Traditions and rituals help cement a school’s identity, while signaling what our community values. We build community by embracing the five pillars in our mission and through extensive traditions. Many of these traditions have been cherished for decades.
The POSTS and RAILS tradition dates to Powhatan’s earliest years as the Blue Ridge Country Day School. Just as Harry Potter was assigned to the house of Gryffindor when he arrived at Hogwarts, Powhatan student “houses” are POSTS and RAILS. The playful competition between POSTS and RAILS fosters a sense of belonging and comradery, as well as a very special experience that is unique to Powhatan students.
Alumni remember this friendly rivalry, and the question we hear most from them is “How are the POSTS doing, or are the RAILS winning?” It is an entrenched part of the Powhatan culture, and crosses generations. Throughout the school year POSTS and RAILS earn points for various activities or accomplishments. Some of these include multiple community service activities, others are internal competitions such as our Geography Bee, while still others are points for external competitions.
One thing to point out is that once a student is selected as a POST or a RAIL then siblings will also be included in the same team. The same goes for legacies—so if a parent attended Powhatan as a POST, then the next generation will automatically be a POST.
One of the oldest and most enduring traditions, Upper School Retreat is held at the beginning of each school year at Camp Rim Rock in West Virginia. A wonderful event that encourages teamwork and collaboration through two days worth of fun and sometimes challenging events, it is an experience that bonds classmates and teachers alike and is one of the important milestones in the Upper School.
The Full Value Contract is established each year at Upper School Retreat, establishing guidelines on how we will treat each other in the coming year. POSTS and RAILS captains are voted on each year at Upper School Retreat. Team Building exercises are threaded throughout the two days.
The purpose of the buddy program is to build mentorship and friendship between different aged students. Each Upper School grade is matched with a Lower School grade to provide opportunities for building community throughout the year. Students cheer for their buddies when they endeavor to try something new, they encourage one another when they perform in plays, and they support each other in various activities across campus.
Ski Programs are common to independent schools across the mid-Atlantic and northeast. The program provides Powhatan School students the opportunity to learn to Ski and Snowboard from professional instructors. Winter Tuesdays are designed with our school motto in mind, as students learn a lifelong skill that they can enjoy long after they’ve graduated from Powhatan School. Held over four Tuesday’s in January and February, this fantastic community building activity is held at Whitetail Ski Resort in Mercersburg, PA.
One of the long-standing traditions at Powhatan is the eighth grade Chapel Talk. Each eighth grader addresses the assembled school community and delivers an 8-10 minute presentation about a topic he or she is not only knowledgeable and passionate but also one that the mostly younger audience, Pre-K through seventh graders, will be interested in and able to understand. The presentation is followed by a question-answer session. The student has the opportunity to share something unique about themselves, to teach others about it in the process, and to be acknowledged as a leader and role model for the younger students. This capstone project showcases strategies Powhatan students have mastered throughout their Powhatan careers such as research, writing, technology, communication, and collaboration.
The annual eighth grade Shakespeare Play is a tradition that stretches back more than 40 years at Powhatan School. The founder of our Shakespeare tradition, former Headmaster Mr. Donald Niemann, knew the importance of the arts and made it a centerpiece of the school’s ethos. Every grade level performs a class play, and the communication skills, collaboration and confidence that comes along with such an undertaking is indeed immense. The extended time that goes into such a production brings a class together and creates an experience that lasts a lifetime.
Learning experiences beyond the classroom can often be among the most valuable experiences a student will enjoy and remember. Field trips are an integral part of our curriculum. All of our field trips have curricular significance, and there is an instructional focus for the students. Parents are often asked to accompany the students as chaperones or as visitors on these trips.
Powhatan’s extensive experiential learning program starts at Kindergarten and expands over time. A few examples of current class field trips include:
- Kindergarten: Trips to Blandy Experiential Farm and the National Zoo
- First Grade: Trips to Harvue Dairy, Mackintosh Fruit Farm and Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
- Second Grade: Geology Field Trip, Mount Vernon and National Fruit/Henkel Harris
- Third Grade: Overnight trip to Colonial Williamsburg
- Fourth Grade: Overnight trip to Monticello & The Frontier Culture Museum (Charlottesville & Staunton, Va.)
- Fifth Grade: Overnight to Baltimore and Washington D.C., including Air and Space Museum and the National Cathedral
- Sixth Grade: Survival Trip—overnight camping trip includes canoeing on the Shenandoah River
- Seventh Grade: Overnight to Antietam and Harpers Ferry
- Eighth Grade: 3-day trip to Tangier Island in order to participate in the award-winning Chesapeake Bay Foundation Education Program