Alumni Weekend 2017 was an incredible gathering that brought nearly 300 alumni and their guests home for three days of activities and events. Thank you for joining us on campus! Check out our online photo gallery. We hope to see you at next year’s Alumni Weekend, June 8-10, 2018! If you are interested in helping to round up your classmates for next year’s reunion, please contact the Alumni Office to add your name to the reunion committee.
By Natasha Freudmann, Class of 2017
On a rocky plateau overlooking miles and miles of the Pacific Ocean, Ojai Valley School students crouched over hardened soil, shovels in hand. With quiet focus, they overturned clumps of earth, creating new homes for plants native to the Channel Islands chain, just off the Ventura County coastline.
It was a long way to go to till some soil. But this was not your run-of-the-mill gardening project.
The students, members of OVS’ Advanced Placement Environmental Science class, sailed in February to Anacapa Island in the first of what will be a series of excursions to Channel Islands National Park for environmental education and restoration projects. Fifth graders made the trip in March. This week, middle school students will depart for Santa Cruz Island to continue this field work and the senior class will anchor these projects with a trip in late May.
In partnership with the national park, OVS earlier this school year was awarded a $4,000 Hands on the Land grant, part of a national effort to connect students, teachers and volunteers with public lands and waterways. OVS was one of 22 institutions nationwide to receive the grant, which came about through a collaborative process between parents, the park service and the high school and middle school staffs.
Funded by the the National Environmental Education Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency, the grant in coming months will be used by students and teachers on both campuses to access the islands and use them as living laboratories, tackling projects including working on-site in nurseries, removing invasive vegetation, and gathering and compiling plant restoration data.
“This grant rapidly advances our goal to partner with Channel Islands National Park on long-term restoration and research projects,” said AP Environmental Science teacher John Wickenhaeuser, who as the school’s director of technology and sustainability spearheaded the grant-writing effort.
“With this funding nearly 100 students in grades 5 through 12 will travel to the islands this school year, to remove invasive species, plant natives and learn from expert field biologists,” Wickenhaeuser added. “It is an extraordinary opportunity for our students and our school to learn, participate, and make a huge difference on the truly special Channel Islands.”
On the school’s first visit to the islands as part of the grant, students embarked on a mission to learn about Dudleya, a plant native to Anacapa Island, one of the five islands that make up Channel Islands National Park. The plant, like many others native to the island, has been crowded out by invasive ice plant, which was brought to the island in the mid-20th century for landscaping and erosion control.
After hours of education and labor to transplant the Dudleya, more than 100 new plants were in the ground. Despite the hard work, students were enthusiastic about the project – especially with the added benefit of working and learning outdoors.
“It’s awesome to be out of the classroom and having fun out here,” said senior Jack Gentry, who joined eight other Advanced Placement students on the inaugural service project. “I’m super glad I had this opportunity.”
Lower Campus parent Annie Little, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, accompanied the AP class to the island. Little spoke earlier this year as part of the school’s Guest Lecture series about her work restoring sea birds, including the bald eagle, to the Channel Islands, and she was instrumental in connecting OVS to the current service project.
“With the Fish and Wildlife Service we try and encourage kids to come out and get involved with restoration projects,” Little said. “We have a whole program of connecting kids to nature. This is part of that mission and a great opportunity for the OVS kids to get out and do some hands-on work.”
Not only will the grant provide great opportunities for students to learn about the islands and their ecosystems, its objectives dovetail nicely with the AP Environmental Science curriculum and advance the school’s long-standing commitment to hands-on learning.
“I think it’s all about experiential learning,” Little said. “You guys aren’t just sitting in a classroom learning about restoration, you’re actually doing it yourselves. You’ve experienced [restoration] so it provides you with a great learning opportunity. It brings more of the textbook into real life and you get to really experience it.”
Monique Navarro, education coordinator for Channel Islands National Park, couldn’t agree more. Moreover, she thinks the visits could help ignite in some students a passion to pursue environmental education and activism in the future.
“I think [this] can inspire students to think of different opportunities for what to study at university and beyond, and what different job opportunities are out there,” Navarro said. “[It can] also get students to appreciate and to protect these resources, so it’s our responsibility to preserve and protect them.”
The grant funds will be available through the end this school year. Future activities include a fifth-grade trip to Anacapa Island, a middle school backpacking trip to Santa Cruz Island, and a senior trip to Santa Cruz Island.
