The first and last Fall Field Course: Reflections from freshman and senior students on their recent off-campus study opportunities

Each year, WMS sends its students out on two Field Courses during the Fall and Spring. Many are local New England expeditions, but we also offer international trips as well as study opportunities out in the mountain and desert West. As one of our most distinctive programs, students gain valuable opportunities of academic work in the field, leadership development, and a stronger sense of community. Not only do students enjoy and gather valuable life experiences from their academic engagement and other group members in a new place, but they also have the ability to own their trip as a classroom setting.  If students display extraordinary commitment and authority on their academic excursions, they can earn the unique chance to become student assistants and leaders of their next Field Course.

Thanks to many of our students, we are able to share some of their remarkable experiences during WMS’ most recent Fall Field Course classes. We asked first year student Mariama Lemon and senior Tori Breen to write a brief re-cap on their Field Course experiences. Enjoy this inside look from our students!


Mariama Lemon ‘20 (left) laughs with a friend on the shore of a northern New England Lake during her Geography Field Course.  Tori Breen ‘16 (right) smiles with her two new friends in Managua during the Nicaragua Language, Culture, and Sustainability Field Course.

Mariama Lemon ’20

“This year I found myself in the mountains hiking on The Map is Not the Territory: Geography & Old-School Land Navigation Field Course. Not only am I a new student who was experiencing Field Course for the first time, but I was totally thrown out of my comfort zone considering the fact that I have never been away from city life. Although I was scared to be in such an exotic environment, Field Course was an amazing learning experience that I could not have obtained anywhere else. I valued this experience because I was able to learn how to navigate by using tools such as maps and compasses in real life. Before I came to The White Mountain School, I was in a public school setting and I was never given the opportunity to implement what I learned outside of the classroom. Field Course is effective since it challenges traditional ways of learning in a safe environment. Similarly, while we were hiking up The Adirondack Mountains I felt as if I needed to stop and take a break because I was having trouble breathing. In my mind, I thought I was going to hold the entire group despite the fact that I never actually felt that way. Everyone loved the fact that I was pushing myself, and I didn’t need to go past my limit. In other words putting myself out there was enough and I am looking forward to my next Field Course.”

Tori Breen ’16

“Last week, I completed my seventh Field Course at WMS. Collectively, these trips have helped to shape me into the leader, artist, student, outdoorswoman, and thinker that I am now. Each has had a unique impact on my life that only that course could affect. In ninth grade, fall Field Course was my first extended backpacking trip. I learned about different leadership styles and gained confidence in my skills outside, but the most meaningful thing I learned was that I love to sleep outside and carry everything I need on my back. The next fall, I traveled with the school to Nicaragua, a country I had wanted to visit since I was five. I met incredible female entrepreneurs and developed a more nuanced view of service and cultural exchange. While the impact of this trip on my life is most likely the greatest, it is the hardest to articulate. I stayed closer to home on spring Feld Course that same year, going to Northampton, Massachusetts to study second wave feminism. I got to study a topic that I had long been passionate about in a mature and academic way, and became better at expressing my feminist views. During my junior year, I spent a week in the fall living at an EcoVillage in northern NH, immersing myself in a more environmentally sustainable and community-focused way of life. That spring, I worked with one of my teachers in planning a course about religious pluralism. I loved thinking academically about religion and learning from scholars and devotees. This fall, I returned to Nicaragua, as I promised the many amazing friends I met there that I would. As the student assistant on this trip, I got to see other students have experiences similar to my first stay in Nicaragua. I reconnected with people I hadn’t seen since my first trip, and am reassured that I will return yet again. Each of my seven Field Courses has been a way for me to shape myself, by learning something new, digging deeper, challenging myself, connecting with others, and figuring out my own ideas.”


In December, our Academic Dean Shane MacElhiney and Director of Outdoor Education Ted Teegarden will be presenting at The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) conference on The White Mountain School’s Field Courses.


Academic Dean Shane MacElhiney (left) organizes the annual light blue versus dark blue tug of war match.  Director of Outdoor Education Ted Teegarden (right) takes a selfie in front of a hiking hut during last week’s Fall Field Course in Arizona. Ted led a group of students to Arizona for a geology and rock climbing trip.

By Sarah Catlin, Associate Head of School for Admission and Enrollment & Eliot Taft, Assistant Director of Admission and Communication

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