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June 2008 Archives

Gould Academy Takes to the Snow

We recently spoke with Mark Godomsky, Gould Academy's On-Snow program director. On-Snow results from Gould's commitment to using and connecting the school to its surroundings. In Bethel, Maine, this means students on and in the snow- in programs ranging from recreational skiing, to ski patrol, to a competition program the trains year round.

Question (Q): Can you tell us about the genesis of the On-Snow program? What are its roots? Did it grow out of an earlier program?

Mark Godomsky (MG): It's not a stretch to say that skiing has been at Gould for nearly as long as it has been in America. I've got a pair of jumping skis that belonged to an alum from the class of 1933. They were presented to me by the former Gould Nordic coach, a man by the name of Dick Taylor who was also captain of the 1964 U.S. Olympic X-C Team. There is a lot of tradition here of outstanding snow sports and outstanding coaches. People like Dick and going back to the 1950's people like Paul Kailey, a Middlebury alum who helped develop the competitive skiing program here and who was also a pioneer in developing Sunday River. Gould's On-Snow Program today is a continuation of a historically strong offering that is steeped in tradition. Along the way we've added "newer" elements like the competitive freestyle and snowboarding programs and Ski Patrol. Like those before use, we continue to look for ways to make the programs better and continue the tradition.

Q: Why On-Snow right now? Anything special about the opportunities or timing?

MG: These high quality programs offer a variety of opportunities for student-athletes in the winter that are tough to find within the traditional boarding school realm.  

A student at Gould can spend six days a week on the mountain snowboarding or freeriding, developing his/her skills and staying fit. Another student might spend six days a week learning life saving skills, working toward certification as a member of the National Ski Patrol. And finally, a student can train hard six days a week with a qualified, full time coaching staff made up of former NCAA Division I racers and coaches. There is something for everyone who enjoys being on the hill or on our 40km on-campus trail system.

Q: Do you envision On-Snow growing into a pillar or major component of the school?

MG: I'd say it is a large component and one of many unique programs that sets Gould apart from other traditional New England private boarding schools. We're only six miles away from Sunday River Ski Resort. The backside of the mountain is the backdrop for our campus. Our relationship with and proximity to arguably the best ski resort in the northeast with some of the most varied terrain is very attractive and difficult to find anywhere else in the East. But, it's not about being a pillar or a major component. As I heard recent alum and current U.S. Ski Team member Bump Heldman '07 say this past fall, "At Gould, I got a great education and could ski with the U.S. Ski Team." He was a standout catcher on the baseball team, a positive member of the community, a great student who was accepted at strong schools, and was the recipient of this year's Eastern Ski Writers Association Award. One of our core values at Gould is to develop the whole person. The On-Snow Program is part of the package.

Q: Can you lay out the pieces of On-Snow and what each might mean to a participating student? Competitive versus non competitive?

MG: Gould's Competition Program provides student-athletes the opportunity to train and compete at the highest level in a number of disciplines: Freestyle, Snowboard, Alpine and Nordic. Skiers and snowboarders compete between 30-50 times a year, travel all over the country and the world, and are on-snow four hours a day six days a week including school vacations. During the off-season, they train in trampoline and water camps and in a variety of summer conditioning programs both on-snow and off. Due to the number of hours required, the Competition Program requires a student-athlete who is truly committed to athletic and academic success.

For students who enjoy competition but are looking for a less rigorous program, Gould offers its Prep Program. This is designed as a traditional prep school team sport, where student-athletes participate in a school race league and compete once a week. The program requires a commitment of three hours a day five days a week when school is in session.

On the non-competitive side, Gould offers some very unique programs. A large number of students take advantage of the Rug Rats Program, teaching local elementary school kids how to ski and snowboard three days a week. Those who participate find the experience to be very rewarding.

Gould's Ski Patrol Program is the only one in the country that helps students become certified members of the National Ski Patrol. The program requires training six days a week including one day of classroom work. Students work with full-time Sunday River patrollers. It typically takes three years of training before a student becomes a certified member and requires a strong commitment.

