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SEP. 4, 2014

Leading the Way

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“Adasahede” is a word you will often hear at The Outdoor Academy. It is how we identify our Leader of the Day; a role that students fulfill throughout the semester giving them a chance to practice their leadership skills, guide the community, and ensure that the day’s events run smoothly. For some students this is a comfortable and familiar role. Perhaps they already serve in leadership positions at home like captaining a sports team, acting in student government, or even being the eldest child in their family. For others this is a completely new endeavor. Taking on the responsibility of leading a community of their peers and even just carrying the title of “Leader” can be a daunting and nerve-racking experience the first time!

That is exactly why we have the Adasahede role at OA. We believe that each opportunity we can give students to step out of their comfort zone and into the limelight (or the front of the Sun Lodge dining hall) is a chance for them to grow beyond what they believe they are capable of.  We allow them to explore different leadership styles throughout the semester and challenge our students to lead in the manner that will best support the needs of the community around them. In the wisdom of Kurt Hahn, a founding educator of Outward Bound:

“There is more in us than we know. If we could be made to see it, perhaps, for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.”

One of my favorite traditions at OA is the passing of the Adasahede role. After dinner tables have been cleared and announcements completed, the current Adasahede is tasked with choosing a member of the community to fulfill that role the following day. It is someone whom they have observed to be a positive role model, makes extra efforts to help with daily tasks, and supports the needs of their Cabin and community. Not only must they choose the next day’s Adasahede, they must share their choice in a creative and innovative way each time. We have heard original poems and songs, solved riddles, played board games, watched magic tricks, and participated in dramatic skits just to find out who tomorrow’s Adasahede will be. The performances can be funny, heartfelt, silly, dramatic, or touching…but always original.

This week Franklin, our male Resident Wilderness Leader, was tasked with choosing the first student Adasahede of the semester. He began by describing the book he was holding: Endurance. It is the inspirational story of Ernest Shackleton whose incredible leadership kept his 27 person crew alive while their ship was stranded for 20 months on an Antarctic ice shelf. Franklin shared three quotes from Endurance that he felt described his choice for Adasahede:

“To him, Shackleton was a cheery happy chief who was leading his men in a great and splendid adventure.”

“To keep up the spirits of the men, Shackleton now worked as I had never seen him work before.

“During our next conference, Shackleton with characteristic foresight, began talking of the preparations we should make against the time when the ship would be no more.”

Although we are a community of students, not sailors, Franklin felt that these descriptions truly captured the unrelenting positive attitude and impressive work ethic of our first student Adasahede: Jack Swinson. 

Congratulations Jack! We are so proud to have you at the helm of our ship for Semester 39.

Lindsay Martin
Admissions Director




SEP. 19, 2013

The Importance of Students

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Homemade fried chicken is a labor of love. I was reminded of this adage as I frantically dusted chicken and chopped kale, glancing at the clock and wishing I had started cooking dinner an hour earlier. Even though I had been sweating in the Sun Lodge kitchen for two hours, I was barely going to get the food on the table in time.

Thankfully, as I was sweating and stressing over the steaming kale and bubbling chicken, I was joined by our student John, who took my mind off the pressures at hand with stories of his family hunting lodge. John kept me company, telling me about his experience growing up in Atlanta, but spending every spare hour roaming his woods in Alabama, learning to track and hunt. With humble satisfaction, he described how he earned the respect of his country neighbors by hunting down invasive hogs, and how he worked to cull the white-tail deer population of weaker members, keeping the herd healthy. I asked him how he learned to hunt, and he told me about listening to his uncle and other veteran hunters, and that he learned most everything by wandering through the woods by himself and paying attention. I thought of the boy in Faulkner’s “The Bear.”

John observed that during our paddling and climbing trips, he was again the student of a new trade and that our wilderness staff were the master-teachers. He told me that if I ever found my way down to his neck of the woods, he could take me on as a student, and he would be the master-teacher. I was struck not only by the sincerity and generosity of John’s words but also by his insight into how traditional crafts are learned and transmitted. The student must find a masterful teacher, pay attention, and practice. Simple as that.

For John, his uncle and the woods were his master teachers. Similarly, in my climbing, I had a few great mentors and Looking Glass Rock. Most importantly, John and I have had the chance to get in some serious “dirt time”—being out in the elements, and learning to notice the small things. This semester, we will take the time to focus on the small things that transform us from being good enough to truly great. Those little labors of love keep us invested in what we do, and remind us that it is important to do what we love.

