Live oak helps students grow

It’s that time of year again. The time for bonfires, cooler weather, pumpkin pie and falling leaves. The image conjures up warm memories of fall. But while other students may be excited about hay rides and turkey hangovers, fall brings extra excitement to the local fifth graders and the students of the Teen Teaching class.

Between Oct. 22 and Nov. 16, the fifth graders of each Eanes district elementary school participate in an event known as the Live Oak Adventure, a two-and-a-half day retreat to the Highland Lake Camp and Conference Center at Lake Travis that focuses on building communication and teamwork skills through problem solving and outdoor education. Similar to the Pedernales event for eighth graders in the spring, students engage in a variety of activities that require cooperation to successfully complete, including a low ropes course and a number of challenging games. Staying in cabins and going on nature hikes also add to the fun and excitement of their rustic adventure.

But the students aren’t the only ones having fun. The members of the Peer Assistance and Leadership class, or what is more commonly called Teen Teaching, accompany the fifth graders on their retreat and help facilitate the event and activities while also acting as mentors for the students.

“We’re there to grow as leaders and help the kids grow and build new relationships,” senior Skyler Curtis said.

The Teen Teachers can choose which elementary school they want to assist based on the dates that each school goes.These groups can be made of mixes of students from the different Teen Teaching class periods, so the students may not know each other as well as the people in their regular class. To help get to know each other before they go to Live Oak together, the groups go out to lunch, have sleepovers, and hang out so they can better help the fifth graders at the camp bond with their classmates. The classes themselves go over the activities and games they will be doing at the camp as well. Also, Teen Teaching teacher, Mitch Lasseter, instructs the leaders about how to run these activities and understand the group dynamics of the kids.
Many of the Teen Teachers also went to Live Oak when they were in fifth grade, and shared how it had a positive impact on their lives.

“I’m most excited about having a good influence on the kids, because the teen leaders at Live Oak when I was there had a good influence on me,” junior Jaime Alessio said.

They also shared their excitement for making the camp as fun as possible for the students going to Live Oak this year.

“My favorite part in fifth grade when I went to Live Oak was how the Teen Teachers were so approachable and made it so much fun,” senior Chris Bybee said. “The coolest thing about going last year as a leader was how the fifth graders look up to you and really care about what you have to say.”

For 29 years since its creation, Live Oak has had many positive impacts on the students who participate by teaching new skills and helping them build new relationships with their classmates, especially for the kids who may be more introverted.

“At Live Oak, the Teen Teachers try to take that kid who may be shy, lonely and not have many friends and find a way to make him or her the “hero” of the activities they do with their classmates,” Lasseter said. “They are then looked up to and better connected with them than they were before at school, and that usually carries on throughout the rest of their school year.”