Field Expeditions 2021

Lauren Kelley, Director of Experiential Education
Dear Students and Families,

I’m writing with an update on one of our hallmark programs, Field Expeditions.  In a typical year, this ten-day, experiential education program is one of the most anticipated periods of the year.  In small groups of roughly ten students and two faculty, students venture into the Southwest (and sometimes beyond) to embark on transformative, immersive excursions.  The mission of Field Expeditions is to encourage students to uncover transferable life lessons and develop reverie for place through authentic challenge and powerfully connected community. 

We believe deeply in this kind of learning at VVS.  It’s some of the best of what we do.  Students return grounded, changed, and palpably connected.  The community is ablaze with stories and excitement.  It’s for all these reasons that we are determined to preserve some element of this experience amidst the COVID pandemic and this most challenging school year.

We moved Field Expeditions to the end of the school year (whereas they usually occur in the fall) in order to run this program amidst a more controlled pandemic.  We have also built an adapted version of the program in order to align with our pandemic protocols.  Read on for more information as it relates to your student’s boarding or day status.  

Boarding Students
Once exams are complete and the academic year is behind us, we will dive into this final program Thursday, May 20th through Friday, May 28th.  Students will take part in two three-day experiences that will be entirely wilderness-based and located within 90 minutes of campus.  The Field Expeditions Course Catalogue is attached.  Between their two expeditions, campus will come alive for Community Day and Awesomeness Day, two days aimed at fostering community, having fun, and giving back to campus.  

This coming Friday, February 26th, students will learn about the eight different expeditions offered and wander through the Expo asking questions of the instructor pairs.  Over the weekend, students will communicate their preferences through a form and they will soon thereafter be assigned to two expeditions.  Throughout the course of April, students will meet weekly with their expedition teams in order to prepare.  Once students are assigned, you will hear from the trip leaders to learn more about the particulars of your child’s expeditions as well as the details of necessary equipment. 

Day Students
Because we must begin planning this program, we must operate under the conditions in which we currently find ourselves.  We have built an alternative program for day students so that they, as a community, can engage in experiential learning while returning home each night.  This program will include day trips around the greater Sedona area.  Families will be responsible for transporting their child to and from identified locations each day.  A group of five faculty members is working to build two distinct, four-day experiences that are aligned thematically.  Expedition A will run Thursday, May 20th through Sunday, May 23rd.  After having Monday off as a day of reflection and rest, Expedition B will run Tuesday, May 25th through Friday, May 28th.  Day students will also have the opportunity to propose a Purpose Project, as they did for Project Period this fall, in lieu of participating in this program should this be preferable.  These programs will continue even if day students are able to return to campus for classes between now and Field Expeditions due simply to the advance notice necessary to plan such programming.  

As we build out the details of this program, we will be in touch with further information.  For now, we wanted to communicate that we are working hard to provide our day students with experiential learning that gets them out from behind the screen and connects them with each other and the local environment.    

That said, VVS has, as you know, invited day students to participate in our boarding program this year.  We recognize some day students may be motivated to become a temporary boarder in order to participate in the traditions of May as well as Field Expeditions.  If this is the case, we ask that you communicate this decision asap.  Please email me ( before Thursday, March 4th to confirm your interest and I will coordinate with Admission.  We will take such requests on a first-come, first-serve basis given our limited availability in dorms and on expeditions.  We cannot guarantee availability at this point.  Once confirmed, I will be in touch to ensure that your child can participate in the Field Expedition sign-up process.  Please refer to the Field Expedition Course Catalogue to get a sense of this year’s programming.    

Virtual Students
As they did for Project Period in the fall, we will be asking virtual students to build their own self-directed purpose projects from the comfort of home.  Advisors are here to support students in brainstorming and proposing a project.  Perhaps they will be able to continue with the project started in December.  Advisors will be in touch regarding the process and timeline for this program in the coming weeks.  

Please let me know if you have further questions about this or other experiential education programming at Verde Valley School.

Lauren Kelley, Director of Experiential Education

Please click the link below:

2021 Field Expeditions Catalogue.pdf

Verde Valley School is a co-educational, International Baccalaureate boarding and day school for students in grades 9-12.
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