Outdoor Education

OVS middle school high school

Volleyball Faces Rival This Weekend

140927_Volley Ball 013ccOctober 10 — The girls’ varsity volleyball team is gearing up for what promises to be a tight contest this weekend against Providence. So far the girls have experienced an up-and-down season with dominant wins over Besant Hill and Midland, only to fall this past week to Dunn and Laguna Blanca. The JV team will start at home Saturday against Providence, followed by the varsity squad at 4 p.m.

Meanwhile, the OVS boys’ club soccer team played its second match this week which ended in a tie against Oak Grove. Up next: Soccer will play on Garden Street on Saturday, October 18.

At the Lower Campus, the Middle School volleyball and soccer teams played their first games and show promise for the season ahead. The boys’ soccer team will play away next Tuesday, October 14, against Crane at 4 p.m. and then face Santa Barbara Middle School on the road on Thursday. Girls’ varsity and JV volleyball teams will play next Thursday, October 16, at different locations.

Visit the website calendar for game times and additional information.

Space Mission Launched

DSC_0066By Daphne Psaledakis

It’s 6:49 on a Tuesday morning and a dozen middle school students are huddled around a giant white helium-filled weather balloon on the Lower Campus athletic field. Their breath is visible in the cold morning air, and their eyes are bleary from a long night crashed in the tech lab, making final calculations on a science project that they hoped would be out of this world.

On the field, the countdown begins. “10… 9… 8… 7… 6…” The students tighten their collective grip on the balloon and its long roped tail. “5… 4… 3… 2… 1…” They release it – and in doing so culminate the ultimate STEAM project and become one of the first schools anyone is aware of with an actual space program.

The balloon, which carried a tiny camera to capture images of the curvature of the earth and the darkness of space, traveled approximately 95 miles, reached an altitude of 82,266 feet, and at its fastest speed was traveling more than 100 mph.

“We wanted to do something special that allowed students to tackle a real life problem rather than the kinds of problems presented in typical academia,” said Mike Mahon, Assistant Head of School, who launched what he dubbed Project X as a challenge to an elite hand-picked group of technology students.

Mahon joined forces with alum Jason Goldman, who was the Mission Director for Project X, to come up with a project that would increase student engagement in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and general tinkering.

To apply for the mysterious mission, the students wrote an essay showcasing their STEAM qualifications and explaining how they would contribute to the team.

“It was an amazing experience,” eighth-grade team member Wendy Lazo-Dowdy told an All-School audience after the launch. “We all launched something into space. We will remember this our entire lives.”

The balloon popped at about 70,000 feet, and the capsule, attached to a parachute, drifted to a remote area south of Palmdale. Early efforts to locate the capsule were unsuccessful, but mission leaders kept at it and retrieved the capsule just after the school year ended. Now that they have it back, team members will study the footage and then push on to plan the next mission. Project X is the first of what will hopefully be many ventures into space. Part of the mission was to establish a space program by conducting a series of mission activities high above the Earth.

“It’s my belief that within the span of my career, OVS will put something into orbit,” Mahon said. “Everyone I know laughs at me when I say that, but dreaming big and inspiring others is the noblest end of scientific and technological pursuits. I can’t wait to say, ‘I told you so.’ ”

This Month at OVS

RopesCourse12Ojai Valley School is getting ready for the start of the 2015/16 Academic Year! Registration for Upper Campus students in grades 9-12 will take place on Sunday, September 6. Registration for Lower Campus residents and all new students, grades PK-8, will take place on Monday, September 7. Click on the Resources page for calendars, supply lists and other useful tips to get ready for new school year.

Packing Up for Fall Camp Trips

marquee yosemiteOVS students across the grade levels will venture to the beaches, islands, and mountains of California in September and October for their fall camping trips. The high school students will be the first group to depart. All 112 students in grades 9-12 will divide into four groups and spend a week, starting September 14, camping in Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and the Channel Islands national parks. Students are expected to come to school with their outdoor gear, or be prepared to make final purchases of equipment during the first weekend at school.

