TVC Middle School November Newsletter 2023

November 13, 2023

Academic Engagement – Project Lab – Natural Disasters


The Swifty Squirrels narrowed down their project topic over the first month of the year, and have landed on studying natural disasters. We kicked off the project by heading over the pass to Kelly, Wyoming to witness the aftermath of the Gros Ventre Slide, a massive landslide that occurred 98 years ago. Natural disasters is a fantastic topic as it is ripe to explore and connect learning concepts on a local level. The Gros Ventre Slide allowed the middle schoolers to explore evidence of a earthquake, landslide, and a flood. Since the journey, the Squirrels have had a deep dive into earthquakes. This week we are heading to the Teton County courthouse to meet with the director of the Teton County Emergency Management-Crisis Response team. While we do not have a driving question quite yet, the students are leaning towards focusing our project on how to prepare ourselves and our school for any potential natural events that may occur in our region.

Community Focus – Doug Walker Challenge Course

On Monday afternoon this week, the middle school students piled into the buses and headed north to Big Eddy on the Teton River. Last spring the 7th and 8th graders spent their maker blocks drafting and crafting rafts out of recycled and found materials. Due to record snows and high spring waters, the testing of the raft was postponed until this fall. Unfortunately the graduating 8th graders could not participate, but the current 7th and 8th made them proud. All four of the rafts that were tested on Monday floated, some a few inches below the surface, but all floated. The Teton and the weather were in perfect conditions for a float. Each raft had two chances to race the course. The first attempt was a time trial where each raft was tested individually, and we concluded with a race involving all of the boats. The raft made out of a bathtub was a strong favorite before the race, but the playground slide raft, operated and maneuvered like a kayak and shredded the competition. Captained by Eli Stitt, the slide kayak pulled away from the bathtub and the pallet to gain the maker challenge victory. Congratulations to all of the teams, and thanks to the 6th graders for cheerleading enthusiastically throughout the event. Special thanks to Josh Adams for trailer and logistical support!

Community Focus – Grandparents’ Day

Last week we were privileged to have grandparents and grandfriends join our classes and community for a morning. Since the advent of Zoom, Grandparents’ Day has evolved into an intercontinental and international event, as well as local and in-person. It is magical to have geographically distant family members coming to class on the projector. While it has its inherent challenges, it proves to be well worth it, with the smiles on the screen and in the classroom. In person grandparents were treated to Morning Meeting, Spanish class with Lucille, and a campus tour with Leila. It is a special day for our students to be joined by their mentors and grandparents. They are always excited to share all of the great  work they have been toiling on since the beginning of the year. Within the week, Learning Team Conferences occurred, allowing parents to see their work as well. It is a great start to the year for the students to reaffirm their work with their friends and families.

Harvest Party and Bhutanese Educators Visit

On the first snow of the year in the valley, the Teton Valley Campus was joined by special guests for Community Meeting. Educators from the Kingdom of Bhutan, in town for the Murie Conservation Awards, took time out of their busy trip to visit the students of Mountain Academy. During Community Meeting students had the opportunity to ask the visiting teachers questions about their lives in Bhutan. The visitors were incredibly gracious and thoughtful with their responses to the students. Students asked about the Bhutanese visitors’ homes, pets, favorite meals, and other aspects of their lives. Many of our students were excited and surprised by how much they had in common with folks from the other side of the planet. After Community Meeting, the whole school headed outside for the annual Harvest Party. The visitors from Bhutan were treated to student-made meals of kale chips, pasta, plum gummies, apple cider, and so much more. It was the coldest and snowiest day to date, which made for some difficulties, but in true TVC fashion, the students toughed it out amongst the rain and snow. 

Later in the week the Middle School had the opportunity to join members of the Jackson and Teton Science communities at the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts for the annual Murie Awards. The Kingdom of Bhutan was the first nation to receive the award. The students were able to witness the Queen Mother of Bhutan who was at the event to receive the award on behalf of the Kingdom. It was a treat for the students to hear royalty speak about conservation and stewardship.