The Logistics Behind the Logistics

by Eric Niles, Head of School

Part of my Spring Break was spent deep in Death Valley camping with the logistics team resupplying our AWE (Athenian Wilderness Experience) groups.  It was nothing short of a magical four days for me.  My son, Cade, a Death Valley veteran from last year, is on the logistics team and my daughter, Hannah, a Death Valley participant in 2013, joined me for the trip.  It was wonderful to share that experience with my own children and with about 30 of my other “kids” as they came into resupply.  Their smiles were full and their eyes were beginning to show the clarity so visible at Run-In each year.  They said their groups (I saw groups 1, 2, & 3) were great and asked me to tell their parents that they miss them and love them.  Consider the message delivered.  

I was already aware that AWE is so much more than a backpacking trip, that Jason and Phoebe, our AWE Directors, (and all their instructors) administer a well-conceived and tested curriculum to be sure that each student receives the educational outcomes (e.g. leadership, self-esteem, teamwork, resilience) so unique to this trip.  What I got to see this time was the complicated logistics “dance” that makes sure our children have all the food and water they need for the journey.  Just the car ride down the 32-mile dirt road to the logistics camp was enough to test my mettle.  On top of that, the logistics team needs to get (and refill, and refill) the water that will later be dispersed, tend to any medical needs, and make sure all the food is sorted and ready to go.  The “Logis” do it all and they do it with gusto. 

I wasn’t sure I was a “desert person” but I am now.  The expanse of the Racetrack (a dry ancient lake bed) towered over by Ubehebe Peak is just breathtaking.  Dare I say, AWE inspiring.  And, yes, it was the year of the “Super Bloom” of wildflowers.  Think Wizard of Oz.  Pictured here is me next to a Sailing Stone.  Note the trail that marks its movement over the decades.  Do a Google search to hear about these stones.  It is worth your time.  

Once again, I wrap up a year feeling blessed to be part of this community and helping to tend to this mission.  Athenian is one of a kind.  So are each of our kids.  Happy spring.

The Original AWE: Borrowed Boots, a Lost Sleeping Bag, and Lifelong Friends

In honor of Athenian’s 50th Anniversary, alumni Michael Connelly ’71 and Judy Goldberg ’71 wrote about their 1969 experience on what we now know as the Athenian Wilderness Experience.  

By Michael Connelly and Judy Goldberg

Michael (pictured above on right, eating):  What we now refer to as the Athenian Wilderness Experience, or AWE, was just plain Outward Bound when it first became part of the Athenian experience the year I came to the school as a junior in 1969.  That first year, the program was operated by staff from Northwest Outward Bound, in Oregon, in portions of the Sierras where many of them had never been before, creating unexpected challenges and a real learning experience for everyone involved.  Participation was mandatory, which apparently created an issue for some rising sophomores but was just part of the program for people like me who were new to the school. My arrival from Mexico City, where my family lived at the time, was memorable in a number ways.  The flight my mother had booked for me arrived in San Francisco, and I was shuttled by helicopter across the Bay to the pick-up point at Oakland Airport.  I’ve never been sure why, but the helicopter was of the large, green military variety and I soon realized that for all the other young men who were aboard, the final destination was not an idyllic co-educational boarding school nestled at the foot of Mount Diablo but Vietnam.

michael connolly 4_Page_3

Judy pictured in braids.

Once the bus had deposited all of us at the school and we gathered under the Oak tree to check our equipment before setting out early the next morning for Mono Lake, I discovered I was in unexpected trouble because I had no hiking boots.  I was a scholarship student and I had read in the materials we had been sent by Outward Bound that boots would be provided.  Of course, that referred to participants in the Northwest Outward Bound program, not Athenian students, and I had clearly misunderstood.  I told Leslie, my patrol leader, of my predicament, and she came to the rescue by lending me her spare boots.  That meant that I was not only well shod but the boots had already been broken in and I avoided the suffering that many of my cohorts experienced as a result of having brand-new boots.

