Ironwood Maine Web Update

“We have almost forgotten how strange a thing it is that so huge and powerful and intelligent an animal as a horse should allow another, and far more feeble animal, to ride upon its back.” – Peter Gray

Upon arrival to campus this week, it was quickly noticeable that there were several residents who were in the midst of “struggle”.  Family weekend is now 2 weeks behind us and there is a little wearing off of the family euphoria that many of your sons/daughters experienced during their time of reconnection.  Perhaps this is part of human nature after all…we elect to coast in times of comfort, or when things come easily to us.  Many of our residents learned not long ago that despite the prior struggles back home, they are still loved and needed…to great relief.  For others, while this is obvious and known, there was the reckoning that issues still remain to be dealt with.  The post Family Weekend honeymoon is over and it’s time to get back to the important work ahead.

The Frye campus is very “orange” this week, as Ironwood has sent a reminder to pay attention to our campus standards.  Remain mindful of your actions, show your leadership qualities to others that you work alongside, demonstrate greater integrity in your day…GROW FORWARD.  Despite short term setbacks, I must say that the energy on this campus remains positive and accepting, perhaps representing the acknowledgement of accountability and ownership?

The Farmhouse campus is contemplative, with struggle also present.  The girl’s group has presented some discontent with one another, with some gossip and undermining taking precedence over cooperation and support.  We humans let our thoughts get the best of us sometimes and we create conflicts from our doubts…our fears…our insecurities.  Such has been the case this week and staff are bringing attention to all on how valuable face to face conversation can be to settle minds and fears.  Today, a conversation took place on the impact that this same group could experience if just a few would lead productive conversation based in the genuine desire to reconcile and move forward with authenticity.  “Yes we are flawed…all of us…how can we better help one another to gain strength in the group to complete our personal missions and return home to those we love?”  We are a team…residents, staff and family and we need to stay focused on what really matters.

The east coast has been soaked this week due to Hurricane Florence and even Ironwood received some fringe downpours on Tuesday evening.  We experienced some power loss and internet troubles but overall this property is holding steady.  The gardens are still producing, therapeutic groups are on schedule, school is “in session” each day and our ovens are producing some “pretty tasty” dinners.

And finally, this week we welcomed two new equines to our stable.  “Shanghaied” and “Hugh and Me” are two retired thoroughbred geldings who are on a short-term trial for compatibility to our stable, herd and riding program.  First impressions are positive and the Farmhouse residents are excited to have these new additions in our barn and pastures.  They are showing us that they are curious, friendly and always hungry for our pasture’s green grass!  Some Shanghaied trivia:  his sire (father), Big Drama (FL), was a champion sprinter who earned $2.7M in his career, highlighted by a first-place finish in The Breeders Cup Sprint, 2010, at Churchill Downs (see picture below):

With struggle, comes growth and there is plenty of struggle and growth on the Ironwood campus this week.  Thank you for placing your trust in Ironwood…have a great weekend and stay safe!

Ironwood Maine Web Update

“Let him who would move the world first move himself.” – Socrates

It is the week after Family Weekend and our campus is back to running at full throttle. Students have re-engaged in their academics, clinical groups, therapy sessions, and daily chores. As each of you have likely had a few days to recuperate from the traveling and emotions that make up a Family Weekend, our students on campus seem to have not missed a beat. A sense of relief can almost be felt as some of our students share that after a weekend with family, they are reminded why they are putting in the effort to develop and challenge themselves to become healthier “and better” family members. Several students sharethat it becomes obvious during a Family Weekend that they haveprogressed, that they are changing for the better, and that makes jumping right back into the program so much easier.

For me, this understanding made me think about our staff and how much emphasis Ironwood, as an organization, places on growth and development. It is truly remarkable the amount of time and energy that is placed on continuing education, specific to our ability to provide quality programming to those we serve. In recent weeks, there have been several opportunities for our team to come together to learn new concepts and skills that will ultimately positively impact your children for the better.

