by Dani Cooke
On Monday, March 19, head of school Greg Bamford responded to student concerns about a lack of transparency and confusion around the intentions behind Watershed’s increasing enrollment in an all-school community meeting. The idea for the presentation originated with the student council, who had been asked by many students to address larger class sizes over the past few semesters.
Greg cited finances as the primary reason for such growth, explaining that increased enrollment allows for more financial independence within the school (without which May Terms and mid-semester travel might not be possible). Increased enrollment allows the school to follow a trajectory of ceasing dependence on certain outside donations in favor of more autonomous self-reliance.
Many students, especially those who have attended Watershed for more than two years, express concern over the limitations imposed by larger class sizes on opportunities for field work and student-teacher interaction. However, there is also widespread agreement that these limitations are typically overcome, as mid-semester travel opportunities and incredibly exciting May Term options remain available.
Additionally, with a larger student body, more intellectual and cultural diversity is fostered within our small school community. The difference in the social scene within a school of one hundred and a school of thirty is massive, and many students, especially those in high school, appreciate the social flexibility offered by a slightly larger educational environment.
Perhaps the most important piece of information students took away from Greg’s presentation was this: the school’s growth is intentional. It is part of a clearly-mapped future plan that was created with Watershed’s best interests in mind; one which will adapt accordingly as Tim Breen assumes the role of Watershed’s head of school.
by Nina Auslander
This month, I interviewed students at Watershed who are pansexual and asexual to learn more about their experiences. They are represented by the aliases Ace Ventura, Ace of Spades, Skillet, and Non-Stick.
(If you are confused by these aliases, let me clarify: “ace” is a nickname for those who identify who are asexual, and “pan” is short for pansexual. Therefore, the asexual interviewees went with aliases that started with “ace,” and the pansexual interviewees went with aliases that are used to describe different kinds of pans.)
Before I begin this interview, here are some LGBTQIA+ terms you may not be familiar with:
Asexuality: a lack of sexual attraction
Aromanticism: a lack of romantic attraction
Pansexuality: Sexual attraction to all genders
Polyamorous: a relationship with multiple partners
Monogamous: a relationship with a single partner
Queer platonic relationship: A relationship that is neither sexual nor romantic but involves deep emotional commitment similar to a that of a long-term romantic relationship.
Sexual attraction: attraction to someone centered on future sexual interaction
Romantic attraction: an attraction centered on future romantic interaction
Platonic attraction: attraction that is neither sexual nor romantic can take a few forms;
Sensual attraction: attraction for someone centered on physical intimacy
Aesthetic attraction: attraction centered on aesthetics (looks), but not in a sexual way
Emotional attraction: attraction centered on emotional intimacy or openness
DSM: Diagnostic statistical manual of mental disorders
#1: What is your sexual orientation and romantic orientation?
Ace Ventura: Asexual, aromantic.
Ace of Spades: Asexual, aromantic.
Skillet: Pansexual, aromantic.
Non-stick: Pansexual, questioning.
#2: When did you first notice your romantic feelings strayed from the "norm"?
Ace Ventura: I always figured, “Oh, I’ll get a crush on someone later. I haven’t hit puberty yet, so that’s why. Then, I was at a summer camp in the Tetons, and all of the girls were giggling about boys. Then, one of them asked me if I had a crush on any boys. I told them “Nope.” One of them asked if I was gay. I didn’t think I was gay, either. Finally, one of the girls asked if I had ever had a crush on anybody, at all. “Not yet,” I responded to her. One of the “experienced” girls asked if I was ace. And it just fit.
Ace of Spades: I put the label on [my sexuality] in seventh grade—because I finally found a label for how I had been feeling. Access to labels was hard.
Skillet: When I never had any (laughs). Well actually, it was when people asked me out, and though I liked those people, I didn’t like that [romantic] attraction. I found it annoying and irrelevant.
Non-stick: When I was a little hatchling and all I wanted was to make out with all of my friends (laughs).
#3: What stigmatizations do you want to break down about your sexuality and romantic attractions?
Ace Ventura: The difference between asexuality and celibacy can be explained using a bar of chocolate. Think of someone who is celibate as someone who avoids the chocolate because they’re dieting. An asexual is just one of those weird people who doesn’t like chocolate.
Ace of Spades: All the time I hear, “It’s just a choice to be asexual, you haven’t found the right person yet.” Many people think that celibacy is the same thing as asexuality, but it’s not. I’ve also heard a lot of the same rhetoric of homophobia used against people who are asexual. But the thing that bothers me the most is that being asexual is still currently classified as a medical disorder is the DSM, called Hypoactive Sexuality Disorder.
Skillet: A lot of people aren’t sure about the difference between pansexual and bisexual. People who identify as pansexual is defined as “someone who is not limited to sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity,” while people who identify as bisexual are defined as “someone who is sexually attracted to both men and women.”
Non-stick: I agree with “Skillet”: pansexual people aren’t promiscuous, we just don’t care about your gender.
#4: What’s your ideal relationship, platonic or otherwise?
