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The Journey: Powering Down for More

Brian Thomas

The first thing you notice is that there are a fraction of the number of students on campus, less than one-quarter, or 87 to be exact. You also notice, as we did during the pandemic, that you can hear the birds. They are looking for ready made homes in the eaves and building crannies, making nests for the long weeks ahead. They are working hard so that they, too, can prep for harder days ahead. You also notice that the pond has decidedly lost its ice, unthawed and lapping the banks fiercely these frigid newly-minted spring days. It’s as if the campus, too, is about to bud and bloom before too long.

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Proctor Academy Project Period

Moving further about the campus in Andover on any given Project Period day, the vibe one gets is decidedly different than when regular classes are in session. Sure, there are students who are dog sledding, or skiing in the backcountry of Maine, or those intrepid souls gliding through their various excursions in Washington, DC, or leading their most competitive life in the Amazing Race Proctor-style on Cape Cod. Yet, the version of Project Period we see on campus is more contemplative in nature.

Proctor Academy Project Period

All over the Proctor proper, students are taking a different kind of road less traveled. Robert Frost’s poem aside, there are a number of students who are looking to find ways to be centered in their current lives by the choices they have made that may gently springboard them back into themselves and into the final throes of the 2023-2024 school year. 

Proctor Academy Project Period

One classroom that exemplifies this version of Project Period is Mike Walsh’s and Brian Didier’s group that is exploring fly fishing, particularly those souls who are working the finer points with their hands by tying ties. They, as we might say, are hooked. Whether it is the rapt attention they are spending on making and fashioning lures, or that they seem to derive pleasure simply casting about on one of the fields, the boys seem to be extremely content in spending their days with two men they appreciate on and off the ice and pitch.

Proctor Academy Project Period

Cruising downstairs to the bottom floor of Shirley Hall, Matt Makenzie and Ben Bartoldous are also helping kids to learn how to use their hands with rough and intricate leathersmithing. The rooms seem to be overflowing with students – boys and girls –  and remnants of scraps of leather in a variety of textures and sizes. Many students, just like their classmates upstairs tying flies, have a softer focus than when they are doing math in the same room. The premise and object of the exercise involves patience and a gentle easiness with oneself that I hardly see in high school students anywhere I have traveled. Finally, the leather workers seem to be really enjoying each other’s company, while kids listen to and talk about music.

Proctor Academy Project Period

Over in the art studio in Slocumb, we see a different brand of self-making happening. The ginormous concrete, foam, and painted surface of an art bench emerges from the creativity and workmanship led by Corby Leith and Decorative Concrete Artist (and past Proctor parent), Jon Nasvik. The bulky pieces come together seamlessly and our students have worked through problems of proportion, geometry, spatial organization, measuring, and cutting. The wonderful thing about art collaborations as it comes together, seemingly for the first time, is that you see the various designs in your head come to fruition with hard work and determination.

Proctor Academy Project Period

Other on campus or hybrid Project Period classes that put our students in a mood for creativity and relaxation take shape with beading with Alyssa Costa, ice cream making with Gregor Makechnie ‘90 and Lori Patriacca ‘01, springing into wellness with Kate Jones and Kayden Will, quilt-making with Sarah Whitehead and Kate Austin ‘01, maple sugaring with Alan McIntyre and Jen Summers, super sleuthing with Megan Hardie and Sarah McIntyre ‘90, recording with Scott King, woodworking with Greg Allen and Buz Morison, Organic/Freestyle Art in Nature with Joan Saunders and Spencer Corkran '09, and BioFuel Monster Garage Part II with Gordon Bassett. All of these at home projects give students an outlet that expands who they know themselves to be.

Proctor Academy Project Period

Our bucolic and scenic campus aside, our students and their adult guides hunker down at home and keep showing up to create the kind of beginning of a third act that will position a number of our students well for this final phase ahead. I’m not quite sure how students end up finally choosing what they select, but each choice allows students to think, grow, create, and power down to become the kind of people that we all wish them to be in the end – healthy, whole, and ready to take on the world.


Brian W. Thomas, Proctor Academy Head of School 

Curated Listening:

Certainly, the Indigo Girls can tell us a lot about ourselves and the choices our souls have to “get it right,” the kind of creativity that powers our perceptions and insights, and harmonies that give us all the chills in “Galileo.” Listen to it HERE.

Check out more photos from Project Period 2024!

  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Head of School
  • Project Period