Judy:  My anticipation of the Outward Bound experience was distinctively different from Michael’s.  I, too, was an entering junior at Athenian, thanks to the good fortune of parents who realized I hungered for a different kind of high school experience. I was a Bay Area kid, steeped in 60’s pedagogy (though a little young for true hippie identity) and an avid outdoor adventurer. I recall starting the “OB” adventure with some “attitude.” I loved back-packing and had gone on summer camp expeditions in the Trinity Alps of northern California for several years.  I looked dismissively at my fellow students as they struggled over decisions about packing and what to leave behind: make-up, extra clothes, beloved mementos, etc. This particular “letting go” was far from my non-materialistic sense of necessities. A backpack and an open trail were my métier.

So off we all went the next morning, gathering that evening for supper together by the lake shore before leaving on our separate patrols early the next morning.  Each patrol included a faculty member as well as the patrol leader so there were two adults ostensibly in charge of a crowd of unruly teenagers.  The Outward Bound folks had not, up until that time, had a coeducational program or one in which many of the participants (all those rising sophomores) already knew each other, so that was probably a good thing.

A number of patrols were scheduled to meet up again in Tuolumne Meadows.  We had significant difficulty getting there–including the loss of my poorly attached sleeping bag while crossing a glacier and a case of snow blindness resulting from our crossing it in bright sunshine–and arrived a day later than planned.  I will never forget our arrival, when Leslie settled us in the shade beside a cool mountain stream for lunch (have peanut butter and crackers ever tasted so good?) while she went off to find the others.  When she returned after scouring the Meadows for some time, she reported that we were the only ones there so far.  It turned out that all the other patrols experienced greater challenges and worse setbacks than we had, which in retrospect seems to have been one of the distinct benefits as well as difficulties of planning a program for the first time in terra incognita.

As our respective patrols set-out with backpacks laden with a shared food supply for 5 days, I recall taking a lion’s share, proclaiming “it’s not so heavy once you hoist the pack onto your hips.” I demonstrated by dragging the heavy pack onto a bent leg and swinging it over my shoulder. I imagine myself hitting the trail with a particular “see, no big deal!” flare. Our first hike was a series of steep switch-backs.  Not fun, but I knew a slow pace was better than the stop and start, huff and puff I saw from my whinier trail mates. I’m sure the patrol leader must have reminded us that we were only as fast as our slowest member. “Like that was going to build team spirit!  What wusses!” was probably ruminating in my inflated head. That evening, when we were setting up camp, I got my comeuppance.  Warned about bears, I decided to climb a tree to hang my (heavier than most!) food sack.  In one very unheroic move, I came crashing down from the tree limb and landed on my right knee.  It was bad. It swelled to twice its size and I couldn’t put weight on it. For the rest of the trip, I hobbled with a stick, trying to keep up with the rest of the group.

So how did I survive without a sleeping bag?  Leslie, who had done her own urban Outward Bound (including a solo) in the streets of Detroit saw this as a challenge for the entire group to solve.  So until the snow blind girl went home at the first resupply (in the early days, there were two resupplies until it was realized that one was enough) and left her sleeping bag behind, I slept wrapped in ground cloths between two other people in their sleeping bags. It worked, although my teeth would be chattering by dawn, and after that, I was certainly more careful when it came to packing my backpack.

One other story–while trudging up a mountain during an early season snow storm, I remember exhaustedly asking Leslie when we would finally reach the summit.  “Look up,” she said, “instead of looking at your (her) boots.”  I did, and there was the peak right before my eyes.

How did I manage with a badly sprained knee?  Well, I got encouragement and special attention from the handsome patrol leader which was a happy surprise.  And when asked if I wanted to go home at the same troublesome resupply Michael mentioned, I said “no way!” Had I left at that juncture I never would have been in the same expedition group at the end with Michael. It was in those high Sierra landscapes where we started what has now become a 44-year friendship; initially cemented by Michael plucking a fresh, white aster each morning for me to stick into my long thick plait.

Lessons learned?  The trail offers many transferrable analogies for day-to-day life.  “Keep on trucking.” “When you get to a fork in the road, stay high.” Clearly, this would be a popular choice for a 60’s gal! Another spin from Michael’s “look up” and appreciate where you are when you’re in the heat of an uphill climb is to “narrow your field of vision.” Mountains are never as big if you stay the course and go from step to step. Then, when you do reach that summit or pass, you realize it wasn’t all that hard after all.

