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Ski Days

Nestled in the heart of Idaho’s west-central mountains, the Alzar School’s unique location lends the opportunity to explore pristine and vast natural environments in a manner of ways. Our 100+ acre campus is located along the Payette River. Just 3 miles downstream from Kelly’s Whitewater Park and a geothermally heated pool, students can practice their kayaking skills almost year round. The Alzar School is also surrounded by the Payette and Boise National Forests which lends ample opportunities to hike high mountain trails and camp alongside backcountry lakes. This upcoming weekend students have the chance to explore a bit more of Idaho - not kayaking or backpacking, but on skis and snowboards!

There are two ski areas, Tamarack Ski Resort and Brundage Mountain Resort, located within an hour’s drive of the Alzar School. With an average annual snowfall of over 11 feet, this region provides amazing snow, diverse terrain and short lift lines that come with small-town mountain resorts. These factors combined, make Tamarack and Brundage ideal for students to learn on and explore a few times each semester. On ski days, all Alzar School students, regardless of skill level, take a short lesson. Whether it is linking turns on the beginner hill or finding a powder stash in the trees, students of all abilities tend to have a blast on these family-friendly mountains. Skiing and snowboarding with the Alzar School provides students with the chance to try a new sport or hone existing skills, sliding along with teachers and peers amidst the beauty of Idaho’s winter.

Spanish Conversational Challenges

Update: By popular demand, here is the recipe Sam used. 

We have all encountered a situation where learning something new seemed utterly tedious. At the Alzar School, we help students engage in their studies by crafting curriculum and assignments to accommodate various interests and passions. For some, learning Spanish, or any language for that matter does not come naturally. Through conversational challenges in Chile, students are giving the opportunity to tailor their Spanish lessons to their interests. The power of learning and cultural exchange combine as we watch students use the Spanish language to communicate about their passions, drawing upon schema, prior knowledge, and experiences, to connect with local Chileans.

As an avid chef and baker, Sam found his Spanish learning nitch in a Chilean kitchen. Sam first approached Veronica and Joanna, the women who serve and cook our meals in Choshuenco, with a conversational challenge to learn the Spanish word for “measuring cup.” This initial conversation left Sam wondering if he would be able to use their kitchen to bake. So, he asked and they agreed. Deciding upon a dessert for the group, Sam shared his recipe for donut muffins with Veronica and Joanna. Together they worked through the ingredients, quantities, and instructions in Spanish. Sam remembers feeling more comfortable trying out new vocabulary and tenses with Veronica and Joanna “because we were in their homes” and in the familiar space of the kitchen. Throughout their baking conversations, Sam learned new vocabulary such as “moleda” meaning “powdered, “nuez moscada” or “nutmeg”, and “Imperial” which is the Chilean brand of and cultural reference for “baking soda”. Needless to say, the donut muffins were a hit! Constructing his conversational challenge around his passion in the kitchen, Sam was able to get far more out of his Spanish lesson in Chile all while making new friends.

 

Faculty, Many Thanks

With Thanksgiving Day nearly upon us, we’d like to take the time to recognize and honor our hard-working faculty. Each day at the Alzar School presents certain challenges. From coordinating dietary needs at breakfast, to helping a struggling student work through a math problem, to changing a flat tire on a dirt road in Chile, our teaching staff are amazingly flexible, understanding and resilient individuals. They are the keystone of an Alzar School education.

The Alzar School academic faculty have a passion for education, the outdoors and helping young leaders reach their potential. Over the course of an Alzar School semester, our nine teachers and five teaching fellows spend countless hours planning and executing meaningful lessons for our students. With small classes, teachers are able to individualize student education based on interests and learning styles. Outdoor adventure isn’t just taught at the Alzar School, it is embraced by all. In their free time, faculty can be found anywhere from rafting the Grand Canyon, to trekking through rural eastern Europe, following adventure wherever it takes them. In addition, our teachers often put their personal lives on hold to dedicate time to students. Alzar School faculty are a unique group of educators in that they travel and live alongside students. They help cultivate lasting relationships with their mentees and can remain present in students' lives into college and beyond. As alumnus Isaac reflected, “Our teachers at Alzar [School] were our mentors, were our, and are our, friends. Because of that relationship, I was so much more invested in learning and growing academically.” Our teaching faculty truly are incredible people.

