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Beyond the Gate

Rock Eagle Retreat

On September 14-16, a group of Woodward sixth grade students participated in the long-running annual trip to the Rock Eagle 4-H camp in Eatonton, Ga. Now in its fourth decade, the purpose of the trip, according to Lower School principal Andy Phillips, is to teach an appreciation, understanding, and awareness of the natural world by studying and interacting with that world and using it as a stimulus for other learning or creative activities.

“Learning should not be limited to the four walls of a building,” Phillips said.

The second reason for the trip is to afford students an opportunity to meet and interact with each other outside of the school environment. ”It is a great tool to create social bonding among the 6th grade students,” said Phillips.

Students visited Rock Eagle for the first 25 years of the trip, until 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, leading to the 4-H Center being used to house coastal refugees. “As luck would have it, a parent told us of a camp in northeast Georgia called Ramah Duram,” said Phillips. “We took the students there for the next 13 years and had a blast.”

In 2018, Woodward returned to Rock Eagle following several improvements to the site.

Among this year’s student participants was Blakely Boyer ’29. We asked her about her experience:


What were your expectations ahead of the Rock Eagle trip? Were you nervous? Excited? Why?

I was really excited and slightly nervous for the Rock Eagle trip since this is my first year at Woodward. I expected fun activities and to meet more friends, which I did. I was excited for the “free time” to hang out and to go to the social on Thursday.


What did you like about being with your classmates outside of the usual Woodward setting?

I enjoyed being with my classmates outside of Woodward because I felt like I had more time to get to know them better. By having time in our cabins and talking about things we like, I was able to learn more about my classmates and make friendships.


What most surprised you on the trip?

I was surprised by how much free time we had to hang out with one another. I had fun playing card games and staying up late to talk with my cabinmates.


What is something you learned on the trip?

One of my favorite activities was canoeing, which I had never done before. It was a new experience.


Would you recommend this trip to next year’s sixth graders? Why?

Absolutely! It was a great bonding experience for the whole grade and it was so much fun. I am glad it was at the beginning of the year because it helped make changing schools easier for me.

  • lower school
  • student life

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