PHOTOS: Upper School Retreats Start School Year With Relevant Skill-Building in Fun Ways

With students spread out between Camp Stevens in Julian; the University of California, Irvine; Doheny State Beach in Dana Point and at home on St. Margaret’s campus, Upper School students welcomed the return of grade-level retreats during the first week of school, with all the immense benefits they bring.
Retreats are an important, highly anticipated part of the student experience. They create a fun, safe and rewarding passage for each class to come together in unique opportunities for character education, leadership, teambuilding, personal challenge and reflection, and foster social interaction, friendship and community among the classes and within advisory groups. St. Margaret’s administrators carefully plan retreats, including areas of focus, learning objectives, activities and locales.
This year’s retreats were reimagined further to adhere to current health and safety guidelines to enable the cherished experiences for all Upper School students. The return was highly anticipated among Upper School students and the retreats proved to be fun, enlightening and succeeded in bonding classmates ahead of the 2021-2022 school year.
“We spent a great deal of time in advisory groups and whether students were at Camp Stevens, on the beach, at UCI or on campus, they developed more intentional connections with their classmates, cultivated greater trust, and worked collaboratively in teambuilding experiences,” Upper School Director of Community Life Lora Allison said. “Many students have shared how excited they were to welcome retreats back to the Tartan experience, and that the transition from summer back to school was better because of these non-traditional days together.”
Grade 12
Camp Stevens played host once again to the seniors, the Class of 2022, for two days and two nights, in a return to the traditional senior retreat after a year away. (Read about the special  on-campus senior retreat last year for the Class of 2021). Modifications were in place for student safety, yet many of the traditional teambuilding activities, such as the ropes course and other nature-based challenges, remained in place.
Grade 12 students, with their advisors, also dove deeper into examining and self-reflecting on their role as leaders of the campus community this school year. This involved discussion on what leadership looks like, how one carries themselves in a leadership role, as well as grade-wide goals for the 2021-2022 school year.
Grade 11
The grade 11 retreat split time between St. Margaret’s campus and Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, where a variety of activities challenged students to leverage their strengths and work collectively with their classmates.
The Class of 2023 worked with Positive Adventures, an experiential education partner which provides team building, outdoor education and youth programming services. That included a variety of challenges on campus and time spent at the beach kayaking, standup paddleboarding and taking part in an Amazing Race-type challenge where teams figured out puzzles to unlock more clues.
Grade 11 also spent time, as it typically does during retreat week, doing valuable ACT and SAT test preparation.
Grade 10
The Class of 2024 spent a day at the University of California, Irvine, where it took part in the UCI teambuilding program through the school’s campus recreation department. For the second half of the day, students took an extensive tour of UCI led by Upper School math teacher Linda He, a UCI grad and former Admission Office tour guide.
In addition, grade 10 also took part in on-campus activities with Positive Adventures, as well as on-campus SAT/ACT test-preparation sessions with longtime partner AR Academics.
Grade 9
The Class of 2025 took part in a reimagined grade 9 retreat, at St. Margaret’s and at Doheny, which allowed them to meet and get acquainted with one another for the first time as the Upper School freshman class and explore their role as grade 9 students in the Upper School community. Spending a lot of their time with their advisory, students had engaging discussions and activities around personal integrity, integrity within the school community, a sense of belonging, group dynamics and listening skills, with the goal of further bonding with their classmates, familiarizing themselves with the Upper School and understanding their responsibility to themselves and the school. The three days were intentionally designed to be an extended orientation to freshman year, and to their new campus.
Grade 9 also spent a day at Doheny, doing fun beach activities and taking part in teambuilding challenges.
An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County, California
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St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
31641 La Novia Avenue
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
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