Summer Camp Begins

MG_1399MG_1390MG_1381MG_1327Ojai Valley School has opened its 72nd summer camp, welcoming students from around the world to our campuses in Ojai, California. We are off to great start with the arrival of an enthusiastic group of campers, and we look forward to watching them learn and grow.

In the coming weeks new and returning campers will have the opportunity to explore the swimming holes and hiking trails of the nearby Sespe Wilderness, and splash in the surf of the Pacific Ocean. They will sharpen their academics in college-prep classes, ride horses, stage plays, read books, calculate math problems, roast marshmallows, and become champion archers. At the end of camp, they will have forged lifelong friendships and developed new found independence, confidence, teamwork, leadership, and character.

Campers and families may follow the OVS Summer Camp Facebook page for regular updates with pictures. Camp photos may also be viewed on the camp photos page.

Space is still available for the last two-week session. Our flexible schedule allows day and resident campers to enroll for two, four, or six week sessions between June 22-August 2, 2014. Check out or OVS Summer Camp pages for dates, fees and more! If you are interested in joining camp, or if your current summer camper wants to extend his or her stay, please contact the Admission Office. The Ojai Valley School Summer Camp thanks you for sending your child to camp and we look forward to the next six weeks of fun!

This month at OVS


June 8, 2014 – Our awards and commencement ceremonies for students in grades PK-12 have concluded, and we culminated the school year with the graduation of our senior class at the Upper Campus. As a community, we could not be prouder for all that has transpired this past year. Dozens of students were recognized in grades 6-12 for their hard work and talent at our annual awards ceremonies. And soon the Class of 2014 will scatter all over the country and the world to begin their college experiences.

College acceptances have come form Brown, Columbia, Northeastern, NYU, George Washington University, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Riverside, California College of the Arts, Chapman University, Whittier College, Boston University, Colorado State, the Rochester Institute of Technology, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and more.

Two students plan to study in England – Eujena Sohn will attend the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and Sherry Chen will head to Kings College in Oxford.

“I felt really grateful,” said Emmy Addison, who will head to Pitzer College this fall to pursue her interest in philosophy and the humanities. “It’s a four-year project, and I’m finally going to college. I felt really lucky.”

Click here to see graduation, promotion, and awards ceremony pictures on the Images of OVS page. Click the video link below to view a story by senior Shelly Xu on where the OVS graduates are headed in the fall.

Seniors Talk College by Shelly Xu (U14)


Thumbs Up Grads

Our youngest grads walked the stage for kindergarten graduation and primary promotion. See photos on the Images of OVS page.

College Bound

college pic

The Class of 2014 earned acceptances to an impressive list of schools, ranging from small liberal arts colleges to Ivy League universities.

May 4 — Our college bound seniors proudly wore their college sweatshirts and t-shirts last week during College Swag Day,  a fun new tradition at the Upper Campus that celebrates the May 1 national reply date when most colleges require a commitment from the students they’ve accepted. Brown, Columbia, Northeastern, NYU, Pitzer College, King’s College London, St. Andrews University in Scotland, California College of the Arts, Chapman University, Whittier College, Boston University, Colorado State, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo are among the diverse schools our seniors have chosen to attend.

We are exceptionally proud of their accomplishments, as well as their hard work in preparing their college applications. It’s an impressive list of schools, ranging from small liberal arts colleges to big Ivy League universities. But more importantly it is a list that reflects the interests, talents, and diversity of this soon-to-be graduating class. We encourage students to seek out that “right fit” school when applying to college, and to consider what best suits them in terms of school size, geography, programs and campus community. Our seniors have spent a year working alongside College Counselor Laura Boismenue in pursuit of finding the right fit, and we are confident most have found it for the coming years. Check out her College Blog for more details on OVS College Counseling.

But while the decisions have been made, there is still much work ahead for our seniors, juniors and sophomores who tackle Advanced Placement tests between May 5-15. Starting this week, 51 students at the Upper Campus will take 154 AP exams in 15 subject areas. The AP exams are administered over a two-week period and represent the culmination of college-level work in a given discipline in a secondary school setting. Students who perform well can receive course credit or advanced standing at thousands of universities worldwide. We wish our students success on these exams and ask parents, staff, and students to be thoughtful and supportive of the test-takers during this challenging time.

