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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.


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