We also offer a Ski & Ride Program which gives students the opportunity to spend four days a week on the mountain with one day of conditioning. This is a popular program that gives students a way to stay fit and enjoy Sunday River. There are no weekend commitments and the groups are small averaging eight students to one teacher.

Q: How large is the program? What percentage of the student body participates in On-Snow?

MG: It is a large program. This past year approximately 80 percent of our student body (roughly 250 students) were involved.

Q: Is On-Snow designed to work and serve as the focal point of winter sports? Either way does this mean anything for other winter sports such as basketball and hockey?

MG: It is certainly a very popular and robust program, and we have a different class day schedule in the winter to maximize day light hours on the mountain and Nordic trails. The program has little to no impact on our basketball program. Our varsity boys' team won the western Maine Championship two years ago and were in the post season again this year as was the girls' team. Overall, our competitive athletic programs are strong.

Q: On-Snow seems outdoor oriented, does Gould have any notions of expanding On-Snow into the fall or spring programs- giving them any more of an outdoor flavor?

MG: We offer a lot of opportunity for dry land training and conditioning in the fall and spring. This summer we are offering an on-snow training camp at Mt. Hood in Oregon. Going back to our whole person core value, along with academics, athletics, arts and community life, we believe that intensive experiences in the natural world is an important part of developing the whole person. Our location in western Maine on the edge of the White Mountains is a terrific asset and plays a role in our identity. Gould also offers rock climbing, fall student orientation trips, an eight day winter camping trip for the junior class, and each fall the entire school takes a day off to climb a mountain together.

westtown-school.pngKudos to Westtown School's recent launch of They've built an on-line video environment designed to host and categorize school videos for their audiences.

Westtown currently offers 13 channels or topics in their library covering everything from current events and happenings to admission material. Users can create libraries and favorites lists for future visits and user groups and friends can share videos. Think Youtube for the Westtown community.

Anyone can upload; but of course, Westtown reserves the right to not accept video.

Video channels provide a great opportunity to build and foster a community of users interested and dedicated to a school. Everyone from parents, to students, to alumni can stay current with school happenings and witness firsthand the students' creative talents.

boarding-school-review.pngWe recently had the opportunity to talk with Javier Colayco, founder of Boarding School Review (BSR), about how his boarding school experience shaped his efforts to help promote & feature boarding schools via the web.

BSR presents school profiles and alumni reviews to families exploring boarding school options. Javier is a 1996 graduate of Northfield Mount Hermon School.

Many thanks to Javier for taking part in the Q&A.

Question (Q): You graduated from Northfield Mount Hermon School. Tell us a little bit about your NMH experience and why you returned to working with boarding schools.
Javier Colayco (JC): Northfield Mount Hermon School (NMH) was a terrific experience - I felt I grew so much both intellectually and as a person. I had previously been more of a shy kid, but boarding school drew me out of my shell. It challenged me to become more independent, and as a result I grew more confident of myself. I feel that the more difficult things I've done later in life, such as starting a business, were possible partly because of the growth I experienced while at NMH.

