MAR. 24, 2017
Environment is one of the four Cornerstones here at The Outdoor Academy. It is a main focus of our students’ education during each semester. We discuss the status of the environment in our Environmental Seminar, we explore our local environment on outdoor trips, and we become intimate with different aspects of the environment during discussions and readings in science and English. As a whole, the environment is pretty important to us at The Outdoor Academy.
This love and importance goes beyond the school and into the entire Eagles Nest Foundation. With our centennial firmly on our heels (2027) the foundation has taken huge strides to honor our environment. Just recently 76% of our land went into a conservation easement in order to ensure the longevity of the magic of these woods. Other measures that are in place are our strategic initiatives. This is where our OA students are working.
ENF has identified three main strategic initiatives. Our math and Environmental Seminar students have been asked, as an honors project, to research and propose ideas to fulfill the second strategic initiative, Define and implement our commitment toward 21st century environmental ethics and practices. Students are working in pairs to create presentations about LED lighting, solar power, rain gardens, more efficient machinery on campus, and other sustainable ideas such as adjusting our food sources to lessen our carbon footprint. They have been discussing various methods and case studies in Environmental Seminar and calculating the actual cost of a new, sustainable system in comparison to our current model in math. At the end of the semester the students will present their ideas to each other, undergo a question and answer period from faculty and students, and ultimately vote on the best ideas to move forward to our Executive Director and Head of School.
This is an incredible opportunity for students to connect the theories and ideas to their lives. Past presentations have impacted the faculty and staff enough that students have been looked at as local experts long after their assignment has been given a grade; often being asked questions at lunch or between classes. Students at The Outdoor Academy look to make the world a better place in an intelligent and sustainable manner. Ask your nearest student about their ideas, they are pretty good!
Racheal Duffy, Math Teacher and Wilderness Leader
MAR. 17, 2017
Spring break at The Outdoor Academy is always a blessing and a curse. It is nice to relax, catch up on sleep, and all of the other little things that you put off; but it is also hard to be away from our amazing community. I asked one of our students, Leah, to share some of her thoughts about spring break:
“Transitioning back into OA after spring break can be difficult for some and easy for others. From my perspective, coming back was one of the easiest things I’ve done. I was excited to see all of my friends and the faculty! We are such a close knit community that it was impossible not to miss everyone while I was away. Some things I look forward to in these last two months are mastering new skills I am learning, like stain glass, and creating deeper relationships with everyone. I learned how to live in a community and work with my peers. I have developed more confidence because of how accepting everyone is. That is what made the transitions easy for me. As for our semester, we all accept and love each other. We sometimes fight like siblings, but we can never really stay mad at each other. We have all grown in our own ways and as a group. This is home for four months because that’s what we make it, home.”
By the calendar we may only be halfway through the semester, but in my mind we are closer to two-thirds done. This is due to the amount of outdoor programming about to happen. I know the next months will fly by as we get out on the rivers, rocks, and trials. We are all ready to get out into the woods, work together, and breathe in spring. Bring it on!
Brian Quarrier, Arts, Environmental Seminar, Wilderness Leader
FEB. 24, 2017
“…. At one period of the earth’s history there was a kind of ‘earthly paradise,’ in the sense that there was a perfectly harmonious and perfectly natural life: the manifestation of Mind was in accord – was still in complete accord – and in total harmony with the ascending march of Nature, without perversion or deformation. This was the first stage of Mind’s manifestation in material forms.” (The Mother’s “Agenda”, Vol 2)
This past weekend, Outdoor Academy Semester 44 students had the privilege of experiencing the power of connectedness to the Earth, and learn a lot about themselves as well, during their recent trip to Buffalo Cove Outdoor Education Center, outside of Boone, North Carolina.
Nathan Rourke, director of Buffalo Cove, has deep roots within Eagle’s Nest Foundation dating back to developing the Paleo Man adventures for summer camp and being on faculty during the initial years of OA and the Birch Tree program. His daughter, Maddie, is a current student at OA and they have practiced and refined their skills of living sustainably and harmoniously with the Earth, dating back to Nathan’s teenage years.
