning up when they’re done. If they’re not doing this in your house, you didn’t hear this from me.
The evening closed out with some welcomed time indoors – we could only press our luck out in the rain for so long. We started the night by dividing the kids for a sharing activity called "Boundary Breakers." In small grade groups, the students took turns answering questions like, "What’s your high school legacy going to be?" or "What is a way you can set up a friend for success?" or "What advice would you give yourself 4 or 5 years ago?" 

Ethan Axler, Noah Marciano, Ezra Tischler, David Clark, and Ben Chelin, Grade 11

Shira Charach, Emma Cooper, Dina Ferera, and Rebecca Laskin, Grade 12

After sharing their answers in quite surprising and meaningful ways, we all gathered together for a fun-filled trivia contest. Students and staff battled for brain supremacy, answering general knowledge and school-specific questions for bragging rights and fun prizes. I won’t spoil the outcome – you’ll have to check with your kids to see who was victorious!
In the dark and somewhat quiet now, there is a sustained din of laughter and chatter as the kids settle in their cabins for the night. We have established a time for lights out and I am hopeful our kids will, at some point, become tired and get some of the sleep we so strongly advised them to have. Tomorrow is an early start with a 7:00 a.m. wake up for an 8:00 a.m. breakfast. (I’m already dreaming of Froot Loops!)
I’ll be back tomorrow evening, with a full recap of an entire day under, what we hope will be, a sunny sky!
Until then…

King David High School, 5718 Willow Street, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Z 4S9 Canada
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