On Sunday, Mr. Marr, Ms. Bouton, Ms. Clark and I took the class of 2016 to Baxter State Park in Maine for some leadership training, team building and plain old adventure. After the long bus ride to the beautiful New England Outdoor Center (owned and operated by alumnus Matt Polstein ’71) we settled into our comfortable cabins before playing a giant game of volleyball by the lake. It took a few minutes for me to recover from my team’s two losses, but once I did I enjoyed watching the brave young souls jumping into the frigid lake under the snow peaks of Mount Katahdin.
After a swim and sauna (yes, we were really roughing it) we all shut off our phones and enjoyed the rec center at the lodge. Kids played everything from spoons to Chutes and Ladders to Hearts to Scrabble. A number of them commented on how great it was to unplug and be fully present for one another.
Towards the end of our game session a group of students volunteered to take over the grill and cooked up some delicious burgers and dogs.
After dinner we had a discussion about the class’s hopes and fears for their senior year. I reminded them of the power they had to influence others and asked them to share stories of seniors who had a positive impact on them. The highlight of the night for me took place when I led them through a leadership styles exercise developed by the National Outdoor Leadership School. While answering questions that divided them between groups of things like marshmallows and pit bulls we could see their personalities taking shape. By the end of the exercise we had the class split perfectly into four leadership groups; architects and analysts, drivers, relationship masters, and spontaneous motivators.
We then talked about how each of these leadership types are important in a community such as ours. Finally, we had the students write letters to their future selves, which we will give back to them at this time next year.
The juniors on the crew team showed up later that night after winning their state championship races in Hanover, NH. A big thank you to the heroic Mr. Marr for driving them all over New England so they could make it on this trip! The rowers quickly joined the fray and were welcomed enthusiastically. I took my boys back to our cabin where they proceeded to start an epic game of Monopoly. How many heads of school get to yell at teenagers who stay up too late at night playing Monopoly? These guys were clearly enjoying having some time together off of campus.
On Monday we woke up early, ate breakfast, and went through a white water safety class with our soon to be river guides. After the lesson we boarded a bus to take us to the Penobscot River on the “Golden Road,” the longest privately owned road in the States—over 100 miles long and owned by the logging companies. We split up into six boats and went through some intensive boats-manship before heading down river to our first rapid, an 11 foot drop off of a small waterfall. Wow! What a great way to start a day on the river.
We then paddled back into the waterfall to see if we could “surf” the rapid. It is amazing how every student and adult seems to love white water rafting.
You get very close to your boat-mates and build a sense of camaraderie with the other boats as you head through one challenging and exhilarating rapid after another. We were on the river for almost six hours and had a delicious lunch right off the grill on the side of the river.
I had a blast with this group and am excited to work with them as they take the helm from the wonderful class of 2015 heading into the summer. Thank you to Dean of Students Simon McFall for all the work he invested in organizing this trip!