VVS Admissions Team visits China and Germany

Sean Fagan ~ Director of Admissions

Our Director of Admissions, Sean Fagan, recently spent a three-week stretch in China visiting with prospective students and families, current Verde Valley School families, international and Chinese schools, agents and educational consultants. The cities he visited included Beijing, Jinan, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Dalian.

Many Chinese value the “western” educational approach (i.e., the emphasis on critical thinking, experiential learning, collaboration, smaller class sizes, etc.) and thoroughly enjoy learning more about a unique school like VVS. They are very appreciative that a boarding school experience can offer a Chinese student cultural immersion, a sense of independence, a higher level of English proficiency, and help prepare them for successful college/university study in the US.

Currently, there are approximately 38,000 Chinese secondary students in US schools and some 350,000 in US universities and colleges.

“The demand from the Chinese for a US education is strong,” says Fagan. “Education in China is very focused on testing and preparing for annual national exams. Many families are looking at US schools as an alternative. They also value the reputation of US colleges and universities.”

Sean was able to meet with, and interview, eight prospective students in China, and presented to six educational consultancy groups on his trip. He visited three schools (one international and two Chinese) to discuss possible future collaborations. Current families eagerly expressed their happiness with the experiences their children are having at VVS.

VVS also recruits in Europe. Associate Director of Admissions, Shannon Jakes, has recently returned from a recruiting in tour in Germany that took her to school fairs in Munich, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Duesseldorf, Hamburg and Berlin.She was able to talk with 15 different German families throughout her week of travel. She found that the students and families she met were eager to experience a school, such as VVS, with an emphasis on experiential and outdoor programs. She also observed that the VVS International Baccalaureate curriculum aligns well with the German curriculum, allowing achieving students to study in the US and return to Germany on track for further university study in Europe. When Shannon met German VVS alum throughout her trip, the thing that students said they missed the most about their exchange is the student teacher relationships as well as the tight knit community this school offers.

Admission staff have also been busy in the US attending various school fairs in Arizona, California, Utah, Texas and Nevada. These fairs are a great opportunity to meet prospective families and educational consultants and to visit “feeder” schools in the area.

Admissions is organizing more recruiting trips in the spring of 2017!

2016 First Trimester Residential Life

Dr. Jules Troyer ~ Dean of Students and Residential Life

The first trimester here at VVS was filled with many magical moments that our talented students  engaged in as a complement to their rigorous academic studies.

The school year kicked off with an epic dorm decorating contest for which students had a mere $20 to accomplish a themed make-over of their choice. Their creativity and passion were inspiring, and some of the themes included were: Under the Sea, Pokemon, Americana, Alice in Wonderland, and China. Students, faculty, and staff were led on a tour of all the dorms, fed goodies along the way, and encouraged to vote for their favorite dorm decorations. It was an emotional moment of glee when the Shixi students from Shanghai were informed their Chinese themed dorm had won the competition! The reward of a pizza and hot wing party was a big hit!

Awesomeness Day is an annual tradition at the onset of the school year that allows students to play, have fun, and get to know each other. This year students had a ton of thrills on a huge inflatable jump game,  throwing  balls at a basketball hoop while attempting to balance!  Other games on the day included a clue finding scavenger hunt that tested their knowledge of VVS and its history; birdie-on-a-perch, and capture-the-flag.  All these activities kept students engaged and allowed them to team up with their classes and meet new people.

Here at VVS, Halloween is a huge bash! Faculty houses were decorated for trick or treating, there was a massive pumpkin carving party, a very interactive student staffed haunted house, and a costume dance. This year the theme of our dance was Dia de los Muertos and the student class presidents came together to decorate Brady Hall with amazing sugar skulls. There were three pinatas filled with goodies and for many of the students, this was the first time they had participated in (or even heard of) the tradition of breaking a pinata. As alway it was a special day for VVS, and students, faculty, and staff  thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to dress up in some really creative costumes.

