New Capstone Experiences Invigorate Freshmen and Sophomores

  • Voices
New Capstone Experiences Invigorate Freshmen and Sophomores
Philip Kielty, Freshman Dean, and Jim Martin, Sophomore Dean

Building on the traditions of the Junior Mountain Trip and the Senior Project, the classes of 2025 and 2026 closed out the school year with three days of new and exciting opportunities.

In June — building on Ravenscroft’s long tradition of capstone experiences including the Junior Mountain Trip and the Senior Project — students in the freshman and sophomore classes closed out their respective year of growth and learning with special opportunities as well. Designed by their class deans with support from other faculty and staff across the division, these activities over the last three days of the school year put into action many of the values that are core to the outcomes of a Ravenscroft education. On the first day, students learned more about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (dubbed the “Global Ed-travaganza” by Director of Global Studies Melanie Spransy), and on the second day they engaged in a range of service-learning activities followed by advisory celebrations.

On Day 3, each class departed campus for a day of exciting challenges and fun community building. Here, Freshman Class Dean Phil Kielty and Sophomore Class Dean Jim Martin explore what these opportunities meant to and for these Ravens as they wrapped up the 2022-23 school year.

A grid of photo showing freshmen students at Go Ape

Clockwise from top: Members of the Class of 2026 and their faculty/staff chaperones gather for their capstone experience at Go Ape; Sheila Awasthi ’26 prepares for the zipline; freshmen enjoy snacks during a break in the day’s activities.

Go Ape: Freshmen embrace challenge course, enjoy “just hanging out”  

The Class of 2026 wrapped up the Capstone Experience with a day of team building and adventure at a local ropes and zipline course called Go Ape. Because the course could only accommodate 15 kids at a time, we had a lot of downtime before and after each group went. I was concerned that all that free time would create opportunities for mischief. Boy, was I wrong.  

I have been reading in both news stories and professional literature about the growing concerns that adolescents no longer just hang out or socialize together in freewheeling, unstructured ways. While my parents loathed the fact that I spent too much time with my friends playing Pac-Man at the local arcade (it was called Station Break, get it?), the key was that I was “with my friends.” Today’s research suggests that these “hangs” build long-lasting friendships and help adolescents develop essential interpersonal and social skills. The day at Go Ape gave the class lots of opportunities to do just this.  

Especially after they came back from the ropes course, small groups formed at picnic tables, around a Spikeball game or on the swing sets, just hanging out. In addition, because Go Ape sits across from Blue Jay Point Park, our kids channeled their inner toddlers for a few minutes to play. The park has a large play area for little kids, and the best thing I witnessed was several boys playing with the kids there, holding races to see who could get around the play area first. It’s impossible to describe the unbridled joy in the faces of those kids as they raced Wade Jennings ’26, Jack Oates ’26 and the other boys — and won!  

It was a great way to wrap up the school year. Moving forward, I hope we can create more opportunities like this one.

 — Phil Kielty, Freshman Class Dean

A grid of photos showing students at the Whitewater Center

Clockwise from top: Members of the Class of 2025 and their faculty/staff chaperones prepare for the adventure at the Whitewater Center; Ravens work together to navigate the challenges of the rapids and enjoy the zipline.

The Whitewater Center: Sophomores leave their comfort zones, learn “more about the people” in their rafts

The sophomore class had a great day going to the Whitewater Center. Despite leaving for Charlotte early in the morning, students and faculty were excited to finish their last day of school by participating in the various activities there. Thanks to the grade-level representatives and parents of sophomores, we all were provided breakfast before we got on the buses. After the long bus ride (where most students caught up on their sleep), we arrived at the Whitewater Center. 

After some instructions about safety and expectations, students were allowed to participate in any of the activities offered at the center. Our students and faculty rafted down the rapids, working together to avoid tipping or falling out. They were mostly successful with staying in the rafts. As one student put it, “I learned more about the people in my raft in 30 minutes than I would have if I had spent the whole year with them in class.” It was truly a joy to see students and faculty working together where everyone was equally outside of their comfort zones.

Students seemed to enjoy both the structured rafting and the unstructured time surrounding the other activities including ziplining, rock climbing and flat-water activities. Some students relayed to me that they had just as much fun walking around watching their classmates do the activities as they did participating themselves. 

Around halfway through the day, students paused to have lunch together under one of the pavilions. We got to see many students excitedly talk about what they had done in the morning and what they were looking to do for the remainder of the day. As we boarded the bus toward the end of the day, students were talking about how much fun they had, and we found it was a much louder bus ride on the return trip than it was on the way there.

 — Jim Martin, Sophomore Class Dean