School camp is a time for students to stretch themselves beyond the bounds of academic achievement and focus on development of social and personal skills. One of the key opportunities of any camp, particularly for secondary students, is the chance to nurture leadership skills.
Great leadership is not a skill in and of itself. Instead it is a complex combination of skills and traits, many of which can be taught. Away from the structures of the classroom and the comfort zone of home, school camp is often the perfect place to allow students to flex their leadership muscle.
We look at 3 different leadership skills and how these can be nurtured before, during and after a school camp. While this article is written with secondary students in mind, many of the ideas will also relate to primary students.
Good Leaders Make Decisions & Take Responsibility for the Consequences
Effective decision-making is central to every leadership role. Yet many students do not get the opportunity to make significant decisions affecting others.
Consider delegating some or the entire organisation of the school camp to a small group of students, each having a different area of responsibility. For example, one student is responsible for meal time management, another activities and so on.
Obviously this does not mean that teachers abdicate responsibility entirely, as the student committee would report to a teacher. However it does allow students a degree of power and an opportunity to test out their leadership skills.
Conduct a survey at the conclusion of the school camp and then hold a debrief session with your leadership team. Through guided discussion help students to accept responsibility for the consequences of their decisions and talk about how decisions might have been made differently.
Good Leaders Encourage Others to Participate
A good leader is able to help others feel part of the team, regardless of where they fit in the class cliques.
If you have opted to allow students to manage organization of your school camp, an obvious way to enable team building is to allow committee members to delegate some responsibilities to others in the class. So, for example, if one student is responsible for meal time management they might delegate another student to organise a schedule for dining room duties.
On a more micro level, this approach can work with individual activities. For a group activity such as Commando Course or canoeing, break into smaller groups prior to the activity. Assign a leader for each group and ensure they are aware that part of their responsibility as leader is to make certain that everyone feels a part of the team. Debrief after the activity with the entire class and discuss inclusiveness. Brainstorm what helped or hindered participants feeling part of the team.
Good Leaders Teach Others
There have been numerous studies to demonstrate the power of teaching others as an effective way of embedding learning. The communication skills required to teach others also help to nurture good leadership.
One way to hone this skill is by allowing small groups of students to teach other small groups of students and then reverse the roles. This can be done in any classroom situation.
At school camp you can employ this exercise as an after dinner activity on a day when your class has participated in an educational session. Let’s say the class has spent time at the National Marine Science Centre learning marine science or in the rainforest learning about bush tucker with an Aboriginal ranger. Divide the class into small groups and have each group teach another about what was learned that day. This exercise is doubly good because you embed the day’s learning, while honing leadership and communication skills.
At Coffs Coast Adventure Centre we host a wide range of activities that help to build leadership skills and we are very happy to work with students and teachers to create leadership opportunities at camp. Talk to our Camp Concierge for more ideas and activities for building leadership skills.