Community on the Ottawa River

Raft_Feature2At 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 10, barely a week and a half into the fresh 2014/2015 school year, the Grade 12 class troops onto two coach buses to leave school for three days. This is the annual class trip to Wilderness Tours to go white water rafting on the Ottawa River. Excitement and energy from the still fresh start to their final year of high school mingle with the prospect of time away from school and, for many of them, an entirely new experience with rafting.

The long six hour bus ride is the first community building activity of the trip. Forced to be together in a small space, students recount their summers, talk about courses for the year, and return to old inside jokes. By the time they finally reach Wilderness Tours, they are right back to behaving like a class who hadn’t spent the summer apart. Arrival, unpacking, dinner, games involving an eight-foot-tall beach ball, and the first day is complete.

The second day is packed with a full schedule on the river. Students (and Mr. Todd) spend equal amounts of time in the rafts and the river itself. A chilly day reveals part of the reason for scheduling the grade 12 trip in the Fall: the Spring river water would have been even colder. The timing also manages to set the tone for the year. It is a celebration of the years that have been spent together while still finding new experiences. White water rafting is one of those new experiences bringing this group ever closer.

One of the most poignant community-building moments of the trip is after dinner; students gather in the amphitheatre for devotions and a few more games. After consuming hundreds of Skittles in under fifteen minutes, students are treated to a flashback. The video shown at the end of their own grade 9 day plays to laughter, smiles, and resurfacing memories. It becomes a highlight of reviewing where they had been, where they are now, and where they are going.

The final day begins with a skin-numbing squeeze into wet suits, cold and soaking from the previous day, not warmed at all by the fresh 4°C morning. A half day of rafting lies ahead, in smaller boats, without experienced guides in the rafts. Many of the “guides” are in fact HDCH staff members, illustrating the perhaps ill-placed trust students have in their teachers. What follows is a fast paced splash down the river, with students bailing out of their rafts in favour of the warmer water. Before they knew it, students are back on the bus, headed home to HDCH.

The Grade 12 rafting trip provided an incredible opportunity for an incredible group of students to become even more cohesive; the energy and community they created will carry on into this, their final year at HDCH.