In September, less than a week after school starts, SAC Middle School students in grades 5 to 8 pack their bags and hop on a bus for an outdoor educational experience called Beyond the Gates.
The Beyond the Gates outdoor curriculum is designed to challenge the boys from grade to grade and allow them to explore nature and reconnect with the environment. Many new boys are meeting friends and adjusting to their new school; others have never been away from home for more than a night or two. Some have never slept outdoors or paddled a canoe. Regardless of their past experiences, every Middle School student is meeting a new challenge from the moment he steps on the bus.
Students in grade 5 participate in a three-day, two night camping trip. The primary goal in offering this grade 5 program is to introduce students to the concept of stepping out of their comfort zone. All activities—from canoeing and high ropes challenges to hiking and exploring the woods—will be conducted in a safe environment where students can learn to work together, have fun, and develop new friendships.
The theme of the grade 6 program is Community Building. The highlight of this program is a fast-paced survival game similar to hide-and-go-seek in the woods. Other activities include canoe and kayak skills, a low-ropes course, and outdoor living skills to prepare them for the grade 7 program.
The grade 7 theme is Leadership Development, to help the students find the leader within. Leadership comes in many forms, and through this program the boys discuss their own strengths and weaknesses; they are put in many team-oriented situations such as setting up camp, fire building, or an eco-challenge, all of which call on different skills and leadership styles to accomplish the required task. This three-day, two-night program includes one overnight, where the boys not only sleep outdoors, but also cook their dinner over the fire. These skills are in preparation for the grade 8 trip.
On the grade 8 trip, the boys spend one night in a cabin and one night tenting in the wilderness. The boys spend their time canoeing, portaging, and witnessing the beautiful fall colours. Every student’s favourite part is sitting by the fire at night playing games or telling camp stories. Every boy’s triumph is different, but they all return with a greater appreciation of nature, of their own potential, and of their fellow Andreans’ strengths and individualism.