Last weekend, six Grade 8 SMUS students (along with Mr. Jackson) travelled to Ontario to participate in the CAIS Middle School Leadership Conference
More than 150 like-minded students from Canadian Accredited Independent Schools across Canada congregated at Camp Onondaga (about two hours north of Toronto) for a four-day leadership summit that focused on skill-building, confidence-building and making new friends.
“I found it really fun and it was inspiring,” says Hannah M.
Students participated in leadership workshops that touched on a wide variety of subjects, from body language to problem solving, where they played games and had opportunities to reflect on what they learned.
“My favourite workshop was one where they’d ask us all a question – like ‘Did you come from a city other than Toronto?’ and you’d raise your hand. And he asked us if we’ve ever had a problem. We used tape to see how we connect with other people,” says Ryan E. “It was really fun and cool. I thought it was really deep. I learned a lot.”
The most insightful workshop for many of the SMUSdent participants was the fun and educational “Builders and Bulldozers” game and reflection. Using pylons, builders had to work together to get the pylons to stand upright, while a larger group of bulldozers tried to knock them down.
“It translates to people, too,” says Sam S. about the builders vs. bulldozers concept.
“This changed the way I think about myself, my friends or my family. Builders are people who are confident with themselves, confident with other people, and they don’t tear things down like a bulldozer does. It got me thinking about if I was a builder or bulldozer,” Hannah says.
“I learned that everyone can be a bulldozer sometimes and you should try your best not to be,” adds Sam.
But it wasn’t all workshops. Students got daily opportunities to try new, different and fun summer camp activities, too. They were given plenty of choice, including ball hockey, canoeing and disc golf; but they also had some step-out-of-your-comfort-zone options, too, like the high ropes course, a 70″ swing and ziplining.
“I definitely built my confidence level up quite a bit. The high ropes were so scary!” says Ellie L.
All the SMUS attendees say now that they’ve returned, they have big hopes for taking leadership at the Middle School to the next level.
“I want to take what I learned and make something happen. I think it’s better than just going and doing nothing after, and just not using your skills. I really want to make a difference at the Middle School,” Ellie says.
“I think that the skills I learned can help me be a better friend, be a better teacher if I need to help kids, and overall be a better person,” Sam says.
We’re excited to see how this group of students applies what they learned to make our Middle School community and the greater SMUS community an even greater place!
“I think it’s so important to learn about leadership. There’ll be more opportunities to use these skills in higher grades,” Ellie says. “If you’re interested in learning more about yourself, and the way to lead, and confidence building, you should definitely try to go next year!”
(photos by Zyoji Jackson)