Q: What appeal did working with schools hold for you? How did BSR evolve from an idea to a feature-rich site?
JC: Having had such a great experience in NMH, I wanted to help others also discover boarding school. And I recognized that at that time (early 2003), there weren't many websites where families could find college-prep boarding school information. Finding and comparing statistics on schools was difficult. Finding reviews of schools from former alumni was also hard. I thought that starting a website that addressed these difficulties could make the idea of attending boarding school more accessible, broaden the school choices that families would consider, and ultimately attract more students to the school search process.
Q: What presented the greatest challenge as you got started in the process?
JC: Getting started was probably the hardest part - there's a lot of inertia you need to overcome when starting a new business. It's a bit overwhelming since you're not quite sure where to start. There's naturally also some fear of failure that you need to overcome. This is where it helped to be focused, organized, and very self-motivated - which, coincidentally, are all traits you build in boarding school. Once we committed ourselves to the site and built some momentum, it became much easier to approach and deal with any problems that arose.
Q: Did schools welcome your perspective or did they require some convincing?
JC: It required some convincing at first, as I think a number of schools were still getting used to the idea of using the Internet as a main channel for reaching out to students. Soon, though, I think they saw that families were increasingly using Boarding School Review, finding it very helpful, and actually drawing in more students to the school search process. What also helped was that we tried to be very receptive to feedback from schools - some of the best features of the site have come from admissions and communications officers making great suggestions.
Q: What's the biggest change or adjustment that you had to make in your approach or plan?
JC: Initially, we thought that we could basically build a successful site with just our own vision and ideas. But we found out pretty quickly that that there were a lot more people out there - admissions officers, educational consultants, families in the search process - whose input and ideas were often better than ours. So we became much receptive to feedback, and pro-active in looking for any suggestions or areas where we could improve. That change in mindset helped a lot in both improving the site and involving schools in its evolution.
Q: What's your relationship with NMH like? Have you been featured in any of their materials or programs?
JC: I was actually featured in an NMH brochure - in 1995! I was a student at the time, and I had a small blurb about me since I was singing a brief solo for Christmas Vespers. I don't think the solo went very well, which is why they haven't asked me to appear in any materials since! Nonetheless, I think we're very friendly with the great admissions office and communications people there.
With planning a $43 million campus expansion, ground breaking on the project and his successor in place, Fay School's headmaster Stephen White has decided to call it a career. He leaves Fay at the end of this month with Robert Gustavson from the Fenn School taking the Fay reigns.

Fay acquired the former Kidder estate which had bisected its campus and is embarking on its largest campus wide update and expansion in 25-30 years. Along with the physical improvements comes greater student capacity and the addition of the school's first pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.

Congratulations to Mr. White and the school on this outstanding accomplishment and, of course, a warm welcome to Mr. Gustavson.

Read a full article by the Boston Globe about the preservation, modernization, and Fay's new head of school.
Toronto's Upper Canada College announced last October that they would close their boarding student program. Alumni uproar and UCC's rethinking of their position spurred plans to keep the school's boarding component complete with renovations and upgrades.

Try convincing alumni that the place where they grew-up is no longer viable.

As is often the case though, boarding schools are expensive and complex to support and money lies at the root of the operation. The school has to be able to afford and finance it's existence. It's great to see alumni step to the fore and the school adjust it's position.
The Philadelphia Phillies chose Anthony Hewitt with their first pick in the recent baseball amateur draft.

Selecting a player directly out of high school is part and parcel of the baseball draft. What's noteworthy here is that he was chosen out of a boarding school. In Hewitt's case, he's grown-up in junior and upper boarding schools- 8th and 9th grade at Cardigan Mountain School and 10-12th grades at Salisbury School.

He's follows in a long line of boarding school players destined for the major leagues- Mo Vaughn (Trinity-Pawling), Kirk McCaskill (Trinity-Pawling), Sean DePaula (Cushing) and Darren Bragg (Taft) come off the top of my head. All of this group followed the boarding school-college- professional baseball route. Juan Nieves (Avon) took the Avon-minor league route (no college) to the Majors.

Still, most (from my unscientific observation) found their way to the show through their college teams. Hewitt may forego school and try to work up through the minors.

I'd never advocate skipping a bonus pay day if the money is on the table. A bird in hand beats the possibility of two in the bush. But, Hewitt might do well to look to Vanderbilt's Pedro Alvarez who developed at Vandy in the SEC and became the first round pick of the Pirates. Alvarez went from a 14th round pick out of high school to a first rounder out of Vandy.

Of note- Alvarez also attended private school at Horace Mann in New York.
The Boston Globe recently highlighted the work of Concord Academy students who spent a week working in the New Orleans renewal effort. This most recent trip included a larger group- 78- after the positive experiences of students on last year's trip to Kiln, MS.

Writing from north Mississippi and as an experienced New England boarding school student and faculty member, it's great to see this kind of outreach. I know how difficult it can be to get outside of a boarding school routine in order to gain experience and perspective. It's heartening to see and hear students move beyond their comfort zones. Community service is much easier when you set aside time as part of your school schedule.

