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APR. 6, 2017

From Trash to Statement Piece

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“We live in a world where we thrive off of materials. We need to decrease our consumption, repair and recycle the goods we do consume, and over all CONSERVE!” – Tess, Carmel, IN
Art Piece: glass bottles, cans, acrylic paint, paper cut-outs

Last Friday the 24th, Semester 44 took part in our third OA Cornerstone Day. Named Legacy Day, this particular Cornerstone Day is a brain child of Katie Harris, Dean of Academics and English teacher, and Brian Quarrier, our Crafts and Environmental Seminar teacher. Cornerstone days are best described as an interdisciplinary exploration of a broader topic; for example the ‘Legacy’ we leave behind for future generations.

Cedar Ann ceramic pot, glass, flowers. Brevard, NC In every piece of trash there is a life. this piece represents the beauty and life that can come out of something someone else thinks is trash.

Cedar Ann
ceramic pot, glass, flowers.
Brevard, NC
“In every piece of trash there is a life. this piece represents the beauty and life that can come out of something someone else thinks is trash.”

The students spent the day studying an integral part of our culture’s lasting physical residue: trash. As part of the week building up to the Cornerstone, Brian and Katie required the students to carry their waste in their own personal trash bags. When Friday rolled around, the students began the day with a morning tour of the Transylvania County Landfill, which was the first time many of the students had ever been to a major dump. The culmination of the trash-carrying activity came when the students were able to deliver their bulging bags of trash for the week directly to the landfill and experience first-hand the monumental amount of garbage we amass on Earth every day.

Davi cigarettes, gloves, cans, plastic bags, other trash Atlanta, GA This is a picture of a beach but made of trash. This represents how the oceans and beaches are being filled with trash. I want the viewer to feel sadness about the pollution from us ruining nature. I’m specifically raising awareness about our trash getting carried out into the oceans, beaches, and islands.

Davi
cigarettes, gloves, cans, plastic bags, other trash
Atlanta, GA
“This is a picture of a beach but made of trash. This represents how the oceans and beaches are being filled with trash. I want the viewer to feel sadness about the pollution from us ruining nature. I’m specifically raising awareness about our trash getting carried out into the oceans, beaches, and islands.”

In the afternoon, the students moved on to create some positive change in reaction to their morning at the dump by picking up a densely-littered public area. The students of Semester 44 ended the day creating art with materials from their afternoon cleanup. The photos here document some of the pieces created by our talented students. We have also shared and some of the thoughtful statements from the artist in which they reflect upon confronting the mountains of garbage we leave for future generations.

Robbie deBurlo, Math Teacher, Medical Coordinator, Wilderness Leader

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.

buffalo-cove-44108

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.”

buffalo-cove-44146

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