November 10-12: AFSIVA at ThorpeWood


This weekend, our Baltimore high schoolers had an eventful weekend immersed in nature at ThorpeWood Retreat Center. Dinner was already simmering thanks to Ms. Daphne when we arrived, and Friday was a night of eating savory pumpkin noodles (using gleaned pumpkins from our service project at Butler’s Orchard!), playing Uno, and getting to know one another.

We got lucky with a beautiful day on Saturday, and we spent all of our daylit hours outdoors! We hiked through some beautiful Thurmont forest, learning how to identify common native trees through key features on the leaves and trunks; at night, our students helped prepare their own dinner before gathering kindling, small twigs and fire logs to build a campfire from scratch, something a lot of them had never done before! We enjoyed a beautiful chilly evening singing songs and making s’mores under the stars.

Sunday, we got our service learning on, donning waders to help Sam, ThorpeWood’s owner, unclog the pond drainage pipe that the local beaver blocks up every day. After breakfast, we had a mindful yoga and meditation session with Dave, centering our minds and calming our thoughts for the eventful afternoon ahead. After yoga, we went on a walk with the 7 baby basset hounds being socialized on the property and then had a wonderful horse training activity with 3 of the site’s many horses. We first observed the horses silently as a group to practice nonverbal communication and get the horses acclimated to our presence; we then got into groups and helped groom them, brushing out their coats, tails, and manes before playing games with them, trying to lead them around the yard without actually touching them.

We had a wonderful, nature-filled time away from the busy, noisy city. The students formed friendships that they would not have had the opportunity to cultivate during a traditional school day, and many said this was one of the best weekends they have ever had. Thank you Ms. Christine, Ms. Talia, Ms. Daphne, and Ms. Twanneisha from AFSIVA for putting so much work into building a beautiful weekend for our students, and of course thank you ThorpeWood Mountain Retreat for hosting us! We can’t wait for next year!