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SEP. 18, 2013

The Outdoor Academy and Mountain Song Festival

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Mtn Song

Sometimes, it seems like progressive mountain culture can be summarized as banjos, dancing, environmentalism, and local food. Semester 37 got to experience all four elements this last weekend at the 8th annual Mountain Song Festival, which benefits the Transylvania County Boys and Girls Club.

OA has been involved with the festival since its inception. Once again, our students proudly volunteered at the composting and recycling stations. Mountain Song is a flagship for sustainable festivals. They are able to compost or recycle 80% of waste generated at the festival. On Friday night, only five bags of trash were taken to the landfill. Our students were instrumental to these efforts, educating the festival patrons about innovative materials that allow for plates and flatware to be composted. It was a great opportunity for our students to advocate for the environment while engaging with the community at large.

For me, and for many of our students, the highlight of the experience was the music. We were able to see banjo virtuosos Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn performing a diverse repertoire that ranged from Chinese folk songs to classical compositions. Comedian, actor, and banjo player Steve Martin joined the duo for a surprise guest performance—Martin lives in the area and has a musical partnership with festival co-headliners The Steep Canyon Rangers. For our students, it was an amazing opportunity to witness world-class musicians, with the satisfaction that they had earned their ticket by serving the community.

While we were at Mountain Song, I was struck by how the OA community extends far beyond our campus. We saw alumni, former Residential Faculty, the inventor of Morning Watch, old Program Directors and Medical Coordinators, and family members of our current faculty. When we ate our delicious locally-sourced volunteer dinner, we discovered that our Garden Manager and his wife were doing the catering. OA was everywhere, making this great community event happen.

Felix Dowsley
Head Resident

FEB. 7, 2013

Semester 35’s Climate Change Film: A Call To Action

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The Outdoor Academy Climate Change Film

Last semester, the students of Susan’s Environmental Seminar course spent lots of time studying Climate Change. Feeling empowered to spread the word, the students decided to make a film to 1) explain the truths about Climate Change & 2) give people tools to live a more sustainable life. We are very impressed with the film they made, which can be viewed here.


Please spread this video around. Send it to your family, friends, neighbors, classmates and coworkers. Share it on facebook! Tweet it! Watch it with people you care about! And don’t just watch it, be empowered to do something! The following is the script of the film, some links to resources and a note of gratitude from our student filmmakers.

Script of the Film:

There is no other possible future – this is climate change, we’re living it right now. We don’t have time to reverse what we’ve done, and we never will. But what we do have is unique and so powerful – it’s all that we’ve ever had. It’s the ability to care. We know what it means to live with the earth as we do now. We have stories and memories to fight for, and that holds so much. The time for preventative action is gone. We have to change the way we live — and it’s not going to be easy, but it has to be now. We’re ones with the chance to change the world of tomorrow. So share this video, share your own earth story. Because we need people to know what’s going on. We need to start acting — for ourselves, for our children, for our Earth.

How to Help:

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle: Throw away less. By recycling half of your household waste, you can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

Use Less Heat and Air Conditioning: If you move your thermostat down 2 degrees in the winter and up 2 degrees in the summer, you can save up to $100 and 2000 lbs. of CO2 per year!

Drive Smart: Less driving means fewer emissions. Besides saving money on gasoline, walking and biking are great forms of exercise. Carpool and use public transportation to help reduce CO2 levels. If everyone were to reduce their gasoline use by just 10%, we would keep 2.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year.

Eat Smart: Buy organic and locally grown foods. Avoid processed items. Grow some of your own food. And eat low on the food chain — at least one meat-free meal a day — since 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production. Food writer Michael Pollan sums it up best: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Plant Native Trees: A tree can absorb up to 1 ton of carbon in its lifetime.

Use Less Water: Low-flow showerheads can reduce emissions by about 350 pounds of carbon dioxide yearly. Wash your clothes in cold water to reduce your use of hot water and the energy required to produce it, then let them air-dry. That change alone can save at least 500 pounds of carbon dioxide annually in most households. Use the energy-saving settings on your dishwasher and let the dishes air-dry. While brushing your teeth, shampooing the dog or washing your car, turn off the water until you actually need it for rinsing. You’ll reduce your water bill and help to conserve a vital resource.

