Building student’s confidence at camp: Top Tips

School camps at Coffs Coast Adventure Centre can help build children's self confidence

Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage and confidence in the doing – Theodore Roosevelt.

Camp is the ideal opportunity for our students to step away from the pressures of their everyday life to try new things, socialise with different people and move forward as confident young men and women.

However, building confidence in students is easier said than done. Even with the best laid plans, there are no guarantees. Like everything in teaching, it’s a matter of recognising the diverse needs of your students and developing activities that will try to accommodate individual needs. Away from the classroom walls, students often act differently. Some who are usually gung-ho can suddenly become overwhelmed, shy students sometimes blossom in an outdoor environment.

So, how do we do our best to build confidence in all our students at camp?


Creating an open and supportive atmosphere at camp is key to each student thriving in the changed environment. Even before camp, the way expectations are managed, procedures set and questions answered will have an impact on the culture that’s developed during the camp.

Some ideas you might like to use include:

  • Encourage students to not pack any bad vibes – camp is a chance to start afresh;
  • Go beyond ‘goal setting’ to “visioning” – encourage each student to picture where they see themselves at the end of camp;
  • Challenge the students to try at least one new thing at camp;
  • Encourage positive self talk;
  • Establish ground rules, especially respect and support for each other;
  • Discuss and practise for failure – it’s a natural part of life and no-one is good at everything;
  • Give each student a responsibility – no matter how big or small;
  • Ban put downs, and look for ways students can genuinely encourage each other;
  • Create a “thank you” roster for students to acknowledge staff and people who have helped;
  • Celebrate successes and be specific by pinpointing the exact activity, skill and achievement. Simply saying ‘great job’ doesn’t have the same impact


Even though you’ll have a pre-arranged itinerary, camp is also the perfect chance for spontaneity. Look for ways to embrace and build a sense of wonderment through magic teaching moments like:

  • Wildlife encounters;
  • Weather that provides a unique opportunity (yes, rainy days can be magical!);
  • An object a student brings from home;
  • Surprise games activity;
  • Something that becomes ‘the’ icon of the camp – song, saying, activity etc


With a plethora of activities to choose from, the hardest thing is narrowing down to include what will best work for your group.

Learning to work collaboratively as a team is an important life skill, and activities like ‘ladder logs’ where students climb a series of ropes, ‘survival activity man vs wild’, a simulated plan crash activity ‘team rescue’ and the more physical commando course all build confidence through trust and communication.

However, make sure you also include a range of activities that can help students develop individual skills, from archery to fencing, ice-skating to sea kayaking, the sense of personal achievement in mastering a new skill is a powerful way to build self-esteem.


Camp is busy but it’s essential to allow time for students to absorb their experiences both as a group and individually. Once activities are done help students to reflect on and verbalise the impact of camping days. Some simple activities that can help students include:

  • Journal writing;
  • Writing postcards to parents;
  • Drawing a mind map of one day at camp;
  • Meditation or a mindfulness walk in the natural surroundings;
  • Use each sense before going to sleep – what’s the best thing you’ve seen, heard, smelt, tasted, touched today?

Here’s a tried and tested group reflection activity (that works for any age group).

Using a ball of string, sit the whole group in a circle. One student starts by saying the name of another student and rolling the ball of string toward them while saying a positive affirmation about the person that relates to camp. For example, ‘It was great the way you overcame your fear of heights.’

The second person then hangs onto the string and repeats the process with another person. In the end everyone is holding onto the string that looks like a giant spider’s web.

To lend the activity even greater significance for students, instead of simply winding up the string at the end – take a photo of the scene and cut a piece of the web for each student to keep to remind them of the camp. Encourage everyone to keep their string in their own special way – ideas range from shoelaces, woven into friendship bracelets, kept in a locket, made into a bookmark etc.


In the words of Mark Twain….
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

We’d love to help you and your students explore, dream and discover! Please contact Molly, our Camp Concierge for ideas and assistance in designing your camp program around the specific needs of your students. At Coffs Coast Adventure Centre, we’re here to help build every student’s confidence and self-esteem.

Call our Camp Conccierge 02 6653 5311

Shannon Kent - Bookings Manager at the Coffs Coast Adventure Centre

Let Shannon help you with booking and planning your camp.

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