Beyond their contributions to the coast, the students gain personally:

William Taylor, a junior from Brookline, is among the students who have signed up for a second turn because, he says, the first trip was so rewarding.

"It felt really good to help people," Taylor said. "When I'm in school, it's sometimes difficult to devote a lot of time to service. But I feel it's important, given some of the privilege I come from."

Citizenship requires effort and sacrifice; it's heartening to read about this groups willingness to go out and get their hands dirty. Making the commitment to use one's free time and energy demonstrates a high level of maturity. It's also important to see and learn about America- the differences and the ties that bind us.

Update: The folks at Concord were kind enough to turn us onto an article about the trip that they posted on their site. After giving it a read I discovered that they kept a blog to document their work. Both are well worth checking out.
Outside of critics and architects, the ways that buildings shape thought and convey ideas are often afterthoughts. How many times a day do all of us go in and out of a variety of buildings, seldom thinking about the ideas and concepts that a building conveys? It's just not something unless you're trained in it or interested in architecture that we think about.

However, every once-and-a-while, a building comes along that gets everyone who comes into contact with it to say "wow' prompting the realization of the importance of architecture and it's ability to communicate with those who come into contact with it.

The Cambridge School of Weston seems to have commissioned such a building, the Garthwaite Center for Science and Art which has been chosen by The American Institute of Architects' Committee on the Environment (COTE) as one of the nation's Top Ten Green Projects of the year. The building features design that reflects its New England setting coupled as well as fulfilling US Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards.

The building celebrates its design and engineering with exposed mechanical systems and features; wood is wood and pipes are pipes. "The building uses 60 percent less fossil fuel than traditional school buildings and only ten gallons of water per day." Additional efficiencies result from thoughtful site placement and renewable energy sources.

Of course, the Garthwaite Center's first show in the art gallery focuses on global warming.

Commitment emanates outward from the building. The center works to keep CSW students and faculty mindful, of not only what they use and can conserve each day, but also mindful of the possibilities when you carry environmental stewardship into the world.

There are many different kinds of boarding schools in the United States. Some are highly academic and serve only exceptional and motivated students. Others are geared to working with the average to above student. And a few select schools work with children and adolescents with special needs which cannot be met by traditional or regular programs. These special needs schools can address a wide variety of disorders from Aspergers Syndrome to dyslexia to emotional problems. Some are college preparatory; others have a more transitional mission and are preparing their students for a return to the mainstream.

Families oftentimes find it a daunting task to identify the right boarding school for the "special" child. Websites and brochures don't give enough detailed information for a parent to make an informed decision. Current psychological and academic testing may be inconclusive so parents don't understand the problems or how to best treat them. Some families seek the counsel of an educational consultant to help them sort through the various options. Whether a family uses a consultant or searches on their own, it is vital to find the school that is the "right fit"; one that can address the child's unique learning style.

Close to 20% of the school age population are diagnosed with a learning difference. Most of these children have a problem using language and are said to have a language based learning disorder. Others have a non-verbal learning disability and struggle with some of the following: organizational difficulties, poor social skills, visual-spacial weaknesses, conceptual reasoning deficits. Many children have attentional issues and executive functioning deficits. Some LD students just need small classes, academic support and minor classroom accomodations; others whose LD issues are severe and more debilitating, need direct and intense skills-based language remediation. There is a significant difference between academic support and remediation. Boarding schools that offer support usually have a few LD trained teachers in tutorial center. Their role is to help the LD student keep up with what's happening in the classroom. On the other hand, remedial instruction is a structural approach to helping the child learn strategies to compensate for their weaknesses. Curriculums at these schools use a multisensory approach and experiental teaching strategies. All teachers at these schools are trained in using these techniques. It is very important for parents to understand the difference and to know what a boarding school can and can't do before placing their LD child.

529 Plans on the Brain

This is a bit of side-step from our normal conversation about boarding schools, but as a parent of a toddler I've got 529 plans on the brain.

My wife & I started one a year or so back knowing full well that we needed each second between then and the start of our child's (gulp!) college career for the plan to mature. It's stunning to start the process 18 years PRIOR, but that's a conversation for another day. In any event, we have lots of friends in the same boat and many (if not all) find the process of finding the right plan a bit confusing.

