As you walked on to campus this fall, you may have caught a glimpse of the the great class of 2022 on the steps of the Main School Building. They were most likely waving goodbye to their parents and Green Keys, as their moms and dads tried to snap this monumentous first step at a new school. This notorious farewell photoshoot marks the beginning of the incoming ninth-graders’ voyage away to Camp Becket. However, in the past years, the effectiveness of this two day adventure in “grade-bonding” has come into question.
The wilderness excursion consists of various team activities. When the students arrive at the camp, they are welcomed by camp counselors. From there, the 9th graders are split into random groups, each of about eight students. Then, the students are taken through what may be one of the hallmarks of this camp, a ropes course, which consists of obstacles that promote teamwork.
After a quick hiatus for lunch, the students are back in the woods. In their groups, the ninth graders partake in more activities such as boat making and charades. They finish the camp day by making their grade cheer. This grade cheer is recited at school meeting every Wednesday. This cheer signifies a class’ first step into the Deerfield community; it is one of the special Deerfield Academy traditions that makes students feel as if they are truly welcome in their new environment. After making their cheer, the students eat dinner and then go to bed. The next day, the campers are up and eager to get back to school.
Although the stated purpose of these two days is for ninth-graders to define their own Deerfield experience, Kishor Bharadwaj ’19 , a proctor in the Village who attended Camp Becket with his proctees this fall, explains that this two day adventure garners mixed responses.
He said, “[Camp Becket] is a good time to get new ninth-graders to meet each other. However…Becket does not provide an accurate depiction of our school, which makes some students question their decision to commit to the school.”
When asked to explain his most memorable experience at Camp Becket this fall, Abdiel Torres ’22, a 9th grader gave a mixed review.
Torres stated, “Laugher, sweat, and lots of kids made up Camp Becket.”
Echoing Bharadwaj’s thoughts, some students, such as Torres, argue that having 100 or so stinky teenagers sleep together for one night isn’t the most efficient way to bond. One would expect a Deerfield introduction to be more formal, possibly in class dress instead of in mud.
Ms. Melvoin, the dean of the 9th grade class, explained, “The goal of Camp Becket is to give 9th graders a chance to get to know each other away from the distractions on campus. It lets us see them work together and problem solve in a fun, no pressure environment.” The concept of Camp Becket is simple: it’s a time for the incoming class to bond without the stress of grades, social media, and the rest of the school. It is a time for them to focus on themselves and their peers. Even through the sweat and bugs, many students have formed life-lasting friendships during these two days.
Although the infamous trip brings the best and worst of memories, it is certain that, through the experience, the ninth grade class is brought closer together (maybe even a little too close—those bunk beds barely leave room between the one the top and the on the bottom). As grueling as mosquitoes, rainy weather, and awkward teenage classmates may be, Camp Becket remains an integral part of the Deerfield ninth grade experience.