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DEC. 5, 2016

Give Thanks

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I was thinking about the feelings of the students days before our Thanksgiving break. They were excited and a little nervous about it. I asked Mary-Lawson Cox, one of my Semester 43 Spanish students, her thoughts about the week away from the Outdoor Academy.  This is what she wrote, and I want to share with all of you.

Give Thanks

As students go home to their families, we all will reflect on our time that has been spent at the Outdoor Academy. We will share our experiences and new traditions that we have learned, one of them being the idea of giving thanks. Before every meal, we all hold hands and take time to think of all of the things we are thankful for. One person will say “Give thanks!” with the rest of us following. It is the little moments like these, the gratitude given for your meal, the squeeze of your neighbor’s hand, or the verbal act of saying what you appreciate that makes a community come together. I know I can speak for everyone when I say that this break has given us the time to think about what a true community is. A community is a place where you can come together with one another and grow as both a member and as an individual. It is a place where you feel most loved and you feel you can be your truest self. We are thankful for the time we have spent with our families but are excited to return home to the mountains where we can give thanks for the rest of the time we have on our journey.

Mary-Lawson Cox, a student attending the Outdoor Academy

Thank you Mary-Lawson for these words and let’s Give Thanks always!

Rodrigo Vargas, Spanish Teacher

NOV. 29, 2016

#GivingTuesday is About More Than Money

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Yes, last year we raised over $3,000 in a single day from wonderful donors and friends. Yes, non-profits around the world are using #GivingTuesday as a way to kick start their fundraising efforts. And yes, we would love for you to make a donation today. But what is the bigger picture? Why is it so important to show this support and raise awareness for our causes?

I like to think this is a global effort to “give thanks” for all the people doing good in this world. Today is more than a day of fundraising, it is a day to educate ourselves on all the wonderful organizations, hardworking individuals, and unique missions that exist worldwide, and right here at home.

This is a MOVEMENT. A way to show that good really does prevail. A way to feel connected, peaceful and kind. Being part of #GivingTuesday is kind of like Giving Day at Eagle’s Nest- you do it for the other person, but find that you can gain just as much by making a gift with your own hands.

I know that I am thankful every day to be a part of the Eagle’s Nest and OA community. A place where I can be myself, laugh with good friends, and escape into the forest to sit among the trees to count my blessings.

Join Eagle’s Nest and thousands of others TODAY and make #GivingTuesday a part of your giving plans each year!  Express your gratitude, for the community that is cultivated here, for the time we spend in nature, for simple living, and to become your best self.

We invite you to get involved on social media and show your support:

  • Make a post to your personal social media account(s)…email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. about #GivingTuesday
  • Share our posts with your friends!
  • Use our #hashtags (#GivingTuesday, #foreverournest #gratitudeproject) and @accounts (@eaglesnest_hanteadv, @outdooracademy)
  • Make a donation!
  • TELL YOUR STORY OF SUPPORT, and encourage others to visit our giving page online www.enf.org/givenow

Cara Varney, Annual Fund & Alumni Manager

NOV. 18, 2016

The Spark of Our Thriving Community

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Smoke is in the air at The Outdoor Academy. For the past week, we have breathed the exhaust of external fires, questioned the effect of drought on our temperate rainforest, and caught echoes of political turmoil swirling through the U.S. Yet, it seems turbulence in the larger world has little power to negatively influence our small community. We continue to chug along despite the harsh climate, singing a mantra of ‘I think I can, I think I can.’ Or perhaps, ‘Inch by inch, row by row’ may be more accurate for readers familiar with our Eagle’s Nest repertoire.

At the beginning of the week the students took pleasure in the smoky red super-moon, curling howls into the cold, fall air. Some of my peers on the faculty undoubtedly joined them from the top of Looking Glass rock, after completing a night-climb of the classic North Carolina Route ‘The Nose.”  In the world of intellect, my students in Algebra II powered through our last week of class before break. The entire class of Environmental Seminar wrote letters to their respective senators outlining steps we may take as a country regarding environmental policy, putting to use the knowledge they’ve earned. And, as always, our faculty meeting last night resounded with reports of this or that student stepping up in Crafts, English, or Science.

I see now I misspoke earlier; our community is not just chugging along, we are thriving. The smoke of external fires does nothing to slow our progress ever forward. At the core, we at the OA try never to see problems, only challenges. A step on the crumbling edge of the trail with a heavy pack, a fall to a twisted ankle; these are elements to a recipe for a painful and challenging trek. However, there also lies the chance to find new strength, to learn reliance on your peers, to find further limits to your endurance, to ice your swollen ankle in the freezing skinny-dip falls, and to feel the wonderful warmth return when you can bear the water no longer. These are the lessons our students will remember the longest, when things were dang hard, and they kept moving anyway. In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, I am most thankful for the inevitable proof our students give that there is no hill too big to climb together (I think I can, I think I can).

