The students and their parents arrived to the Hyde campus on July 2nd with no idea how much had been planned for the month ahead. They moved into their dorm rooms and met their roommates, not knowing how close they would get to the people around them in just a short week.
As soon as the students said goodbye to their parents they were adopted into a new, temporary family called a Discovery Group. In this group, students are given many opportunities to speak about themselves and their journey as well as listen to others and give feedback.
Once they got to know the people they would share the most memories with over the month, they rejoined the whole community for a field day social. Here they played volleyball and various games, listened to music, and sat in groups and talked.
That night, after dinner, everyone gathered in the Mansion (the central building of Hyde) for their first challenge. Each student had to give a formal introduction in front of the entire group! Many were nervous, but they got through it and gained a great experience in public speaking.
The next day, the students became even closer with their discovery groups by participating in four challenges: Electric Fence, Perfect Square, River Crossing, and Mine Field. In the Electric Fence challenge, the discovery group had to find a way to get every member over the fence without touching it.
In the Perfect Square challenge, blindfolded discovery groups must form a perfect square out of a rope using nothing but verbal communication. In the River Crossing challenge, the discovery group must get all of their members across a length of land, but they can only step onto that area if they are standing on planks of wood.
Finally, in the Mine Field activity, the discovery groups had to get each blindfolded member across a stretch of land covered in obstacles. These challenges brought about trust and comradery between the discovery group members, things they’ll need as they go on to compete for the discovery group cup later in the month.
In the afternoon, they went on a scavenger hunt to get to know the Hyde campus, then retreated to the dorms to bond with their roommates and the rest of the people they’d be living with throughout the month.
To complete their day, the students went to the theater after dinner for an introduction to performing arts at Hyde, where they learned that they would all have to perform a minute-long, acapella song in front of the entire group the following week. Nerves kicked in, but they knew that there was no other option but to accept the challenge.
The students woke up bright and early on the fourth of July to run a timed mile. It was a struggle for some, a delight for others, but all around, a great show of how kind and supportive the Summer Challenge community really was. Everyone was cheering for each other, getting up off the sidelines–after they had already finished the mile–to run with those who needed motivation.
Later, the students went to different locations to meet with their Discovery Groups for their first seminar. A seminar is an opportunity to talk about past experiences in a group and learn more about yourself and the other people in the circle.
After lunch, the Discovery Groups headed down to the ropes course and the rock wall to challenge themselves yet again. Each person climbed up to new heights and achieved what some believed they could never achieve.
Finally, to top off the holiday, all the Discovery Groups went downtown to watch the fireworks. They ate delicious street food and danced to live music while enjoying the colorful blasts shooting into the sky around them.
In the morning, the students got to experience something very special. A Hyde alumni, Lucy Foerster ‘03, came back to redo her graduation speech, this time receiving a distinction of having reached her own standards of personal excellence.
A Hyde diploma is a very special thing to receive because although each graduation distinction (document, certificate, and diploma) holds the same weight in the real world as a regular high school diploma, they differ in terms of how you are living up to what your conscience tells you is right.
A document is given to those who don’t easily or quickly follow their conscience, but they are willing to try to become better. A certificate is given to those who sometimes listen to the conscience but often struggle to meet their standards of personal excellence.
Lucy received a certificate on her graduation day, but in her years away from Hyde, she continued to strive to be her best self and she came back to tell everyone that she had accomplished just that, and she had earned her Hyde diploma.
Next, the students started their first day of Curiosity Curriculum, a program in which students explore the creative and intellectual sides of themselves through crafts and research. Today, they made personal journals for them to document their experiences in.
After lunch, they spent their afternoon at scenic Popham Beach. There they sunbathed, dove into the cool water, and explored the unique terrain of the rocky beach. After experiencing the open environment Hyde creates, they were able to have very deep conversations with one another as they enjoyed the beach even though they had only known each other for a couple of days.
Days Five & Six
The next morning, they had their second day of Curiosity Curriculum. Soon after, they hit the athletic field in their Discovery Groups to compete in various activities such as relay races and capture the flag.
That night, they packed in anticipation for their trip to Eustis, Maine where they would set up camp on Hyde’s Black Forest property on Flagstaff Lake.
The next day, they departed for the deep woods for a weekend of nature, Discovery Group bonding, and challenging adventures. As soon as they reached their gorgeous campsites, they set up their tents and took a swim in the refreshing lake with a view of the mountains in the distance.
One of the lucky campers had this to say about his campsite: “Our campsite was right on the water and we had a beautiful view. We went swimming at all times of day and we had a great time.” Many campers experienced the same thing, but they were all separated. Each campsite was decently far away from one another so that each group could really focus on themselves.
Early in the morning, before the sunrise, the campers traveled to the mountains to hike. One camper had this to say about her trek: “Hiking Cranberry Peak was hard, but our Discovery Group relied on each other to keep going.” The hike proved to really bring about positivity, resilience, and togetherness within the groups.
One group reached the peak only to be surrounded by a thick fog. They soon realized they were standing in a cloud! As they began to eat lunch, the cloud passed and they were able to observe the vast, green landscape beyond the mountain.
The challenge also benefitted individuals in terms of realizing personal strengths. One camper said this about the journey: “Hiking is really hard for me, but I learned that it’s also very fun! Not taking myself too seriously helped me get through it.” Reaching the top of a mountain is an undertaking, and it truly reveals the strengths in both oneself and the group.
That night, the discovery groups gathered around the fire and told their life stories. One camper had this to say about her experience sharing: “Telling my life story was very emotional for me, but I got through it by trusting the people in my group.” The quality of the life story experience really comes down to how close the discovery group has become through the past week.
Luckily enough, each discovery group had developed such a strong bond that it felt safe to share deep, personal things with one another and feel good about it. One individual remarked that it was such a relief to tell his life story, and many said they learned a lot about themselves as communicators and understanding people.