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MAR. 31, 2017

Gigantic Hellbender Found in Swimming Lake

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An astonishing discovery at Eagle’s Nest this spring has set the herpetological community afire. “We drain the swim lake every winter, and I’ve never seen anything to suggest we had a monster living here” stated Taylor Mackay, livelong Transylvania County resident and Eagle’s Nest Staffer, adding an understated “yikes!”

Apparently this year was different. A small hole, about the size of one of, Eagle’s Nest Chef, Mark Walker’s meatloaves appeared under the diving board as the waters receded. When prodded with a broken canoe paddle, the waterlogged soil gave way, exposing a gaping entryway into an unknown underworld. When a headlamp’s beam revealed the glow of two eyes in the slimy abyss, amphibian expert Posey Lester-Niles was called in to investigate. “Step back – I want everyone out of the lake!” she commanded in a surprisingly authoritative voice, (because, you know, we all think she’s still eight. Ah, they grow up so fast . . .) Then, to everyone’s shock, she disappeared headfirst into the black void, trailing a old yellow canoe painter that should have been replaced years ago. Those things were always too thick to actually tie. An unseen but obviously violent struggle ensued. A stomach-churning moment of silence, then a cheer as Posey backed out into the sunlight, straining at the rope. First, tantalizingly, a tiny tailtip, then a growing and seemingly endless wall of amphibian flesh was dragged into the light of day, ending in a flailing head the size of . . . well, you know that sun medallion thing hanging on the back wall of the Sun Lodge? It seemed that big, but probably was a little smaller, given most Eagle Nester’s tendency to exaggerate. Still – really big. OA student, Cedar Ann Skeen, at the scene, said it best. “No, so wait, it was like, LITERALLY, huuuuuuge. And this time I’m using literally correctly! No, really! Why are you laughing at me?”

Accurate depiction of a Hellbender. (trees added for scale)

Accurate rendering of a Hellbender (trees added for scale)

So, the great beast was finally subdued and carried by six OA students to the little plastic swimming pool that Camp uses for basketmaking class – the one we keep under the dining room porch, you know? The Leviathon finally stopped thrashing and was stuffed into the pool and only fit after its tail was wrapped around a few times. It was accurately keyed out as an abnormally large hellbender with Peterson’s second edition of A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern/Central North America – the slightly dog-eared copy that lives on the little white shelves next to the computers in the Sikwayi library – not the regular built-in shelves that look like solid wood but are actually that weird flakeboard. OA students added Feeding the Beast to their daily chore list and it has thrived on stale cho-chos and day-old mac and cheese.

Although Smithsonian officials have requested that the gigantic creature come to live at the National Zoo, the all-wise and powerful Eagle’s Nest Executive Council has decided to return the creature to our pond. “Given the fact that we already have Big Lex in the Fishing Pond, it only seemed right to have a gigantic Cryptobranchus alleganiensis to terrify the kiddies in the Swim Pond” stated OA Director Roger Herbert, who knows a thing or two about being amphibious.

T. Wesemann, OA Faculty 

(You know – that gray-bearded guy you always think must be somebody’s grandfather, not a teacher. I mean, how old is he?!)

MAR. 24, 2017

Ninety Years…What is Next for ENF?

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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

Back to the Woods

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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

MAR. 8, 2017

The Trustees of Eagle’s Nest

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Eagle’s Nest is special in so many ways, but one that is very meaningful to me is that it is chartered as an educational non-profit organization.   Most independent schools are non-profits but for an independent summer camp it is not nearly as common and certainly was unusual in 1950 when our charter was granted.

Alyssa Merwin and Rebecca Blecke Hilinski: Former Trustees, OA alumni

Alyssa Merwin and Rebecca Blecke Hilinski: Former Trustees, OA alumni

What this means for us in the big picture is that we are not owned by any one individual but rather have a board of trustees who holds our mission in trust and who guide us in long range planning, financial decision making, best practices in education, human resources and so much more.  The Eagle’s Nest Board of Trustees is comprised of 25 of some of the most committed folks I know.  All have some connection to Eagle’s Nest, whether their child or grandchild attended Camp or OA, or they themselves are an alumnus of one or all of our programs.   Educators, attorneys, business people, artists, accountants, environmentalists, realtors, health professionals and community volunteers are actively serving on our board.  We strive to keep our board well rounded, representing all walks of life, multiple generations and all facets of our community.