On September 28, our 8th graders will depart for a week of camping at Hume Lake in the western Sierras, while the 7th graders will spend  a week camping, snorkeling, kayaking, and hiking at Santa Cruz in the national park. The 6th graders will spend four days camping at Montana de Oro State Park on the central coast starting September 29. Elementary students will camp October 7-9.

All OVS students need to be equipped with the correct outdoor gear to enjoy their upcoming adventures, whether that’s getting dirty trudging in the mud of the Kings River,  splashing in the surf of the Pacific Ocean, or sleeping under the stars in the eastern Sierras.

The outdoor education equipment lists are available on the website on the Resources page, or under the Outdoor Education section.

OVS Takes Bold Water Saving Measures


As the mercury hit 90-plus degrees this summer, a thick layer of fluffy white material blanketed the equestrian arena at Ojai Valley School and left the distinct impression that it had just snowed.

In fact, the material layered across the riding arena at the Lower Campus was part of a significant water-savings project launched by the school to replace fine sand with a state-of-the-art irrigation system and new geotextile footing material that is expected to dramatically cut the school’s water use, saving about 500,000 gallons of water a year.

The move is directly in response to the ongoing California drought and continues the school’s commitment to environmental sustainability. It is also a significant improvement for the school’s renowned equestrian program, as few schools or boarding stables have embraced such conservation measures.

“OVS has emerged as a leader in the independent school community with its pursuit of environmental sustainability,” said OVS President/CEO Michael J. Hall-Mounsey. “These include dramatically reducing our water usage, incorporating green-building practices in new building projects, and embracing solar technology.”

Three years ago, OVS installed a 1,001-panel 274-kilowatt solar array that produces more than 95% of the electricity at the Upper Campus. For more than a year, food waste from the dining hall at the Lower Campus has been composted through a partnership with Harrison and Sons.

More recently, the school has begun the process of converting lighting fixtures to LED and installing high efficiency HVAC systems. It has also taken dramatic steps to reduce its water use on both campuses, replacing grassy areas with mulch and drought-tolerant plants, installing weather-based controllers, and optimizing irrigation.

“We installed network-connected irrigation controllers that respond to local weather conditions at the Upper and Lower Campus athletic fields at both campuses,” said John Wickenhaeuser, Director of Technology and Sustainability. “Additionally we have reduced watering rates on the fields to achieve a 40% overall reduction in water use, exceeding the current state requirements.”

Perhaps the most visible project for the greater Ojai community is what the school has done at the Lower Campus equestrian arena – removing fine dusty sand and replacing it with the new footing made from a mixture of quartz sand and polyester and synthetic materials.

Historically, water reduction has presented a challenge for the equestrian program due to the need to mitigate dust created when elementary and middle school students ride in the arena. In accordance with an Ojai city ordinance, the dust must be kept to a minimum for safety and that has traditionally been accomplished by watering the arena.

Several months ago, Equestrian Director Stephanie Gustafson began researching alternatives to further minimize water use while maintaining a safe and healthy environment for students, horses, staff, and the broader community.

“The best option for equine safety and environmental sustainability is to add a geotextile footing material,” Gustafson said. “This is the top-of-the line in terms of material used at premier equestrian venues, and further distinguishes OVS as a blue-ribbon equestrian program.”

College Bound

By Sarah Sharpe (U16)

For a girl who has lived in Southern California for the past four years of her life, Kai Lin was in shock when she first arrived for a college visit in Fairbanks, Alaska in December, the coldest month of the year in that state.

“There was a moment of unknowing when I first stepped out of the airport,” Kai said. “When I exhaled and the mist coated my face, my eyes begin to crystallize and my entire family shrieked in unison.”

Despite the cold temperatures, she was in awe. The pure beauty had come unexpectedly, like a welcome sign beckoning her to stay.

So this fall, the OVS senior will be making the 3,345 mile trek to Fairbanks, armed with a new wardrobe of warm clothes in preparation for the startling climate.

“It’s all about exploring new areas and testing out where you can and cannot live,” Kai said. “When most Americans think of wilderness, they think of Alaska. That’s where I thought of and that’s where I wanted to go.”

