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November Head of School Letter: The Natural World

Friday, November 3, 2017


When I was a kid growing up in Atlanta, I led a pretty suburban life, but I was also fortunate to be a Boy Scout. That membership took me out to the natural world every month to backpack in the north Georgia mountains, cave in Tennessee, rock climb in Alabama, explore the Okefenokee Swamp on the Florida-Georgia line, or sit around a campfire somewhere soaking up nature. I learned, starting around age ten, how a powerful connection to woods and water could provide confidence, teach me about the environment, and test my skills. It was also fun and invigorating!

A few years later, when I was fourteen, I embarked on my Eagle Scout project. Eagle projects are intended to give scouts the chance to serve the community while teaching organizational and leadership skills. Like the spiral place and theme-based curriculum at GUS, they draw on years of steady learning and growth that define the stepping stones of scouting. My project involved building an outdoor classroom with benches and tables behind my school, connected by a winding series of trails that forded two creeks. It took my buddies, dad, and me over 200 hours to do the work.

No surprise, then, that when I first walked out on the GUS Nature Trail, I was enthralled. Since GUS moved to the former Orchidvale property in 1982, the entire rich and varied campus environment has acted as a classroom full of learning opportunities. The idea of the outdoor classroom isn’t new or novel at GUS. It’s part of our academic and philosophical DNA, a founding tenet of a GUS education.

The GUS model is often imitated but never duplicated. That’s because our program springs from a coherent, documented vision that has proven valid for four decades. As we plan our 40+Forward celebrations and reengage with our oldest alumni and past parents, they confirm that the GUS approach has stood the test of time, providing a springboard into lives that support creativity, curiosity, collaboration, self-discovery, respect, and social responsibility. Look at our mission statement, and you’ll see that my words are a distillation of slightly longer phrases—but they’re GUS in a nutshell.

I invite you to share what makes this school special by bringing friends to the Glen Urquhart School Nature Fair on Sunday, November 5. Guided by GUS faculty and ten like-minded organizations, the fair will give children K–8, including prospective families, a chance to explore campus and take part in hands-on, nature-based activities designed to highlight the importance of the natural world in our lives. I hope to see you there and walk with you on the Nature Trail.

40+Forward,

David Liebmann
Head of School