Once it was over and we were all back at Athenian, I often talked to the friends from my patrol about our experience (and am still in touch with many people I met on Outward Bound to this day).  As I recall, most of us felt that it was an amazing, worthwhile and life-changing experience.  Except for one fellow, who was an excellent student and went on to Harvard, who said if he ever had to go hiking with a fifty-pound backpack again it would be too soon.

I’ve always wondered if he ever changed his opinion or still feels that way.


Seventh Graders: On the Road Again…and Again…and Again

by Lauren Railey, Middle School Head
Borges Ranch 2Seventh graders took experiential education to a new level for the past three weeks by getting off campus every single Friday. On September 18, they visited the Conservatory of Flowers and Botanical Gardens in San Francisco to investigate plant adaptations for science class. On September 25, they took a hike to Borges Ranch in Walnut Creek where they tested their stamina and resilience in the autumn heat,
explored a century-old ranch, and documented their experiences throughout the day. Finally, on October 2, they headed to the East Beach at San Francisco’s Crissy Field to create collaborative environmental sculptures using elements of natural design inspired by the art of Andy Goldsworthy.

In addition to powerful curricular connections to science and art, these Focus Days emphasized two of our pillars: Outdoor Adventure (the appreciation of physical fitness and personal growth through the challenge of outdoor adventures) and Environmental Stewardship (a deep respect for and understanding of the natural world woven into our history, curriculum, and values). Borges Ranch 1The rich and varied learning over the course of these three Fridays is a good reminder that some of the best learning takes place outside of the classroom.

Though these experiences were educational and rewarding, I doubt that any of the seventh graders will mind staying on campus next Friday for Greek Art Day.

Greetings from Bali!

by Mark Friedman, Community Service & Round Square Director

The singing and chanting we heard falling asleep the first night is from a nearby Hindu temple.  This has happened each evening.  There is also morning chanting, which I’ve used as an indicator that it’s time to get up.  I’m reminded of the Muslim call to prayer, which was such a significant feature of our experience in Jordan at last year’s Round Square conference.

Bali1As it turns out, the folks at the Green School weren’t able to organize meaningful service work for us all.  Instead, we have an action-packed program of experiential activities.  We’ve made paper from bamboo leaves, created traditional Balinese votives, learned how to do Balinese dance, had a laughter yoga class, and made chocolate sauce from scratch.  We’ve learned how some Green School students got a law passed banning plastic bags in Bai and discussed consumerism.

Bali2We got a tour of the Green School our first day here.  The Green School has amazing architecture.  The ‘heart of the school’ is the largest bamboo building in the world.  The computer lab is on the second floor, the library on the third floor, and there are many art classrooms scattered around its edges.  That night, we went on a ‘night safari’ on the campus.  Our leader was able to find a tree frog, toad, praying mantis, chameleon, and snake by shining his flashlight around in the trees and bushes.

Bali3Yesterday we went on a subac walk through a nearby village and rice fields.  The hike started at Bali’s largest banyan tree.  The Athenian student group insisted on a photo under the tree in honor of the book they read in 9th grade, Under the Banyan Tree.  For a good part of the walk, we hiked along an irrigation canal.  The canal has a few tunnels that we walked—or in my case, crawled—through.  The Balinese irrigation system was developed 500 years ago.  It still works without any machinery and distributes water to people throughout the island.  It’s so amazing that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site a few years ago.  Interestingly, our side of the valley was owned by the village and had corn and rice fields.  The other side of the river had high-end hotels and expensive homes.

Bali4This morning was spent learning about sustainable agriculture—and working at it. The Green School grows about 35% of the food it consumes. We worked in the compost shed—they have a couple of cows, whose manure helps enrich the compost—and the plant nursery and gardens.  In the afternoon, the students were split into five groups of five students and each group had to build a raft.  They were given inner tubes, bamboo poles, and lashing materials.  Afterward, we floated for 60 minutes down a wide irrigation canal.  It was great fun and a wonderful way to see some more of Bali.  Two of the other teachers and I drifted behind the students in inner tubes.  After the students’ rafts had all passed but before I’d arrived, a half-dozen boys ripped off their clothes and jumped into the canal to swim and then playfully followed us downstream.

In addition to Athenians, there are students on this preconference trip from South Africa, Australia, Peru and Canada.  The Athenian students are doing a great job of making friends and taking initiative.  The head of an Australian school commented on their comfort sharing their opinions and taking leadership in a group.  Yesterday, the 60 students were split into two teams for an afternoon activity and Brian Li was selected the leader of one of the teams.  The Athenian students are having a great experience and representing Athenian beautifully.

