Eighth graders at TCS briefly put aside their books and basics, such as technology, and hit the open road for a three-day, two-night retreat to Spruce Lake in Northeast Pennsylvania.

“I think one of the incredible things about  8th grade outdoor education is that it is not only a great educational experience where students are learning college wilderness survival type skills that we do not normally expose them to in the daily curriculum, but also an opportunity for spiritual growth when you take teachers and students out of the traditional academic setting and place them in the outdoors,” says Dr. Shalen Bishop, TCS Secondary Principal.

For the oldest class among middle schoolers, the retreat is a time to refine and grow leadership skills. This is done through rigorous physical challenges such as rock climbing, ziplining and map and compass training among others.

“I learned that I like nature,” says Abigail Di Giorgio, “The ziplining was a really fun experience.”

“It was a good time. I had a lot of fun. I learned a lot about myself like how can I push myself to a higher limit,” says Joseph Oduro.

The retreat is also a time to grow as a class as groups of friends are split up, giving students a chance to interact with others they normally might not get the chance to.

“I got a chance to know my classmates much better. I learned that we have to overcome our obstacles but we have to do that through God,” says Rachel Yuh.

“They are gaining a deeper respect for one another because they had the chance to see their classmates outside of their comfort zone,” explains Bishop.

Students were also challenged to go deeper in their spiritual walk with the Lord.

“During devotions I learned a lot about myself as a person. Without Jesus you can’t really go far in life,” says Oduro.

As 8th graders bring the experience of the retreat back home, it is one that will continue to refine and shape them in the next year before they enter high school.