Proctor’s spring Mountain Classroom program is underway with a recent trip down the Black Canyon just below the Hoover Dam. The group’s nine week adventure throughout the American Southwest, and eventually back to Andover, NH will be life changing for all involved. Read more from Cass ‘23 and Lily ‘23 in their first post of the term.
Coming to Mountain Classroom, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. A teacher-structured and led environment packed with camping, backpacking, river trips, community living and lots of writing. For the most part I was right, except for one thing, the amount of responsibility I, and my fellow Mountain mates, have. The experience we have is determined by us. The way we decide to lead each other, choose meals, and use our little personal time creates our own unique experience.
The job wheel, as well as the jobs on it, was no surprise, save for the Leader on Duty role (LOD). At first I expected the role to be a position of observation, shadowing Jeffrey and Janean as they led the group from before sunup to well after sundown. Even before it was my turn to be LOD, watching my classmates play that role made me realize that it is a position of true leadership. The job, thankfully, is not just one individual’s to bear, you get a co-leader to share the responsibility with. My partner and I’s first day as Leaders on Duty was a long one. We were tasked with completely packing up our riverside camp into canoes, leading the group miles downriver, scouting out two campsites, picking the best one, and setting up camp. At first it didn’t sound too hard, but in reality, it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Janean and Jeffrey didn’t speak to my fellow LOD and me all day, testing our capabilities. The day was long, but my partner and I learned a ton about leadership, making a plan, changing that plan, being flexible, changing the new plan, navigating an insanely cool canyon river, and getting high-schoolers out of bed in the morning.
Food planning doesn’t sound too hard at first, but when you factor in things such as limited space, cooking equipment, the need for non-perishable(ish) food and prep time, the difficulty factor goes up a great bit and a lot of possible dishes come off the table. Each day there are two cooks, also assigned by the job wheel, and when food shopping you have to plan out and shop for the meals you and your cook partner will be preparing on the days where you will be the assigned cooks. There are no predetermined meals so it is up to you as to how imaginative you can be with the ingredients you will be able to put in your backpack or the trailer and cook in the backcountry hunched over a camp stove. You have to make it your own, edible, and maybe borderline enjoyable.
The key to having an experience that is as stress-free as possible is managing your precious free time well. Between hikes, walks, classes, activities, expedition preparations, traveling and sleeping, there isn’t much time to spare. There may be some time before breakfast, if you wake up early, or some time between activities and classes. Bus rides could be a good place to get work done but it’s hard not to look out the window at the gorgeous scenery we drive through constantly. When you’re in places as incredible as we are, it’s easy to just relax and say that you’ll do that assignment later, but having discipline in our few free moments is essential to avoid burning the midnight oil. This slightly less fun aspect of Mountain Classroom is one you have to manage well to make your own experience enjoyable.
We’re not that far into the term. There’s still a lot of places, journeys and adventures we have yet to explore, but one thing is clear: this is our own experience. We will get out of it what we put into it. The possibilities are endless.
Before coming on Mountain Classroom, it was all a mystery to me. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and feared what was coming my way, but I knew that this experience would be the coolest way to end my Proctor career. I had some sort of an idea of how our days would look. We would wake up in a tent, eat breakfast, do something adventurous, then cook dinner and go to bed. And sure, each day relates to that on some level but the adventures and feelings created are so much more special than I would have ever imagined. We work so hard every day and my favorite event of the day is how we end our nights.
After a long day of travel and excitement, we end every single night with evening meeting - a time of reflecting about our day and giving feedback to each other. We have a leader of each meeting and they get to write a journal entry about anything they want to read aloud, or do something different like writing a song and playing it on the ukulele to the group as I did last night! We talk about what people did during the day that we appreciate, which can create a very honest and kind circle where each individual feels very comfortable with each other. We eat dessert, and laugh. A lot.
Something that I love about our Mountain Classroom group is when we are all sitting in our circle, eating our Oreos and laughing so hard that we can’t breathe. Those are the moments that I know all the hard times we have each day are so worth it because it shows how we are all in this together.
Going on Mountain Classroom was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I know that adventures like this cannot be put to waste. We all know there will be hard times on Mountain, that is not a question. I just know the main thing that is helping us get through the hard times is reflecting at evening meeting each night, which creates some of the strongest bonds that people could ever have.
- Mountain Classroom
- Off-Campus Program