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APR. 6, 2017

From Trash to Statement Piece

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“We live in a world where we thrive off of materials. We need to decrease our consumption, repair and recycle the goods we do consume, and over all CONSERVE!” – Tess, Carmel, IN
Art Piece: glass bottles, cans, acrylic paint, paper cut-outs

Last Friday the 24th, Semester 44 took part in our third OA Cornerstone Day. Named Legacy Day, this particular Cornerstone Day is a brain child of Katie Harris, Dean of Academics and English teacher, and Brian Quarrier, our Crafts and Environmental Seminar teacher. Cornerstone days are best described as an interdisciplinary exploration of a broader topic; for example the ‘Legacy’ we leave behind for future generations.

Cedar Ann ceramic pot, glass, flowers. Brevard, NC In every piece of trash there is a life. this piece represents the beauty and life that can come out of something someone else thinks is trash.

Cedar Ann
ceramic pot, glass, flowers.
Brevard, NC
“In every piece of trash there is a life. this piece represents the beauty and life that can come out of something someone else thinks is trash.”

The students spent the day studying an integral part of our culture’s lasting physical residue: trash. As part of the week building up to the Cornerstone, Brian and Katie required the students to carry their waste in their own personal trash bags. When Friday rolled around, the students began the day with a morning tour of the Transylvania County Landfill, which was the first time many of the students had ever been to a major dump. The culmination of the trash-carrying activity came when the students were able to deliver their bulging bags of trash for the week directly to the landfill and experience first-hand the monumental amount of garbage we amass on Earth every day.

Davi cigarettes, gloves, cans, plastic bags, other trash Atlanta, GA This is a picture of a beach but made of trash. This represents how the oceans and beaches are being filled with trash. I want the viewer to feel sadness about the pollution from us ruining nature. I’m specifically raising awareness about our trash getting carried out into the oceans, beaches, and islands.

Davi
cigarettes, gloves, cans, plastic bags, other trash
Atlanta, GA
“This is a picture of a beach but made of trash. This represents how the oceans and beaches are being filled with trash. I want the viewer to feel sadness about the pollution from us ruining nature. I’m specifically raising awareness about our trash getting carried out into the oceans, beaches, and islands.”

In the afternoon, the students moved on to create some positive change in reaction to their morning at the dump by picking up a densely-littered public area. The students of Semester 44 ended the day creating art with materials from their afternoon cleanup. The photos here document some of the pieces created by our talented students. We have also shared and some of the thoughtful statements from the artist in which they reflect upon confronting the mountains of garbage we leave for future generations.

Robbie deBurlo, Math Teacher, Medical Coordinator, Wilderness Leader

MAR. 23, 2015

The Big Crafty Field Trip

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Jess Kaufman, Craft, Music & Dance Teacher

Success! This is Jess writing to you to tell you that last weekend the entire student body (minus one who had a wedding to attend in Las Vegas), the residents, and I loaded up our busses and backpacks and headed down to the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC. The Folk School is an amazing place, with a rich history of handwork, sustainable living, neighborhood community building, and lots of traditional song and dance. In preparation for the trip, we watched the Emmy-nominated documentary Sing Behind the Plow, detailing the history of how the Folk School was founded.

On Friday we drove to Lane’s End, to go set up camp. There is a gorgeous piece of property in Brasstown called Lane’s End Homestead that has been used for community-building purposes since it was established. For the past year it has been the home base for the Pioneer Project, who were kind enough to let us camp behind their gardens, next to a singing stream, and use their composting toilet and work the land, preparing it for their spring gardening season. We ate our sandwiches and drove over to the Folk School campus, where we split into four groups and toured the studios and the grounds, including the craft shop where students could look at all the sellable wares of the teachers who have passed through over the years. We ended up at the Keith House, where we got to see the finished projects from the Folk School students that week, and OA students got to see what was made in just a week.

We then went over to the campground to warm up the chili and cornbread that our OA chef, Mark, made for us. We brought Rodrigo’s special “hot rod” sauce, not knowing it was the new, extra-spicy batch! We got really warm, really fast after putting that in our chili. Then it was time to head back to the Keith House to watch a concert by the Barralon Brothers, who are fantastic musicians from France. They played a variety of traditional French songs, some with accordion and mandolin, and some A Capella. The brothers’ voices blended perfectly and OA students were attentive, enthusiastic listeners.

