Posted by: csdailyblog | August 24, 2009

Move-In Day and Orientation

best open house

Cathy Palmer, Dean of Residential Life, leads Elaine House students in a discussion as they develop general house rules.

So what did we do at Conserve School once parents left on Saturday?

First, students gathered at the Commons area — the firepit area along the student path, between the houses — to reacquaint themselves with one another by first playing group “rock paper scissors”.  In this version of the classic, losers have to line up behind winners, so that gradually the lines get longer and longer until the top two competitors are dueling it out, with all the other students lined up behind them. The final battle was between Teagan and Bennett Rock, one of our new graduate fellows, with Teagan the victor. The gathering turned slightly more serious — only slightly — when Cathy and Phil explained new fire drill procedures and asked students to practice. The new protocol for counting heads during a fire drill is boys and girls line up separately and alphabetically. To practice, girls and boys raced against one another to see which group could line up alphabetically the fastest while being completely silent. The girls beat the boys hands down. It was fascinating to watch the differences in how the genders approached the task. The girls took on the task with great seriousness and determination, while the boys took a more laid-back approach. As the light faded, bats swooped over our heads.

Boys and girls then went their separate ways into their houses for house meetings. Above, you can see Cathy leading the girls’ house meeting in the student apartment, and below, a group of girls listening.

Both houses worked on collaboratively setting up ground rules for living together by first reviewing the Conserve Code values — respect, responsibility, compassion, honesty, and justice — and discussing what each value sounds like, feels like, and looks like within the houses. This topic easily led to discussions of laundry, dishes, friendships, TV, and quiet hours.

Once the house meetings were over, students regrouped in the Gathering Space. Sitting in a circle, they described for one another how they had envisioned the code values playing out in the two houses. It turned out that both houses had come up with similar guidelines for living comfortably and peacefully with one another: don’t take someone’s things without asking, if you find clothes in the dryer treat them gently, do your own dishes, and so on. Then came the traditional opening night activities: the rain/thunder circle and the candlelight ceremony. All went smoothly and students walked silently back to their houses by candlelight.

On Sunday, students were up early for swimming and canoeing tests and a review of Leave No Trace principles. Although it was cool at first, the sun came out and the temperature rose quickly, so by lunchtime students were in shorts and t-shirts.

Matt by the garden

Matt stops by the Community Garden to check his map during the Scavenger Hunt.

After a lunch cook-out, the scavenger hunt began. The graduate fellows had prepared for students maps and instruction cards. The cards directed students around campus to various locations and instructed them to reflect on and journal about various aspects of the campus.

Here is Graduate Fellow Jon Ciatti’s description of the activity he and other grad fellows designed:

“The scavenger hunt was actually more of a reflection time for the students to get back in touch with the campus individually. They were asked questions about the connections with nature that they have developed in the past and given a few hours to walk the paths while thinking about the answers to the questions.  Prompts included ‘tell us about a favorite memory from time spent outside’ and ‘write about a lesson you learned while spending time outside.’   When we got back, we encouraged them to think about their year here in terms of how they have connected or will connect with this campus and create a lasting bond with it.”

It was the perfect day to be strolling outdoors: sunny, breezy, not too hot and not too cold.

After the Scavenger Hunt, we discussed Community Service Teams in the LRC and students filled out sheets with their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices.

Quentin and Stephanie on the Black Trail

Quentin and Stephanie stop on the Black Trail to read a new set of instructions during the Scavenger Hunt.

Dinner was a celebratory turkey dinner with all the trimmings, served family style.

This first evening and day couldn’t have gone better. It is touching to see how glad the students are to see one another. They have been a delight to work with these past two days.

Stefan, Cathy, Phil and I will continue to add more updates and photos regularly to this blog. Let us know what you you’d like us to write about.

Mary Anna



  1. It’s great to have almost real-time info and photos! Keep it up.

    • Thanks for letting us know you like it. We are going to do our best to keep posts frequent.

  2. This is wonderful! Thank you for having this — it will be a neat way to share with family, friends, and prospective students too!


  3. Neato. Good choice on choosing wordpress Mary Anna. Should work well.

  4. Mary Anna,

    Thank you for setting this up and getting it off to such a great start!


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