Trekking Through the Desert…and Liking It?

Published in The Pillar, Athenian’s student newspaper, May 2015

by Sarah Newsham ’15

“Current juniors, going through the monotonous process of buying the proper supplies and preparing themselves both physically and mentally, are starting to build up more doubts and reservations about the need for AWE in a modern schooling environment.”

Backpack Editorial Picture“…Concerned with the challenges that await them in the desert, [some juniors] insist that it is not right for a school to enforce such a physically and emotionally exhausting journey on its students.”

“[A junior] maintains that ‘trekking through a desert and facing the rigors of the elements does not meet the needs of what high schools are supposed to do’.”

These are all quotes from an article in The Pillar published in 2003 called “Athenian Wilderness reExamination: Questions arise as AWE celebrates its silver 25th Anniversary.” When I stumbled upon it in the library, I was struck by the subject and tone of the article. While some of the gripes sounded familiar (“When asked why his time on the course was so distasteful, [a] senior gave a bewildered look and responded, ‘Tell me how walking through a desert with a seventy pound pack and having to wipe your a– with rocks for three weeks is pleasant!?’”), others surprised me.

All of the students interviewed in the article, both those who had gone on AWE and those who hadn’t, as well as the author of the article, seemed to accept AWE as an activity that was loved by some and simply endured by many. In my opinion, the attitude of your average Athenian student today towards AWE has changed drastically since 2003.

The article got me thinking. When I talk to people who know of Athenian but don’t know a lot about the school, they always ask me about “that crazy survival/backpacking/wilderness thing you guys do” (and I’m sure others can relate to this experience). Sometimes their tone is one of awe (especially the adults, I have found), but oftentimes my non-Athenian peers react in horror when I describe the course to them. And I can hardly blame them–it is daunting and incredibly physically and emotionally challenging.

When I came to Athenian in sixth grade, the thought of going on AWE horrified me. However, as the dreaded event got closer, and I saw the seniors who came back gushing about their experiences, and the juniors looking forward to their turn, and the general excitement around the whole thing, I slowly warmed to the idea. By the time grouping came around, I could hardly wait.

In some ways, I attribute my positive experience to the expectations that were set by those who had gone on AWE before me. If I had expected to hate the trip, it definitely would have dampened my experience, and the fact that I was looking forward to it can only have improved it.

Of course, not everyone looks forward to AWE, and not everyone likes it, either. But I am so grateful that the community spirit towards AWE sets future AWE-ers up for a positive experience, and that we give everyone an honest shot at loving it.

Summertime and the Living Is…Meaningful

How are you spending your summer?

While some people look to summer for relaxation and vacation, many Athenians fill their summer time with opportunities for cultural exchanges, acquiring new skills, and developing new interests. Twenty Athenian students are spending a large part of their summer either on exchange at Round Square schools or on a Round Square International Service Project while many faculty spend their summer pursuing their passions and curiosities. Take a look at what Athenians are up to while school is out of session.

Making an Impact as Global Citizens

Natalie paints an older classroom in South Africa.

Read about Natalie and Anna’s adventures in South Africa building and painting a classroom for the Lwaleng Primary School outside White River, Mpumalanga.

Sharing space in Romania

Learn about Nick and Vidya’s adventures in Romania, camping, clearing trails and painting safety signs in the Apuseni Mountains. Madelyn is in Peru at a remote location and so their trip is not hosting a blog.

New Perspectives: Adventures in New Places

Kelsey at the Scotch Oakburn School in Australia

Kelsey at the Scotch Oakburn School in Australia

Other Athenian students are on exchange at Round Square schools around the world. Arman, Bronwyn, Trevor, Anni, Kari, Kelsey and Tom and Priya are in Australia; Brody is in Japan; Rebecca, Abraham, Trenton, and Nia are in South Africa; and Eli and Isa are in Argentina.

