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The 101 on Steward Outdoor School

Are you seeking that spark that will ignite your child’s passion for learning? Students at Steward Outdoor School learn through thematic hands-on instruction, spend hours outside each day, and spend four weeks out of each semester on outdoor adventure expeditions. Students leave Steward with a stronger sense of self and are prepared to think critically, communicate effectively, organize themselves independently, and be the leaders and stewards of tomorrow.  

What is Steward Outdoor School? Steward is an outdoor education boarding school for 6th-9th graders.  Students may attend for one semester or an entire year. Steward is a program of Incarnation Camp and Conference Center, a non-profit 501(c)(3) with a 131 year legacy of delivering life-changing education, retreat and camping programs to thousands of youth and adults each year.  Our beautiful campus spans over 700 acres in Essex, Connecticut.  The mile-long spring-fed lake is the centerpiece with miles of hiking trails around it. Our dorm was custom built in 2017 and our student center and dining hall will be brand new in fall 2018.  Our campus is home to a working farm and organic vegetable garden, both high and low ropes courses, an indoor gymnasium, outdoor roller rink, sports fields, a maple-sugaring house, woodworking, ceramics, music and art studios.

How will my son or daughter benefit from a semester or year at Steward? Students will leave the Steward with a stronger sense of self and be prepared to think critically, communicate effectively, organize themselves independently, and be the leaders and stewards of tomorrow. Attending Steward will:

  • Give students a head start on developing independence, organization, good judgement, risk-taking and other life skills necessary for success in high school, college and beyond.
  • Nurture a student’s motivation for and interest in learning.
  • Complement a student’s education with experiences that are not available at their home school.
  • Allow students from public and day schools to benefit from a boarding school experience without the cost or time commitment of attending a four-year school.
  • Offer students considering boarding schools with the experience of living and learning in a residential setting.
  • Provide students with unique, eye-catching experience that sets them apart from other applicants in the high school and college admission processes.

What is the instructional approach at Steward? Hands-on!  Students are engaged in thematic curriculum with a particular focus on environmental science and ethics.  Our rigorous academic curriculum aligns with traditional middle school courses, allowing students to transition between their sending school and Steward.  Math and foreign language are taught 1:1 or in small groups, which allows students to push ahead at their own pace. In addition to core classes, students participate in electives including woodworking, ceramics, farming, technology, and music. The Curriculum Snapshot illustrates our thematic approach.

Essential Question: How are natural systems, individuals and communities connected and interdependent?

Theme: Construction of the Erie Canal

Science: What might be potential ecological problems with connecting two separate bodies of water? Collect and ID “invasive species,” discuss problems they pose and solutions. Use the Bioscope in the Nature Center to view microscopic species.

Social Studies/History: What role did the construction of the Erie Canal play in Westward Expansion? Mapping population growth and distribution during the 19th century.

Literature: Class Reading and Discussion of Desperate Journey by Jim Murphy.

Composition: 5 paragraph Essay: How did life for farmers in Upstate NY change after the Erie Canal was built.  How did that affect the economy?

Outdoor Adventure Expedition: Mapping the Erie Canal: how did the terrain affect the planning and construction of the canal.  How did the canal affect population distribution and development in New York?

Environmental Outdoor Ed: Waterfront: Examining buoyancy and velocity on the lake: canoeing, kayaking, rowing, and paddling with cargo.  Ropes Course: team building and challenge by choice as a means for preparing to go on Outdoor Adventure Expeditions. Nature Center: What Indigenous artifacts may have been found during the construction of the Erie Canal? How does technological change affect indigenous communities?

Farming Elective: Comparing subsistence vs. commercial farming

Math: Modeling the Original Erie Canal vs. 1835 Expansion vs. NY Barge Canal: how did the engineering change to increase the waterways’ capacity.

Ethics Seminar: School-wide debate based on Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect: Does one have a responsibility to behave ethically in a global age in which our personal actions can result in the gravest of consequences in places remote in time or space from ourselves?

How will my child develop leadership and teamwork skills at Steward?Our Environmental Outdoor Education course combines environmental learning, wilderness education and adventure-based physical activities that allow students to practice and learn how to communicate, work together and take risks. Environmental Outdoor Education class varies by the day and season.

ACTIVITIES INCLUDE:

  • High and Low Ropes Course
  • Primitive Skills
  • Wilderness Survival
  • Rock Climbing & Bouldering
  • Land Topography and Map Reading
  • Canoeing, Kayaking & Sailing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Mountain Biking
  • Archery
  • Maple Sugaring
  • Farming
  • Backcountry Cooking
  • Wilderness Navigation
  • Hiking
  • Cross-country Skiing
  • Foraging
  • Naturalist Workshops
  • Field Trips to Conservation Sites
  • Sports & Games

What opportunities does Steward provide for adventure? Outdoor expeditions are intentionally built into our curriculum: students learn about geology and watersheds while canoeing down the Connecticut River; discuss transportation, trade and population while biking along the Erie Canal, and chart our course using mathematics and navigation while sailing up the Maine coast.

Outdoor adventure expeditions are a highlight of the Steward experience. In addition to day and weekend excursions, Stewards spend four weeks out of each semester on longer adventures that build wilderness skills, confidence and community. Whether students come to Steward as avid outdoors lovers, or having never stepped foot in the woods before, our faculty and Wilderness Trip leaders give students the skills and support that they need to thrive on outdoor adventure expeditions.

EXAMPLES OF THESE EXPERIENCES INCLUDE:

  • Backpacking along the Appalachian Trail
  • Canoeing down the Connecticut River in VT
  • Biking along the Erie Canal
  • Sailing a schooner along the Maine coast
  • Sea kayaking in Maine or the Mid Atlantic
  • Snowshoeing or cross country skiing hut to hut in the White Mountains
  • Rock climbing in the Catskills
  • Camping in New England and the Mid Atlantic

When are your admissions deadlines?

Steward accepts all applications on a rolling basis, but we strongly encourage you to apply by our Early Admissions Deadlines.

  

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