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How to run an overnight retreat for students

Updated on September 24, 2012
A team leader and some members of her team at our first YH overnight retreat!
A team leader and some members of her team at our first YH overnight retreat!

Teaching and mentoring kids can be fun, but it can also be difficult, as many know. For instance, sometimes it's cool to change up the educational format... An overnight retreat can be a different yet still educational, effective, and fun way to engage youth outside of the classroom. However, this also involves many responsibilities and risks.

Here are some methods to have a fun, educational, and safe overnight retreat for students:

  1. Determine a purpose. Do you have a class that you really want to bond? Perhaps you run a non-profit youth program. Are you tired of regular day lessons? Maybe it's time to try something new. Are you going to teach an academic topic or current issue, or is this teambuilding time?
  2. Get help. Will there be coworkers or volunteers to help you? You will likely need others to help with the night part, as you should have someone awake at all times to ensure the kids don't get in any mischief... and it's a huge liability! Find people who will be dedicated to helping the entire time. Perhaps team leaders will help you watch over the students and facilitate activities.
  3. Find or recruit students, if necessary. If you teach a class, then this is easy. However, if you have a program, you may have to or have had to get students to join. It's fun to get a diverse set of kids. Definitely make sure that you will be working with a group that you are comfortable with; kindergartners are worlds different than high schoolers.
  4. Get the legal stuff out of the way. Have the students and volunteers sign waivers, liability forms, contact information, etc. Will there be costs? Is there a budget? Do you need a get a tax ID number for donations?
  5. Settle the logistics. Where will the overnight be? How long? What time of year? Is there a special occasion? Work around your budget. If you have a non-profit, try to see if a community center or school will host your overnight. Find places and times that will work for the kids and their families; consider their backgrounds and availabilities.
  6. Create a run of show. Get a rough idea of start and end times, and what activities you want to have. Will there be an opening and closing, games, activities, lessons, workshops, etc.? Make up a schedule with estimated times and titles of activities. That way, you can figure out what materials you will need. Once you do this, make up a more finalized version after working with others to figure out if this will work.
  7. Gather materials. Again, consider your budget, how many students there will be, etc. If there's food, make sure you have a way to store it, and that there are people who will be able to pick it up.
  8. Send out invites. Get the permission slips/waivers and information out to the students, preferably at least a month in advance.
  9. Prepare! Finalize plans and arrangements. Make sure you have everything you need. Check out the location to make sure it all looks good. Set up the site at least an hour and a half ahead of time; parents and students often arrive early! Also, give every staff member and volunteer a schedule so they all know what's going on.
  10. Get started! Now that the kids are arriving, it's time to put all of your hard work in action.
  11. Keep going! It will be difficult, but with good planning and support, you'll be fine.
  12. You're almost there! You've reached the stated end of the overnight, but you have to wait until every student is picked up before you take off. However, you can probably start cleaning up if there are people to watch whatever kids are left.
  13. Plus and Delta. This is where you get together with your assistants and/or coworkers to talk about what went well and what can be changed for next time. Record the comments.
  14. Great job! You did wonderfully. That wasn't so bad, huh?


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    • fishskinfreak2008 profile image


      9 years ago from Fremont CA

      I totally agree. Teaching and mentoring kids can be maddeningly frustrating at times, but it's also fun


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