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!”

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.

VVS Bucket List

It’s an understatement to say there is a lot to do at VVS. Seeing the wealth of activities and experiences open to students, Outdoor Coordinator Peter Reynolds decided to corral all these experiences together and prioritize them forming the VVS Bucket List.  

The list consists of 34 must do experiences that students can check off during their time at VVS.  Alexa Szombathy, ’15, was the first student to check each activity off the bucket list during her senior year last year.


The tradition continues this year with both faculty and student-led trips. Click here for a PDF of the Bucket List and get to ticking off these amazing experiences.  A student must complete all of the following to win the Bucket List Award this year:


  • Hike Cathedral Vortex
  • Find the Cave of the Door
  • Cow Pie Sunset
  • Read some Thoreau in the Thoreau Hut
  • Swim at Disneyland
  • Chill at Buddha Beach
  • Lead a Community Dinner Moment of Silence
  • Hike up to Napoleon and Find the Geocache
  • Sleep Out on Soccer Field
  • Cheer or Play in a Student vs Faculty Soccer Game
  • Feed a Horse an Apple
  • Show Your Dance Moves at a Rock Band Show
  • Slide Rock
  • Throw a Pot in Ceramics
  • Polar Bear Swim
  • Sleep Out on Cowpie
  • Write a Happy Note for the Happy Box
  • Make a Smore at a Campus Fire Pit
  • Hike to Monkey Face Cross
  • Ring the Chapel Bell for Community Meeting
  • Explore Witches Tit Wash
  • Perform at Coffee House
  • Moonlight Horse Ride
  • Have a Friendly Conversation with Casey
  • Watch a VVS Sunrise
  • Find the Old Gong Spot
  • Lead/Create a Weekend Activity
  • Help Plant or Harvest in the Garden
  • Cook Something in a Faculty Kitchen
  • Help With Backpack/MDG Program
  • Participate in a School Drama Production
  • See a Coyote, Tarantula and Javelina
  • Mission Impossible
  • Learn 5 Greetings in 5 Different Languages






Field Trips Return

Throughout the day on Friday, November 20 VVS field trips will return to campus, heralded by the traditional horn honking as groups arrive on the quad.


Field Trip return day has a pretty unique magic to it. Students and faculty will see many friends they haven’t seen – or had much social media contact with – for two weeks. They relish catching up on and sharing adventures. Throughout the coming week families will also get the opportunity to share in these adventures through stories told by students on break and through photos posted to the VVS website and social media sites.


Traditionally the Grand Canyon trip is one of the last to return as they will hike out of the canyon today. Trips will begin to arrive on campus as early as 9:00 am.


This evening the entire community will sit down to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at 5:30 pm. Due to space restrictions, we’re afraid we cannot extend a dinner invitation to local parents. Students will be ready for pick up after dinner by about 7:00 pm. Earlier pick ups can also be accommodated.


Visit the VVS galleries page for field trip photos we’ve received during the last two weeks.





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:






Tewa Coats for Kids

VVS is proud to partner with Board member Randy Crewse and the Tewa Holiday Project again this year.

VVS officially joined the Tewa Holiday Project in 2012. Lead by Caroline Diehl with support from students, that year VVS collected 100 new coats for students at First Mesa Elementary School.

Each year since then VVS has organized the coat drive, known as Coats for Kids, with coat trees at Sedona’s Natural Grocers and the VOC’s Webers IGA. If you’re local and would like to contribute, please visit one of the stores, take a paper coat from the tree and buy a coat for a child in need. You can return the coat to the store and Caroline will pick them up for delivery. If you aren’t local and would like to contribute, please contact Caroline at carolined@vvsaz.org.

Caroline and a group of VVS students will deliver coats and food to Tewa on Friday, December 12.

The project is truly grassroots and has helped many members of the Tewa tribe. This group of indigenous peoples live on the Hopi Mesas but receive little support from the US government because they are not true Hopi, but Tewas who moved to Hopi from New Mexico during the Pueblo Revolt in the late 1600’s. Approximately 85 Tewa elders make their home on First Mesa.

Visit www.vvsaz.org/galleries for photos of this year’s food collection, coat project and delivery.  Click here for photos from last year’s coat and food delivery.




Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving comes a little early to Verde Valley School.  On Friday, November 20 at 5:30 our community will sit down to a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner before we depart for Thanksgiving break on Saturday morning.


As in past years, our dinner will feature greens, pumpkin and squash grown in the VVS garden. Chef Mike Briggs started slow cooking the pumpkin for homemade pumpkin pie earlier this week, and yesterday afternoon the students from the Shixi semester program picked the various varieties of lettuce still growing in the garden for the Thanksgiving salad.


Dinner begins at 5:30 and all VVS students are asked to attend. Parents, if you will be picking up your student for break on Friday please consider doing so after dinner. If that isn’t possible, the school can definitely accommodate earlier departures. Due to space restrictions, we’re afraid that only students and staff can attend the dinner.




Field Trip Update

On Sunday, November 7, 92 students and 20 teachers packed up and set off on 10 different field trips, travelling to California, Utah, Colorado and all over Arizona.  One week in, we’ve heard updates from many, but true to one of the objectives of the trip, many students are away from electronics and even a place where they can get a reliable signal.

This week we heard from the California Biomes trip as they reached Ventura harbor to board their ferry to the Channel Islands after a 4:00 am departure from Joshua Tree National Park. While on the island they are looking forward to camping, hiking, picking up fishing litter and surveying local birds for four days.  Joshua Tree was great! They worked on a two day project to improve a trail around the Cholla Gardens to make it wheelchair accessible, and they moved four tons of gravel with wheelbarrows and tamped it down into place. The weather was cool but not too cold; ideal for working!

The Ecology and Spirituality trip (formerly known as Crestone) just finished their service work building earthships in Taos  and are headed to the spirituality center in Crestone, Colorado today. They are all doing very well and excited to start the spirituality and reflection leg of their trip.

The Climbing and Leadership trip arrived in southern Arizona on Sunday after a day of very easy driving and found a beautiful little campsite in the midst of oak trees. For the first two days, they woke up leisurely, made breakfast and then climbed straight through until sunset. The group dynamics are fantastic so far, climbers are passing their belay tests and improving their climbing every day.
After a few days of service work on the rim, the Grand Canyon dropped into the canyon on Thursday. We’ll hear from them again in 9 days!
Students on the On the Edge trip had their first snowfall of the year and are seeing the beautiful sites of Moab, Utah this week.
To see the photos we have so far you can visit www.vvsaz.org/galleries.






Field Trips Depart Sunday

Sunday, November 8 students and faculty will depart the VVS campus embarking on trips around the desert Southwest and California as part of the school’s historied Field Trip program.

Preparing for last year’s trips we found an article which was printed in the March 22, 1971 edition of the Prescott Courier that needs mentioning again as our students are about to venture out on another – or first – field trip in their VVS experience.

In the article John Huie, who served as Headmaster from 1970-1974, said:


“From the school’s beginning through the Field Trip program, the most unique and significant venture we undertake, we affirm our basic values. Travel can be the most rewarding form of introspection, taking us not only outward, but inward as well. Education can be a blend of reflection and action, study and experience, thought and feeling.” 


While the trips have changed a bit over the years – we’ve had to put our Mexico trips on hiatus and trips are now two weeks rather than the 25 days they were in 1971 – what has remained the same, to quote VVS’s second headmaster, Denny Salzman (who was paraphrasing anthropologist Clyde Kluckhohn), is that “these early field experiences provide students with a great mirror in which they are better able to see themselves.”

You can read through a list of trips offered this year at http://vvsaz.org/field-trips/

Those of us heading out on a second, third or even fourth field trip know the preparation drill, but for new students and their parents it is important to know that Field Trip packing day is a day that students, including day and 5-day boarding students, should be on campus from 11:00 pm until 5:00 pm, or until their entire trip has packed for Sunday’s departure. Should you have any conflicts regarding this preparation, please contact Dean of Students Joanna Horton at jhorton@vvsaz.org  as soon as possible.


Trips return on November 20 and students will be greeted with a community Thanksgiving dinner.  Due to space limitations in the dining hall, we’re afraid that we aren’t able to host parents at Thanksgiving dinner. You may pick up your child at any point of the day on the 20th.


Upon the students’ return we will post photos of each trip in the galleries section of the VVS website – www.vvsaz.org/galleries.



Mission: Impossible

This Friday the faculty and staff take on the students for our fall Mission: Impossible.

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Faculty map out their quadrants for the fall 2014 Mission: Impossible challenge – their first win in many years. They’re determined to rack up a second win this Friday.

The mission for students (should they choose to accept it) is to gain access to the heavily guarded fortress of the patio of Sears Hall by either the front archway or the rear laundry room. The mission for faculty (should they choose to accept it) is to catch the intruders before they can reach the fortress. Catching a student means correctly identifying him or her by name or gender.


Students, dressed in black with the objective of trying to trick teachers as to whether they are male or female, will begin their mission at the barn Friday night at 7:00 pm, trying to make their way to the Sears arch. Along the way faculty, encamped at dedicated quadrants, will try to call out students’ names or gender. If they are right, the students must return to the barn and try again. The students have one hour to get at least one student through the Sears arch, which will be heavily guarded by faculty. Faculty, however, cannot stand within 20 feet of the arch or the laundry room, nor can they stand closer than 20 feet from each other.

The winner gloats at the arch for a few seconds and then runs to the chapel to ring the chapel bell with more gloating to follow . . . for days, months or years even.


This impossible mission is put forth twice each year – in the fall and the spring. Last fall the faculty had their first win in years . . . and, yes, they are still talking about it. Best of luck to all competitors. Be sure to check back here for photos on Saturday.