Robbie deBurlo

Math Teacher, Medical Coordinator, and Wilderness Instructor 

NOV. 7, 2016

Observations on the Eve of Decision 2016

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Community is one of our four Cornerstones here at The Outdoor Academy.  It is a main focus of our students’ education during each semester.  We have Community Meetings weekly that provide a space for the students to come together to work through issues or develop plans for student driven initiatives.  We eat meals together as a community, we make decisions as a community, we experience the highs and lows of life as a community.  Community is more than a number of people who coexist together in the same location.  It is a body of people who genuinely care about each other and want to grow together.

Our community nestled in the mountains of Western North Carolina is so strong that, oftentimes, it is easy to forget that the world moves on outside these mountains.  We all know, however, that very important national events are stirring beyond our idyllic campus.  During this historic presidential election, Semester 43 is taking the initiative to witness these events that will certainly affect their lives, perhaps profoundly.

At our last Community Meeting the students brought a plan to the community to ensure their presence during the live broadcast of the presidential results.  Students worked together to develop a plan that included equipment, faculty and staff involvement, and timing.  The hunger for knowledge, the drive to be part of something bigger than themselves, and the fact that these students are not able to cast their personal vote for a candidate speaks volumes of the ownership they exhibit for their own learning and place in this world.

To add to the election night interest, Roger, Director of The Outdoor Academy, has been supplementing media stories of this election with insights from political science, which he has offered the community during daily announcements and also down times throughout the day.  Questions such as ‘What is the Electoral College?’ and ‘Where does my vote go?’ are abundant.  These future voters are getting more than a current news story; they are learning how a president comes to be.  They have a chance in my class to study the electoral map and calculate mathematically the various scenarios that would lead one candidate or the other to the White House.

electoral-college-talk-43408

It is incredible to serve at a school where a student can be interested in something and seek it out, with enthusiasm.  It is incredible to serve at a school where faculty and staff jump in with both feet in order to guide students in finding answers and solutions to the questions they’re asking.  And it’s no wonder that the sentiment expressed at our last faculty meeting was: “Aren’t we lucky to teach these students?”  Our answer was yes, we are.  We definitely are.

Racheal Duffy, Math Teacher and Wilderness Leader 

OCT. 24, 2016

One Hundred and Forty Three Acres Protected #ForeverOurNest #ENF4evergreen

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After six years of planning, grant writing, surveying, baseline indexing and countless hours reviewing documents, Eagle’s Nest is very proud to announce that 143 of our 182 acres are now officially under a conservation easement.   For generations to come our students and campers will enjoy the same woods, streams and pastures that we do today.  Our forest friends will forever roam their Eagle’s Nest habitat. Our streams will always run fresh and clear into our very own Little River and on to the French Broad.  The plant species that grace our lands will be forever protected, rooted in their little corner of the Southern Appalachians.

Deep gratitude goes out to our friends at the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund for providing the funding and the expertise to bring this all to fruition.  Their vision and guidance in protecting spaces throughout North Carolina is exemplary.

I can’t think of a better way to honor our Nest as we enter into our 90th year.  Please look for our Fall Eagle coming in November for more detail about this exciting project!

Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director

OCT. 11, 2016

Living Large at The Outdoor Academy

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Last weekend our students were on campus and planned a Fall Fun Day, reenacting a few of their favorite childhood activities from autumn and Halloween. We had just returned from an idyllic ten days in the field – five on the Appalachian Trail and five at our base camp at Cataloochee in the Smokies. Clear fall weather, the most stunning views in the Blue Ridge, true friends that are evolving into a solid and meaningful community, the Andromeda Galaxy wheeling overhead at night, bear cubs frolicking at a mountain cabin, solo hikes under the huge trees of the Caldwell Fork, and songs and stories in a hillside graveyard under the Milky Way. Life just doesn’t get better; this group knows that and made the most of our time away.

Around the campfire our last evening at Cataloochee, I overheard an intense conversation between Andrew Steed, a student, and Roger, our Director. Roger had led a discussion on ethics that day at an abandoned farmstead deep in the woods and with the fire flickering on their faces, they were now deep into Aristotelian virtue vs. deontology vs. utilitarianism. Yes, take a second to read that again. And this was on the heels of a conversation I had that morning over the campstove about genetic engineering and another some days before about Russia’s militarization in Syria. This fall – outside of the classroom – I have been part of conversations about the feminists of the 1970’s, the Balkan War, Woodstock, Angela Merkel’s refugee policy in Germany, the feasibility of an Islamic State in the Mideast, climate change, NASA’s Mars program, artificial intelligence, the electoral system, capitalism, slavery vs. state’s rights and the Civil War, Brexit, FDR and our entry into WWII, Black Lives Matter, NC’s HB 2, government regulation of Wall Street, and those are just the ones I recall now.

So yes, those six bear cubs were cute, and bobbing for apples is fun, and backpacking is a blast, and s’mores are delicious; but don’t think for a second that American teens are vacuous and self-centered and glued to their phones. Not these kids anyway. I am always, always pleased and proud to know that these are my colleagues and friends. They surprise me everyday with their curiosity and enthusiasm and empathy and, without any overstatement, I think the future is in good hands.

Ted Wesemann 

Natural Science, World History, Appalachian Craft