This week, Ironwood has begun the process of providing a crisis prevention certification that will be provided to all direct care staff. This is a full day of a behavioral safety training that provides competencies necessary to effectively prevent, minimize, and manage behavioral challenges with dignity and cooperation. This program will provide our staff with additional strategies for the prevention and management of behavioral challenges and will result in a more positive reinforcement-based approach and fewer instances of crisis management.

In the most recent monthly staff meeting, our clinical team provided a two-part training to our direct care staff on DBT. The first section of the training was designed to allow staff to gain a deeper understanding of this type of therapy that is so significant our students. The second stage of the training focused on a practical approach of implementation and delivery of DBT skills in the milieu. With this, our residential team will be able to provide a complimenting approach that will align with our clinical team as we collectively support students with challenging behaviors.

Not long ago, our clinical team participated in a workshop training welcoming a nationally renowned, licensed psychotherapist, Gary Chapin. Mr. Chapin is a board-certified hypnotherapist with more than 30 years of experience in the therapeutic and social services setting. What is Hypnotherapy? It uses therapeutic imagery and suggestion to achieve an alert and highly receptive state of mind that is compatible with your goals. Hypnotic approaches have been widely recognized as effective methods for treating trauma, depression, and PTSD as well as for pain control and pain relief.  We are considering the benefits of offering this treatment in the future.

As you can see, our staff also runs at full throttle! Thank you for placing your trust in Ironwood and we wish you a very pleasant September weekend.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

Wow! The first day of Family Weekend is a tremendous whirlwind of activity. Launched by a family orientation meeting at the Farmhouse School, the day is then set in motion with reunifications, smiles, laughs and yes, tears. All of the emotions you could imagine after not seeing your child for 10 weeks, or more. After that, the families head off for a day of family therapies, experientials and some quiet time together.

The Level III, and Level IV residents enjoy a much deserved and looked forward to trip off campus beginning after lunch. All Level III’s get to stay off campus on Saturday night. A Level III with their second family weekend get to stay off campus Sunday night as well. Level IV’s will enjoy a complete 3 night family weekend with a return on Monday. Level II residents, while enjoying a great day with family are not allowed off campus for the overnight.

This always leaves the question as to what happens to the Level I residents who’ve not yet been here long enough to enjoy a Family Weekend. Well, staff take great care of our Level I’s, by planning a good mix of activities, school lessons, exercise and time to converse with peers and staff. Today saw them in school for the regular amount of time, followed by a delicious lunch cooked outside, then some R&R with fellow residents and the Frye mini horses. Late summer is a great time for exploration and they will be seeing a lot of the area hiking, reading, and writing…never a dull moment.

Thanks for allowing your child to be part of our lives and we wish you a pleasant and restful weekend.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

In my efforts to keep up with all of the happenings on campus this week, I found myself constantly engaged in conversations with students. They have become excited to tell me what has been accomplished, some funny note, or a particular topic that they are focusing on. I challenged each of them to share something that I haven’t previously heard in prior weeks. The anticipation of the interview” of sorts, has become a highlight  during meal times. This week, in line with the previous weeks topic of unique perspectives, a student suggested that SHE should have the opportunity to write the weekly update on this last day of August.

“The farmhouse has been very busy with preparation for the upcoming Family Weekend which will begin next Friday, September 7th. The house has been filled with excitement knowing the day is becoming ever-so close. The latest projects include de-cluttering the house and the upstairs barn. A roll-off dumpster was brought onto campus and we are finally removing years of things sitting in storage. One of the biggest projects has been in the garage. All residents have been engaged at some point and we are excited to clean the space, re-organize all the art materials, and eventually add new features to this room like workspace tables, new storage and furniture. This re-arranging has also made more mural space for future graduating residents!

Along with the end of summer cleaning session, there have many other happenings. The garden is full of recently blooming flowers, bushes, berries, and vegetables. Students have been harvesting baskets of produce regularly that include tomatoes, zucchinis, carrots, beans, basil, kale, parsley, pumpkins, radishes, and watermelon. The garden continues to bloom with all the love and care given by the residents.