These highlights provide only a snapshot of the many amazing moments VVS had in the first leg of this academic journey of the 2016-2017 school year.  Jules says she is blessed to be part of such a mindful, talented, passionate, and intelligent group of people. She believes our community is a unique blend of academic integrity, progressive conscientiousness, and raw good old fashioned fun. “As the year is racing to a close,” Jules said, “I am moved to thank each of you for finding your way into the family we call VVS, and send you warmest wishes for a bright holiday full of love and laughter!”


2016 First Trimester Academic Achievement

Kristen Dotti ~ Academic Dean

Congratulations on supporting your child through the mid-point in the school year.  The students at Verde Valley School have adapted well to the rhythm of their classes. They have learned to juggle sports, study hours, extra help sessions, class functions, dorm time and their social life.

The effort and level of engagement made by our student body has been spectacular so far this year.  Your children are passionate learners who strive to try new things, test out ideas and conjectures, seek evidence from credible sources, and essentially stretch their wings in both the classroom and during independent study.  And our teachers are exceptional: their instruction and care for your children is something the students remark on constantly.

Overall we have seen the highest GPA in the past several years for the senior class for the fall trimester.  This is a remarkable achievement given the addition of SAT/ACT and college applications that are added to this time period.  Our junior class started the IB Diploma Programme with enthusiasm and an ease I have not seen yet.  Transfer students and the new freshman class  joined Field Trips and carried out group projects in each of their courses in December. In the process they made a place for themselves in the classroom, and became a thread in the fabric of our community.  Many of our new students have been learning English as they take their classes reading, writing and listening to a foreign language all day and performing at a very high level each day.  That takes commitment and perseverance!

With Trimester 1 behind us, the students all have a foundation of the skills needed for their full-year courses.  Each course strives to teach each student specific study habits that lead to success in either that course (for example field research methods for Anthropology), or in school in general (such as taking notes from a primary source article).  We share the benefits from these skills by building on them in other courses and throughout your child’s years at VVS, making it possible to teach in greater depth and expose the students to a wide variety of experiences.

Decembermester allowed the students to create student-designed projects and pursue those plans with independence and self-direction.  What a wonderful time of year where students are expected to immerse themselves in their work and see the pay-off of persistence and ingenuity.

Winter Break will provide a much needed holiday from the rigor and pace of life on campus.  Please help your child enjoy the holiday by promoting rest and time away from academics.  We hope you and your child can savor time together for the next few weeks so they are energized when they return in January.

Thank you for allowing your child to attend Verde Valley School!

Project Period 2016 Schedule

With graduation just around the corner, students and faculty are gearing up for our end of year Project Period week. Project Period runs from Thursday, May 19 to Thursday, May 26.

Click here for the Project Period morning and afternoon schedule.

Day student parents and parents of 5-day boarders, please recognize that students are required to attend each meeting of their project and that projects run through the weekend. Project Period is a graduation requirement.

Project Period is a pretty magical way to end the school year, allowing for a few more adventures with friends before we disperse all around the globe. click here for a listing of Project Period offerings for 2016 and learn more about Project Period at http://vvsaz.org/project-period/

Project Period 2016

On May 19th we begin Project Period, a time in our calendar designed to widen the VVS curriculum by adding something not included in our day-to-day, or by providing the opportunity to go into greater depth in an area already studied. Many projects are led by guest artists who travel from all over the country to take part in the week. Others allow students to see different sides of their teachers as they offer various projects showcasing their passions outside of their classroom subject.

This year projects include outdoor projects like backpacking, canyoneering, mountain biking and solitude; arts projects like creative welding, slam poetry, expressive dance and circus arts; sports projects like VVS triathlon, personal fitness and aikido; and service projects like garden expansion, home makeover and Global Goals Malawi. This is just a taste of the projects. For a complete list and explanation of the projects on offer click here. Learn more about Project Period and see photos from past projects at http://vvsaz.org/project-period/

Day student parents, please be advised that the Project Period schedule includes weekends (May 19 through May 26) and students must attend all days of their project. Project Period is a graduation requirement.

IB Exam Schedule Announced

Seniors will sit IB exams during the first three weeks of May. This is the culmination of their IB work and they are ready!

As of Monday, May 2nd, seniors no longer have to attend classes, sports or Community Meeting, but they must check in with Kris or Joanna by 10am if they choose to skip breakfast. Day students may stay off campus on days they do not test, but must call into school to let us know if you will be on or off campus.

