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Preparing your Class for their 8th Grade Trip, and for High School

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Make the Most of your 8th Grade Class Trips

Experiences that support social/emotional development

Carol Triggiano, Chicago Waldorf School

A Deer Hill expedition provides a group of students with a culminating experience that concludes their grade school years together, while also giving them a glimpse into what it takes to meet the future. I knew this outdoor adventure would offer my students an opportunity to experience the beauty of nature firsthand without the distractions of technology and media saturation. Those goals were high on my list as their class teacher. But to be perfectly honest, my top priority was to test my students’ social/emotional muscles as much as their physical ones.

Deer Hill trips require collaboration, resilience, flexibility, resourcefulness, responsibility, empathy and communication. In this fast-paced world where human contact is often filtered through some type of media, developing these “soft skills” is becoming increasingly important as we prepare our students for the future. Living together around the clock for several days, without the comforts of home, in strenuous conditions that require focus and hard work is not an easy task. It takes “grit” and I am not talking about the kind that gets under your fingernails, though there is plenty of that, too.

A key element in making this social/emotional part of the experience work depends on trust. The students have to come to the program with a basic trust in each other, in their teacher and in these unknown individuals who will guide them on their adventure. If that groundwork has not been laid ahead of time, the situation may be tough. The potential for drama and conflict is high among adolescents under the best of circumstances. Throwing them out into the wilderness with a wing and a prayer is pushing one’s luck. The trust building has to begin ahead of time.

Middle school is the right time to help young teens build a safe space and process for dealing with conflict and for practicing effective communication. It is a time for learning how to listen as much as talk, how to “see” one another beyond the superficial, and how to support and appreciate each other. It is a time for helping them find their own voices and to have the courage to speak their truths. It is a time for building a class community that functions like a healthy family. Throughout 7th and 8th grades, we held weekly meetings, very similar to Deer Hill’s nightly circles, to check in, share issues and deal with anything that needed attention. In 7th grade we held separate girl and boy meetings; in 8th grade they became class meetings. This is not about playing at therapy or psychology. It is about helping students develop the skills necessary to be an integrated modern human being with a strong sense of self and of the other. If this foundation is in place, the students will come to a Deer Hill expedition, yes, with some fears and anxieties, but also with the willingness to stretch themselves. They will feel safe enough to try, to succeed, to fail, to struggle, to learn, to grow. Those qualities are necessary to stepping into high school and on to the journey of adult life.

I think of Deer Hill’s excellent counselors as my students’ first high school teachers. These exemplary role models wonderfully showcase what it means to follow one’s passions and live life full on. The students easily bond with these young leaders because the kids recognize their strength, their courage, their warmth, and their kindness: in other words, their highly developed social emotional capacities. Very quickly they come to trust them and where there is trust there is growth. And growth is what Deer Hill is all about.

Carol Triggiano
8th Grade Class Teacher
Chicago Waldorf School

The Petroglyph | Full Circle

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In the January 2017 Issue of The Petroglyph…

Full Circle

Children of Alumni Come to Deer Hill
Deer Hill Alumnae Bronwen Kahn and Elizabeth Kettyle talk about registering their children to attend Deer Hill Expeditions this summer.

Out of Africa

Deer Hill alumnus, Milan Vinks, with a quick note and gorgeous photos of his zoological work in the Kafue Study Area of Zambia.

“Lost and Found” for Deer Hill Alumni

A special project in preparation for our 35th anniversary, as well as the 20th anniversary of Deer Hill Foundation. Joining our Alumni Facebook Group is one easy way to jump in.

Full Circle

Children of Alumni Come to Deer Hill

Deer Hill alumnae Bronwen Kahn and Elizabeth Kettle talk about registering their children to attend Deer Hill Expeditions this summer.

DHE Alum Bronwen and her son, Jasper, who will attend DHE summer 2017.

Jasper, with his mom, Bronwen.

When I started at Deer Hill Expeditions three years ago, Doug Capelin and I talked about the eventuality of our earliest participants coming to the point in their lives when their own children would be of age to attend. It seems that time has come. So far this year, three of Deer Hill’s earliest adventurers have registered their children for a Summer Expedition us. Bronwen Kahn (July ’85, July ’86, June ’88, July ’88), Christina Altman (Holovach when she attended Deer Hill–July ’86), and Elizabeth Kettyle (June ’88, July ’89). Even as the Deer Hill Circle expands, it remains close to the heart.