This week, Farmhouse residents have been engaged in their therapeutic groups such as experiential, recovery, and DBT. In experiential, both the boys and girls participated in an obstacle course while there were connected by handkerchiefs! Quite a twist! Along with those groups, they have been enjoying other extra-curricular activities like dog-training, yoga, sports, and music. This week, in the girl’s dog training, we worked on the training Bruin, Chip, CJ, Kokonut, and Rocket to sit, stay, heal, and jump through hoops and over hurdles! While the girls were in dog training, the boy were participating in a peace and uplifting yoga class. Later that day, residents participated in music class and got their band ‘Emmet’s last day’ together for an extra practice before the big Family Weekend performance. Student who aren’t apart of music played an exciting game of basketball in sports group. Farmhouse resident have also been working extremely hard in art class on their latest circus themed sculpture project that will be shown over Family Weekend.

Other fun activities have been enjoying time spent in the kitchen baking and a field trip this past weekend. In the kitchen, groups have been making meals such as curry chicken, sweet potato burritos, grilled pork loin and fresh zucchini right out of the garden. The girls group went to Sears Island to walk along the beach, pick up litter, splash around in the ocean and explore the island. The boys went to Lake St. Georgia to swim, put their toes in the sand, and overall have a blast off campus.

Overall, we are each working incredibly hard, trying our best to manage each challenge that comes up. We are all supporting one another and with that, campus has been filled with a sense of ‘comfortable community, friendship, and kindness.’”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I am not sure it would have been possible to give more accurate representation of the comings and goings of campus last week. I am grateful that this student was driven to share her perspective and I sincerely appreciate the first-person account of all things Ironwood.  We all send our best wishes to those of you back home.  We look forward to seeing many of you next weekend and thank you for allowing us the opportunity to work with your family.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

In an effort to build upon last week’s message of perspective, I elected to switch up the general approach of our weekly update and offer a visually stimulating summary of the campus happenings. I hope that this approach allows you to gain a deeper understanding and unique perspective, as well.

Community Service

On most Friday’s, students from the FH campus are able to participate in some form of community service.  In recent months, they have planted potted flowers for local hospital patients, picked up litter alongside our neighborhood roads and supported a volunteer fire department fundraiser. This past week. Students visited an assisted living community and brought a few of Ironwood’s 4 legged friends. The community expressed much gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy the company of our pups, and our students.

Creative Solutions

There are not many things better than a crisp glass of orange juice. This past weekend, students took advantage of an abundance of fresh produce by hand peeling and squeezing to enjoy the freshest juice possible. This hand made OJ paired with our Ironwood Maple syrup made for one, super tasty breakfast.

Physical Exercise

We have previously discussed the benefits of an active lifestyle. Exercise supports physical well-being, positive social interactions, reduced anxiety and positive thinking. Ironwood students are constantly in motion through morning exercise, daily chores, navigating through campus and as you see below, engaging in a variety of sports. On the Frye Campus, Basketball has been the activity of choice, of late. In the opposite photo, students made the long trek across campus to find the widest open field to play an epic game of soccer.

Art

The creative juices were flowing on both campus locations this week. Frye students managed to complete some neat crafting by sewing swaths of cloth together to create wall hangings. The farmhouse group constructed a sculpture our of re-purposed materials that upon completion had to be categorized as…contemporary?

Breaking Ground

Students have been hard at work giving back to the community by way of clearing a piece of land. This project is years in the making in which students have been falling small trees, removing stumps and clearing brush in an effort create a recreational grassy field. This past week marked a huge milestone in which all the brush was cleared and the final stumps were removed.

Exploring

The students aren’t the only ones enjoying the longer days and warmer temperatures. This past week, several of our students had to opportunity to hit the trail with one of Ironwood’s fleet of horses. There is a vast amount of wooded trails to explore on property and these quick trips are a treat for all involved.

