The Exp Summer Daily

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The Experimentory Blog

Our year-round blog has the most recent updates

Exp Summer Daily Blog

The blog becomes active each summer starting just before we're in session. Its a great place to see what our students are doing on a daily basis.

Day 11: Up the River (Without a Dictionary)

Jul 20, 2017 9:00:35 PM

At the Experimentory, we speak our own language. Every morning we start out together for breakfast from the “Crow,” short for “Crow Commons,” the big common room that connects the boys’ and girls’ dorms. A cluster is an interdisciplinary class. DFG? Nope, not a book by Roald Dahl, but “Dorm, Field, Greer,” which are options students can choose from during their field time. Oh, and "Greer"? That’s the name of Deerfield Academy’s student store, home to some of the best popcorn around. We’ve also got “reboot” (down time), “feed” (snacks at night), and “studio” (project time after dinner). We’re pretty used to our lingo around here, but during our whitewater rafting field trip on Wednesday, we encountered all kinds of new words, finding ourselves up the river without a dictionary. Media Manager Kayla Corcoran tells the story of Wednesday’s field trip through the glossary of whitewater rafting.

Whitewater: water moving rapidly over rocks that’s white and frothy and foamy; best to be in the boat while going through this kind of water. See also: involuntary swimming, Ms. Corcoran.

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 And we're overboard! Ms. Corcoran and Kevin L. decide to go "swimming."


Summer Teeth: “Everyone’s gonna get three pieces of equipment for today,” announced Amy, as we geared up for our rafting trip. One of them, a paddle, has what’s called a T-Grip, called so because the end of the paddle is shaped like a T for easy grabbing. “Glue your hand to this T-grip for the entire time you’re on the water,” Amy warned. One thing we didn’t want to be was up the river without our paddles. The other reason we needed to hang on to the T-Grip, Amy remarked, was that in case we went over a gnarly rapid, losing control of the T-Grip might mean ending up with or giving someone else summer teeth. “What’s summer teeth, you ask?” said Amy. “It’s when some of your teeth are in your mouth, some are in the boat, some are in the water. Get it?” We got it. T-Grip in hand.

PFD: Personal flotation device. Also known as the thing that kept Kevin L. and me above water when we got knocked out of the boat while we dropped down the Zoar Gap, the Class III rapid on our section of the Deerfield River.

Put-In: The place where you begin your rafting trip because you, you know, put your boat in the water. The bus ride up to our put-in followed a long and winding road up into the Berkshire mountains. Maple sugar houses and thick-trunked trees dotted the roadside. We rode across an ages-old set of train tracks, still in use today and running through the five-mile Hoosac Tunnel, whose construction marked the first commercial use of nitroglycerin in the United States. Nearly 200 workers were killed during the construction, our guide Caleb told us, and the tunnel is said to be haunted by their ghosts.

Thwart: Nope, in this case it doesn’t mean to stop Banana Man’s plans for world domination (sorry, Vincent). Thwarts are tubes that run inside the raft and they’re not for sitting. Rafters side on the outside edge on the boat with feet tucked under the thwarts for stability. The thwarts also have ropes strung alongside for easy grabbing in case the water gets rough. Both Kevin C. and Megan stayed tucked in front of the first thwart on their respective boats when we went down the Zoar Gap so they didn’t fall out. Megan wore the Go-Pro camera on her helmet and caught some footage as we went through the Class III rapid...stay tuned for that!

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Kevin C. hunkers down in front on his raft while the boat drops down into the Zoar Gap, the Class III rapid on our section of the Deerfield River. 


All Forward: All forward is the command the guide gives that makes you feel like you’re on a Viking ship. Caleb would shout, “All forward!” cuing us to dig our paddles deep into the water and push onwards. Derek helped keep us all in sync paddling by counting out steady strokes in “one, two, one, two” rhythmic tones.

Surfing: Rafting against a rapid, so the boat surfs the water instead of moving downstream. Before heading downriver we surfed a rapid, digging our paddles in and try our best to outsmart the water. See also: getting soaked, Megan and Alexandra.

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 Charlotte and proctor Dylan head up their boat during while they go surfing!


Rock Farm: On proctor Sam's boat, rafting guide Liam pointed out the Rock Farm, a particularly rocky section of the river. "Interesting part of the river, right here," remarked Liam. "We call this the Rock Farm. This is where we plant baby rocks. We let them grow for five to six years into big boulders, and then we can replant them in different places around the river to create cool rapids." "Wait," our students paused, not quite ready to believe Liam: "Do you mean the big rocks turn into little rocks?" "No, no," answered Liam, "all the baby rocks grow up into adult rocks, like kids, you know?" They nodded, agreeing. "Hold on a minute, guys," squinted Hans, "I think this guy's trying to finesse us." See also: disbelief.

Wednesday's blue skies and clear water + the sunny attitudes of our students made for a fieldtrip that will certainly be remembered. Be sure to check out all of the photos on Flickr for some pretty great action shots taken of our boats in the water, courtesy of Berkshire East Whitewater Rafting! 

To see more of the adventures happening at the Experimentory, be sure to follow our daily blog, and look for updates and photos on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Flickr.

The Exp Summer Daily provides news and updates while we are in session in July and August. The rest of the year, check out the Experimentory Blog for posts feature our students, teachers, classes, values, goals, and plans for the coming year.