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.

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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.




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.


Adventure Weekend 2015

We’ll all get out into the great outdoors of Arizona during Adventure Weekend, this September 18, 19 and 20.

Started a few years ago as a way to introduce new students to the vast outdoor offerings in our backyard and to give returning students a weekend where they could be reminded of all the outdoor activities available to them, Adventure Weekend continues to be a highlight on the annual calendar. Expanded this year into fall and spring weekends, we’ll take part in the first of the 2015-2016 school year in September.  Activities slated so far include:

  • Freshman campout
  • Music and s’mores
  • Oak Creek swim trip
  • Grand Canyon hike
  • Overnight horse camping trip in Flagstaff
  • Overnight backpacking trip to West Fork
  • Mountain biking in Flagstaff
  • Climbing on Napoleon
  • Thunder Mountain hike

A complete list of activities will be posted closer to the weekend.

Rami al Nahas at the Grand Canyon during Adventure Weekend 2013.

Rami al Nahas at the Grand Canyon during Adventure Weekend 2013.



Start of the School Year

After a long, hot summer, the campus came alive on Monday and Tuesday with the arrival of 114 students to begin the 2015-2016 school  year.

This year the VVS community is made up of students from 20 countries. Countries represented are:

Afghanistan, China, Denmark,  El Salvador, France, Germany, Italy, Jamaica, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Syria, Turkey and United States and Vietnam.

And 15 different states, including:

Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

We are lucky to have three Native American tribes represented in our student population: Hopi, Seminole and Yavapai-Apache.

We are happy to begin the second year of our Shixi Semester program, a partnership with the Shixi IB school in Shanghai.

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Celebrating VVS History


The tradition of gathering on the steps of Brady Hall for class and individual photos started our official kick-off to the school year, History Night.  Photos culminated with a community photo before we all headed into our first Community Dinner of the 2015-2016 school year.

Later in Brady Hall staff and students reflected on their time at VVS as the community saw speeches from Head of School Paul Amadio, teachers Andy Gill and Natalie Pleuger and students Kevin Singsaas and Jennie Harlan.

New students had the chance to learn the unique history of VVS and the story of a dream Hamilton and Barbara Warren had along a riverside in Guatemala and how almost 70 years later their school remains one of the most progressive boarding schools in the US. From the idea of bringing together students from around the world to live, study, work and travel together, the Warrens have changed the lives of many through their experiment in global living and education.


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The 2015-2016 Verde Valley School community