While school officials ponder future uses, the focus will remain the same.
On the windswept plateau at Anacapa Island late last month, senior Ally Feiss worked with several partners to scoop out the stubborn earth and plug in Dudleya, creating in about an hour a field of light-green succulents, the color of green beans, that had not been there previously.
Afterward, students worked in pairs to lug bulky water jugs from plant to plant, giving each of the new island natives a long drink.
“It was really surprising looking back that we as a group had done so much in such a little amount of time,” Ally said. “Aside from the fact that we are doing island education and restoration, it was nice to see how a little work goes a long way.”
Indeed, on this little island, the OVS students made a big difference – strengthening the habitat for native species and paving the way for future restoration work.
“The purpose of the grant is to provide an opportunity for kids to get experience out in nature and have a positive impact on the environment,” Little said. “This restoration project is important for trying to recover the island and the island habitat, and it provides the OVS kids a great opportunity for real, hands-on restoration.”
Click here to see photos from the 5th grade trip to Anacapa Island in March.
The Class of 2016 is just days from graduation and set to attend colleges around the world in the fall.
After sending out a total of more than 200 applications and receiving roughly 100 acceptances, seniors have made their final decisions, bringing a long, anxiety-filled application process to an end and allowing students finally to relax.
The Class of 2016 will scatter across the globe next year.
Ally Feiss will head to the University of Massachusetts at Lowell near Boston, while Yuhi Kuramoto will return to his native Japan where he will attend Asia Pacific University in Oita. Joe Foulger will attend the University of Washington, Brendan Goldberg is going to Emory University in Atlanta, and Victor Yen will attend Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.
“I’m proud of them,” said College Counselor Judy Oberlander, who has overseen every step of the application process. “I think that all the seniors have taken responsibility and have really worked to make it happen for them.”
Read more in a news story on the student journalism website, On The Hill.
By Natasha Freudmann, Class of 2017
Call it the Rise of the Robots.
Walk into the chemistry lab during any elective period and you’ll find students huddled in groups, jamming to the classics and deeply focused on preparing for a unique and first-ever competition for students at the Upper Campus.
The vibe is cheerful and exciting. But make no mistake, this is serious business.
Since the start of the school year, these students have been preparing to compete in the Greater Los Angeles FIRST Tech Challenge, a high school robotics competition aimed at teaching students the value of hard work, innovation and creativity through the use of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The robotics program at the Upper Campus is spearheaded by math and science teacher Chris Wescott, who provides a kinetic learning experience for these robotics enthusiasts.
“I think that OVS, by creating STEM programs, is meeting a calling that all education is needing and lacking,” Mr. Wescott said.
STEM Education programs are becoming increasingly popular nationwide as schools move to prepare students for the kinds of STEM-based jobs that will be available in the 21st century. OVS has long focused on kinetic learning, and a STEM focus aligns perfectly with the school’s philosophy. STEM projects are very also popular with students and are helping recruit prospective students to OVS.
“In the academic realm, there is a tremendous interest in hands-on science approaches now,” said Tracy Wilson, the school’s director of advancement and admissions. “So this is a potential differentiator for OVS in terms of our ability to be on the cutting edge in terms of what we can offer with a STEM-based curriculum that truly begins in kindergarten and extends through the high school grades.”
At the high school, the robotics squad is divided into two teams — Python and Spudnik. Students on each team have built and programmed robots, and those creations will be put through their paces on Saturday as the OVS teams compete in an alliance format against other high school teams.
“Hopefully what we create here at OVS is something I can take pride in,” Mr. Wescott said. “Something I helped start and create and something that students are excited about and can feel challenged by, but at the same time overcome challenges.”
February 1 – Students in grades K-8 celebrated the end of the first semester with traditional class hikes into the nearby Sespe Wilderness last week. Elementary and Middle School students trekked to and from destinations such as Piedra Blanca, Lookout Laura, Gridley Trail, and more. On the heels a recent rainstorm, students found swimming holes and creeks running in the Los Padres National Forest and enjoyed beautiful sunny weather during a full day of hiking and exploration.
“Class hikes are a great way of preparing for the spring camping trips, especially for the middle school,” said Head of School Gary Gartrell. ” It also builds class identity and continues a school tradition that began generations ago.”