After the evening concert, we headed back to Lane’s End, and got to go into the main house and talked with Adam Haigler, co-founder of the Pioneer Project, and son of the authors of the best-selling book on gap year experiences (see The Gap Year Advantage by Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson). Our students asked great questions, dreamed aloud of what they would do with their ideal year off from school, and it was a pleasant but sleepy evening of talking about alternatives to mainstream education. We were all asleep in our tents, cozy and warm despite the rain, by 11pm.

DSCN5752

The next morning we were up bright and early to pack up camp and make oatmeal and grits. We then split up into two groups. One bus load visited the local yarn shop, owned by the Folk School’s resident spinner/knitter/dyer, Martha Owen and Charlotte Crittenden. They are two of my fiber mentors, and although we couldn’t meet Martha there, our students enjoyed fingering the hand-spun, naturally dyed yarns, leafing through pattern ideas, playing with puppets, and watching Charlotte demo a spinning wheel. Then that group went to the Keith House to have a lesson in dips—the dancing kind, not the chips kind! Local Brasstown residents Stefan Kelischek and Forrest Oliphant taught students how to spin and dip each other, so that they could look extra pro at the contra dance that night. The other busload got to learn some traditional morris dance styles (clog morris and border morris, both incredibly fun and high-energy). The students were enthusiastic and quick learners—the Brasstown dancers were impressed by the willingness and politeness that our students displayed.

While the groups weren’t dancing, they took turns making expressive face jugs at local potter Rob Withrow’s studio, Smoke in the Mountains. Probably everyone’s favorite moment of the day was when Rob said we could dig through his pile of “throw away” mugs (literally a pile on a tarp in his front yard)—some of the mugs barely had anything wrong with them, but Rob’s dedication to only selling the best of each kiln firing meant we had plenty of seconds to choose from. Oh boy, free pottery! Students were overjoyed, especially as they had just worked for 90 minutes to craft their own mugs. They knew the value of the free mugs because they had experienced firsthand the effort, care, and skill that goes into each one.

OA students with Rob Withrow.

OA students with Rob Withrow.

After everyone had had a dance lesson and made a mug, we drove back to OA to have dinner, shower, and get ready for the contra dance that night! We went to the River Falls Lodge, which we are lucky to live very close to, just across the State line in Marietta, SC. We got to dance to the incredible sounds of the Stringrays from New England, with Will Mentor calling—one of our nation’s best callers. The band, caller, and local dancers were incredibly receptive to our group of new dancers, and my music and dance class got to put all their practice into play (we’ve been studying contra and square dance for about 3 weeks now). We had a great time; and several students danced every single dance of the night! We headed back to OA exhausted and happy. I hope that this trip inspires Semester 40 and their friends and family to go take advantage of the Folk School, go to their local contra dances, and make things by hand for the rest of their lives.

I really owe a big thanks to everyone at OA who supported me in dreaming up this very packed weekend, and everyone in Brasstown and at the Folk School for providing us with inspiration, knowledge, effort, and creativity. I was blown away by what is possible when we come at life with a spirit of collaboration.

Jess Kaufman, Craft, Music & Dance Teacher

DEC. 16, 2014

A Handmade Christmas

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Katie Harris, Dean of Academics, English Teacher, and Wilderness Leader

Saturday morning. This means bacon and eggs, Amanda’s grits if you’re lucky, and then time for morning work crew at OA. Students last Saturday, however, buzzed about the Sun Lodge with unusual energy: we were getting ready to march in the Brevard Christmas parade. Reindeer antlers, red and green costumes, ukuleles, and even a knitting needle or two came out of the woodwork. A group of students and I were tasked with creating several Christmas wreaths to go on a big red canoe that would be carrying two very cute small children.

We headed over to my front yard, took stock (a mysterious red berried bush, a holly tree, and infinite boughs of evergreen), and got to work.  Listening to the holiday music of Vince Guaraldi, drinking hot chocolate, and making decorations was such a nice way to spend time with the students and acknowledge that the season of winter is indeed here. I loved how the students went about planning for their role in the parade—nearly everything was handmade, including the banner that read, “A Handmade Christmas.”

Katie blog

And so the seasons of giving in our Western and OA cultures coincide. Last Friday, the students and staff of Semester 39 celebrated our final evening together with a long-standing tradition here, Giving Day. Each gift had been thoughtfully created with its recipient in mind, and each gift had been made by hand. Most of us were so excited to give our gift that the fact that we would be receiving one in kind almost came as an afterthought. It is paradoxical, and yet, this night is often my favorite night of the semester, though it means I will be saying good-day to these students I have gotten to know so well in these last few months. Thank you, thank you, Semester 39, for what has truly been an incredible experience at The Outdoor Academy. I will miss seeing you on campus. And please, keep in touch.