– Gabriel Bernier, Outreach Director

In Bronwen’s Words:

We are so excited that Jasper is finally old enough for his first adventure with Deer Hill! He has heard me speak of it with gratitude ever since he can remember. Douglas and Beverly offered me my first introduction to Colorado when I was 14 and I was lucky enough to spend the next few summers with them. I moved to Colorado from the East coast after college, where I met my husband, and where we still live with now. The direction my life took is in large part thanks to the love they taught me for this beautiful part of the world. There is some lovely symmetry about that, as it was my aunt and uncle, who first took Douglas on a summer road trip to the West when he was in high school. When Beverly and Douglas started Deer Hill, we heard of it through them and my parents signed me up, sight unseen, for the very first session. What great fortune for me! They showed us the respect for wilderness, cooperation, independence, gentleness, and all the good qualities that they embody and that I hope to pass on to my children. Spending time with Beverly as a teenager was formative for me as well (more on that another time).

Jasper is looking forward to meeting the amazing people that they have gathered around them, and we feel lucky to be able to broaden his experience this way.

– Bronwen Kahn

In Elizabeth’s Words:

A few weeks ago, I had a moment to myself and started to work on summer plans for the kids. I had long had it in my mind that someday, I would love for my children to have the same type of experience I had at Deer Hill. I wondered if there were any such options out there, and if Corinne would soon be old enough. Then I thought, “I wonder if Deer Hill is actually still out there.” I googled Deer Hill and to my sheer delight, found the beautiful website and photos of Doug and Beverly who look the exact same as they did 25ish (!!!) years ago. I showed the website to Corinne and she wanted to send the application in right away. Her brother Will, sitting nearby, asked, “When will I be old enough to go?”

After Corinne and I applied, I found myself so distracted by my own excitement. To be able to share this amazing, transformative experience with my children is so profoundly meaningful to me. Doug immediately reached out, having remembered me, my family and the trips I was on. We exchanged updates on our children, and all the years that had passed and the distance between Boston and Mancos did not seem so far at all! When I told my parents about our plans for Corinne to attend DHE this summer, my mother reminded me that she had written a letter to Doug, a portion of which was reprinted in the catalog at the time:

Dear Beverly and Doug,

We have now had almost a week with Elizabeth since her return from Deer Hill. Each day more unfolds, and we hear more impressions, events, routines, challenges, etc. It is quite clear that in a very profound way Elizabeth grew in numerous respects. The challenges and opportunities were pitched at the right level for her. She was challenged, but not overwhelmed. And throughout, she had a delightful time. Obviously her friendships were very rewarding and she had lots of fun. Seems to me like the perfect experience!

Sincerely,
Cindy Kettyle
Needham, Massachusetts

I am currently working on travel plans for Corinne this summer and am hoping that I will be able to swing a visit to basecamp and a reunion with Doug and Beverly.

– Elizabeth

Elizabeth’s children, Corinne and Will.

Christina and her son, Luke, (above) have also been in touch with us. Luke is registered for River and Mountain Adventure this summer, along with Jasper and Corinne. Luke’s mom, Christina Holovach (now, Christina Altman) attended Deer Hill in July 1986 (with Bronwen).

Milan Vinks in the Zambian bush.

Milan Vinks monitoring carnivores in the Zambian bush.

Out of Africa

Milan Vinks (RMC-1 ’06, WL ’07)
From Milan’s correspondence with Doug Capelin:

Hey there, Doug, of course you can share this with the Deer Hill Circle. To answer your question, I am working as a field ecologist in the Greater Kafue study area, one of our program’s three study areas in Zambia. I monitor radio-collared lion prides, African wild dog packs, and cheetah in order to answer a variety of research questions. These research questions are aimed at identifying the presence, status, distribution, and abundance of these species, but more importantly, we ask these questions to identify the major threats to these species now, and in the coming years, and to establish potential solutions. We work closely with a number of partner organizations focused on other aspects of conservation such as anti-poaching enforcement and eduction. Our program has its own education component as well, which we are hoping to expand in Kafue this coming year.

You can learn more about what we’re doing at our website zambiacarnivores.org and our Facebook page, ZambianCarnivoreProgramme.

All the best,

Milan

“Lost and Found” for Deer Hill Alumni

Gabriel Bernier, Outreach Director

With our 35th anniversary coming up (and the Foundation’s 20th), Doug and Beverly really want to stay in touch with all our alumni. To that end, I am updating our alumni contact information to keep everyone informed of this important milestone, and to simply stay in touch (as is evidenced above, Deer Hill alumni do really exciting things).

If you keep in touch with anyone from your group, would you be willing to share their email and/or mailing address with me? Or, if you have moved since you, or your child, were a participant, would you be willing to update your own mailing address?