She is not the only one ready to make the massive transition to another city, state or country, as most OVS seniors are now fully committed to schools around the world.

Natalia Huang will attend the University of California, Berkeley, while on the other side of the state, Nicole Kang has committed to University of California, San Diego. Ali Fortier will attend Montana State University, Ben Cassidy will brave the cold of Michigan to attend Kettering University in Flint, while Vivian Yan will head to Switzerland where she will study the hospitality industry at École Hôtelière de Lausanne.

Sarah Silver is another senior happily going to her first-choice school, having committed to Sonoma State University as soon as she got her acceptance letter. She was ecstatic when she heard the news, as most students are when they are accepted to their top choice.

“When I finally found out I cried because it was such a stress relief to know what I’m doing in my future,” Sarah said.

Like Sarah, Momoe Takamatsu has recently fully committed to her top pick, Occidental College, in Los Angeles.

“I am so excited to live the American college life,” Momoe said, a native of Japan who has been a boarding student at Ojai Valley School for the past three years.

After deciding where they will continue their education next year, OVS students have begun to prepare themselves for a world of change coming in the fall.

Transitioning from a small school to a larger college environment is going to be a change in pace for the members of this graduating class, but their time and efforts spent here at OVS prepared them for the next four years to come.

“I can’t wait to start the next chapter of my life, meet new people, explore new options in life, and grow as a person,” Sarah said.

Got Tech? Gearing up for the Academic Year

140918_Classroom Shots103 (1)Get ready, get set — and get your gear. As students prep for the start of the new Academic Year, which begins September 6-7, we have some tips, reminders and supply lists to share with families. This fall, students in grades 7-12 will be required to bring a laptop or tablet to school. Students in grade 6 are not required to bring a laptop, but it is recommended. Check out the supply lists on the Resources page for details on necessary school supplies and other must-haves to start school.

Summer Camp Fun

Summer Camp Begins

CampJune 28 — OVS Summer Camp 2015 begins today and continues for the next six weeks as campers from around the state, nation and the world gather in sunny Ojai, California, to enjoy a fun academic and outdoor program. From equestrians in our horse camp to the singers in performing arts, our campers in grades PK-10 will enjoy the coming weeks together. Learn more at http://summer.ovs.org/

Class of 2015

IMG_3792IMG_3893IMG_4055IMG_3800IMG_3823IMG_3877Congratulations to the Class of 2015! Click here to see a gallery of additional photos from the June 5 commencement.

Finals and Finales

ropes courseJune 1, 2015 —  This week we conclude the academic year at Ojai Valley School and hold graduation ceremonies for our eighth-graders and seniors. We are thrilled that more than half of our eighth-grade students will move on to the Upper Campus in the fall, continuing an education rich in academics, sports, outdoor education, equestrian, fine and performing arts. Our seniors, who have just concluded a busy spring calendar filled with Advanced Placement exams, will graduate on Friday and prepare to head to top colleges in the fall.

We are confident the school has prepared them for the next step in their lives, and we look forward to seeing what they will accomplish with the confidence, character, and academic skills that an OVS education has given them. Senior Matt Gustafson (L11, U15) spoke eloquently about this during our recent Pons dinner.

“As I prepare to leave OVS and go off to college, I have some of the same fears I had going from middle school to high school,” Matt told the eighth graders. “The road ahead is filled with so many choices — student housing, classes, academic major, career — all of which will eventually determine so much about the future course of my life. Fortunately, I feel that what I have learned from my family and everyone at OVS has given me the ability to make good choices and the confidence to tackle each new experience one day at a time.” We could not have said it better.

The final days of the 2014/15 academic year have been filled with traditions, rehearsal ceremonies, celebrations — and adventures. Our fifth-graders enjoyed a fabulous day on the Ropes Course at the Upper Campus, challenging themselves to climb the wall, collaborate as members of a team, and bravely leap from a 35-foot platform to ride down the zip line.

It’s all part of the learning experience at Ojai Valley School.

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