SAT Subject Tests

Should you take SAT II Subject Tests?  The short answer is: it depends.
First, what are SAT II Subject Tests (commonly referred to as “Subject Tests”)?  Here’s a good summary on what the Subject Tests are (directly from their website):
Subject Tests are hour-long, content-based tests that allow you to showcase achievement in specific subject areas where you excel. These are the only national admission tests where you choose the tests that best showcase your achievements and interests.
SAT Subject Tests allow you to differentiate yourself in the college admission process or send a strong message regarding your readiness to study specific majors or programs in college. In conjunction with your other admission credentials (your high school record, SAT scores, teacher recommendations, etc.), they provide a more complete picture of your academic background and interests.
Some colleges also use Subject Tests to place students into the appropriate courses. Based on your performance on the test(s), you could potentially fulfill basic requirements or receive credit for introductory-level courses.
There are 20 SAT Subject Tests in five general subject areas: English, history, languages, mathematics and science.
So, by the College Board’s assessment, Subject Tests give you an advantage in the admission process.  But, as the owners of the test, they are highly biased.
The reality is that most colleges don’t require Subject Tests nor take them into consideration in determining one’s admissibility.  Some colleges will require or recommend that you take certain Subject Tests (usually ones that align with the major that the student is planning to study).  Also, for some colleges, foreign language Subject Tests can assist in advanced placement in that language in college courses.
So, to determine which Subject Tests, if any, you should plan to take, research those colleges that you are most interesting applying to.  In considering the colleges on your prospective list (OVS Juniors build a list called “Colleges I’m Thinking About” on Naviance), you should visit the admission website and/or contact those school’s admission offices to investigate if they require or recommend certain Subject Tests (which are essentially the same; if they “recommend” a Subject Test- you take it!).
A quick call or email to a college admission office will answer this question.  For example, here’s information from UCSB’s admission site about SAT Subject tests (middle of the page, called “Examination Requirement”):

Outdoor Education


Middle School students camped, hiked and explored swimming holes in the mountains north of Ojai in May.

Continuing a long tradition at Ojai Valley School, middle school students in grades 6-8 ventured in to the wilderness for their spring backpacking trips. Students hiked and camped in the Sespe and Dick Smith Wilderness areas north of Ojai and Santa Barbara. They worked as team members to carry and filter water, to cook over a campfire, and to share experiences in the outdoors.

Spring backpacking is a key component of the OVS Outdoor Education program. Students develop leadership, perseverance, organization, and good communication. They also learn to manage risks. Those can include summoning the courage to leap off a rock into a shimmering swimming hole, or coping with an itchy case of poison oak. But above all, these memorable experiences teach students the importance of the environment and what it means to be good stewards of our natural resources.

Our youngest campers in first and second grades will develop their outdoor skills during one-night camping adventures at the Lower Campus and nearby Lake Casitas, while their counterparts at the high school depart for a horse camping trip near Santa Barbara and a fly fishing trip to the eastern Sierras.

At Ojai Valley School, we strive to develop the intellectual and personal growth of all of our students – and Outdoor Education is a core part of that experience. The Outdoor Education program on both campuses introduces students, grades K-12, to the stunning mountains, canyons, deserts, and beaches in the West, while teaching students how to respect and care for our fragile environment.

Click here to see pictures from the 2014 Spring Backpacking trips at Lower Campus.

Blue Ribbon Weekend for Equestrian Team

equestrianIt was a blue-ribbon weekend for the OVS equestrian team as our students rode away with top honors in show jumping and dressage at the US Pony Club Mega Rally at Hansen Dam equestrian center in Sylmar, the largest gathering of Pony Club members in the Camino Real Region. The rally also served as the show jumping and dressage qualifier for the national championships to be held in Kentucky this July.

OVS show jumping team of Leila Giannetti (team captain), Maya Mullins, Mattie White, Amy Xu (L11), and Emma Gustafson (stable manager) were the overall champions in horse management and won 1st place in show jumping.

“Although this was the first mounted rally for the group, meticulous preparation beforehand and fabulous teamwork on arrival at the show grounds allowed the students to successfully decode the rally format and completely care for their mounts and themselves without the assistance of teachers or parents,” said Equestrian Director Stephanie Gustafson. “Leila proved to be a wonderful captain, leading by example with a positive, supportive attitude. Emma made sure all was in order in the barn and that each rider was on time for inspections, rides and safety checks. There were 30 individual appointments in all. Camaraderie and a can-do attitude kept the group focused and positive throughout the two days.”