Katie Harris, Dean of Academics, English Teacher, and Wilderness Leader

NOV. 19, 2014

Big Crafty Field Trip to Brasstown, Part II

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On Saturday morning, following a big pot of oatmeal, we hurried over to the Folk School for a Q&A session with resident folklorist and musician David Brose. David was wearing a knitted necktie made of handspun angora and yak fibers, prompting our student Jack to ask if I thought he might be able to someday knit a tie. Hooray for finding inspiration everywhere! David told us more about some of the things we learned when we watched the Emmy-nominated documentary about the Folk School called Sing Behind the Plow. After our talk we split into four groups and toured the studios and the grounds of the Folk School, ending up in the craft shop where students could look at all the saleable wares of the teachers who have passed through over the years. Most just looked but a few bought special items to bring home. I loved watching them examine each piece for construction techniques, asking about materials and methods. What brilliant young craftspeople we are nurturing here!

We ate our lunches in the sunshine and then did two hours of digging, weeding, raking, and mulching at Lane’s End. Then we split up into three groups, allowing each person to decide what they wanted to spend the rest of their afternoon learning about: basketry with Folk School resident artist Pattie Bagley; dovetail joinery with John Campbell; or a blacksmithing demo with Folk School resident gardener Tim Ryan. It is my sincere hope that our students have formed the basis for potential lasting relationships with these artisans; they are all master craftspeople and local treasures. I went with the woodworking group, and got to watch John use handmade tools to create exact measurements and carve out the joints with traditional chisels, saws, and repurposed steel. It was also nice to warm ourselves by the woodstove in his shop, which doesn’t yet have a door—it’s a labor of love to build your own studio from the ground up! He gave us a tour of all the furniture that he has made and has in his home. We learned about the qualities of black walnut versus black locust, and we all left sincerely wanting to build our own furniture. The other groups had a great time as well—Leo showed me a tiny woven creature that Pattie showed him how to make. Wow!

We made a quick dinner of pasta and pesto sauce made from our garden kale and garlic butter from our own garlic stash at OA. We had “sun”dried tomatoes from our September harvest, and then we went to the square dance! Most of our students danced most of the time—some only danced a bit but enjoyed watching, and one hardy student (Eleanor!) danced every single dance and never sat down! She also set her mind to dance with only non-beginners, which is one of the most effective techniques for getting really good at partner dancing in a short amount of time. We had a bonus flat-footing demo from visiting pro Dave Harvey, founder of the NYC Barn Dance. With Beth Molaro calling, and two ENC friends also showing up at the square dance, it felt like the perfect night for blending OA + Brasstown (4-ever!).

On Sunday morning we attempted a sleep-in but the cows had different ideas. We packed up our tents and organized our gear, did a sweep of the property to make sure we weren’t leaving things behind, and then got to go into the main house and talk with Adam Haigler, co-founder of the Pioneer Project, and son of the authors of the best-selling book on gap year experiences, The Gap Year Advantage. Our students asked great questions and were polite and attentive listeners. Then we were treated to a homemade brunch at Tim Ryan’s home, feasting on homemade biscuits and gravy, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, fruit salad and yogurt, cheesy potatoes, kale and onions, and cheesecake.

I really owe big thanks to everyone at OA who supported me in dreaming up this very packed weekend, and everyone in Brasstown and at the Folk School for providing us with inspiration, knowledge, effort, and creativity. I was blown away by what is possible when we come at life with a spirit of collaboration. Here’s hoping that Semester 39 is the first of many to go on our “big crafty field trip” to Brasstown!

Jess Kaufman, craft and music/dance teacher

NOV. 18, 2014

Big Crafty Field Trip to Brasstown, Part I

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We just got back from our fabulous Folk School field trip and I could not be more proud of our amazing OA students! In Brasstown this weekend the students sang along to sea shanties and ballads and listened to old time fiddle tunes around a campfire at night; they Morris danced and square danced; they made Appalachian “face mugs” at a local potter’s studio, and they visited the homes of local master craftspeople (a basket maker, a blacksmith, and a timber framer/traditional woodworker). They did service work for the Pioneer Project, a back-to-the-land gap year project focused on earth skills and traditional craft; two of our guys even elected to sleep outside under the stars on a rather frigid night—and we were all awoken by the lowing of cows in the morning from the field next to our campsite! We made our own meals over our little camp stoves and we played with the sweet dogs who lived on the property. And that doesn’t even cover our “official” visit to the Folk School itself.

