It's a great thing to see people helping each other and even better to see kids helping kids.
Last Saturday the students from Royal Oak School in Niagara-on-the-Lake were out in force selling coffee and baked goods to raise money so their classmates could attend camp with them this summer.
“Camp is the place where there’s lots of kids and there’s a lot of fun games. You get to go canoeing, I’m pretty sure, and you get to hang out with your friends and you get to sing songs and a lot of fun stuff like that,” student Zara Phillips, 9, said out front of the school.
Royal Oak tries to organize a camp getaway for students every year.
“It’s one of those opportunities where we can be together as a group out in nature bonding at the end of the school year," head of school Julia Murray said. "Having this outdoor education model, it’s really a great way to end the school year.”
The school will be taking the kids to a camp in Muskoka from June 7 to 10. Grades 4 to 7 will be participating, about 35 kids, Murray said.
More than 20 students were out and about on Saturday to raise money for their classmates.
“It’s really nice to have a lot of students volunteering today just to put the money that they earn back into the hat and help the families,” Murray said.
Helping their classmates was something all the kids could get behind.
“There have been steps taken for kids that can’t go to camp. So, those costs will be reduced, which allows all of us to have more time at camp and more kids will be able to go because of the money we’ve raised,” said Mia Phillips, 12.
This is the first camp trip the school has been able to do since the beginning of the pandemic, Murray said.
“We’ve been waiting for two years to do this,” she said.
Royal Oak has been expanding over the years and the school now occupies the entire top floor of the old NOTL hospital, Murray said.
“When we were dealing with COVID we wanted to have more space in our classrooms as well as larger classrooms and the town was really supportive. We knocked down some walls, we doubled our space and we are using it very well.”
One thing she was particularly proud of is the school's efficient asynchronous learning system, developed during the pandemic to ensure students who cannot attend class in person do not fall behind.
“We all know how much learning time has been lost over the last two years but that hasn’t really happened here,” Murray said.
“All of the classrooms have smart TVs as some students have been learning from home for two years. Some are immunocompromised,” she said.
“What’s great is they’ve been able to be a part of our programming (at home) but then they come for recess, they come for gym, they come for opportunities like this and so there’s still that social engagement in learning with their classroom community.”
Adapting to COVID-19 means the school is better able to handle student absences due to illness in the future.
“If these kiddos ever need to stay home to isolate, they’re not missing more days of school,” she said.
Students were selling treats outside the old hospital site and at Hendriks Independent Grocer.
They will be back out again on May 21, fundraising in the same locations. So feel free to grab your morning coffee from the kids at Royal Oak and help them create summer camping memories.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report