Faculty Essays

Strengthening the Sense of Adventure

Written by Peter Vitz on June 30, 2015.

By Mr. Peter Vitz


Every boy craves adventure, excitement and tales of great exploits or feats of sheer terror. But, as we know all too well, the ways he satisfies this craving are not always desirable. When children are young and so much is new and therefore difficult for them, there is an inclination to give up, avoid the sweat, and seek thrills from the comforts of home. Gameboys, YouTube, and virtual reality games on the laptop beckon our sons to take the easy way out. But this must not be so! One of our goals as parents and teachers of boys is to strengthen in them a sense of adventure in things outside of themselves. If we don’t provide alternatives, they may never seek adventure beyond the handheld game console. Here at The Heights our goal has always been to demonstrate the adventure, excitement and terror found on the athletic field, in the study of notable characters, in quality literature and in the real world around them. In recent years the school has added to its arsenal another means for engaging our students in outside pursuits. Similar in mission to Crescite Week in the upper school, the Curriculum Alive week debuted in the lower school in 2008. It took a turn toward the dramatic in 2009 and 2010, with each grade putting on short staged productions. The reshaping of the Curriculum Alive format in 2011 fit perfectly with the spirit of the School, the capacities of the teachers…and the nature of boys. The Heights spirit of continued personal growth inspired each lower school teacher to select an area of personal interest and develop a week-long workshop for the boys in turn to grow in that particular discipline. Every lower school student chose a workshop and the fun began. Here are some highlights of Curriculum Alive 2012.


Living off the Land


Despite a rainy first day, Patrick Love and his students-turned- gardeners visited his father’s vegetable garden in Columbia, Maryland to show the boys what to expect (or at least hope for) of their project to create a vegetable garden for the lower school. There was much work to do —sod to remove, soil to till and a fence to build – all before the first plant went in the ground! With great will and enthusiasm the hard work was done and the boys were rewarded by seeing their gift to the lower school take root at the edge of the Valley.


A Hard Day’s Write!


Meanwhile, Brian Coyne and several students went to work in the music room. With the help of sound recording software and Mr. Coyne’s own experience in musical recording, these ten boys cut a compact disc. Each recorded his own song segments and learned how to edit, mix, and splice those clips into a polished final product. They showcased their hard work at the end of the week; the students’ songs were used as music for the slide show highlighting the week’s activities, followed by a live performance of Day Dream Believer by The Monkeys and an original song the boys wrote called What’s It to Ya?


Tight Lines!


Pat Selwood and Jon Fritts took to the water with their lines and tackle. In addition to learning the proper safety and form of fishing, students mastered the “dirty work” of cleaning and preparing their hard-earned catch. If the proverb holds true, these twenty boys who learned to fish had a week well-spent.


Real Men Wear Aprons


Tom Steenson and Connor Breed instructed their group of young men in various culinary delights from the most unlikely place—Toad Hall. (Fear not: no amphibian meat was served.) The boys learned how to make some good staples, tending toward the manly.Fried eggs, potato chips, and two types of chili were some of the foods gracing their plates (and a few faculty plates too). They also visited a professional kitchen to see the pros at work.


All the World’s a Stage


I personally had the pleasure of watching future acting careers blossom during the drama workshop. With just three-and-a-half days of preparation, these fourteen students performed a short adaptation of Hergé’s Tintin in Tibet for the entire lower school. Mr. Bissex lent his talents to the group, directing the boys in stage fighting; a field trip to a local theater gave the boys an opportunity to practice a scene of the show on a professional stage. We look forward to seeing these boys in future Heights productions, and beyond!


Young Mountaineers


The climbing workshop was eagerly welcomed back for another year and the ten boys who participated received expert instruction from Rich Moss. Part of their week was spent in The Heights gym learning the ropes, but off campus they really got into the fun with some hair-raising maneuvers. They gladly demonstrated their new capabilities to a crowd outside Chesterton Hall at the end of the week.


Only God Can Make a Tree


Joe Breslin appealed to the outdoorsman poets of the lower school through nature and poetry. Some time was spent in the classroom discussing the finer points of nature poetry and learning the methods of some of the best. However, the real heart of the workshop came in the off-campus jaunts where, surrounded by nature, the boys were encouraged to find their own muses, bringing to life the lessons they had been reading all week. The week truly helped open their eyes to the wonder around them, and gave them new ways to express their appreciation.


Trails, Trees, Rocks and Rivers


After the success of his mountain biking workshop last year, Eric Heil was inspired to expand his scope. True to its name, there was little this workshop did not do. Slack-lines started to appear all over campus and the boys’ skills improved noticeably, even to the untrained eyes of one who had never before heard of slack-lining! Of course the mountain bikes made their appearance, but perhaps the most interesting tales of the week came from the local geo-caching expedition complete with use of map, compass…and global positioning system! As you can imagine, these diverse experiences were a great pleasure both to the boys and the teachers. But this was far more than “fun.” The sense of adventure was clearly visible in their grinning faces each morning as they arrived. Their looks expressed their inner feelings: “What new feats? What new knowledge today?” The lessons were many: the value of cultivating the earth and working with ones hands; the importance of the little things that go into finishing a larger endeavor; the worth of providing for oneself; the mastery of a skill as a service to oneself and others; the poise and self-mastery of performing in front of others; the life-or-death necessity of working together; the need to continually challenge oneself; the praise due to the Creator.


The values and lessons learned during Curriculum Alive, and the memory of the camaraderie and excitement experienced with boys outside their classrooms and immediate circle of friends provided a week of extraordinary personal growth. The catalyst of it all was the love of adventure, and a mission to build men with interest and passion in things beyond themselves. But like all things at The Heights, we got far more than we had imagined.