Please email me to support our effort to update our alumni contact information. Thank you!

Also, if you like using Facebook, please join our Alumni Group. I hope to hear from you soon.

The Petroglyph | Spring Returns

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In the March 2016 Issue of The Petroglyph…

  • Amanda Sturner on Experiential Education
  • What Deer Hill Means to Me, Ambassador Beth Capelin
  • Meet the New Faces at Basecamp
  • In Photos: Spring at Deer Hill
  • Still Time to Find Yourself this Summer

The Life-Changing Power of Experiential Education

Amanda Sturner, Life Coach, RMT Certified

“I Hear and I Forget, I See and I Remember, I Do and I Understand.” – Chinese Proverb

At age 16, my parents suggested I embark on an experiential education adventure. They saw me spending too much time on the phone, idly chatting with friends, and my general lack of motivation and direction. My grades were just okay, and as a cross-country and track runner, I came in mid-pack during races. My parents saw average, and they were right. I was not living at my potential. After two weeks in the wilderness with a group of strangers, I returned home a different person. My grades became straight A’s and I won my races. Not because I studied longer or trained more. My mindset had shifted; I was capable of anything. Experiential education has the power to teach us that we are capable of anything we set our minds to. The impact of that lesson is immeasurable. It fosters leaders of positive change on every scale.

Now, having worked in the experiential education field for over 20 years, I am very familiar with the questions on everyone’s mind: “Why is it so powerful? How does it produce the same, incredibly wonderful results every time?” Here is my answer: There is magic in the combination of a wilderness setting and groups working together to overcome challenges. Kurt Hahn, a pioneer of experiential education stated, “There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it; perhaps, for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.”

Experiential education wakes us up from the haze of our habits, and reminds us that life is a fun adventure; we grow, we change, we become. It breathes a fresh wind into the boredom and fruitlessness of stagnation. Life shifts from one-dimensional to 3D, because we are experiencing what we learn. It’s the difference between hearing about a mountain, seeing a picture of a mountain, or climbing a mountain. Only the latter strengthens us physically, intellectually and morally. Climbing the mountain vs. hearing about it or seeing it is also a lot more fun, and engages all of our senses.

Experiential education is a game changer, and what you learn affects your daily life in positive ways you never could have predicted. The resourcefulness, sense of confidence, compassion, and zest you acquire will, very literally, change the life that you lead. Obstacles become challenges you overcome with confidence. Other people, maybe once perceived as “different from you,” become “people like you”.

Leaders are created through experiential education experiences, because you learn to have confidence in yourself and in others. You naturally see others’ strengths and potential rather than limitations. You understand what it took to get yourself up the mountain, because you climbed it, step by step. You know and live by the inherent value of yourself, others, and the natural world.

You won’t hear and forget, or see and remember. You will understand how to lead an extraordinary life of fun, compassion and adventure.

Amanda Sturner, RMT is a certified Strategic Intervention Life Coach, and the founder of Stretch Zone Coaching. She teaches specific tools to create the changes you want or need. She can be reached at stretchzonecoaching.com.

What Deer Hill Means to Me

Beth Capelin, Ambassador, Three-time Alumni Parent

Ambassador Beth Capelin knows the value of a Deer Hill wilderness and service adventure for teens

I married into the Capelin/DH family, and not only witnessed its growth, but put hammer to nail almost thirty years ago to assist in its early construction! None of that influenced my opinion about the quality of the DH program or the decision to allow my children to go to Mancos, Co. My three children spent a total of eight summers at Deer Hill, and the experiences and memories will forever be a part of their fabric.

All three children anxiously awaited their turn and “coming of age” to participate. A scenic photo taken in the Weminuche wilderness four years ago was recently blown up to poster size and now hangs in the college dorm rooms of two of my sons…a fond memory of a very beautiful place with a special group of friends.

I am passionate about DH and am certain that DH can make a big impact on a young person’s life. It is difficult for me to contain my enthusiasm when I talk about DH to family, friends and neighbors in and around my community. I’ve given slide presentations, represented DH at camp fairs, and spoken to many parents in my community. My children have also helped to recruit their friends, spoken to peers and parents, at fairs, at our home and over the phone.

Why do we do this? It is not because our last name is “Capelin”. It is because a few weeks at Deer Hill can have a profoundly positive effect on a young person and who that person will become. So much can be discovered in the middle of nowhere.

