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

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 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






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

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  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 –



Mission: Impossible

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

2fac for web

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.




Halloween at VVS

The most festive place to be in Sedona this halloween has to be Verde Valley School!

Halloween 4 websizeHalloween festivities start on Saturday at 12:30 with pumpkin carving on the quad hosted by Mike Spielman, followed by pumpkin judging by Mike at 2:30.  We begin a scary movie marathon in the library at 2:00 and don’t turn off the big screen until 9:30 when everyone is sufficiently frightened. From 3:00 to 5:00 students can get help in Brady Foyer with face painting from VVS theater teacher Bridget Broomfield and theater students.  More than 10 faculty families open their homes (made to look much more frightening than usual) to students and faculty children from trick-or-treating (see the trick-or-treat list by clicking here . . . and remember, no costume equals no candy) from 5:30 – 7:30.  Theater students will be busy scaring everyone with their annual haunted house (enter through the Brady east door by the big yucca) from 6:30 – 8:30 and hosting Halloween carnival games in the Brady Foyer from 7:30 – 8:30. Vural will deejay this year’s zombie prom/abandoned pumpkin patch dance in Brady from 8:30-10:30 and Bridget will host the costume contest on the Brady stage starting at 9:30.



Senior Speeches Begin


Some seniors have sat in the community meeting audience for years listening intently to the personal speeches each member of the graduating class presents to the community. Many excited underclassmen, realizing that they too must present a speech, get more and more reflective as they get closer to senior year and the moment they will stand before the crowd in the Gretchen Warren Chapel and talk of their time at VVS.  For all, the senior speech program is a highlight of Friday community meeting.


As a graduation requirement, each senior is asked to address the community in the form of a senior speech. Speeches range in topic and delivery (some Fridays there are tears, some Fridays there are laughs, some Fridays there are both), but all illustrate the speakers experience during their time at VVS.


This year’s speakers have presented some fantastic talks to the community.  Below is a list of upcoming senior speeches.  Some will make their way to the VVS website as audio files, while some seniors prefer to keep their speeches confined to the walls of the Gretchen Warren Chapel.   As a preview, click here for a recent speech delivered by senior Jonathan Liszka-Hackzell.


Faculty get to know students very well here at VVS, and another highlight of the senior speech program are the peer and faculty introductions.  English teacher Claire Brislin and music teacher Cooper Evans went all out when they introduced Lila Duran-Ruiz earlier in the year.  View here.


2015-2016 Senior Speech Schedule

Date Speaker
October 2, 2015  Zino Vieth
October 9, 2015 Eugene Truong
October 23, 2015 Jonathan Liszka-Hackzell
October 30, 2015 Lila Duran-Ruiz
December 4, 2015 John Lee
December 11, 2015 Jake Siet
January 8, 2016 Drake Busby
January 15, 2016 Jorge Porta-Bereciartua
January 22, 2016 Kelly Franks
January 29, 2016 Annemarie Schneider
February 5, 2016 Alexander Ochser
February 8, 2016 Kevin Singsaas
February 12, 2016 Vivian Zhou
February 15, 2016 Ehsan Nasiry
February 19, 2016 Kelly Uwase Rubangura
February 22, 2016 Lucy Warren
February 26, 2016 Gabby Grosbety
March 4, 2016 Jolly Nguyen
March 7, 2016 Noa Lee
March 2452016 Gracie Shoup-Lenning
March 28, 2016 Tiffany Tian
April 1, 2016 Maya Shen
April 4, 2016 Linh Nguyen
April 8, 2016 Aa Gonzales
April 11, 2016 Elyse Canty
April 15, 2016 Lola Olorode
April 18, 2016 Jennie Harlan
April 22, 2016 Rami al Nahas






Adventure Weekend Highlights

With an objective of getting VVS students out into the great Arizona outdoors early in the school year, this year’s Adventure Weekend exceeded expectations. Outdoor Coordinator Pete Reynolds presented a packed week of adventures all around northern Arizona.

Now in its fourth year, Adventure Weekend was started by teacher Andy Gill with the intent to create a weekend where homework was intentionally light and outdoor play intentionally heavy. Each student is required to sign up for at least one trip, and there is no limit to the number of trips a student can sign up for.  This year’s weekend included the following trips:
Freshman Campout
Sophomore Campout
Reel Rock Film Tour
Sunset Oak Creek Swim
Star-gazing Tour
Grand Canyon Hike
Overnight Horse Camping Trip at Little Elden Springs Horse Camp
Mountain Biking on the Arizona Trail
Overnight Backpacking Trip to West Fork of Oak Creek
Rock Climbing on Napoleon
Thunder Mountain Hike
Saturday evening finished off with music and s’mores by the outdoor fireplace. This spring we will have a Spring Adventure Weekend with a different schedule.
You can find Adventure Weekend photos in the VVS galleries page and on our Facebook page.