When I finally arrived at Jacqui’s house I knew that my experience would be exceptional because her family actually lives on a safari and game ranch in the bushes of South Africa called Kuduland Safaris. Her mom handed me a package of biltong, like beef jerky, and showed me my room. I was surrounded by animals: I saw antelope out my window and could hear lions roaring from my room. The Knott family was extremely welcoming and made it so that I felt very comfortable in their home before the end of the first night. I spent a week at her home before I would be going off to school and my experience was extremely special to me. By the end of the week I already hiked up to the mountains to watch the sunset with an incredible view, learned how to drive a stick shift on their helicopter runway, went into a lion cage to feed the lions, got chased by an elephant on a late night safari, saw her father hunt a wildebeest, touched a baboon’s butt, drove a four-wheeler, and visited the official “Dole” orange farm. I also had some amazing food prepared at her home. The meat was actually hunted on the farm! One of my favorite dishes was pup, which is like grits that you hand-dip in gravy. –Nia Warren ’16 on her first week in South Africa

Dick Bradford, Upper School Head, is traveling with his wife, Molly, to Tbilsi, Republic of Georgia, visiting their daughter and Athenian alum Meg McClure ’10. Meg is working for an NGO involved in Georgian human rights.

Life-Long Learners

More than 35 Athenian students are enrolled at Athenian’s Devil Mountain Summer Camp, taking classes and going on adventures. Another dozen or so students and young alumni are gaining valuable life experience by working as camp counselors, TAs and lifeguards.

Bruce Hamren, science teacher, is participating in a Teacher Institute at the Exploratorium, discovering options for data collection and visualization while learning new tools for the Art and Science of Making class.

Teachers Gabe del Real and Kalyan Balaven will be representing Athenian at the International Academic Forum conference. Kal will also be recording a full-length album called “The X-Factor” which tells the story of Hip-Hop as culture and will be an integral part of his new BlendEd course, Beats, Rhymes & Life.

Jessica Donovan, Head of Middle School, and several other Middle School faculty, went to an iPad conference at the Hillbrook School in Los Gatos to prepare for the 2nd year of 1:1 iPads in the Middle School.

Sharing Our Passions

sweeney todd final posterMark Mendelson, theater tech teacher, is the vocal director for Sweeney Todd at Ohlone College which runs through this Saturday. It’s a big show in an outdoor amphitheater with a big cast and big orchestra–get your tickets now!

Adam Thorman, photography teacher, has a photo show at Helix in Los Altos. Check out a feature of his work on the Bay Area Art & Science Interdisciplinary Collaborative Session (BAASICS) site.


Leave a comment below to share what kinds of intellectual explorations and meaningful contributions you and your family have been engaged in this summer.

Inaugural Run Through AWE Ceremonial Gate from the Class of 2013

DSC08497The Class of 2013 wanted to honor their Athenian Wilderness Experience with a lasting class gift of a decorative gate for Athenian’s traditional Run-In. To complete their 26 day backpacking adventure, students run the last eight miles back to campus, where the entire community welcomes them back on the field. Previously, students ran through a small gate onto the field; now, students run through a beautiful, symbolic gate inscribed with the words “There’s more in you than you think,” by Kurt Hahn.

DSC_0018To inaugurate the gate, alumni were invited back for a ceremonial jog-through. David Buchanan ’72, Nicola Place ’76, Bryna Winchell ’84, John Kohler ’88, Wendell C. Arnold ’92, Allison Fletcher ’96, Philippa Stewart ’04, and Beth Heinen ’05 represented all AWE alumni by jogging through the gate before the Death Valley 2014 group came in.

Allie Rowe, Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Dick Bradford, Upper School Head and Academic Dean, and Gabe Del Real, Dean of Curriculum, emceed the event before the small group of alums and the Board of Trustees. Dick spoke about how AWE is the pinnacle of experiential education, students learn compassion for each other, and gain a better appreciation for the outdoors. He concluded with a piece of a poem by Tennyson:



I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! 
strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The side of the gate facing the street reads "The Athenian Wilderness Experience"

The side of the gate facing the street reads “The Athenian Wilderness Experience”

Watch the 4-minute ceremony.

The gate’s design was a combination of student and alumni ideas, brought to life by Chad Dietz, a metal artist out of Monterey County.

“Not only did I notice my physical strength–feeling weak and still running farther than I ever thought possible–but I realized that as ‘strong’ as some people are on their own, knowing that you can ask for help and depend on your support system gives you immense strength to do things you never thought possible,” Emily Knell ’07 reflected on her own run-in experience.