We hope that your week was filled with a healthy balance of work, play, nature, exercise, art, nutrition and everything else that is important in your world.  We are seeing progress and growth on this campus and appreciate this brief opportunity to work with your sons/daughters.  Thank you for placing your trust in Ironwood and enjoy the weekend.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

If you ask 40 students what they did this past week, you’ll get 40 different answers. It’s a unique practice I have the opportunity to observe consistently and offers much more to me than details I need for this weekly update.

Sometimes I learn that students have found a new passion. In speaking with a resident who had just filled an entire picnic basket with produce from our garden, she shared an abundant amount of information on our recent cucurbit pest infestation that has been taking advantage of our fruits. Another student shared his newfound understanding of climbing peas, the need for a trellis and the fact that he had spent most of his free time this week building one!

Other times I will hear contradicting feelings. We’ve recently changed the expectation that there will be an assigned Chef each night and the role will be rotated through each student. With the pleasant weather, Frye has increased its opportunities for cooking over the fire. This ancient practice creates a need to be resourceful, utilize pre-planning agendas, and critically think about what they’ve learned cooking similar meals in the kitchen.  The excitement is shared by many, yet others offer a hint of resistance.

This week also offered a chance for appreciation and melancholy. After several years of service and loyalty to the program and each of our students over the years, one of our most respected team members has gracefully decided to seek a new career path. In an effort to show gratitude, the students contributed in a day of appreciation to this staff member that concluded with a “favorite meal” of choice cooked by the residents. It was obvious that there were mixed emotions on campus, but everyone could agree to excitement for the new adventure and the welcoming of a new staff member.

The most rewarding of conversations came from a resident who shared her experience leading a group experiential. As you may guess, this initiative was based on perception. The student led a complex lesson with a variety of approaches. Similar to the classic, “Do you see an old lady or a man playing the saxophone” visual perception cards were handed out and challenged. Next, a video was played that led through a basic plot of distraction. Afterwards, it was questioned as to whether or not any student had picked up on the information being presented outside of the main story. “Did you see the juggling bear” Last, and most impactful, a series of words were read aloud. After each word, students created a quick sketch of what visual that word meant to them. It was incredible to see the vast differences of initial perceptions. What would you draw, if you only heard the word “Mall?” A shopping center, a lion eating, an axe, or a person speaking Spanish and wagging their finger?

This quick and fun representation of how contradicting each of our own perspectives is to the exact same thing was eye opening to us all. It became apparent to each student how equally important it is to try and understand our peer’s perspective as well as our own. I think this is a great lesson for us all as we try to navigate the complex world of relationships and communication. Its ok to feel anxious or excited about the fact that our initial perceptions are always skewed compared to the people around us. What is important, is that we take the time to ask what they see.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

As Ironwood managers, therapists, educators and support staff, we tend to focus much of our energy on the problems, at the expense of appreciating so many of our surroundings that are good and even wonderful.  We suspect that those of you parents and businesspersons can relate.  Is it our nature to brush over those matters that are spectacular, so that we can move on to the issues that need our attention, or is it our nature to be in search of problems in order for us to feel more needed in this world?  Why are we drawn more to these things?

This week had its fair share of struggles and setbacks on campus.  Some of our residents regressed a bit, while a few heard of some surprising news, or events back home. There were a few peer relationship issues to address and resolve…of course there were.  And these points are what came to my mind first, as I started writing this update.  But there was also more…so much more that was uplifting and beautiful.

I had the pleasure this week of spending Sunday through Thursday on campus and this extra time allowed an opportunity to walk the property, spending more one on one time with both those who work and live here.  While on my Sunday drive, I was creating a to-do list of problems needing solutions…my Thursday night drive home was only of reflective appreciation, grateful to work in a place that creates positive change in humans, with residents who are simply in need of some time to sort things out.  All of these young people are interesting, wanting to construct a better life, knowing that they are loved athome.