Congratulations to the Class of 2015! Click here to see a gallery of additional photos from the June 5 commencement.
The new year opened with eye-popping improvements at the Lower Campus as construction crews made rapid progress on our new arts center and renovated Founder’s Shop.
We’ve installed a new fire sprinkler line, roof shingles, skylights, and gutters. The painters are done inside and out of the building, and the well-worn fir floorboards of the historic shop have been stripped, sanded and refinished.
Meanwhile, tidy box hedges, rosemary, rose bushes and other drought-tolerant species are being planted outside the arts center and neighboring buildings. Elegant high-efficiency LED (and Dark Sky compliant) new light posts are being installed, and new rock curbs and decomposed granite sidewalks have been completed in front of Frost Hall and the west entrance of campus near the stables.
In construction, there are opportunities to make pivotal infrastructure improvements that no one sees because they often happen underground. An example of this is the addition of a new storm drain, installed before the holiday break, which will carry storm runoff from El Paseo Road to the south side of campus. We are hoping this will help alleviate a hundred-year old problem where the campus floods during any major rainstorms.
Another example is a major electrical upgrade that occurred over the break. Crews removed a power pole near the Admission Office and tunneled a network of power lines beneath the east portion of campus, thus establishing a vastly improved electrical system that will support new technology and future building projects.
The fine arts have been a cornerstone of Ojai Valley School’s experience for more than a century, and we are excited to see the progress being made on this new art center and rehabilitated Founder’s Shop.
Originally designed by founder Edward Yeomans, the shop has been the hub and heart of the visual arts program at the Lower Campus for generations. When it began to show its age (after nearly 98 years of use), the school made a firm commitment to preserve and protect its historic features. The shop is now being carefully restored while also being upgraded to serve the needs of future students. In addition to major energy efficiency and structural upgrades, The original floor, windows, battens, and much of the redwood siding from the original building have been preserved and polished to a new luster, bridging the old and the new.
With the support of our families and alumni, we hope to open the arts center and restored woodshop in March 2015.
By Cole Zellner, Class of 2016
November 7 – After a long season of practice and persistence, the OVS girls’ cross country team outpaced all runners Wednesday to earn the Condor League championship in the League Final at Dunn School. Senior Momoe Takamatsu also won the individual title, running the fastest three-mile race in her life by finishing in a blistering 21:11. Her nearest competitor was nearly 40 seconds behind.
“I was relieved for sure,” said Momoe, who was very emotional after the race. “I didn’t believe at first that I had won, but I worked so hard for this.”
It is the second time in four years that an OVS runner has won the Condor League individual cross country title. In 2011, Reika Kijima won the title. She is now running cross country and track for the University of Southern California. This is the first time in recent history that OVS girls have captured the team title.
In addition to Momoe’s fast finish, two other OVS runners, sophomore Gilim Bae and senior Vivian Yan, earned medals for their top ten finishes. Gilim finished in third place with a time of 22:43, and Vivian came in sixth with a time of 23:27. The OVS girls’ came within seconds of winning the Condor League title outright. For OVS cross country coach Fred Alvarez, the win wasn’t as important as the watching the girls learn to work as a team and do their best when it came time to their final race.
“I could not be more proud of the way these girls came together this year,” Mr. Alvarez said. “They ran in 100-plus degree heat, and they ran when they were sore, and they ran in the early morning darkness. They committed themselves to improving each and every day. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
The OVS boys’ team ended the season strong as well. Senior Andy Cheng (L11) ran his personal best in an astounding 19:06. Less than a minute behind, junior Victor Gong (L12) also ran his personal best with a time of exactly 20:00.
Construction continues on the new art studio and renovated Founder’s Shop at Lower Campus. More than 700 feet of drainage and electrical upgrades have also been added and new concrete walkways were laid during the first week of November.
During Family Weekend, Mac Lojowsky, Director of Facilities and Grounds, led an afternoon tour of the project site and gave families an inside look at the Founder’s Shop renovations underway. He showed families how the historic windows and beams have been masterfully rehabilitated. He also showcased the energy efficiency and safety features that have been added, and discussed how the sustainable building practices have underscored the project. Mr. Lojowsky also toured families through the new adjacent arts studio space, still under construction, which will feature an expansive classroom with vaulted ceilings, skylights, and an outdoor patio.