Camp Tecumseh Leaders and Staff Are Celebrating the Facility’s 100th Year

For the last 38 years, seventh-grade students at Hamilton Southeastern (HSE) Schools have embarked on a two-night, three-day pilgrimage to immerse themselves in outdoor learning at Camp Tecumseh. In 1924, residents of Carroll County purchased the 30-acre property along the swirling banks of the Tippecanoe River as a place where kids could explore the outdoors, build lifelong friendships, discover their best selves, and develop the character, compassion and confidence necessary to lead the next generation. The employees at the beloved camp are celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. It has grown to encompass 660 acres and welcomes 36,000 guests annually, providing memorable field trips to HSE students and year-round programming for kids of all ages.

Retired HSE middle and junior high teacher Bradley Jackson has participated in the annual trip in some fashion every year since 1985, even during his relaxing retirement years. Jackson says students participate in 18 different captivating school lessons in science, English, social studies and math, all related to the outdoors.

“The students take water samples from the river and then look at them under the microscope,” Jackson says. “They work to identify the microscopic creatures in the sample and learn what they eat. They may also identify different types of birds. It’s a unique way to learn outside the typical classroom setting.”

While many schools make an annual pilgrimage to Camp Tecumseh, HSE schools handle the trip differently than others. High school students lead the lesson plans each day. Each year over 100 apply, and roughly 50% of those are chosen. The high school mentors create a theme for their study sessions, including a costume to define and identify their individual groups. Sarah Davis, an eighth-grade English teacher at Fall Creek Junior High, says this instantly bonds the group and puts the younger students at ease around their older peers.

“Many times the students are apprehensive because they don’t know the high school counselor or the other students in their group,” Davis says. “At the end of the trip they’ve developed these big-brother and big-sister-type relationships, or become friends with someone they might not have.”

She says that in addition to the obvious goal of learning, students also gain confidence and build relationships. They also develop personal responsibility. Davis says that for many students, it’s their first time away from their parents for an extended overnight stay, or the first time they’ve had to be responsible for their belongings for several days.

“My dad was the executive director of Camp Tecumseh for many years, so I grew up on the grounds,” Davis says. “I went to school in Delphi, Indiana, but I was on the campsite all year long. I started attending day camps when I was 5 years old and progressed through all the other programs as I got older.”

Davis recalls one evening growing up, sitting in the dining hall for dinner with other employees while HSE students attended the camp for their annual trip. She says a man in a trench coat was performing a skit for the students. Fast-forward many years, and Davis recalls discovering it was Bradley Jackson. Davis says she still participates in reunions with other Camp Tecumseh alums. Her husband also attended the camp as a child.

Lindsey Schiesser has served on the board of directors for 20 years and currently serves as board treasurer. She says her children attended the trip as seventh-grade students and high school counselors, and the counselor experiences provided room for tremendous growth for those students as well.

“This is something they’re taking on in addition to their day-to-day studies and activities,” Schiesser says. “They’re missing school for those days, so they have to manage their time and coordinate. The other thing I was amazed at as a parent is that the younger students are engaged the entire time. There are activities planned for the whole of the trip, so there is no sitting around on devices.”

Davis says all seventh-grade students are encouraged to participate in the program. She says money should never be the reason a student can’t attend, so financial aid resources are available for those in need. She also wants to encourage all students, regardless of age, to look at the different camps and programs Camp Tecumseh has to offer, as it’s made such an impact on her life.

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