On Friday we woke up and made our lunches while others readied the gear for our trip. Driving the gorgeous Appalachian Scenic Byway and all its twists and turns, our Floridian students were smitten with the frozen trees and icicles that decorated the cliffs and mountaintops. Upon arriving in Brasstown, one bus load visited the local yarn shop, owned by the Folk School’s resident spinner/knitter/dyer, Martha Owen. Our students enjoyed fingering the handspun, naturally dyed yarns and leafing through pattern ideas. I am proud to say that every one of them found something inspiring that they want to knit soon—parents, be warned! I’m doing my best to make fiber-junkies out of all of them.

We met back up to distribute sandwiches and go right into our afternoon activities: learning traditional Morris dance styles (women’s clog Morris for half our group, and border stick Morris for the others). The students were enthusiastic and quick learners—the Brasstown dancers were impressed by the willingness and politeness that our kids displayed. There are a few videos on the OA Flickr page of the stick morris lesson! While the groups weren’t dancing, they took turns making expressive face jugs at local potter Rob Withrow’s studio, Smoke in the Mountains. Probably everyone’s favorite moment of the day was when Rob said we could dig through his pile of “throw away” mugs (literally a pile on a tarp in his front yard)—some of the mugs barely had anything wrong with them, but Rob’s dedication to only selling the best of each kiln firing meant we had plenty of seconds to choose from. Oh boy, free pottery! They kids were overjoyed, especially as they had just worked for 90 minutes to craft their own mugs. They knew the value of the free mugs because they had experienced firsthand the effort, care, and skill that goes into each one.

After the pottery and the dancing, we were ready to go set up camp.  There is a gorgeous piece of property in Brasstown called Lane’s End Homestead that has been used for community-building purposes since it was established.  For the past year it has been the homebase for the Pioneer Project, who were kind enough to let us camp behind their gardens, next to a singing stream, and use their composting toilets and make a fire to warm ourselves by. Michael Ismerio, my friend and a widely known fiddle teacher, square dance caller, maker of leather shoes, and nature educator, came to visit us once it got dark and played and sang for us. Those students who were feeling like night owls got to stay up late, singing song after song, drifting away one by one to cozy up in their tents. It was a clear, brisk night with so many stars.

-Jess Kaufman, crafts and music/dance teacher

SEP. 23, 2014

School of Rock

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After scrambling over 70 feet up the granite face of Cedar Rock, I finally turned around. The view that greeted me, of Pisgah Forest – vibrant green mountains, blue sky, and not a single road in sight – was absolutely breathtaking. Once I regained the ability to take in oxygen, I couldn’t help but yell down to Georgia, who was belaying me, “Can you believe we live here?! This is our backyard!”

This past weekend students were split into two groups for three days of paddling or climbing. My group headed into Pisgah National Forest to climb at some of the Southeast’s best crags. When we left on Friday morning, the group was both eager and enthusiastic, but also a bit nervous. Before we began our climbing adventure Katie Harris, trusted English teacher and Wilderness Leader, took a page from Eleanor Roosevelt challenging each member of our group to do at least one thing that scared them.

Witnessing these students rise to this challenge was perhaps even more breathtaking than the views. I watched students Eleanor and Georgia, who only two weeks ago were nervous lifting their feet off the ground, climb well over 100 feet up the rock putting all their trust in their belayers. I saw Leo and Jessica push past frustration and physical fatigue in attempts to climb tough routes that would challenge even the most advanced climbers. I also watched students grow in their eagerness to support their peers, including jumping up to belay someone, offering encouragement to a struggling climber, or asking how they could be helpful.

Like many of our students, I did not consider myself a climber before arriving at OA, and it is quite possible that the views took my breath away in part because that moment when I turned around I realized just how high above the ground I was. But I’ve realized that is a big part of what OA is all about, finding ways to push yourself past what you thought were your limits, or choosing to give more of yourself to help others.

The reward of this new challenge – an incredible view, the euphoria of accomplishment, a stronger community – are well worth it in the end.

Amanda Wheelock
Resident/Wilderness Leader