Since 2011 Peace Paper Project has used papermaking as art therapy, social action and fine art, and has helped establish 35 studios across the globe including Australia, Turkey, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and USA.
Kingston Robinson (Senior, Trombone)
The VVS Jazz Ensemble had an amazing opportunity to participate in the NAU Jazz Festival on Friday, February 24th. About 60 different bands from schools from all over Arizona played at this event. To prepare for the Jazz Festival, we practiced once every week since everyone returned from Winter Break. During this time, we practiced three new songs, Evil Ways, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, and Garota de Ipanema. We performed these songs along with our previously learned pieces On Broadway, Don’t Know Why, and All About That Bass.
From the moment we stepped foot in Ardrey Auditorium, I knew that our ensemble was unique. Before our performance, we had the privilege of listening to three other high school bands. They all wore black slacks and shirts with ties and had saxophone, trumpet, and trombone quartet sections accompanied by drums and piano. In other words, these schools had classic brass bands. They didn’t have woodwinds, strings, or a singer. But we did!
When it was time to perform, we were led through the hallways to a warm-up room as we waited for the stage to become available. I was happy to practice one last time, relieving some of the anxiety I assume all of us experienced. It was quite an interesting perspective seeing the 1,300 auditorium seats from the stage we were watching just moments earlier. Our performance was great! There weren’t any problems as we played our six contemporary pieces.
After the performance, we attended a clinic where we were given feedback on our performance. We were asked questions like “What is jazz?” or “Who are your favorite jazz musicians?” with the intention of teaching us about the history and elements of jazz. As we replayed a couple of our pieces, our clinician suggested specific improvements and taught us techniques such as subdividing the beat, making it easier to capture the “groove” of the song. After this session, I felt like I had a better understanding of the “essence” of jazz.
At the end of the night, we were treated to a concert by the NAU Jazz Band and guest professional trombone and saxophone players. The concert opened with a fusion combo that had an electrifying solo guitarist who made playing fast seem easy. Then, the trombonist and saxophonists each played solos before playing with the NAU Jazz Band. These musicians played perfectly. The skill required for the range, speed, and complexity of their rhythms was quite inspiring. I hope to one day be half as good as they are. I’m grateful that our ensemble was able to play in the festival and experience what jazz music is really all about. Not too bad for such a small school!
One of the Verde Valley School Guiding Principles is Environmental Stewardship – nebulous words that can mean many things to many different people – person to person, family to family, and culture to culture. When I volunteered to take on the role of Sustainability Coordinator here at VVS it was because I didn’t want to lose the gains made by a group of people tied to the school. We had made progress despite nearly constant disagreement about the path forward.
Sean Fagan, Director of Admissions
Verde Valley School recently welcomed 19 educational consultants to our campus. These consultants work primarily with international families looking for a US or Canadian boarding school placement for their children. The group was touring VVS and a number of other west coast boarding schools. The consultants, representing some 12 countries, paid close attention to our student panel as they described their reasons for choosing VVS and their experiences here to date. When asked to describe VVS in three words, a senior answered, “Mesmerizing, challenging, and loving.” This seemed a particularly gratifying description of all that we try to accomplish here.
According to The National Association of Independent Schools, the average percentage of international students enrolled in their member schools is 17.1%. At VVS, the number is over 50%. This is intentional and aligned with the original vision of our founders, Ham and Babs Warren, when they started the school in 1948. The value of world citizenship always has been, and remains, an essential ingredient of the VVS experience!
In other news, re-enrollment contracts for next year were sent out in late January. VVS typically retains over 93% of students offered re-enrollment.
And on a final note, 40 eighth grade students from Mountain View Prep in nearby Cottonwood, AZ recently spent a few hours at VVS — meeting our students, touring the school, enjoying lunch and attending Community Meeting. MVP (grades K-8) offers the IB curriculum and we are working closely with leadership there to better position VVS as a logical next step for their families.
Sean Fagan ~ Director of Admissions
Our Director of Admissions, Sean Fagan, recently spent a three-week stretch in China visiting with prospective students and families, current Verde Valley School families, international and Chinese schools, agents and educational consultants. The cities he visited included Beijing, Jinan, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Dalian.