Felix Dowsley
Head Resident

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

SEP. 6, 2013

A Walk Around Campus

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By Michael Brown, Head of School

One of the best, and most important, parts of my job is simply walking around campus. The more often I am able to get out from behind my desk, the more I am able to cultivate the relationships that are at the heart of our work here. Walking around gives me a chance to see the amazing work students and teachers are doing, take the pulse of the community, and enjoy our beautiful campus.

This week has been particularly rewarding as we move into the last stages of summer and the first glimpses of fall. The dragonflies have been actively skimming the lake, the summer vegetables are reaching their end in the garden, and the greens are beginning to fade and give way to the golds and reds of autumn. And, I have had the joy of seeing Semester 37 begin to settle into the rhythms of the semester. I have seen our math classes out and about discussing the patterns and functions of nature and our work crews splitting wood and working in the garden. Just now, our Natural Science returned from a walk in the woods where they are beginning to get to know this unique environment we call home.

This afternoon, students will head to the climbing tower and the lake to practices knots and paddle strokes in preparation for day trips to the rocks and rivers this weekend. I think I will go for a walk and see what they are up to…

APR. 30, 2013

The Little Things: Eagle’s Nest Foundation Workday

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By Caroline Toy, Assistant Camp Director

At the end of a movie, most people get up, collect their popcorn buckets (because leaving no trace is awesome!), and leave the theater long before the end of the credits. I always sit through them—partly because the number of people it takes to make a movie is unbelievably huge. Behind the actors, directors, camera-people, and composers, there are hundreds of people who drive buses, sew costumes, make coffee, and carry props. And every single one of them is necessary for making that movie.

We see that at camp and OA all the time: we couldn’t get by without the contributions of every single person every day, whether that’s cleaning the bathrooms, washing the dishes, or just bringing a big smile to class. The same is true for all those months before and after camp…and sometimes it literally means washing the dishes, cleaning out the closets, and sweeping the floors. Every task goes into making an epic summer and great OA semesters!

That’s what we were doing here on campus on a recent rainy Friday. Faculty and administrators from across Eagle’s Nest Foundation came together to beautify our campus. Teams cleaned cabins, emptied old storage areas (where we found souvenirs going back to the late 80s!), built shelving, and harvested greens. Those chores translated into great meals the next week, exciting campus tours for new families, and lots of extra space in the Canteen! And who knew cleaning cabins was so much fun?

MAR. 13, 2013

A Gathering of Great Minds

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A few weeks ago the Eagle’s Nest Foundation Board of Trustees gathered on campus for a weekend of strategizing and making plans for the future of our school and camp. We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated group of volunteers who care so deeply about Eagle’s Nest.   Their history with the organization, skills and professional backgrounds are so valuable to our collective ability to both position Eagle’s Nest well for the future and at the same time retain traditions that are dear to so many.

Beyond the yearly work of approving budgets, reviewing financial position and capital needs, our focus at this February gathering was to begin work on setting up for a long range planning retreat.  Eagle’s Nest is going into our 86th year and our goal within the coming months is to be able to clearly articulate our vision for Eagle’s Nest at 100 years old.   We have a lot of work to do to gather constituent input, research trends in education, camping, best environmental practices and much more before we have our retreat in March of 2014.  It is exciting to begin to dream of the possibilities.   You’ll be hearing more about this as plans begin to unfold!


Alyssa Merwin, OA Semester 1, ENF Trustee 2006- 2012

If you are interested in learning more detail on the finances and strategic initiatives of Eagle’s Nest, I encourage you to read through our Annual Report that can be found on our website.  Currently the 2011 report is online and 2012 will be there shortly.  There is also great information in our newsletter, The Eagle.  A new edition will be out by the end of March and has a fun article written by a current trustee.


Students, Faculty & Trustees enjoy the winter wonderland on campus!

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a trustee for Eagle’s Nest, please be in touch with me.  Our maximum number of trustees can be 29 and currently we do have a couple of openings on the board.  I can promise you it is a wonderfully fun, hardworking bunch of smart minded people!  For those grown ups out there who are always saying “I wish I could go (or go back) to Eagle’s Nest”, being a trustee is a great way to do just that!

-Noni Waite-Kucera

Executive Director, Eagle’s Nest Foundation