Early childhood through grade 12

Hawthorne Valley Association

Over the Midwinter Break, 9 brave and adventurous high school students decided to go to Minnesota to participate in an extracurricular opportunity; a dogsledding and cross country skiing expedition with the Voyageur Outward Bound School (VOBS) based in Ely, MN. This is where I went to work right after graduating college and spent 8 plus formative and rewarding years of my life working with mostly teens leading expeditions focused on challenge, teamwork, and personal growth. When I joined the staff here at HVS, I was asked if I would be able to bring some of my expertise working at VOBS in expeditionary experiential education to our students. This was the first foray into that endeavor.

While I helped to lead this expedition, this experience was really about the students and what they did. I can see in the way the students immersed themselves in the experience—how they smiled, reflected, worked, and connected with the sled dogs, each other, and the landscape we were travelling through—that this was an impactful experience that will be settling into their beings for some time. I have asked two of the students to share a little of what they did and what the experience meant for them.

I feel blessed and fortunate to have had the opportunity to share this experience with the students and look forward to other such adventures in the future!

~ Mr. Metreaud, High School Math & Chemistry Teacher and Class of 1997 Alumni

Student Reflection from Estrella Van Dyk, Grade 10

One of my many highlights from this trip was the solo* which I had been dreading. During solo we had three main goals to accomplish all on our own; fire, shelter, and food. So when I got to my site, I started by putting up my shelter and then gathering firewood. The sun had set by the time I made my fire, over which I began melting snow in a pot. After dinner, I made a warm water bottle to sleep with and then watched the fires from my crewmates (fellow students) extinguish as they all went to bed. The moon was bright across the frozen lake and the trees were dark in the distance. I got into my sleeping bag and listened to the ice moving and our sled dogs howling. I felt at peace in the frozen wilderness.

This trip really changed me. On this trip we each revealed versions of ourselves that none had seen before. We were vulnerable with each other and that vulnerability was received with empathy. Because of that, we became a team. I will always cherish this experience and the people who experienced it with me. I am so grateful to have this opportunity.

*This is a component of most Outward Bound courses where students are given the opportunity to put the skills they have learned to use independently. They are also asked to reflect and often journal on their experience so far.

Student Reflection by Cecilia Hamilton, Grade 11

The Outward Bound Dog Sledding experience was one of the most difficult things I've done, and also one of the most meaningful and exciting. Throughout the trip, we either led the way on cross-country skis or rode (and pushed) the dog sleds. We would pitch our tarps on a frozen lake each night, care for the dogs, collect firewood and water, and make dinner. The food was amazing! While sitting around the fire eating dinner we would reflect back on the day and check in on each other. This was a really nice way to end an extremely fun, long, and exhausted day, before climbing into our double sleeping bags and quickly falling asleep.

The week was so much more than just a fun trip; it was an adventure that I'm sure will leave a lifelong impact on all of us, both as individuals and as a group. Hanging out with the dogs and mushing and skiing was so much fun, but I think my favorite part was how we figured out how to work together and enjoy each other’s company.

~ Cecilia Hamilton, Grade 11