As our students and faculty return from their adventures in Chile this week, we hope they get to spend quality time with family and friends. We are beyond grateful for the dedication and amazing work our faculty does to help the Alzar School build young leaders and wish them the very best this Thanksgiving.

Read more about the Alzar School faculty and teaching fellows. 

 

A History of Parque Patagonia

As the students enjoy the last few days of their expeditions in Patagonia, Anita thought it would be nice to share a bit about the history and creation of the National Park our students explore.  

Spanning from the eastern beech forests of the Andes Mountains to the western arid grasslands of the Patagonian steppe, Valle Chacabuco is a transitional ecosystem that forms the heart of the newly formed Parque Patagonia. Students at the Alzar School spend two weeks in this area. They explore the vast wilderness of Patagonia’s iconic granite spires and the meandering glacial waters of the Rio Baker. Located deep in southern Chile, Valle Chacabuco remained largely unexplored throughout Spanish colonization. As late 19th century explorers trekked steadily south, the resources of these remote areas were documented and soon exploited. As early as 1908, large-scale sheep and cattle ranching operations were established in Valle Chacabuco. Despite government re-appropriation of lands to agricultural elite and the steady degeneration of grazing lands, ranching remained a driving force in the area’s economy up until the early 2000’s.  

In 1995, Doug and Kris Tompkins, founders of Patagonia clothing brand and avid conservationists, visited Valle Chacabuco hearing stories of how the rich habitats of this area naturally support a high level of biodiversity. Kris recalls her visit in a blog post, A History of Valle Chacabuco:

"When I drove through the Chacabuco Valley for the first time, I saw the extra-high ‘guanaco fences’ designed to keep these first-rate jumpers out of the best bottom grasslands, which were reserved for the cattle on the estancia. My eyes glazed over looking out on the tens of thousands of sheep grazing the bunch grasses up and down the valley. The grasses looked patchy and dead. Nothing left for wildlife."


The guanaco, a llama relative, is a keystone species in the region and have adapted to the harsh conditions of the high steppe. They roam freely, revitalizing native vegetation and providing food for predators. This area is also home to some of South America’s most endangered species such as giant anteaters, culpeo fox, pumas, and hairy armadillos. Realizing the ecological significance and the conservation potential of the region, Kris founded Conservacion Patagonica in 2000 with a mission, according to their website, of “building new national parks in compelling, ecologically critical areas of Patagonia.”

Since it’s inception, Conservacion Patagonica has acquired large swaths of formerly ranched land and are working to restore and link contiguous natural habitats in Argentinean and Chilean Patagonia. Once complete, Parque Patagonia will become a Chilean national park and span an area roughly the size of Oregon State. Through the acquisition of former ranching lands, extensive ecological restoration efforts and the eventual donation of these areas back to government states, Conservacion Patagonica is making an impact and setting precedent for large-scale land conservation across the globe.  Read more about Conservacion Patagonica and the history of Parque Patagonia. Photos courtesy of Parque Patagonia website. 

10 Kilometers

 

On the morning of Halloween in the quiet towns of Neltume and Choshuenco, our thirty-four students met up to tackle the 1oK.  The route our faculty set took the students between Lago Neltume (a Mapuche community) and the beach on the shore of Choshuenco.  Students anxiously gathered at the starting line dressed in Halloween costumes and smiled at all the confused looks they got from people passing by.  

Every semester there is great anticipation leading up to the 10K.  Despite the weekly training and the preparation the students get from carrying a heavy pack through rugged landscapes, many are a bit nervous about the experience.  Many have never set out to run a little over six miles at one time. 


Ultimately the day was ten kilometers of taking in a beautiful part of the Chilean landscape, ten kilometers of pride in what they are capable of, ten kilometers of great playlists, and ten kilometers of fun with great friends.  All students successfully completed the course, and a new school record was set.