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Branksome Hall News

A Weekend to Remember: Grade 12 Students Embark on a New Bonding Trip

Week Without Halls is an event that many students in the Senior & Middle School look forward to every year. Taking place in the fall, it is a trip that allows students to relax and take in nature while bonding as a grade. Grade 12 students usually stay back as their younger peers embark on fun adventures, but this year, many of our Graduating Year (GY) students were able to experience a brand-new bonding weekend.
On September 8, 2023, Grade 12 students and chaperones headed to Camp Onondaga in Minden, Ontario for the inaugural GY Kickoff Weekend. This optional trip, meant to help strengthen the bonds between the school’s oldest students and get them excited for the year to come, is the first of its kind at Branksome Hall. Once the bus full of excited students arrived, they settled into their cabins for two nights of fun. When reflecting on these grade-wide trips, Social and Wellness Prefect Sophie said, “These trips are about connection rather than learning and it’s such an awesome opportunity to remove the barrier that you sometimes have with students that aren't in your classes. Week Without Halls, and now this GY Bonding Trip, lets us see our grade as one, being able to spend time with every single person there.” The weekend was facilitated by experiential and outdoor education company Alive Outdoors, who set up a range of activities for the students to choose from, allowing each GY to have a unique experience over the weekend.

At Camp Onondaga, these activities include high ropes, paddle-boarding and much more. As each student took a shot at their activity of choice, the air filled with the supportive chants of their peers encouraging them and cheering them on. “My favourite activity was the 70-foot giant swing. It was so much fun to watch all my friends and some teachers do it," said Grade 12 student and Head of Scott Clan, Madee, whose opinion was echoed throughout much of the grade. It takes a lot of determination and grit to jump off of a platform that stands almost 30 feet higher than Branksome’s Athletics and Wellness Centre. “It was super high and reminded me of the time I went bungee jumping, which I didn’t particularly enjoy,” said Thea, Head Prefect. “When it was my turn and I started falling from the 70-foot platform in the sky, I screamed louder than was honestly acceptable, but everyone cheered me on the entire time! As terrifying as it was, it was my favourite activity and I am grateful for the experience.” 

The GYs also spent time gathering to share meals and have a bit of competitive fun participating in cup-stacking races, soccer games and talent shows. These activities were so much fun that even the chaperones got involved. In fact, the teachers made this trip even more special by participating in activities and helping to make the students’ last grade-wide trip memorable. “I want to make a special shout-out to the teachers who came on this trip with us,” said Sophie. “Whether it was Mr. Porter who printed out an entire book of Taylor Swift songs he had learned to play on guitar for us, Mr. Ritchie just there to ask how my day was going, or Mr. Fleming who made the whole thing happen, I really appreciate these teachers a lot. They are absolutely irreplaceable and integral to making Branksome the great place that it is.”

On the final night, the happy campers gathered around a bonfire where students and teachers alike played the guitar and had a grand karaoke party—so grand, in fact, that it lasted an entire three hours! It was a bittersweet end to an action-packed weekend. “I think for me, this was the best moment—where we were sitting out by the big campfire with most of our grade bundled up and enjoying what ended up being a three-hour karaoke sing-along,” said Madee. “It was so awesome to see such a big group of students who had all chosen to come on this trip genuinely enjoying the moment and loving each other's company. Especially in our last year, we will all really remember and hold on to that moment.”

Arriving back to school after the trip on Monday, GYs were in high spirits, excited and energized for the school year ahead. “I know this year is going to be a hard one, but I also think it will be the most fun year yet. Our grade is the closest it's ever been, and honestly, going through tough times, like applying for universities, will only bring us closer,” said Teia. “I'm most excited for all of the fun grade activities we will do in our final year like our grade-wide Halloween costume, our final Spirit Week, Formal, etc.” While this event was a beginning to an end of sorts for the Grade 12 students entering their final year at Branksome Hall, it played an important role in strengthening the bond between this group of students.

We look forward to a great school year filled with more bonding, friendship and fun.
We wish to acknowledge this land on which Branksome operates. For thousands of years, it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous peoples from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and go to school on this land.

Setting the new standard for girls' education everywhere takes collective action. From all of us.