Merrowvista: The Experience of a Lifetime

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Merrowvista school group embraces on mountain

By Hawa (Codman ’16)

Codman’s trip to Merrowvista is like being thrown into a pool of vulnerability and forced to swim out safely and stronger.

Codman Academy student smiles on top of ledge during Merrowvista school program
Photo credit: Carmela (’15)

Since the whole upper school travels to Merrowvista at the start of the school year, you are in the woods with people you don’t know or may not share interests with, and you’re expected to create an unbreakable bond that will last forever. A bond that might take years to create, but here at Codman, we form it in three days or less.

I have to admit that it works because you live and breathe the same air as the other people that are the same gender as you are, you start to get to know them. If you can stand living with them, you can bond with them. Sure, some drama happens within those three days; a lot of tears are shed, but also, a lot of broken pieces are put back together each day within the three-day trip.

Codman plans a lot of bonding activities for each crew to complete. A crew is made up of a handful of students of the same gender, all from different grades and backgrounds. One of the activities is the high rope challenge. The high challenge is my favorite activity, mainly because I get to show off my skills of being able to balance on a thin rope way up off the ground. The activity helped our crew bond because there are some people who have a fear of heights; we bonded by cheering on the person to finish what they started, to keep on going even if they’re scared. To make them think to themselves “why quit now, when I’ve gone this far.” Hearing all those encouragements makes you trust and respect those people. A whole new level of trust, respect, and love builds up, laughter and memories are made, unbreakable bonds begin to form.

The bridge building activity created even stronger bond within our crew. It is the most annoying, frustrating, impossible thing the staff could make us do. The Merrowvista staff gave us a bunch of wooden boards and sticks and asked us to make Leonardo Da Vinci’s bridge. At first, they didn’t give us any hints or clues, and they stood there quietly, waiting for a light bulb to go on in someone’s head and for us to magically have an idea. For a long time, my crew just sat there, staring at each other, shivering from the cold New Hampshire weather, not giving a care in the world about the challenge. Fifteen minutes passed by and no one had given into the awkward–yet soothing–silence. About thirty minutes into the activity, one crewmember stepped up with an idea while everyone else listened. Even though her idea failed, it provided our group with a good starting point. After a few hints from the staff and a lot of arguing, we finally came to an agreement and successfully built our bridge.

Codman Academy students takes photo during Merrowvista school program
Photo credit: Carmela (’15)

From Merrowvista, we bring back strong bonds with other students and our crewmembers, especially incoming the freshmen who don’t know anyone before the trip. Merrowvista is a great opportunity for new students to get out of their shells and find a person or group they feel comfortable with. Another thing that we bring back to Codman is respect towards one another’s opinions and interests. Since we did so many bonding experiences with our crews, we learn from them. We created a mutual understanding that opened our eyes to something new. It runs deeper than just another bonding activity. Even if we don’t see it or are unaware of it, it’s still there, growing, waiting to blossom.

Life at Codman would be different without experiences like Merrowvista because it would make the process of bonding with your classmates a lot harder. The process of bonding with your crew takes a shorter amount of time to achieve because you’re with them all day, every day. You learn to deal with their attitudes and their flaws. You learn to accept it because you know you can’t change them.

Merrowvista has a big impact on our learning environment as well because that awkward boundary between students and teachers disappears, and a wall of respect and fondness for each other begins to grow. The environment makes students enjoy learning more because they see their teachers as more than just a person that shows up everyday and teaches. They see their teacher as someone who is interested in their personalities and their desire for learning. Merrowvista shapes our community for the better; it provides the foundation for  relationships that continue growing even after we leave camp.

(This piece, posted with permission, was originally published in December 2014 on Codman Voices.)