Deer Hill Welcomes New Faces to Basecamp

Starting in mid-February, Jordan Lang is Deer Hill’s new Sales and Admissions Manager, welcoming participants to the Circle; as of the beginning of March, Justin Shauinger is the Facility Manager, keeping vehicles running smoothly, and Basecamp looking sharp; come April, two-time alum, Dori Wilcox will support the Outreach Department as Deer Hill’s Photography Intern. Welcome!

Jordan Lang

Sales and Admissions Manager

I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Colorado in Manitou Springs. I went to college in Durango and graduated with an Environmental Studies and Agriculture degree from Fort Lewis College. From there I ventured off to the islands of Washington State to farm and live the simple life by the Pacific. Eventually, I craved the dry climate and high desert landscape of Southwest Colorado where my heart belongs deep in the desert canyons and high in the San Juan Mountains. Working with Deer Hill allows me to share with others these remarkable places that I love to call home.

Jordan, Sales and Admissions Manager

Justin Shauinger

Facility Manager

Born and raised west of Phoenix, Arizona, I grew up in the small town of Waddell. There at the base of the White Tanks Mountains, I began to appreciate the wilderness, learning from the Arizona desert. After completing my education in the “Valley of the Sun,” I found myself looking for life in the mountains. This brought my wife and me to Durango in 2006. For the last 10 years I have worked in a variety of construction fields, most notably, the City of Durango’s Utility Department, where I earned certifications as a Colorado Water Professional. As the Facility Manager at DHE, I am excited to combine my skills, work ethic and love for the outdoors to support the many adventures happening around us.

Justin Shauinger, Facility Manager at Deer Hill Expeditions

Dori Wilcox

Photography Intern

Dori is California born and raised. After attending Deer Hill for two summers, she majored in Digital Arts at Chapman University and worked various art jobs. She is currently studying to be an ESL teacher to travel the world. Despite her suburban lifestyle thus far, she craves the adrenaline of adventure sports and the peace of the mountains. She’ll be joining the team of Deer Hill interns this year to take photos of the campers and the surrounding wilderness. Dori hopes to be able to share the therapeutic effects of nature with the younger generation. In her free time, she can be found petting strangers’ dogs or watching indie drama films.

Photography Intern, Dori Wilcox

Spring in the Southwest

In Photos

I grew up in New England, where when spring rolls around, everything becomes green once again, as if the world were pulling on a leafy, green robe. I lived, for a number of years in the Pacific Northwest, where when spring rolls around, everything becomes… well, greener, as if the world were adding a green hat-and-scarf to its monochromatic ensemble. Here at Deer Hill, spring brings river trips and service projects–we’re all gearing up to host a raft (pun intended) of school groups on river expeditions and service projects this spring.

– Gabriel Bernier, Outreach Director

Alumni and Sibling Discounts

If you’d like to return for another Deer Hill experience, we’d love to have you back. Please take $200 off your tuition as a Deer Hill Alumnus. Also, families sending siblings, please enjoy the same $200 discount. (As much as we’d love to, we are unable to combine these discounts, though. Thank you for understanding.)

The Petroglyph | Reflections of a Visiting Alumna

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In the September 2016 Issue of The Petroglyph…

It is always a pleasure to host alumni at Basecamp, and this summer we were visited by a handful of members of the Deer Hill Circle. One of those visitors was Deer Hill Alumna, Katie Spegar (Marin Waldorf 8th Grade Class, 2016). Katie brought her family to visit Basecamp and her service hosts’ homestead on the Navajo Nation. Best of all, she is willing to share her reflections with us.

The banded canyon walls of the Lower San Juan River, where Katie’s class rafted last April.

My Return to Deer Hill and the Navajo Nation

Katie Spegar, Alumna (Marin Waldorf 8th Grade Class, April 2016)

Katie cleaning up the site at the Clarks’ homestead in the Navajo Nation.

Do you know that feeling when you get home from a life-changing trip, and you try to share your experience with your family and friends, hoping they can somehow relate? How do you find the right words to describe all that you saw, and did, and felt?

Well, that’s how it was for me last spring when my classmates from Marin Waldorf School and I returned from an incredible 10-day Deer Hill field trip through the American Southwest. As we departed Deer Hill’s Basecamp for home, waving goodbye as we travelled down the bumpy gravel road, I still remember hearing a little voice inside myself saying this would not be the last time I would be in this beautiful place.

