Celebrating the return of Interim

Ah, the month of May at Colorado Academy! It’s a whirlwind of amazing year-end activities—music recitals, the All-School Art Festival, the Taste of CA, spring athletic games, and the conclusion of the academic program. Seniors are counting down the days to their Commencement. We will hold Continuations for Fifth and Eighth Grade students. We’ll gather for the Parent Appreciation Breakfast and say goodbye to parents whose graduating Seniors mark the end of the family’s time at CA. In the midst of all these is one of my favorite CA traditions: INTERIM!

I spent time last month going through all of my outdoor gear in my garage. It took me about five hours. I sorted through my collection of tents, sleeping bags, and cookware. I rounded up ropes and climbing gear. I put the soft top on my Jeep and got it ready for some off-road adventures. I started working on my Interim itinerary for the trip to south-central Utah that I will make with 13 Seniors.

This year, we are going to mix it up and head to the slot canyon country of the San Rafael Swell and Escalante Canyon, where the sky will be free of light pollution. Fellow trip leader David Colodny and I met last week with an enthusiastic group of Seniors, whose excitement for Interim this year is like nothing I have seen.

The pandemic upended so much, but it also impacted Interim—one of the most important learning experiences at CA. Much has changed or been rethought because of the pandemic. Some events are no longer part of our annual planning because they no longer are relevant. Interim is definitely not in that category. The opportunity to get off campus with a group of teachers and guides and try something completely different is so impactful to student growth. It also affects a student’s emotional learning. Students who don’t usually hang out together or are not even in the same grade have to work together toward a common purpose.


Interim and the future of experiential learning

In our recent school-wide strategic planning work, students we interviewed consistently said they wished to have more experiential learning. Interim is an important part, but I do think we could do more as a school to get our students off campus and into the real world. Some Interims are just plain fun, but most have a learning component.

With the trip I lead, I try to help students understand critical wilderness skills, such as being able to read a map, cook and sleep in the backcountry, and manage risk. I also try to help them understand the geology and archaeology of the American Southwest, which has a rich history pre-dating the arrival of Anglo-Americans in the 19th century. On this year’s trip, my students will likely see petroglyphs, like the one pictured below, that are from an archaic period in Utah archaeology.

Interim offers an opportunity for immersive experiences that can excite a student. Students often come away with memories of a lifetime. Even when students don’t get their first choice Interim, they often report that the experience was great. One of my own children had an option they thought they would dislike, but they loved it, and it actually helped shape their interest in something they had never considered before.

I am very grateful for Forbes Cone, who has directed CA’s Interim Program since 2011. Forbes has expressed a desire to be more of a full-time teacher, but he will continue to do outdoor trips for students. Stepping into the role of Director of Experiential Education is Abby Page. Abby has been a long-term substitute for CA throughout the pandemic. She has established strong connections with colleagues and students alike. She has deep experience in outdoor education and shared that she actually began her teaching career in the woods, working for Jefferson County’s Outdoor Lab School as a full-time intern. Abby calls it a life-changing experience that started her down the career path of education. She also spent seven summers as a staff member and Director at Cheley Colorado Camps, and has worked at Camp Kandalore in Ontario. Her skills in all things outdoors are outstanding, and I am excited for her to join CA and carry on this important tradition as we expand our experiential program.

On a personal note, this May, my twin daughters are graduating from college. Many of you know them and have watched them grow up. I am grateful for all the support that our many members of the CA community have given my family. There will be a couple of year-end events, such as Giant Relay Day, that I will have to miss in order to celebrate my daughters’ success. Don’t worry, Kindergartners—the Head of School vs. Kindergartners Race is still on. I’ve lost for 13 years now, and I think I actually have a chance to win this year. As part of my training for my Interim, I am doing daily wind sprints. Stay tuned, parents, for details of the rescheduled race.

Enjoy this last month of the 2021-2022 school year!