Currently we are specifically seeking OA alumni to carry that voice in this group.  If you are interested let me know by sending an e-mail to me at noni@enf.orgI would love to talk to you about what it means to “hold Eagle’s Nest in trust”.

Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director 

FEB. 24, 2017

To Walk with Intention and Awareness: A Glimpse of a Weekend at Buffalo Cove

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“…. 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.

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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.”

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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

FEB. 13, 2017

Remembering Mo Waite

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My dad meant so much to so many. He was a great, great man who will be sorely missed, but the good he brought to this world will live on in us all. To carry on all that he did will be an honor and a high task- in his wonderful memory we will do it! 

– Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director, Eagle’s Nest Foundation

mo-waite

Dr. Benjamin Moseley (Mo) Waite, scientist, educator, conservationist, and friend and mentor to many, died February 3rd, 2017.

In 1950 Mo’s parents Dr. Alex and Hannah Waite chartered Eagle’s Nest Camp, originally founded in 1927, as a non-profit educational organization. Mo first attended camp with them as an 8-year-old boy in 1945 and continued to spend his summers at camp until he started graduate school. In the summer following his college graduation, he ran the laundry, washing all of the campers’ clothes, wringing them out and hanging them out to dry. He even pressed their jeans! In the 1970’s Mo helped found Carolina Camps for Children with Diabetes, providing life changing opportunities for children to learn to manage their illness in a camp setting. Mo has said that he found that to be “one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had”. Mo continued his parents’ legacy by serving on the board of trustees for over 35 years.

Eagle’s Nesters through the years will remember Mo as the mountain of a man who would hike a Dutch oven or watermelons out their camping sites for them, as the red mustached man who led them on “short” hikes in the woods, or as the chief of the Migisi. Trustees will remember paddling down the rivers of Western North Carolina or washing dishes and dancing in the Sun Lodge kitchen with Mo. They’ll also remember meaningful time spent on hikes through the woods and his thoughtful guidance as President of the Board of Trustees. Some are also lucky to have a least one of the beautiful hand turned bowls that he crafted. Mo started what has now become an annual Eagle’s Nest silent auction with about 6 of these bowls. The auction now raises close to $5,000 dollars each year for camp and Outdoor Academy scholarships. So beloved was Mo that one year a fellow trustee bid $500 for an old ceramic bowl that Mo had made and that was being used to serve hummus in at the auction.

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Mo with the Eagle’s Nest Board of Trustees.

Mo graduated from Rollins College in 1958 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He continued his studies at Duke University, and in 1963 he obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry. After postdoctoral fellowships at Duke University and in The Netherlands, he joined the faculty as an assistant professor at Bowman Gray School of Medicine in 1968.  He became the chairman of biochemistry in 1978, a position that he continued to fulfill until his retirement in 1998. He made tremendous contributions in the field of lipid biochemistry, including a landmark publication, “The Phospholipases”. He trained and was a mentor of numerous graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who have subsequently established successful research careers in both academics and industry.

He loved returning to his summer home in Maine to tend to his “deer-loved” vegetable garden and his relationships with friends and community. Mo loved the natural, bold beauty of Maine and together with Helen, his wife of 57 years, committed themselves to protecting and conserving its natural habitats. Moseley served on the board of Directors of the Downeast Coastal Conservancy for over 10 years, which, since its founding, has protected 6,330 acres of land, watersheds, islands and 62 miles of shoreline in Washington County.

Scientist, ceramicist, furniture maker, gardener, pickler, blueberry farmer, white water paddler, world traveler, bibliophile; Mo’s interests and talents ranged as wide as the circle of people who respected and loved him.

Together Mo and Helen, former Eagle’s Nest Camp Director, Executive Director, and founder of The Outdoor Academy, crafted a beautiful ship of life—each taking a turn as the mast and the rudder. Thousands of campers, students, faculty, professional peers, friends, extended family will continue to be touched by their joyful and inspiring journey through life.

Mo had an impact on so many people’s lives. In the week since his death his family has received and heard many stories that speak to his kindness, wisdom and humor. We invite you to share your stories of Mo with his family and Eagle’s Nest. Please send your stories to Noni at noni@enf.org.

A celebration of his life will be held on February 25th at Brevard College.