Several Red Deer high school students with complex needs can now officially call themselves campers.
Earlier this month, 21 students from Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School spent the night at Camp Cadicasu in Kananaskis County, where they learned how to build a lean-to shelter from branches, make a campfire and, of course, sticky marshmallow s’mores challenges.
Teacher Hayley Goring said it was many students’ first overnight camping experience and their first night away from their parents.
“With proper planning, our students can participate in anything, and we need to make sure we’re included in the opportunities we provide to students,” Goring said.
“Sometimes that means you take on more staff or add extra scheduling, but I think students deserve the same opportunities as their same-age peers.”
She said camping is a typical summer activity, something you often see in movies or on TV.
“I think for many of them it was an incredible opportunity to build their independence. They had the opportunity to spend a night outside and be responsible for their personal care and hygiene. Just a chance for them to bond with their classmates in a different environment.
She said a big hit with campers was the campfire where they had hot chocolate and roasted s’mores. Some students also proved they had serious skills in building shelters and created a lean-to that could accommodate about eight people.
“They just kept fortifying their shelter, and they hung around and played music. It was fantastic.”
Games, performing arts and earth crafts were among other activities, and students slept soundly that night at the campground, she said.
“We were ready for a sleepless night. We were ready. We had staff who stayed up all night to ensure proper supervision for students in case they awoke, and every student was fantastic.
Three teachers and nine teaching assistants accompanied the students, and prior to the trip there were class discussions with the students about what it would be like to be away from home, what to pack and what they would be at camp, for example eating foods that might be different from their usual meals.
Preparations for the trip began earlier this year. The school’s Booster Club provided funds, as well as money the students raised by selling pet treats.
Goring said it had been a few years since there had been a school camping trip, and with one such successful trip this month, more will be planned.
“After we did it, (the staff) all agreed that we really wanted to make it work every year. It was a great opportunity for them.