Opening retreats emphasize class bonding

The Dana Hall class retreats, held this year on Sept. 9, are an annual occurrence to bring together each class during opening days. According to Ms. Kaitlin Brandt, Upper School English teacher and 9th-grade Class Dean, “Retreats are meant to be a bonding experience … to face some challenges together and talk to people they haven’t talked to before.”

The 9th graders went to the Boundless Adventures rope course, which Brimmer Mather ‘26 and Addison English ‘26 called “ a great bonding experience to get to know the grade.” They added that “coming together as a grade so early in the year was a good way to make friends outside of the classroom.” Advisors were also welcome to join in the climbing, and Dr. Karen Keely, Upper School English teacher and 9th-grade advisor, said that students cheered her on as she “stepped out of her comfort zone.”

The sophomore retreat often includes a community service component, helping 10th graders start working toward their requirement to spend twenty hours helping people facing adversity. Ms. Angela Macedo, Director of Community Service and Upper School science teacher, explained that volunteering impacts the community by “making students more aware of some of the issues and difficulties other people face. A lot of us, just by being in Dana Hall, experience privilege. Our meals are cooked for us, our buildings are warm, Campus Safety keeps us safe. But not everyone has that privilege.”

The original plan for this year’s sophomore retreat was to spend the day at a community farm to help the Community Harvest Project in the greater Boston area by picking crops. However, due to the ongoing drought in Massachusetts, the retreat plans had to be changed. Instead, students made blankets for an organization called Project Linus, which provides blankets for children in hospitals and shelters. Ms. Macedo said, “A new blanket that is soft with cool characters on it, they might wrap themselves up in them and it helps them to feel safe. And it becomes something they can take with them. It becomes theirs. It’s meant to provide comfort to children facing adversity.” Ella Stole ‘25 was excited by the opportunity, saying that “last year on Ship Day I did making blankets and I thought it was really fun.”

The juniors had two options for their retreat, either white water rafting or exploring a butterfly museum. The rafters paddled four hours down the Deerfield River, and Eliza Cole ‘24 said, “The natural landscape and the mountains” were her favorite part, since “the views were beautiful, and I felt really connected to nature.” Twelve students went to the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory, which Gaby Cao ‘24 called “really fun and interesting. And there was a time in the butterfly museum where everyone was sitting very still, trying to see if butterflies would land on us.”

The seniors had a two-part retreat, beginning on campus with preparations for the upcoming Senior-Sophomore tradition. After gluing beads to beanies and stuffing candy into boxes, the senior class headed to Kimball Farms in Westford, MA, to eat burgers and ice cream and enjoy mini-golf, bumper boats, and the golf driving range. Rachel Benson ’23 noted that, after the community-oriented start to the day, the second portion of the retreat at Kimball Farms was “less bonding because we all did our own thing.”

Jelene Graham ‘24 said that she likes the retreats because she thinks “They’re a good way to get our class to bond and get to know each other, especially since we have them at the beginning of the year when everyone is trying to settle in.”

Karen Altenhoff, Gabi Antun, Megan Coveney, Lea Liebisch, Bolin Miao, Sabah Vitale, Grace Wang, and Nina Wang contributed to reporting.

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