No NOLS for now: 11th Grade Arrow Week rescheduled due to Pacific Northwest fires


Photo credit: Jennifer Dohr

Instead of traveling to the Pacific Northwest for Arrow Week, the 11th grade spent Fall Outing in Ventura. They swam and kayaked before heading back to Archer and spending the night there.

With summer break nearing an end, 11th grade students planned to trade flip flops and towels for hiking boots and warm layers. However, fires in the Pacific Northwest [PNW] prevented students from embarking on their final Archer-affiliated Arrow Week trip. The trip has since been rescheduled for August of next year.

In seventh, ninth and 11th grade, Archer students participate in a week long expedition with NOLS, a nonprofit global wilderness school that promotes leadership and teamwork.  

Because of the late start to school, 11th grade students planned to go on Arrow Week during their summer break from Sept. 1 to Sept. 8. However, a week before the class was scheduled to leave, they received an email from Dean of Students Jenn Babin and Head of Upper School Gretchen Warner explaining that the conditions in the PNW were too unpredictable for the trip to occur

“On some of the routes, there were safety issues with air quality,” Outdoor Education Coordinator Mark Forte said. “[NOLS] had some alternate routes, and they were monitoring those routes because one day there [was] acceptable air quality and the next day it wasn’t acceptable.”

Considering students carry 45 to 50 pound backpacks, Forte was concerned about the safety of the students for the entire experience.

Because the trip takes so long to plan, Forte said it would have been impossible to move the trip to another, safer location. To plan an Arrow Week, he discusses potential trip dates a year-and-a-half prior to Arrow Week. Then, he collaborates the administration to find a week in the academic calendar that avoids holidays and organizes the trip with the NOLS branch.

“Once the alternate routes in the Pacific Northwest were out of the question because of air quality, we even considered other NOLS branches around the country that could accommodate us [on short notice],” he said. “But it was a logistical nightmare with airfare and all of that—it just didn’t work out.”

Former Outdoor Education Coordinator Stephanie Ferri said this was not the first time there were fires in the PNW, but it was the first time they had to reschedule the trip.

“Two or three years ago there were significant fires in the PNW and we were still able to run the trips just fine,” she said. “In the eight years I was outdoor education coordinator I never had to cancel a trip, so it was a big deal [when this trip was postponed].”

Class representative Sophie Larbalestier ’20 was on a practice hike the day she found out the grade was not going on the trip on on schedule.

“Of course I was little sad [about Arrow Week] being during summer and taking away a week, but I really looking forward to the bonding experience with the grade and other girls,” Larbalestier said.

Photo by Bea Freeman
Juliette St. Antoine ’19 and Maddie Jacobson ’19  look over a lake as they journal during 11th grade Arrow Week. Though the Class of 2019 had their Arrow Week at the beginning of junior year, this year’s junior Arrow Week was postponed.

Instead of going on Arrow Week, the 11th grade class spent a day at the beach and slept over at Archer.

Maddie Fenster ’20 described the class’ successful Fall Outing.

“It was really fun being able to connect with the girls [because] we had a grade council that went pretty well so it was cool to be able to connect that way,” she said. “I don’t know how it would have been different on Arrow Week bonding with a small group versus our entire grade.”

11th grade class dean Jennifer Dohr is “excited” to work with NOLS to find the time to reschedule the “important” trip.

“We think that mid to end of August would be a great time for seniors to bond ahead of their senior year, ” Dohr said.

“At first, I was really worried that it was going to be [during] the school year, because we already missed so much school because of the long summer, but now that I know it’s going to be next year during the summer, I’m pretty excited that we’re still going to go, because I heard that it’s the best Arrow Week,” class representative Angelica Gonzalez ’20 said.

Forte emphasized the positive impact of the NOLS trips, describing them as “amazing” experiences.

“It’s supposed to be difficult and uncomfortable, but that’s what we want. When we bring it to the front country…we are gong to be in situations that are challenging and we have to work with people that we might not necessarily consider friends,” Forte said. “Aside from getting disconnected [from] our technology I find it really nourishing.”