Oracle Bones and AWE: Reenacting an Ancient Tradition

by Alana Brown ’15, Modern Chinese History Seminar

Pics0039Friday, March 8, 2014 – It’s late afternoon, last class of the day, and some sixteen students and one teacher gather around a clay oven behind the Main Hall of Athenian. The oven has been cooking up heat since lunch time, and a few more students gather some brush to kick it further up a notch. The teacher presents a hip bone, marked with student names in Sharpie, and carved with the Mandarin character for patience, 忍 (rěn).

This hip bone, obtained from a butcher, symbolizes an oracle bone–an ancient relic that represents the first forms of writing and references. During the Shang Dynasty of ancient China, cattle scapula bones, or turtle shells, were inscribed with characters and basic pictograms, asking ancestors and gods questions about the near future, and possibly guidance for what actions to take. The inscribed bone was put into the fire in the hopes that it will pop and crack. The audible pops would be interpreted to mean something, as well as the cracks in the bone, possibly changing the carving of the character and thus causing another interpretation.

Pics0034The timing of the bone burning was intentional: all but four of the students in our Modern Chinese History seminar are about to embark on the Athenian Wilderness Experience, Athenian’s most prominent rite of passage.* As we are reading Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China, we wanted to re-enact the old tradition in a symbolic imitation of what would’ve happened in centuries past by inscribing our wishes for our classmates and ourselves. Combined, this little gathering behind the Main Hall represents the AWE and Oracle Bones coming together in an honorary (and relevant) ceremony of good-byes and good-wishes to the juniors embarking on the Death Valley AWE. 

Pics0038Ultimately, whatever interpretation would have been made in the Shang Dynasty of Ancient China, the interpretation this fine afternoon is clear: best wishes to all juniors going on AWE 2013-2014, and congratulations to the “AWE Heroes” who have already returned. We can’t wait to see you at Run-In on Thursday at 1:10pm!

*The Athenian Wilderness Experience, more commonly known as AWE, is a mandatory, 26~ day backpacking trip that all juniors are required to complete in either the desert of Death Valley or in the mountains of the High Sierras.

Interim Adventures Near and Far

Before Spring Break, Athenians scatter the Bay Area and the globe to immerse themselves in 3-10 day experiential adventures. Themes explored range from U.S. history in Washington, D.C. to learning to surf in Santa Cruz, to exploring the Bay Area food scene. Students are travelling internationally to New Zealand, Kenya and Tanzania, Belize, and Costa Rica, and nationally to New Orleans, Ashland, Pinnacles National Monument, DC, and Hawaii. Look for more photos in the next week.

Women’s Self-Defense: Protecting yourself from real-life threats.

DSC08440 DSC08438

Monterey Bay: Elephant seals at Año Nuevo, tidepooling, and the Aquarium




8th Grade Trip to Washington, D.C.: Witnessing U.S. History in the nation’s capital.

Students read prepared essays on men and women of courage buried in Arlington National Cemetary

Students read prepared essays on men and women of courage buried in Arlington National Cemetery

Walking with the Arlington guards

Walking with the Arlington guards

Snow in DC! The 8th grade's first snowball fight.

Snow in DC! The 8th grade’s first snowball fight.



Maui: Searching for a Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, surfing, and soaking in the sun.

Maui, Hawaii (photo by Nadia '17)

Maui, Hawaii (photo by Nadia ’17)

New Orleans: Discovering the birthplace of jazz, Athenian’s ad hoc jazz band will perform at a local event.

New Orleans (photo by Jonothon '16)

New Orleans (photo by Jonathon ’16)

Eating and Cooking Locally: Tasting the Bay Area food scene and cooking a locally-sourced, organic meal.



Kitchen Chemistry: Making microwave muffins, liquid nitrogen ice cream, and glow-in-the-dark jello. (Plus pancakes, caramel, soft pretzels, silly putty, and several experimental creations. For example, what does a muffin without baking soda taste like? Or can you make strawberry sorbet out of just strawberries?)

Kitchen Chemistry: making caramel

Making caramel


Fun with liquid nitrogen

 Engineering and Design Outreach: 5th graders from Montair Elementary came to tool around in the Maker Studio, with the guidance of members of the Robotics team.

Teaching 5th graders how to rivet on an airplane part.