The exceptions to this policy are seniors in a class where he or she will not be taking an IB exam for that class. Those seniors must continue to attend your class throughout the month of May and take your Final Exam except when your class directly conflicts with an IB Exam that they are taking.

You can access the IB exam schedule by clicking here.

College Acceptance Update

With the first round of college applications behind them, the Class of 2016 has some pretty impressive early action and early decision acceptances. Thus far, members of the senior class have been accepted to:

Dartmouth College
Hampshire College
Indiana University at Bloomington School of Business
Embry Riddle
Elon University
University of Portland (3)
Ohio State University
Lewis & Clark College
University of St. Andrews, Scotland
University of Utah
Washington State University
Ripon College
Augustana College
Univ of Ottowa
Evergreen State College

Gustavus Adolphus College
Goucher College
Northern Arizona University
Humboldt State University
St. Edwards University (3)

The class has also been awarded approximately $250,000 in scholarship as a whole.


January Return Schedule

After a long, well-deserved Winter Break, VVS boarding students will return to campus on Tuesday, January 5.  Boarders may return to campus after 12:00 noon.  The first week of school schedule has been modified due to the Wednesday start. Our class schedule on Wednesday, January 6 will follow the regular Monday schedule (with 55 minute classes).  Please click below for the first week’s daily schedule.

January Return Schedule




Decembermester, so far . . .


spud gunStudents are smack dab in the middle of Verde Valley School’s third Decembermester.  Currently taking part in full-day (8:00 am to 3:45 pm) project based classes, students and faculty are taking part in the following projects:
Group 1:
English 1: Studying Greek tragedies, the English 1 class have been making masks in the Greek theater tradition, and updating their director’s notebooks and finalizing set and prop lists in anticipation of Monday’s performance of the tragedies they have written.
English 2: Reviewing rhetorical strategies – logos, ethos, pathos – and discussing their use and effect.  Armed with this knowledge, groups will brainstorm problems at VVS, interview campus leaders and created a PSA (public service announcement) campaign, including video and print. 
SL & HL English: Work on and present their Individual Oral Commentaries and Individual Oral Presentations
Group 2:
English: As a capper to the global studies semester of IB English B, students have created their own charitable organization based on one or more of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. They then develop a presentation, website, print media, merchandise and a fundraising campaign for their organization. The class culminates with a trip to present the charitable organizations to women’s rights activists Khalida Brohi and David Barron, ’01.
Spanish: Beginner Spanish students are working with Running River School, a local Waldorf elementary school, to teach RRS students new words and phrases in Spanish, write a bi-lingual cookbook with them and then try out some of the recipes.  Higher level Spanish students are studying the tradition of quinceaneras and writing a creative reinterpretation to Isabel Allende’s “Dos Palabras”.
French: Students are designing a travel itinerary for a French speaking country and creating a cultural guide for French speakers in the United States.
Group 3:
Big History: Students are driving through Oak Creek Canyon on a geology tour and visiting Sunset Crater for a tour as a visual for their meteor unit.
Anthropology, Peoples of the Southwest:  Classes have visited to Montezuma Castle with a scavenger hunt for information to answer essential questions about Sinagua People and Walnut Canyon, Sunset Crater, and Wupatki to expand their research to include relationships between different places on the landscape.
US HistoryCase studies of problems with the Articles of Confederation including debates amongst the framers and working in teams on a Constitutional Convention debate with the final ratification debate in Brady Hall. 
HL AnthropologyGroup Fieldwork at VVS, in Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek focusing on the connection between cultural backgrounds and standards for physical beauty. To make the connection they created four data collection tools: anonymous written surveys, electronic surveys, in-person interviews and recorded responses to photographs. 
Group 4:
Physical Science: Underclassmen science students have been exploring the physics of falling bodies through the Barbie Bungee experiment. 
Chemistry: By launching potatoes from the outdoor classroom the the garden, chemists learn about quantitative chemical reactions assessed via a physical response. “Fire in the hole.”
Environmental Systems and Societies:  Seniors are surveying the student body about their environmental beliefs and using the data to support a hypothesis concerning environmental value systems and VVS students. ESS juniors are exploring field techniques for ecology by collecting data on a series of transects on campus.
Biology: Senior biologists are studying AIDS and the Immune System and working on the IB Group 4 Project and juniors are studying the effect of substrate type, concentration and temperature on gas production in yeast as their Individual Assessment Lab for the IB. 
Computer Science: Students have been using logic gates and a breadboard to display a birthday on a seven segment display.
Group 5:
Integrated Math Program 2: Perhaps the only project falling into the yummy category, IMP 2 students research recipes and bake cookies, plan and execute a bake sale, all while trying to maximize profit as a real life exploration of central problems from their current IMP 2 unit.
Integrated Math Program 3: Perhaps the only project falling into the gambling category, IMP 3 students explore probability and learn how to play and facilitate many traditional casino games, and present a “Casino Night” contest for the VVS community.
SL Math: Work has focused on the four topics in trigonometry: the three trigonometric ratios; sine, cosine and tangent, the two special right triangles of 45-45-90 and 30-60-90, and the Sine Rule & the Cosine Rule, and the Unit Circle
HL Math: Mathletes are introduced to continuous distributions!
Group 6:
Intro to Theater and Intro to Music: Intro to theater students and intro to music students have been working together to craft this year’s Vespers program. (We hear it involves a two song musical)
Intro to Assemblage: artists are working on a Micro Artworks! Plus unit including microcollage, microdrawing, micropainting and microsculpture. They are also choosing an artist to write a letter to  . . . and writing a letter to that artist. 
SL & HL Ceramics: Ceramicists have the honor of a raku workshop with raku ceramicist Jim Romburg. (there might be some pizza baking in the kiln too.)
SL & HL Visual Arts: Artists are creating microexhibits on campus.
SL & HL Music: Musicians are writing a score for at least 4 instruments and reading music for at least 4 performances, either writing original music or re-arranging an existing piece and also recording a piece.
SL & HL Theater: Join us in Brady Hall to see the culmination of the performance piece of IB theater as students present “The Creature Creeps” on Sunday, December 13 at 2:00 pm.



