OVS eighth-grade students recently returned from a trip to the East Coast to explore our nation’s capitol. The Washington DC trip – which includes educational tours of colonial American sites as well as significant monuments and museums – is an annual trip that accentuates the U.S. history curriculum in grade 8. Click here to see pictures from this year’s trip.
November 5 – Last spring, twelve high school boys volunteered to start the 2014-2015 school year living in the middle school dorms at Lower Campus during a significant renovation of one wing of the boys’ dorms at Upper Campus. For several weeks, they have commuted to the high school campus by school bus and van.
But their commuting ended this week when the boys, a close-knit group of students in grades 9-12, packed up and moved into the newly renovated rooms in Boney Bean dorm. The renovated rooms feature new bamboo wood cabinets and furnishings, insulated doors and windows, new HVAC systems and electrical upgrades that advance the school’s sustainability goals to reduce energy consumption.
October 10 — Our Upper Campus students returned to campus following a fabulous week at Rock Creek in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains, just northwest of Bishop. Their first two days were filled with hiking excursions to Rainbow Falls, Mono Lake, and lakes in the stunning John Muir Wilderness. They’ve also enjoyed some relaxation time in camp and at the hot springs near Mammoth Lakes.
Upon returning, the juniors were asked to reflect on their experiences as part of a writing assignment for Mrs. Wilson’s English class. Wrote one student: “Although the hiking is a little harsh, we should never give up because there are always beautiful things waiting ahead for us.”
Wrote another student: “Somehow, magic happens on camping trips that easily allows us to make more friends and understand our classmates better. . . . We depend on and support each other whether it’s by loaning a new student an extra water bottle or holding another’s hand to walk along a log to cross a river.”
Click here to view a full gallery of pictures from the trip.
October 3 – Middle School students ventured to the beaches, islands, and mountains of California last week for their fall camping trips. The 8th graders enjoyed a full week at Hume Lake in the western Sierras, while the 7th graders (pictured above) spent a week camping, snorkeling, kayaking, and hiking at Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Ventura. The 6th graders spent four days at Montana de Oro State Park on the central coast.
The students faced some challenges — including curious island foxes roaming their camp sites on Santa Cruz and rigorous day hikes. But they also enjoyed getting down and dirty in the mud of the Kings River, splashing in the surf and watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
“When we first arrived, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The beaches were beautiful and full of color,” wrote 6th grader Jocelyn in a class essay after the trip. “I am so lucky I had the chance to go there. I learned to persevere through all of the hard times, whether it was bugs or hiking, and I learned that friends make everything better. I really hope that someday I can come back and experience all of this again.”
See pictures of these trip on the Images of OVS page.
By Tracy Wilson
Director of Admission & Marketing
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!”
Ojai Valley School concluded its 72nd summer camp with a flourish in August. More than 260 campers from around the world participated in this year’s program, which included a record-high enrollment in both the Equestrian and ESL programs.
The Ojai Valley School Summer Camp thanks you for a fabulous six weeks of fun!
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.
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.
It 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.
OVS riders across the grade levels showed their skills on the flat and over fences during an equestrian demonstration during Springfest. Parents and guests gathered for the March 29 event learned more about the equestrian program on both campuses and had the pleasure of watching their students ride.
Visit the Images of OVS page to see more photos from the day.