Many Chinese value the “western” educational approach (i.e., the emphasis on critical thinking, experiential learning, collaboration, smaller class sizes, etc.) and thoroughly enjoy learning more about a unique school like VVS. They are very appreciative that a boarding school experience can offer a Chinese student cultural immersion, a sense of independence, a higher level of English proficiency, and help prepare them for successful college/university study in the US.
Currently, there are approximately 38,000 Chinese secondary students in US schools and some 350,000 in US universities and colleges.
“The demand from the Chinese for a US education is strong,” says Fagan. “Education in China is very focused on testing and preparing for annual national exams. Many families are looking at US schools as an alternative. They also value the reputation of US colleges and universities.”
Sean was able to meet with, and interview, eight prospective students in China, and presented to six educational consultancy groups on his trip. He visited three schools (one international and two Chinese) to discuss possible future collaborations. Current families eagerly expressed their happiness with the experiences their children are having at VVS.
VVS also recruits in Europe. Associate Director of Admissions, Shannon Jakes, has recently returned from a recruiting in tour in Germany that took her to school fairs in Munich, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Duesseldorf, Hamburg and Berlin.She was able to talk with 15 different German families throughout her week of travel. She found that the students and families she met were eager to experience a school, such as VVS, with an emphasis on experiential and outdoor programs. She also observed that the VVS International Baccalaureate curriculum aligns well with the German curriculum, allowing achieving students to study in the US and return to Germany on track for further university study in Europe. When Shannon met German VVS alum throughout her trip, the thing that students said they missed the most about their exchange is the student teacher relationships as well as the tight knit community this school offers.
Admission staff have also been busy in the US attending various school fairs in Arizona, California, Utah, Texas and Nevada. These fairs are a great opportunity to meet prospective families and educational consultants and to visit “feeder” schools in the area.
Admissions is organizing more recruiting trips in the spring of 2017!
Congratulations on supporting your child through the mid-point in the school year. The students at Verde Valley School have adapted well to the rhythm of their classes. They have learned to juggle sports, study hours, extra help sessions, class functions, dorm time and their social life.
The effort and level of engagement made by our student body has been spectacular so far this year. Your children are passionate learners who strive to try new things, test out ideas and conjectures, seek evidence from credible sources, and essentially stretch their wings in both the classroom and during independent study. And our teachers are exceptional: their instruction and care for your children is something the students remark on constantly.
Overall we have seen the highest GPA in the past several years for the senior class for the fall trimester. This is a remarkable achievement given the addition of SAT/ACT and college applications that are added to this time period. Our junior class started the IB Diploma Programme with enthusiasm and an ease I have not seen yet. Transfer students and the new freshman class joined Field Trips and carried out group projects in each of their courses in December. In the process they made a place for themselves in the classroom, and became a thread in the fabric of our community. Many of our new students have been learning English as they take their classes reading, writing and listening to a foreign language all day and performing at a very high level each day. That takes commitment and perseverance!
With Trimester 1 behind us, the students all have a foundation of the skills needed for their full-year courses. Each course strives to teach each student specific study habits that lead to success in either that course (for example field research methods for Anthropology), or in school in general (such as taking notes from a primary source article). We share the benefits from these skills by building on them in other courses and throughout your child’s years at VVS, making it possible to teach in greater depth and expose the students to a wide variety of experiences.
Decembermester allowed the students to create student-designed projects and pursue those plans with independence and self-direction. What a wonderful time of year where students are expected to immerse themselves in their work and see the pay-off of persistence and ingenuity.
Winter Break will provide a much needed holiday from the rigor and pace of life on campus. Please help your child enjoy the holiday by promoting rest and time away from academics. We hope you and your child can savor time together for the next few weeks so they are energized when they return in January.
Thank you for allowing your child to attend Verde Valley School!
Our riders came home with a handful of ribbons from their first competition for the 2015-2016 season. Saturday, October 3, we traveled to Camp Verde for the first of the Central Verde Gymkhanas. Competitors included Amaya Romanski, Sarah Sassenfeld, Julia Stafp, Hanna Hartwig, Nicky Volz, Galen Coburn-Amadio, Annemarie Schneider, Sarah Angel, and Morgan Bailey with coaches Caroline Diehl and Natalie Rockwell.
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.