OA and Buffalo Cove have forged this partnership throughout the years, instilling virtues and values within each organization with a three-day trip for each semester. In exchange for his staff teaching earth skills lessons (stalking, bowl burning, fire by friction, shelter-building, etc.), OA students practice their work ethic principle through work crews, building trails, setting beams for structures, lopping, and helping in permaculture gardens.
Upon their return, students write reflection papers for Outdoor Education class. Here are a few excerpts:
“Nathan does a great job of giving an explanation of WHY we are doing every work crew, so it feels more meaningful and powerful.”
“It felt good to dance around the fire on Saturday evening, not bound by judgement, and it allowed our community to begin the process of breaking down our walls to allow us to flourish.”
“Awareness was a constant theme of the weekend. Awareness of yourself, your mind, the full moon, the cool breeze in the valley and others, is such a powerful piece. The world is much larger than ourselves, and yet we get bound to this at times.”
Each semester I reach out to Nathan and his wonderful staff before each trip to Buffalo Cove, and speak to the community needs of each OA semester and what I hope for them to come away with. He does an amazing job of framing each activity. His program intentional and grounded, and students always come away with a powerful transformative experience. Whether it be howling at the moon, drumming around a fire, dressing a rabbit, learning how animals stalk prey, or cooking over an open fire, Buffalo Cove is always exactly what each semester needs at exactly the right time.
Lucas Newton, Outdoor Education Manager
NOV. 18, 2016
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).
Math Teacher, Medical Coordinator, and Wilderness Instructor
OCT. 24, 2016
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
APR. 6, 2016
I have a fortunate view of Semesters as they come and go. As the Social Media and Marketing Coordinator for Eagle’s Nest and OA, I get to watch a lot of the action of a semester through a camera lens. I strive to capture the candid moments that reflect the spirit of specific activities.
Because of my role I get to be on outdoor trips while not being in a leadership position, allowing my view to be that of a participant, which I think is an important element to showing the world out there what we get up to here on campus and in the wild places.
Because of my position I’ve witnessed numerous feats of personal bravery from our students. I’ve watched students that have had but a picnic under the belt go out for 10 Day Treks through consistent downpour (we’re in Transylvania County remember). I’ve watched students with varying degrees of acrophobia (fear of heights) muster up the courage to take on the slab and get the awesome view from the top. I saw Semester 42 take on their Orientaion Trek (Day 1-3 of their time here) in the snow. Yes, the first 3 days of OA, out in the wild, in the snow, with a bunch of new faces.
Most recently I had the fortune of accompanying Semester 42 on a 3-day paddling trip in East Tennessee. Conditions we’re great on day one, but changed drastically on day two. Cool temperatures coupled with strong erratic gusts of wind made getting into the boat seem like a silly idea.
At this point I’ll admit that my boat flipped on day two in a rapid that was about as daunting as Daffy Duck. We had some nervous paddlers before that, and my boat flipping did not help any. However, they all proceeded to run the rapid and emabarrasingly, no else flipped. Bruised ego, much? You bet. Add to that a plumetting body temperature manifested in shivers and feet that seemed purple and somewhat translucent. Yikes.
What impressed was how the students kept hitting every rapid without hesitation, perhaps to their detriment, but nonetheless, courage was on display! I watched some boats hitting the rapid at less than desirable angles, yet but by commiting to it, make it out unscathed. I watched another boat get sucked in by a side current, forcing them down a different door of the rapid backwards!
We had a boat flip on the biggest rapid of the trip and again to my surprise saw no complaints or motions to give up and bail out. Even when given the chance to skip certain rapids, every boat went down.
Perhaps it’s the community at OA that fosters courage and embraces challenge, or maybe it’s the fact that our students are so committed to their experience that they’re willing to take on anything for the sake of the life skills that can be learnt at a school such as ours. Whatever it is, as a staff member, I am impressed by it and consider it a privilege to capture these moments to show to the world what we’re up to.
Feel free to meander through our Flickr Page and see or perhaps relive some experiences our students get to enjoy during a typical Semester at OA.
Johan Taljaard, Social Media and Marketing Coordinator