A Remarkable Sense of Place Surrounds us….

This year marks Verde Valley School’s 70th year anniversary!

This morning, early, I saw two VVS students returning from the stable. They had checked on and fed the horses that some twenty-eight students ride each day here. Theirs was clearly a labor of love. The sun was rising, just breaking over Seven Warriors. Shafts of light were beaming through some cloud cover. The students went on to breakfast in the dining hall sitting with others from Germany, Rwanda, Colorado and New Jersey. Soon it was time for their first class and, abruptly, they stood up, bussed their plates, found their backpacks and bounded off. Another day?

Hardly. Midst the frenzy and excitement that the start of a new year brings to VVS, I considered those moments — unsung and largely unnoticed — as key ingredients of the experience our students have here. The stable and barn sit on a bluff overlooking not only the Seven Warriors but Cathedral Rock, too, with the VVS farm nestled between them. These iconic red rock formations are familiar territory for students, faculty and staff. We hike and bike and climb on them throughout the year. In the farm, tall corn stalks sway in the breeze. Students will harvest them soon. A remarkable “sense of place” surrounds us.

We do have stats and facts: that VVS is ranked #15 out of the top 50 boarding schools in the USA by Best Schools; that our International Baccalaureate curriculum “…aims to develop students who have excellent breadth and depth of knowledge — students who flourish physically, intellectually, emotionally and ethically.”; that the VVS IB Diploma Program has an 86% pass rate and that 81% of all subjects taken result in scores of 4-7; that we have graduates matriculating into premier colleges and universities in this country and abroad, often with substantial merit-based financial awards.

But VVS offers so much more. Our IB+Dirt model allows students to learn, discover, give, and grow inside and out of the classroom; already we are busy preparing for Field Trips in November. These transformative outdoor adventures take students out of their usual surroundings, engaging them in a culture different from their own. And all Field Trips include a community service aspect to them. Our guiding principles attract students, faculty and staff from around the globe. Be assured that these principles, along with IB+Dirt, leave students indelibly touched and influenced by the experiences of global citizenship, physical labor, environmental stewardship, service to others and academic excellence.

Soon VVS Admissions will be in China, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Germany, Vietnam and India. We’ll also be in Arizona, California, Utah, Colorado and Nevada sharing our unique story with others. And seeing those young students walking quietly back from working in the stable, so early in the morning, reminded me of that story all over again.

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.

 

 

 

 

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 https://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.