Ace Ventura: I think I would like to live with someone who loves me for me—who doesn’t have any sexual or romantic expectations they need fulfilled. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever have a romantic attraction to someone, but then I wonder if that’s just societal programming telling me that I will want to live with someone.
Ace of Spades: Well, sometimes I think about the tax benefits that come with marrying someone. (laughs). My ideal relationship is a queer platonic relationship, which has many definitions, but to me, it means a very intense friendship with a deeper commitment.
Skillet: A mostly platonic polyamorous relationship would be ideal.
Non-stick: I am the same person as “Skillet.”
#5: Have you ever experienced any discrimination as a result of your sexual or romantic orientation?
Ace Ventura: People have told me that “I’m just trying to be queer.”
Ace of Spades: Well, of course. But the most hurtful is asexual exclusionary, which is when people who identify as asexual are excluded from the LGBTQIA+ community.
Skillet: Guys who know I’m pansexual are less likely to want to be my friends because they’re worried I’ll be attracted to them.
Non-stick: Oh yeah. People not believing it’s not a thing. A kid came out as bi at my old school and nobody wanted to be friends with him. I’ve had the same thing happen where girls don’t want to be friends with me because of [my being pansexual].
Interviewed by Nina Auslander
Nina: How many languages do you speak, and in which order did you learn them?
Nadia: I started learning French when I was very little, so I guess that was my first language. I spoke French with my dad, and Italian with my mom. When I went to preschool, I learned English, and it’s now the language I’m most comfortable with. However, I’m fluent in all three languages.
Nina: Do you find it easier to travel than your classmates?
Nadia: Yeah. Because I know Italian, it was easier for me to pick up Spanish. When I went to Guatemala, I had only taken a semester of Spanish in seventh grade and a semester at Watershed before going on the trip, but I was able to understand what everyone was saying in Guatemala, even if I couldn’t always speak it.
Nina: Do you ever find it challenging in your head to keep the languages straight?
Nina: Do you find that each language brings with it its own culture?
Nadia: Well, there is a difference between Quebec French and France French. My grandparents are French, so my accent growing up in Quebec was a little different from everyone, more of the traditional french accent. In Quebec, the French has a lot more slang and is a little more messy.
Nina: Do you miss having more languages around you? Here, it’s rare to speak more than English, but in Quebec, almost everybody speaks at least two languages…
Nadia: I actually don’t miss it all. In Quebec, almost everything is in French, so it was hard for English speaking families to get around. There was sort of this feud between the French-speaking Quebec and the English-speaking Quebec... the French resented the English because it was them keeping things from being fully French. So it’s weird in a good way not to be surrounded by that anymore.
Nina: Do you dream in different languages?
Nadia: No, not really. I used to have thoughts in French when I was little, but now it’s just English.
Nina: Do you want to learn anymore languages?
Nadia: I want to learn a language that doesn’t have the latin roots. I want to learn a language that’s completely different, like German. I was in Munich this past summer and it was really cool.
by Nina Auslander
What is your background? How did you get interested in education?
I became interested in teaching toward the end of my college experience. I had really fallen in love with physics and sharing that passion through teaching seemed an obvious choice. I was also probably influenced by the fact that my father was a teacher and administrator in schools his whole career. I quickly found the work in schools to be invigorating. To me, working with students is incredibly rewarding — helping them learn and grow into citizens who will help make the world a better place.
What are some approaches towards education that you have from your old school that you plan on bringing to Watershed?
I don't really think about bringing approaches from White Mountain to Watershed. I really want to learn about and support the best of what is already happening at Watershed. That said, at White Mountain we are working on having students more involved in discussion about program improvements. I would want to be sure that students have a proactive role in helping to shape the educational experience at the school.
What aspects of Watershed most excites you?
I am particularly excited about the work the students and teachers do at Watershed. By wrestling with big questions and engaging in the community, it becomes clear that education is not about memorization and recall, it's about about preparing for life in our complicated world. It seems to me that Watershed students learn not just about the world, but in the world and for the world.
What aspects of Colorado excite you the most?
I have been intrigued with Colorado since childhood — the beauty of the mountains, the wide-open spaces. This is a bit hokey to share, but in 4th grade everyone had to choose a state to do a report on: I chose Colorado. As an adult I have hiked and camped in Rocky Mountain National Park and skied at Vail, Snowmass, and Copper Mountain. I have also spent time in Denver and Boulder and really enjoy the culture and the openness of the people I've met.
At this point, do you see yourself bringing any major changes to Watershed? If so, what do you believe the school can improve upon the most?
As I mentioned above, I really hope to learn more about the strengths of Watershed before making any judgments about changes. In general, I feel that the best way for a school to evolve is to really identify the strengths, and work to build upon those strengths.
Do you have any plans to address the lack of economic and racial diversity at Watershed?