Decembermester Begins


IMG_1449 copyVerde Valley School’s third Decembermester begins on November 30 (some years the calendar favors us with a December start; some years it doesn’t).  Decembermester came about as a way to confront that sometimes awkward time on our calendar when students and teachers have just returned from two-week field trips and a week of Thanksgiving vacation and look out a little over two weeks and see Winter Break on the horizon. It could be a challenging time to get students fully committed to class.
Keeping with our dedication to project based learning, we now present a highly anticipated, dynamic session of collaborative, kinesthetic learning designed to support off-campus trips and large-scale projects.  We throw the regular daily schedule out the window and focus in on half day and full day blocks devoted to each class. Scroll down for the complete Decembermester schedule.
Some examples of this year’s projects:
  • Students in English 1 will write their own tragedies based on the theater of ancient Greece, create their own masks and perform their pieces for the school.
  • Intro to Spanish classes will collaborate with two local elementary schools to teach Spanish to students who are also new to the language.
  • French 2 students will use their knowledge of the language to dub a silent film, while IB HL French students will create a US cultural guide for French speakers.
  • Anthropology Peoples of the Southwest will visit many cultural sites around Northern Arizona including Walnut Canyon, Montezuma Castle, Sunset Crater and Wupatki for first hand study of time periods, terminology, and major themes in the prehistoric archaeological record of the Verde Valley.
  • Physical Science students will learn physics through the ever popular Barbie bungee competition, while Chemistry students will learn quantitative chemical reactions assessed via a physical response by shooting potatoes across campus in the spud gun project.
  • Interactive Math Program 3 mathematicians will explore probability and learn how to play and facilitate many traditional casino games, presenting a “Casino Night” contest for the VVS community.
Much more is on tap and you can check back to the VVS website throughout Decembermester for updates on projects.
Day students who have free periods are not expected to be on campus on those days, however parents must call into the office in the morning to excuse those students each free period day.  More detailed information will follow in a day student email.
Click below for the Decembermester 2015 schedule: