Fall News from the VVS Farm

Mike Spielman ~ VVS Farm Manager

We planted garlic the other day. It went into one of the first beds we ever dug back in 2013, just to the south of the gate between a fading amaranth and the frozen stems of a Roma Olorode. I remember the three students who helped chop that dirt for the first time: one from California, another from South Korea, and the other from Saudi Arabia. We wondered if life was more like a circle or a spiral. We had no answers. Only wonder.   

December is my favorite time on the farm. Cabbages and greens are tucked beneath their winter sheets. The leaves of the fruit trees have blown into their wells. The Osgood Greenhouse is full of banana plants, mangoes and peppers. Seeds are drying. Squash are cured. The field is laid bare and we can begin to dream about next year’s design.

Walking around the new expansion I remember that this time last year it did not exist. There was no greenhouse either. The fencing for the southern expansion is now more than half done. Last month we ordered 57 fruit trees.  Fifty seven fruit trees!  Eleven pears. Seven peaches. Six plums.  Sixteen apples. Persimmons, nectarines, quince and sixty grape vines too. A lot of holes to dig between now and March!

We are back at the Sedona Farmer’s Market.  Please stop in and say hello if you are local. We are selling heirloom beans, winter squash, dried peppers, and Jerusalem artichokes.  Most of the greens right now are going to the Yavapai Food Council.  If you are a gardener and live far away, drop us a line. We’ll send some seeds.

A thousand thank you’s to all who have supported us this year!  We are honored and blessed and as always, excited to get back to work.

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 https://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 https://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 Outdoors Superstitions Hike

VVS Outdoors ventured into the Superstitions Wilderness, a range of mountains east of Phoenix, for a weekend of hiking and backpacking last Friday. 

Vivian Zhou enjoying a break on her hike through the Superstitions Wilderness with VVS Outdoors.

Peter Reynolds, Outdoor Coordinator, lead the group of ?? students from the Paralta trail head as they made their way around Weevers Needle for a bit of back country bouldering. They carried in all their supplies, hiked, slept under the stars and had an amazing weekend.

The next big trip on the VVS Outdoors calendar is set for early April and will take a group of students to Nevada. Students wishing to go on the trip must have checked off at least 20 items from the VVS Bucket List. The trip includes stops at the Valley of Fire, Red Rock Park and a quick side trip to the Las Vegas strip (well, if you’re there you can’t miss it, right?).  We’ll post photos and an update after the April trip.
To view photos from the Superstitions weekend visit www.vvsaz.org/galleries.

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






Climate Care Awareness Farm To Table Tour


December 6th at 2PM, Verde Valley School will give a “Farm to Table Tour” of it’s innovative farm and environmental stewardship program as part of “15 Days to Climate Awareness: A Call to Action,” presented by Climate Awareness and Inspiration Sedona.  We will offer tasting samples of some of our farm produce, and host the showing of two short videos, Small Scale Farmers Cool the Planet and Soil Solution to Climate Change. VVS’s gardener-in-residence, Mike Spielman, and Yavapai Valley Food Council’s, Harvey Grady, will be present along with other Q&A panel participants to answer questions.
The combination tour, tasting, videos, and Q&A event, is part of two weeks of local events, from November 28th through December 12th, that the local community group, Inspiration of Sedona, is presenting in conjunction with the global actions surrounding the December UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris. (www.climatecareawareness.org)
The Inspiration of Sedona is an open, egalitarian, community-building group, where people with enthusiasm for positive world change can collectively come together with their skills and talents to create a new level of community based on connection, partnership, and sustainability. VVS was invited to participate in the Climate Care Awareness program of events because of our stellar green example. The school’s garden is organic and ethically farmed, using compost harvested by students and incorporating 100% of their kitchen waste. An approved food source for their school dining hall, their garden program helps students understand the cycle of food waste, composting, growing and harvesting.
After the farm tour, guests will be invited to try samples of VVS’s farm produce. Then they will be treated to two short videos. The first video, “Small-Scale Farmers Cool the Planet,” is a 17-minute documentary highlighting the role of industrial agriculture in climate change while expounding on how small farmers are combating the climate crisis through regenerative organic agriculture.
The second video that will be shown is, “Climate Change: The Next Generation.” Ahead of the UN’s global summit on climate and as thousands gather in NY for the People’s Climate March, the film focuse on 18-year-old Oregonian Kelsey Juliana, who is walking across America to draw attention to global warming. Kelsey began her activist journey to help slow down climate change, at 15 years-old, as one of two plaintiffs in the public trust lawsuit that was filed against the state of Oregon, claiming that the state was not doing all it could to protect their future by reducing global warming.
After the videos, a Q&A session will address questions raised during the event. Harvey Grady, President of Cornucopia Community Advocates, will be present to share plans to grow organically grown food for the Yavapai Food Council, next to the VVS garden, and to answer questions. VVS’s gardener, Mike Spielman, who has spent the last two years turning a formerly empty piece of land on the school’s property into the bountiful garden that now provides a significant portion of the school’s produce, will also be available for the Q&A.
Please feel free to email climatecareawareness@gmail.com for questions or for more information if you want to attend the Farm to Table Tour, tasting, videos, and speakers. You can also contact the school at 928.284.2272 for more information.





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.





Shixi Semester Field Trip

Students at VVS for the Shixi Semester Program stayed on campus during our annual field trips, but in-between IB classes and activities they did experience a bit of the local southwest.

The group hiked part of the Arizona Trail in Flagstaff over the weekend. For some it was their first snowfall. They enjoyed throwing snowballs and trying to keep their footing on the well packed snow. After the hike they visited the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff to view the night sky through the 24 inch Clark Telescope.  Inclement weather kept the group from the telescope, but a return trip is planned for Decembermester.

To learn more about Arizona history, the group had a guided tour of the Heard Museum of American Indian History and Art in Phoenix.

The Shixi students will embark on an east coast college tour next week, visiting colleges in New York and Massachusetts.

Visit the galleries section to see photos from the week.





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.




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.