So, why talk about it here? Well, I stumbled on U Sphere a few weeks back-- a site that focuses on college admission. Lots of good info, but their directory of 529 plans immediately grabbed my attention. It's not intended to advise you on which plan to choose, but it does provide a great pivot point for your search. I found it handy to have all the plans in one place.
Focused, tight community is a great quality of boarding school life that draws students from all over the world.  Sometimes, though, boarding school students need something to broaden their perspective--a reminder that their efforts inside the confines of a boarding school prime them for work and future contributions to society.

Buxton School is the first school that I've come across that makes a conscious effort to take the entire school beyond its campus and have every community member engage with an urban setting.  This is no small matter given that just above 80% of the US population lives in metropolitan areas.

Every year Buxton takes the entire school into a major North American city "for a week of exploring, learning, experiencing, investigating and understanding."  Recent visits include New Orleans (see photo below), Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Toronto, Puerto Rico and Havana.

Buxton School visits New Orleans

Before the trip, the entire school researches the topics that they will cover in the city-- homelessness, public transportation, civil liberties, local politics--whatever the city has to offer.  Students do all of the planning.  They arrange project interviews; schedule all trip logistics and budget.

Each trip also includes performances of the All-School Play in which every student plays a role or performs a function.

Beyond their personal responsibilities, students get a feeling for the roles, contributions, and efforts that individuals must make in order to fully participate in an urban setting.

"The trip allows you to experience the real world in real ways, to have interactions that are unscripted and improvisational but also purposeful and explore fascinating, complicated and thorny issues firsthand."  Students and faculty analyze and think about the issues that they've studied and seen through group presentations that are made upon returning from the trip.

What a tremendous way to broaden the frame of reference of students and expand the horizons of a tightly knit academic community.  It's gratifying to see that the faculty at Buxton is teaching the connection to the larger world.

For those unfamiliar with the National Public Radio series "This I Believe," it's a series of listener authored essays expounding on the things and ideas that the authors hold dear- perspectives and thoughts that inform the authors thinking and action. This week's essay comes from a high school student who's life I have not known, but I find it moving and appreciate her perspective and understanding.

I've often made the argument in print and in front of school colleagues that a primary function of education is to teach and instill empathy. One of the greatest forms of empathy is recognizing and understanding the shortcomings of one's parents. This essay deserves a read.

In keeping with our current theme of boarding schools creating and structuring opportunities that take their students beyond the focused confines of their campus, Miss Hall's School's Horizons program deserves attention.

Horizons includes a few key pieces that set the program apart from other community service programs. While the other programs that we've seen are certainly good and valuable in a myriad of ways, requiring thought and reflection on the experience sets Horizons apart from other programs.

Miss Hall's students gain experience beyond school practicing empathy and service; learning through experience; gaining first hand knowledge of different kinds of community contribution.

Thinking, planning and presentation make Horizons much more thorough and involved. Miss Hall's students don't just volunteer. They must research, know and understand the organization with whom they work. They must reflect upon and think about their work. And, each student must deliver a presentation on her experience.

The thing that strikes me most about Horizons is the opportunity to find and see the different roles, connections, and contributions that each individual can make in their community.

If Miss Hall's students graduate with an understanding of community connections, the ability to build and navigate these community webs and how to identify and contribute to community needs, they'll graduate with one of the greatest lessons. Get out; connect; do; give.
NBC News recently produced a brief portrait of the Davis World Scholars Program. We've written before about the Davis World Scholars Program, but the new NBC piece deserves mention because you get to hear Mr. Davis speak about the program in his own words.  

"One of our goals is not just to educate bright international students, but it's also to educate Americans about the world through these students."

His financial and personal commitment to the program and his belief in cross cultural understanding support the notion that if we understand each other, we can work together to create and solve, not just for ourselves, but each other- making a difference " relationship at a time..." as Trudy Hall, Emma Willard school head remarks in a guest blog post for MSNBC's The Daily Nightly.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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