Use the “OFF” Switch: Save electricity and reduce global warming by turning off lights when you leave a room, and using only as much light as you need. And remember to turn off your television, video player, stereo and computer when you’re not using them. Remember, electricity takes carbon.

Consume Less, Buy Smart: When you are at the store, make sure to consider the energy required to produce and ship the product you are buying. You can reduce your carbon footprint by purchasing locally produced products and food, and by avoiding products that require a lot of energy to make, package, or ship.

Inform Yourself: Spread the word!

 Some Helpful Links: (buy green products) (Green cleaning products, and resource conservation calculator)  (Find local and organic food) (Energy calculator of how much your electrons cost you and how much you save, where to recycle electronics and how to make good purchases) (Source for energy efficient electronics) (Sustainable clothing) (Organic clothing) (Green newspaper) (A newsletter and guide to find local organic food and clothing as well as products)   (Climate Change- Scishow)   (Climate Change is Simple-TEDX talk)   (Tipping Point Ahead-Wake Up, Freak Out, then Get a Grip)  (Information on Climate Change and ways to help) (Bill McKibben)


We’d like to Give Thanks to the following folks: 

Environmental Seminar class of Semester 35:

Marshall, Madison, Erin, Ariana, Noah, Hazel, Brooke, Metta & Gen

The World History Class – For putting up with us, and lending your voices:

Jessica, Avery, Jackson, Kevin & Marjorie Anne

Thanks to all the Outdoor Academy staff who were kind enough to contribute and support us:

Katie Howell, Katie Ratterreee, Lucas Newton, Katie Harris & Josh Rosenstein

Thanks to Noah and Wren for being adorable!

Thanks to our Head of School Michael Brown for his leadership and always empowering us to ask “why?”

And special thanks to Susan Daily for inspiring and helping us to make this video!

If you were directed to our blog from our youtube and want to learn more about our school, the best place to start would be our website. We are also on facebook, twitter and flickr.

JAN. 31, 2013

Semester 36: Enviromental Seminar Found Poem

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The following poem was written by students of Susan’s Environmental Seminar class. Each contributed a line about their connection to nature.

Found Poem by Semester 36 Environmental Seminar Class

When I was little, I viewed the world as a place

where no bad could happen.

The outdoors and I have never really connected.

I loved playing in the woods.

Where were the trees? There were barely any trees left.

Being surrounded by green leaves and

singing birds helps easy my mind.

Because it was much easier to ignore it altogether.

I played outside a lot.

Why shed tears over something you don’t care about?

When we would go visit my grandfather, I would

always help out in the garden, planting bulbs.

It was this reason why many of my friends chose to spend the majority of their time indoors.

I learned to love trees and wildlife and not

to take them for granted.

I didn’t go outside as much as before.

Being young, the thought of the world ending or at

least slowly dying, with humans being the killers,

never occurred to me.

The better the technology, the more wasting of the


I would describe my relationship with nature as two very good friends

But they live far away from each other

And one has a very busy schedule…

Our natural world is made out to be this whole ecosystem

full of huge, numerous problems with no resolutions in the

near future.

If kids aren’t in nature a lot, they have no reason to love it.

I have known from a very early age the state of our planet

and the dangers it faces, and have felt that debilitating fear

of the continuing destruction of these last great places.

It’s more effective to teach kids to love nature

first and introduce them to the problems later.

When I think about the destruction of the environment, I

get emotional and decide that it is better not to think

about it.

I was told that it wasn’t my generations’ fault,

but it was our job to fix it.

When I’m on my phone a lot, and at school, and busy with

social life, I forget about nature.

I want to help the Earth but the way social media

tends to spin it, it is beginning to seem like a lost cause.

Maybe that’s part of why I’m at OA.

To get that connection with nature.

To really care what happens,

and not make snide comments from behind.

-Give Thanks.