I imagined trying to tell my family about the trip. How could I describe the unique red rock formations we hiked around, and the rushing mud-colored waters of the San Juan River we rafted? How could they imagine this cozy little basecamp, with rustic buildings and delicious home-cooked meals surrounded by the cliffs below Mesa Verde? How to bring to life the ceremonies and warmth of our host family, Gwen and Ferlin Clark, at their Navajo homestead with its craggy red cliffs, fragrant green sage brush, and heavy clay soil that caked our hiking boots? There was no way to describe the tasty fry bread we ate there, after a day of working on their land. I remembered the Clark’s enthusiastic, sincere invitation to us all to return for a visit, if we were ever again near their part of the world. All of these wonderful memories and feelings were swirling inside of me.

Then something great, and unexpected, happened. My parents announced that we were going on a road trip in July to explore some of the National Parks and back roads of America. We voted on where we might go on our road trip, so I saw my chance and jumped at the idea of returning to Deer Hill. Happily, everyone agreed to put it on our itinerary.

A group paddles out one of the lesser rapids

Rippling sand waves in the “rushing, mud-colored waters” of the San Juan River.

So, why return? I am sure I am not alone in saying that there were things about my experience at Deer Hill that left a big impression. First of all, the instructors from Deer Hill were incredible. They were inspiring, knowledgeable, skilled and prepared in helping us meet the physical and technical challenges we faced. For one thing, last spring was filled with unpredictable and changeable weather— everything from a late, sloshy snowfall and slippery sleet to high winds, pounding rain and booming thunder and lightning. With ease, care and humor our guides helped us meet these physical tests. Secondly, we spent 24 hours a day with our instructors on a 5-day river trip, and a 4-day service project—we got to know each other pretty well. I loved learning that some of them were Waldorf graduates themselves and ski patrollers and paramedics, too. Hearing their stories made me want to be like them, and possibly follow a similar path into outdoor environmental work with students. And one of my favorite memories comes from our time at Basecamp after our expedition and service projects: some of us joined together to jam on piano and the guitar, singing songs from the songbooks in the warm, spacious house where the founders raised their three kids.

Photos: Hiking the Honaker Trail high above the San Juan River.
The play of sun and shadow bring the texture of the canyons to life.
Most of Katie’s leader team (that’s D, referenced below, in the blue shirt).

When we went back this summer, it was both very familiar and very different. Gone were my classmates and teachers, and most of the wonderful instructors I had grown so fond of. Instead, Deer Hill was at a lull in the summer programs and instead of lots of usual bustling and energy, Basecamp was relaxing and peaceful. Jordan, Deer Hill’s Admissions Manager, invited us to poke around and look in on the familiar land and the buildings, and I found the easy energy and friendly staff to be as wonderful as I had remembered them. It turned out that one of the same instructors from my trip, Danielle or “D,” as she liked to be called, was guiding one of the summer trips. We had the chance to exchange a hug and some funny stories from our time together and I loved seeing her familiar face. I got the sense that enrolling in a summer program with Deer Hill would give me the opportunity to do more of the amazing things I did with my class: to create more memories, to float different rivers, to try new outdoor adventures, and make great friends.

After Deer Hill, we drove to see the Clarks (our service hosts from my class trip) on their Navajo homestead. They were so happy that we returned and went out of their way to make us comfortable, including a fry bread meal. In fact, Ferlin Clark said during the ten years they have hosted Deer Hill students, I was the first student who took them up on their offer to return. Not only did they welcome us to stay the night and eat with them, but they also invited us to attend a big ceremony in a neighboring Pueblo called Santo Domingo. As their guests, we attended Santo Domingo’s traditional harvest festival where we saw hundreds and hundreds of Puebloans dance their “corn harvest dance” in the plaza, and were generously invited to dine at the tables of the Governors of the Pueblo. The food they shared with us was delicious and the red chili sauce was rich and spicy! We were able to experience parts of Puebolan life that most non-Native Americans would never imagine. As we parted ways, we felt so grateful to the Clarks for their hospitality and sharing of Native American customs, both Navajo and Puebloan.

Gwen Clark making frybread with Katie’s class.

Ferlin Clark bringing a hammer to some participants.

I hope to return to Deer Hill one summer to join a longer, more challenging outdoor adventure with them. With my love of the outdoors, taking on physical challenges and making music, I feel as though I may have found my new tribe.

Summer Expeditions

2017 Summer Expeditions will be announced in November; stay tuned to learn about Sibling and Alumni Discounts, and to see what we’ll be offering.

Custom Group Programs

At the time of this writing, there is still space on the spring calendar for Custom Group Programs, although the most popular times are filling up fast. Contact Gabriel to book a trip for your class, organization or family: gabriel@deerhillexpeditions.com or by phone at 970-533-7492.