In addition to those wins, senior Sophia Wu participated in a scramble dressage team that won first place in dressage. Sisters Lilly and Emmy Hilgers were among the OVS participants and their scramble team tied for horse management champions.

We’d like to thank equestrian instructors Stephanie Gustafson, Emily Tinsen, and Krista Watt as well as parent volunteers Dana White, Brooke Giannetti, and Josephine Axt for their support!

Follow this link to learn more about the OVS Equestrian Program.

Solar One Year Later


By Tracy Wilson
Director of Admission & Marketing

May 7, 2014 — A year ago, OVS environmental science teacher John Wickenhaeuser looked across the array of deep blue solar panels gleaming in the late morning sun at the Upper Campus and imagined the future cost savings and future lesson plans the new solar array would provide students across the grade levels. A year later the project has exceeded those expectations, generating 96% of the electricity at the high school campus.

It has also served as a learning lab, with third-graders discovering the science behind solar, and high school AP Environmental Science students advancing their understanding of alternative energy sources.

From statistics lessons to physics labs, the solar project was envisioned as just this — a combination of smart business practices as well as an educational tool for OVS students for years to come. Now, classroom studies include real-time monitoring of the energy produced by the 1,001 panels that now cover 19,016 square feet of hillsides and rooftops at the Upper Campus. After the first week of production last spring, Wickenhaeuser’s students had already calculated that the system had saved 11,974 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions, or about the weight of an African elephant. Since then, the system has saved nearly 150 tons of CO2 emissions, or roughly the weight of  30 full grown elephants.

“We’ve always been a progressive school, and we’ve always been about caring for the environment,”
Wickenhaeuser said. “This really demonstrates the school’s commitment to those principles.”

Across the nation, solar power has become a hot topic.

Photovoltaic power systems are proliferating in response to lower installation costs, incentives, and greater awareness. University researchers, most notably at several University of California campuses, are now developing new technologies to improve efficiency and storage of solar power, as well as more futuristic enterprises. UC Berkeley researchers and students, for example, are developing solar cars, while UCLA researchers are building solar cells with near transparency to create a solar panel that looks like a tinted window.

Similarly, Ojai Valley School leaders saw a bright future in solar – from both an educational and a business perspective.

The project was launched in 2013 in partnership with HelioPower and Southern California Edison. It cost $1.5 million, but the school spent much less after taking advantage of grants and rebates. At a time when energy costs are increasing in California – 12% in the last two years – the project also allowed the school to fix a portion of its energy costs.

The system was designed to supply 85% of the electrical demand for the OVS Upper Campus, saving more than $64,000 a year in energy costs and reducing the school’s annual carbon footprint by an estimated 299,000 pounds. In it’s first year it produced 18% more power than the design specification. With planned additional energy efficiency measures and greater conservation awareness, the school hopes to move close to 100% renewable energy in coming years.

“The solar project continues the school’s commitment to sustainability and preservation of our natural resources,” OVS President Michael J. Hall-Mounsey said. “The school has taken a bold step to reduce its environmental impact and demonstrate that sustainable practices will be a cornerstone of the school experience as we enter our second century.”

Located on 195 acres at the end of Reeves Road, the Upper Campus provides an ideal location for solar. In addition to its hilltop buildings, the campus has a wide south-facing slope to capture the sun’s rays. The slope must be cleared annually for fire protection so adding panels posed no disruption to native plants or wildlife.

Construction on the project began in October 2012 and finished in March 2013 with the addition of 288 rooftop panels on Burr Hall, the boys’ dormitories and the Head of School’s house, as well as 713 ground-mounted panels on the hillside between the boys’ dorms and the Lucila Arango Science and Technology Center. The system went “live” on May 7, 2013.

“We have the space, we have the land, we have the southern exposure so we could take advantage of that clean source of energy,” said Carl S. Cooper, Head of School at the Upper Campus. “At the same time, we are increasing our consciousness about where our energy comes from when we turn on a switch and turn off a switch.”

Ojai Valley School made a decision on the eve of its centennial, to create and chart a sustainability course for the next 100 years and beyond. Those efforts have received wide recognition, including the prestigious 2011 California Waste Reduction Award Program (WRAP) and the 2009 Ojai Chamber of Commerce “Environmentally Conscious Business of the Year” award.

In April 2013, the County of Ventura recognized OVS with a Climate Change Action Award, an honor given annually to individuals, businesses, schools, and other groups in the county that have made significant contributions to combat climate change.