Teaching 5th graders how to rivet on an airplane part.

Using the lathe

Using the lathe

5th graders driving the robot

5th graders driving the robot

Building styrofoam gliders

Building styrofoam gliders

5th graders from Montair came to tool around in the Maker Studio, with the guidance of members of the Robotics team. Here they are driving Athenian's 2012 competition robot.

Here they are driving Athenian’s 2012 competition robot.

Industrial Arts at The Crucible: Welding, mold-making, jewelry-making, metal-smithing, and more.

DSC_0347 DSC_0358 DSC_0314 DSC_0320 DSC_0234 DSC_0350

Check out previous interim trips and activities:

Interim 2013: Mountain Biking, Puerto Rico, US China, San Francisco, Bodega Bay

Interim 2013: China, Puerto Rico, Ireland, DC, Bow-Making, Kitchen Chemistry

Interim 2013

Athenian Interim

7th Grade China Trip

On Exchange at Round Square’s Founding Schools: Salem and Gordonstoun

Athenian was one of six founding schools of Round Square, an international consortium founded by educational leader Kurt Hahn. This semester, two Athenian students are on exchange at two of the other founding Round Square schools, Salem School in Germany and Gordonstoun in Scotland.

Salem: Life in a German Castle

by Sasha Hart ’14

Greetings from Salem International College in Germany!

Sasha Hart - Salem #1

I’ve been here for almost a month now so I figured it was time to send an update to you all. The first week I spent getting to know the place and the people. I met the other exchange from Markham College in Peru, as well as the other girls in my wing, Mädchenbau 1, including my roommate Delia who is from Switzerland. During that first week I got to take a trip to the town of Überlingen which is about a 15 minute bus ride from campus, where most of the people from Salem go to do their shopping, go out for dinner or see a movie.

Sasha Hart - Salem #2

Headerbild_Spetzgart_2_02Since they don’t do exchanges into twelfth grade here, I am taking classes in the 11th grade in IB (International Baccalaureate) Year 1, which is the program where the classes are taught in English. There are two academic programs at the school, the IB and the Abitur. The Abitur is the German-speaking academic program and about two thirds of the 300 students here are in that program, including my roommate. Luckily, most everyone has, at the very least, a pretty good understanding of English. I am living on the 11th grade campus called Spetzgart, a beautiful old castle overlooking Lake Constance. The 12th graders live a five-minute walk away at the Härlen campus, which was built in the early 2000s. Similar to Athenian, there is a morning meeting at the Härlen campus every Monday where there are announcements and things of that nature so I’ve gotten to spend time at both campuses.

Sasha Hart - Salem #4

One thing that is different about Salem is that there are classes on Saturdays. While this was a little bit of a surprise for me, I’ve found that it is not so bad to have class on Saturdays especially because my only class on Saturdays is Art and I have plenty of free periods during the week to explore Uberlingen or hang out with friends. In fact, my schedule here is similar to what one would typically have in college rather than high school, with classes meeting once or twice a week for an hour and a half each meeting. Some days I don’t have a class until noon! They also do something called Dienst here every Monday, which is basically community service. Some people help out with the fire service or mentally ill or at the café on campus as well as many other things. I will be working at the café where I will hopefully make all the drinks correctly; I’m told the coffee machine is idiot-proof.

Sasha Hart - Salem #5

It has been interesting to experience life at a boarding school as everyone at Salem is a boarder. Not only have I gotten to meet people from all over the world, but I’ve also come to learn what it’s like to live at school. It’s great to be able to have your friends just down the hall from you; at the same time, if you’re trying to go to sleep and someone upstairs has just discovered a mouse in their room it might be a little while before you have peace and quiet. I got to be part of my wing’s photo for the yearbook where we all dressed up as stereotypical types of students (nerds, sporty kids etc.). I was supposed to be a stereotypical American high school girl, which to them meant I had to either dress up like the Mean Girls characters or the Gossip Girls characters. I don’t think I pulled off Blair Waldorf’s look but I think they were satisfied with my attempt to look the part.

