Green River Preserve, a summer camp located on 3,400 private acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, has come to symbolize the exciting start of fifth grade at Ashley Hall. Every fall, students pack their sleeping bags and bathing suits for an overnight adventure designed purposefully to allow them to connect with the great outdoors and one another.

Green River Preserve’s educational philosophy is based on the belief that four specific types of experiencesdiscovery, growth, independence, and communitydirectly impact four important predictors of a healthy and happy life: curiosity, resilience, autonomy, and connection. With that in mind, their staff designs an 3-4 day itinerary for Ashley Hall students to explore their camp while feeling safe, secure, and confident.

“From the Polar Bear plunge to caving and climbing Lower Bald and Upper Bald, each student, parent, and teacher on the trip are given the opportunity to push themselves to challenge their minds and bodies at a comfort level that suits them,” says Intermediate Program STEAM teacher and trip leader Kiki Sweigart. The goal of the trip for every fifth grader is three-fold, according to Sweigart:

  1. Have fun challenging yourself.
  2. Take the opportunity to get to know others that you might not necessarily be in your friend group.
  3. Learn from others about the natural world as well as a variety of interesting tidbits of information.

Through each day’s adventures also comes incredible learning opportunities. “The academic part of each day comes with the amazing pieces of nature they are exposed to through their hiking mentors, from identifying and eating plants to the early geography of Long Rock,” Sweigart says. “Every day is always about having fun, taking in what you can in the moment, enjoying each other’s company, working as a team, and feeling the energy of inspiring each other.”

Here’s a snapshot of what a typical day looks like for fifth graders at Green River Preserve:

7:15 a.m. | Wake-Up Bell + Breakfast

The girls’ day starts with a full gathering for a family-style breakfast which they enjoy sitting together as their cabin groups.

9 a.m. | Morning Hike

The first morning hike starts about 9 a.m. “They are grouped in a hiking team that is a mixture of girls from all the different cabins. That way they are truly mixing it up!” Sweigart says. “Each group does all the same hikes at different times and different days.”

12:30 p.m. | Lunch + Afternoon Adventure

After a delicious lunch, students and chaperones head out again for an afternoon hike full of adventure options. “The girls have the opportunity to do the climbing wall, create a clay piece, and this year, we had the pleasure of meeting a Cherokee family member who taught us basket weaving,” Sweigart says. “Each day there is also 45 minute free period for swimming, zip-lining, board games, and just relaxing.”

6:30 p.m. | Dinner + Night Exploration

Nights at GRP are full of s’mores and stories around a campfire. The girls also learn outdoors skills, and love learning how to build a fire themselves.

9 p.m. | Reflection + Lights Out

“Each night, cabin mentors walk the girls back to their cabins and meet for their ‘Rose, Bud, and Thorn’ for the day.” For rose, the girls identify the best part of their day; for bud, something that they are looking forward to; and thorn, something that didn’t go too well.