The award recognized the solar project but also the broader effort by students, faculty and staff to reduce campus-wide electrical use and promote environmental stewardship. Those efforts include adopting comprehensive recycling programs and water-efficient irrigation systems, retrofitting lights with energy-efficient bulbs, and planting drought-tolerant and native plants on both campuses. The school also partners with local farmers, including Friends Ranch, to provide local produce in its dining halls.

“OVS has made sustainable practices a cornerstone of the school experience for students, teachers and staff,” said Mac Lojowsky, OVS Director of Facilities and Grounds. “It affects all aspects of their lives and by definition it will influence how they live their lives beyond the school.”

Most importantly, school leaders say, is the way Ojai Valley School incorporates environmental education into its curriculum – from earth science in pre-kindergarten to AP Environmental Science  – so students understand their role in preserving and protecting the planet.

“There is a constant message, going right on through from Pre-K to high school graduation, about how we take care of the planet,” Cooper said.

Raising students’ understanding of alternative energy sources is one aspect of the AP Environmental Science class. Wickenhaeuser’s students examine the economic, social, cultural, and political aspects of environmental science. This year, they will examine solar technology and the role alternative energy plays in communities locally and globally.

The monitoring tools at their fingertips include online monitoring and analysis tools report the production of each segment of the system in 5-minute increments. Students can see how production changes by the orientation of the individual solar arrays, the weather, and they can even see how a passing cloud temporarily decreases the system’s production. They can also compare energy output from various locations on campus.

Over the past year, Wickenhaeuser has checked the site frequently to track the school’s solar production. That is how he noticed one solar array on Tower dorm was producing less than those on the hillside and other rooftops in early July. Why? Morning and afternoon shade from trees near the dorm reduced production on those panels by 4 kilowatts per hour. That is not a significant amount. But it is the kind of real-life problem-solving exercise that he plans to have his students tackle.

For his part, Wickenhaeuser will continue be looking skyward.

“The funny thing is,” he said, “Now I am torn between rooting for much needed rain, and for sunny days!”

Compiling a prospective college list

After attending the National College Fair at the Ventura County Fairgrounds on April 24 our Juniors have been continuing to compile their prospective ”Colleges I’m Thinking About” lists on Naviance.  I’m proud of the ways that each OVS attendee (our Junior class and ambitious Freshmen and Sophomores) made good use of the fair to learn about new colleges and gather information from admission representatives.

As I counsel students in compiling their prospective colleges list I expect to see three types of schools represented:

Reach Schools: “dream” schools that may be a bit out of reach, but worth one’s best effort

Target Schools: schools whose academic profiles match well with your own

Safety Schools: schools where you are very likely to be admitted and may serve as a suitable back up

Research your many college options using some of the sites and references on our College Planning Resources page.  Find out about upcoming national college fairs (hosted by an organization called NACAC) here.

As always, come by Room 3 or schedule an appointment for individualized help in researching schools to fit into each of the Reach, Target, and Safety categories.

Seniors, make your choice by May 1st!

May 1, the National Reply Date, is the day that most colleges and universities require a commitment from admitted students (unless they have provided an alternate deadline to accept their admission offer).  This means that you may have 10 days from now to commit to the school you’ll attend.  Don’t miss submitting your Enrollment Deposit to your top school by this date!  (Schools have the right to rescind your admission decision if you do not commit by their stated deadline.)

With as few as 10 days until May 1, you should double check that your colleges have all of the Financial Aid documents needed from you.  For most students making a final decision on a school includes having definitive information on what it is going to cost each year.  If your Financial Aid application materials are incomplete it will delay your receipt of your Fin Aid award.  Regardless of when you receive your Fin Aid award- whether it’s March 25or April 28- many colleges will hold you to the May 1 deadline to make a commitment to their school.

For those of you in possession of college acceptances and complete Financial Aid awards, congratulations!  Your days of applications and sending documents are (mostly) over.  Now you’re in for the hard task of making that final college decision.  As words from the wise tell us, before making that big commitment, be sure you’ve read through your admission and Fin Aid offers carefully so you’re confident about what you’re signing up for.  Here is some great advice on considering your different Fin Aid awards and the scholarships, grants, and loans they may include.

Lastly, HOORAY!!  Remember when you were just starting your college applications?  You’ve done a great job and here you are on the other side of that hard work.  Well done!

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