Sasha Hart - Salem #3

I could go on and on about what is different and what is similar about Salem and Athenian but I’ll leave that for another time. I’ll just briefly mention a couple of things I’ve done since arriving here. After my second week here, I convinced another girl to come with me to tour another town on Lake Constance called Meersburg. There is both a big winery overlooking the lake and an old castle there. The castle is where a famous German poet lived and worked until her death. It was really interesting to look around the castle and see all the different rooms and how they lived back then. As there aren’t any organized excursions for the exchanges here, I’m going to London this coming weekend to visit a family friend and the next weekend I will be staying with Theresa’s (the exchange from Salem at Athenian right now) family in Munich and they are going to show me around there. The weekend after that we have Carnival here at Salem which as I understand it is a weekend of parties where you dress up in costumes and have a good time. Then another week and I will be home.

My time here is flying by and I’m really going to miss all the great people I’ve met here and experiences I’ve had.

Until next time! Auf Wiedersehen!

Gordonstoun: Adventures in Uniform 

by Cade Niles ’16

I’ve been at the Gordonstoun School in Scotland for over five weeks now and I’ve had many notable experiences.

An interesting experience for me has been my participation in seamanship here at Gordonstoun. Seamanship is a three-day training program for all year 10’s in order to prepare them for a larger sailing voyage later in the springtime. Although I will leave for home before this larger sailing trip, I had a fantastic time during those three days. We began our instruction in a small school-owned building near Hopeman Harbor, and then worked our way to the boats. Still in the harbor, we began learning how to operate the many different and complex parts of the boat. Here is a photo of the boats still in the harbor:


boat2Once our instructors were satisfied with our ability to “lower and dip” the sails, we set out into the Moray Firth. (You can look it up on Google maps to get a sense of where that is.) To safely exit the harbor, we had to row for a time. I also enjoyed the rowing quite a lot, strangely. Once we got out into the water, this is what it looked like:

While I have been known to get very seasick in the past—just ask Redden, Addison, Haley, or Abigail–I felt completely fine for the many hours we were out on the water. Unlike a few of my classmates, I was ecstatic to be out on the water instead of in classed. This experience has made me seriously consider taking up both sailing and rowing.


Being at Gordonstoun has made me appreciate both the relaxed environment Athenian creates as well as the democratic nature of the school. There is a uniform at Gordonstoun: black shoes, black slacks, a white button-down shirt, and a blue school sweater. I didn’t really get comfortable in it until four weeks had passed. Being in a uniform every day makes me miss the choice around what I wear to school every day. Over all though, wearing a uniform hasn’t been bad at all.

More notably, I miss the democracy we have at Athenian. It seems to me that Gordonstoun is fairly bureaucratic and that things do not easily change. While many people here comment on how casual Athenian is (calling teachers by their first names), I have to keep reassuring them that our classes are very challenging and we all work very hard. Because of the democratic nature of Athenian, we as a community can assess what needs to change and how. To me, Gordonstoun suffers from doing things traditionally because “that’s how it has been done for a long time.” Athenian benefits from playing largely by its own rules and constantly evolving to better educate its students for the modern world.

photo[1]Both Athenian and Gordonstoun are Round Square schools and both represent the IDEALS in many ways; however, I think that Athenian is more academically challenging. For both schools, service, adventure, and internationalism are all taken very seriously, and time is allotted for students to have opportunities in all of these fields.  In order to make time for these, I believe that Gordonstoun somewhat reduces the difficulty of its academics. I have found that this is one of the main differences between the schools. However, the daily schedule at Gordonstoun is much more full and simply cannot provide the time required for more nightly homework. While this may sound like an insult, I don’t intend it to be and am simply commenting on the different ways each school has decided to spend its students’ time.

photoDorm life has been much more comfortable than I had assumed it would be. I’ve made many great friends in my dorm. It feels a bit like a school trip sometimes, staying in a hotel and joking around with classmates late at night. I am constantly around people my age and it’s a bit liberating to be immature around people who won’t scoff at it.

My time on exchange has taught me how sociable I can be. I’ve been going to Athenian since 6th grade and have only had to make new friends occasionally at summer camps. Never have I had an experience quite like this one. While I was quiet and reserved for a few weeks, I slowly began to extrovert myself and make many new friends. It has been really fantastic to make so many new friends from all around the world. It has given me new confidence and has eased my worries about making friends once I leave for college.

In the past five weeks, I’ve learned a lot about myself. This has been a fantastic experience that I would recommend to all. I anxiously await seeing you all when classes resume in April.