The theme that I propose for the Year 8 Retreat is: Living with courage, faith and excellence. This theme has been chosen for the following reasons:
1. I have spent a term with a Year 8 class and I have come to realize that they are at different stages of their faith journey. Psychologically, too, they seem to be at different points on a continuum from immaturity to maturity.
2. My observation of Year 7s leads me to believe that our students are encouraged to be independent learners when they enter Year 7. My experience of Year 8 RE, indeed of the whole RE programme, is quite the opposite. We force feed them a curriculum that is overburdened with content. There is not enough time for students to process the ideas, therefore, much of what is taught is irrelevant to them.
3. When I consider the work of a small group of teachers led by Noburo, who are looking at challenge based learning for Year 9s, I ask myself: Shouldn’t all learning be challenging? The retreat day should be both engaging and challenging.

Reflecting on these factors has led me to propose a retreat experience that motivates our Year 8s to reflect on how they approach the task of living with courage, faith and excellence and the responsibility this places on them to take charge of their learning. This seems a tall order for a one-day retreat with young teenagers, but retreats are not meant to sum up, but to open up. The retreat experience is meant to be an encounter with self, with others, and with God.

Theological reflection

Above all, retreats are meant to be about God. They are meant to be like extended meditations during which God becomes the measuring stick which we place against ourselves and our relationships. After all, we believe that we have been created in God’s image, don’t we?

To assist me as I reflected on how to make the day a relevant and engaging God experience, I was reminded of Fr Mark Link’s reflection on two basic forms of theology. He called one “settler” theology and the other “pioneer” theology.

Settler theology presents an impoverished understanding of God. It is a theology built on the notion of a God who is removed from the human condition and who demands obedience from people. In this world view, the focus is on law and transgression, therefore, also on sin, guilt and punishment. No wonder Adam and Eve tried to hide from God after having gone against God’s laws.

Settler theology makes God out to be an external force. Authority resides outside of us and we keep God at arm’s length. If we have this view, then we will find it easy to blame God when things go wrong.

Pioneer theology is quite the opposite. It presents God as a risk taker. God takes risks with us.

The Year Group is too large to suggests to me that there cannot be one fits all type of retreat, however, our financial constraints prevents us from trying to break the year group into small groups based on a set of parameters that are likely to be inaccurate.


  • Navy Club for outdoor group – wagon train group
  • Gary Holland Centre for settler group- village green model

Structure: simulation for 2 hours
Break for 20 minutes
Debrief for 1 hour
Lunch for 40 minutes
Goal setting for 30 minutes

The simulation has a prelude.

Some warm up games



The students stand in a circle shoulder to shoulder facing inwards. They reach in to the centre of the circle and grab hold of two other hands, not of the same person and not from people either side of them. There is now a knot in the centre of the group, which must be undone. The challenge is to undo the knot in silence.

Mummy Game

This is a great youth ministry ice breaker. For this game you need two rolls of toilet paper and six volunteers (three boys and three girls). Select one boy and one girl to become the “mummies” and the remaining volunteers to be the “embalmers.” At your prompt to “GO!” the embalmers will begin to quickly wrap the mummies with the entire roll of toilet paper. Encourage them to be careful not to tear the paper. The first team to finish the entire roll wins.

Pass the sponge

Pit one group against the others in a race to empty one bucket of water into another bucket. Each group stands in a line. The person at the head of each line is given a sponge. They dip it into the bucket of water and pass it backwards and overhead. The person at the end of the line squeezes the water into the bucket and then sprints to the head of the line. The race continues until the bucket at the head of the line is empty.

Groups gather on the village green to share experiences
Liturgy for 20 minutes
Return to school by 3.10

Students depart
Staff debrief