While it may not seem like much, offering students the ability to go outside for something as simple as time in a hammock goes a long way toward creating positive behavior.

North Middle School recently launched Camp North, 35-40 minutes once a week that students can go outside to play, be with friends and learn something new.

The idea came from Marci Joy, physical education and health teacher.

“It’s in conjunction with something we started called Hike Across Tennessee and so we get the kids out — right now there’s four classes doing this,” Joy said. “We go and walk and do other activities and those activities convert into miles. They’re plotting their progress across the state of Tennessee. They’re in teams. We walk, so we thought, ‘Well, something good to go along with that, set up a camp’ — I’ve been thinking about this for a long time — but it really does reinforce positive behavior. It’s working really well for that, but it gives them a camp-like experience.”

The idea is to help students make right decisions instead of wrong ones, Joy said.

“It’s for the people that go all week and do the right things, make the right choices, and we want to accentuate those kids,” Joey Breedlove, North STEM teacher, said. “Everybody that doesn’t get any strikes, and we go through that with them, they don’t get any strikes during the week then they’re eligible for camp at the end of the week. So far we’ve only had a few that have not made it and the ones that have not made it they’re like, ‘This is the last time this ever happens,’ because they have a lot of fun.”

The program for now is focused as an incentive for special area classes, including STEM, physical education and art, Jessica Gerstenmaier, North assistant principal, said.

Plans are to set up a camp newsletter to help keep parents abreast of what students are doing and what is needed, Joy said.

“They just love getting in the hammocks and talking to each other,” she said. “They don’t have any phones, they don’t have anything, they’re just hanging out and talking. For them to be active also there’s lots of equipment out here.”

Joy credited Coordinated School Health Coordinator Kate Galyon for helping provide food and games.

Camp North embraces a camp feeling by intention.

“Especially this day and age, we want them to unplug,” Breedlove said. “We want them to unplug and appreciate and make use of the wonderful nature around. We live in an area where we have the Appalachian Trail and the Smoky Mountains right at our fingertips, and we want to teach these kids to love that. I think it’s working.”

Hopes are to bring in guest speakers, Joy said.

Breedlove recently spoke with students about paracords, which he said were a hit. He also shared the importance of an emergency go bag.

“... We did a unit on paracords, on how to tie and braid and do different things with paracords. Since then they’re buying it on their own, they’re bringing it in asking advice, they’re wanting to do it again,” Breedlove said. “They’re making all their teachers and parents things. It’s sparking an interest and that’s what we wanted. If we can do that every week and give them just a little tidbit every week, like .., if just a few of them will go home and say, ‘Mom, dad, can we get a go bag? Mr. Breedlove said we’ve got to be ready to go in five minutes to last three days.’ If we can just help a few of them it’s been worthwhile.”