This is an important part of Watershed's future work, and I am glad to see that it is an active conversation at the school. I'm bringing no specific plans, but I know from my experience here at White Mountain that it is an all school endeavor — everyone has a role to play as we wrestle with resources and working to be sure the community is welcoming and supportive of all.
by Dani Cooke
If you recall any exasperated cries coming from the 9/10 classroom at the end of last year, you must know that such passionate distress had a great deal to do with a fifty-eight page report covering one of the most complicated issues facing the U.S. political scene in recent years: immigration. After all, if 535 highly-educated politicians who manage public policy and legislation as a career can’t find a solution to an issue, who better to do so than a class of fourteen and fifteen-year-olds?
Last year, in the chronological epicenter of the U.S. immigration system’s most tangled debates, the 9/10 expedition (WS graduating classes of 2019 and 2020) spent an entire semester in an in-depth study of borders and biodiversity. This course culminated in a complex environmental and human impact study of the Trump administration’s proposed wall along the US-Mexico border. Through the work of humanities teacher Pablo Stayton and science teacher Hannah Nelson, this examination of topics, which ranged from drug trafficking to the tourism industry in Big Bend National Park, caught the attention of local politicians including Boulder-based Congressman Jared Polis.
On October 16th, 2017—one semester and a summer break from the report’s completion—a group of fourteen students jumped back into last year’s hard work for a meeting with Congressman Polis (sporting his signature business suit and worn, off-white New Balance sneakers, of course). During this meeting, we summarized the 58-page report and briefly outlined the context of the course. We then answered a number of questions from him and a legislative aide about the report and our conclusions about the proposed border wall’s potential impact.
Congressman Polis also shared some of the immigration-related decisions Congress is currently facing. Namely, the Trump Administration has provided an ultimatum in response to the majority’s opposal to the wall’s construction: if Congress approves the construction of a smaller section of the proposed border wall, DACA will not be repealed as has been stated previously. (It is likely that, following this decision, DACA recipients would be able to obtain legal status in the United States through some sort of vetting process.)
In this meeting, we were given the unique opportunity to share our well-researched understanding of the proposed border wall and its its implications; we also gained insight into the decisions Congress is facing currently in respect to the wall. Though written by a class of ninth- and tenth-graders, there is a definite possibility that this impact study will result in a powerful impact of its own.
View the complete Environmental & Human Impact Study here:
by Lola Hemmat
Can you even imagine not having a home to go back to each night? Not having your guardian to keep you safe, and instead being alone and vulnerable every night? It’s a horrible truth that many youth have to face every single day, they don’t get to imagine what it would be like to live like this, because they know.
On November 2nd, my classmates and I did a sponsored sleep out for homeless youth in Colorado for Attention Homes. Did you know that there are 2,000 homeless youth in the Denver Metro area? All of these kids didn’t have any warning or idea that they would be forced from home, making it hard for these homeless children to continue their education. A non-profit called Attention Homes, can be the solution. Attention Homes accepts everyone from the age of 12 to 24, and they don’t discriminate against your ethnicity, sexual orientation, or anything else. They support the children with any emotional or educational needs they have in the homes they provide.
The problem is growing and getting out of control. So the expedition teachers for the sixth and seventh grade and a math teacher thought the middle school students should help. They decided to work with Attention Homes. The goal we had set for ourselves to earn for Attention Homes was $1,000 dollars, but by the time the sleep out rolled around, we had raised $4,400!
On the night of the sleep out it was around 30 degrees fahrenheit, so you can probably understand that not all of us were so excited to be sleeping outdoors. But we used grit, (one of the Watershed character traits) to get us through the night. At the beginning of the night we talked to three people working for Attention Homes, two of them were once homeless themselves, but Attention Homes helped them get back on their feet. After the specialists came, we headed outside into the cold to write some journal prompts. One of the prompts was to appreciate the people or person who puts a roof over our heads. This made many of us thankful for just how amazing the people in our lives are, and made us think of how horrible life would be without them.
I know we donated as much as we were able, but after sleeping out I wish I could do more to help. I wish everyone would do something to help, I wish people would stop treating these people like they aren’t there. But I don’t have to wish these things, I can do them and have others help. So, if you ever see someone on the streets,do something for them. Buy them a meal, some socks, or even just have a conversation, anything helps.
You know that feeling when you're in the shower, rehearsing nonexistent arguments or practicing tomorrow's most badass comeback to an insult you'll never receive, and suddenly feel like you've discovered the meaning of life?
Well, maybe the meaning to one facet of one moment of life—but, still, these thoughts tend to feel crazy important. Here are some of the most poignant mini-epiphanies reached by Watershed Students.
If you forget a sleeping bag on the backpacking trip, the solution is the same as if you forget a fork: spoon." - Leo S.
There are more buttcheeks in the world than there are people." - Kathlin A.
Has a murderer ever walked past me, contemplated murdering me, and then just been like, 'Nah'?" - Sarah B.
The symbol that marks cruelty free products is so freaking cute!"
How long does it take for grave-robbing to become archaeology?" - Ari
Chocolate is a flavor of milk and milk is a flavor of chocolate." - Leo S.
Nothing is real, our own existence is a futile illusion, and we will never know anything about the nature of reality." - The entire 11/12 class, constantly