Day three of the Wilderness Orientation and pre-season sports camps and I can’t help but reflect on an article read earlier this morning in the New York Times: It’s 10P.M. Do You Know What Apps Your Children Are Using?For our students in the Pemi Wilderness on their Wilderness Orientation the question is easy to answer. Their App is an MSR stove, a fire, a chicken noodle Cup of Soup. Their connection is a connection of shared experiences standing under a rain fly waiting out a rain squall, sharing stories around a hot meal, collectively whooping when the sun peeks out. Theirs is a personal connection, the best kind of connection, the connections that cannot be replicated on line.
Prospective students and their families may be asking themselves why, after 45 years, does Proctor still conduct a Wilderness Orientation for every incoming student. The complexities of the operation are significant, as are the human and physical resources necessary to bring roughly 120 students and 35-40 faculty members into the White Mountains for five days and nights of hiking, backpacking, and camping. There must be a safer, easier, less stressful way to introduce students to a new school community, right?
The mountains already seem distant. The bottomless swimming hole on the Cold River, the wind and view on the ridge leading up to Sandwich Dome, the rolling thunder on Sunday morning near Pond Brook – it all fades after the first few days of the campus schedule. Classes, assemblies, sports, the new Dining Commons, the spectacular weather, dorm meetings, advisory meetings – this is the new rhythm.
New Proctor families gathered on campus Tuesday before Wilderness Orientation groups departed for five days of hiking and camping in the White Mountains. Proctor’s deep commitment to beginning the year in this fashion may make some families uncomfortable as they watch their teenagers step into the unknown carrying a 30+ pound pack, a sleeping bag, and tarp to sleep under, but we know Wilderness Orientation is the best possible way to start at a new school.
The start to the school year at Proctor builds slowly for weeks. Faculty trickle back to campus during the early weeks of August as syllabi are prepared, advisor letters are written, and dorms are prepared for students. Meetings happen, registration day schedules are finalized, WOFR training happens, and then BOOM, students arrive and we are off and running!