The campus is so alive in the summer with abundant gardens and wildlife and this environment helps to deliver contemplative thought and peace.  This nature is dependable and consistent, it welcomes any and everyone who is interested in having it.  It is fair and it holds no grudges.

On Monday, we sent a resident and high school graduate home, following about a year of hard work and transformation.  These send offs are hard to explain to those who have not experienced them.  The ceremony is simple, yet uniquely personal…the value to the resident is difficult to measure but represents a year of challenging work and achievement.  We always see confidence and a renewed faith in self.  It’s always a joyspeaking with residents on the week of a graduation to talk about their journey and how different their perspective is on this day about almost everything…school, Ironwood, their family, their future and how they will navigate life in the days ahead. Witnessing the reconnection to mother, father, sister, brother, sometimes aunts, uncles and grandparents is also a gift to be a part of…why do I cry so much on this campus?!

Our lower Frye campus can be hard for many of our residents in the first part of their Ironwood journeys.  This is intentional on our part, as we are building healthy practices, breaking destructive “go to” habits and widening perspectives.  What I saw this week was general acceptance in the vast majority of our boys and girls, with solution-oriented intention.

“Yeah, of course I wish I was home, but things could be worse.  I know that you and my parents want the best for me and the days are going by fast…I’ve got this.”

On this Wednesday night, I sat in on a Zip, Zap team builder with the Frye boys group and everyone who was there was actively participating, laughing and having fun.  I saw inclusion with the newest additions and greater respect between those who have had struggles in the past.  I guess that’s why they call them team builders!  What I saw at Frye, was a campus that was clean, organized and ready for whatever needed to happen, next.

Three residents made their way up from Frye to the Farmhouse this week and the house on the hill now has a flashing NO VACANCY sign on the front lawn.  Observing existing FH boys and girls welcoming their new arrivals to the house was a treat.The Farmhouse holds a house meeting, most Wednesday afternoons before dinner and this week’s gathering involved each member sharing with the new arrivals a piece of advice, along with something that is enjoyed most about living here. This mentoring philosophy is impressive to see in action and all three first timers seemed included with the rest, within minutes.  Following the meeting, these kids then began a birthday celebration for Farmhouse celebrity, Bruin.

Many of these residents expressed gratitude for Bruin as they wore homemade birthday hats in honor of the black beast! There are several at the Farmhouse who will be graduating and heading home in the next few weeks and this is a busy, busy place.

We are trying to be intentional this week in at least spending equal time appreciating the things at Ironwood that are good/great.  We are of course attending to the problems and issues at hand that need fix’n, but not at the expense of celebrating the growth that is obvious and apparent.  Your sons and daughters are working hard and learning things about themselves that have the opportunity to change their lives for a very long time.  They are also interesting and becoming more open than before and your support and encouragement has 93 octane power when you send it their way.

Thank you for placing your trust in Ironwood and we wish you a most pleasant weekend.

Press Release: Dr. Tim Thayne Speaks at Ironwood Maine Family Weekend

Ironwood Maine, a licensed and accredited Residential Therapeutic School for struggling teens in Maine, welcomed Dr. Tim Thayne, author of the book Not By Chance, to its summer, family weekend. Dr. Thayne spoke about the keys to boosting family success in and after treatment.

Read More

Ironwood Maine Web Update

There’s no denying it…summer is in full swing and man, is it hot out there! We’ve experienced temperatures in the high 80’s and with the elevated humidity, it almost feels like our campus could be located in central Florida.

As the sun bears down, the crops pop up.  With all the sunshine, rain showers and the care of our students, our garden is right on track and thriving on both campuses. We have harvested summer squash, zucchini, beans, various herbs and lettuce, with more to come. Our garden caretaker has been busy teaching our Farm House and Frye students how to plant and maintain a successful garden and how to harvest crops properly. We are starting to see our students enjoy the bounty of their labor as they incorporate our garden vegetables into their daily meal plans.

But it’s not just all work around these parts. Our Farm House students ventured off campus for an afternoon schooner cruise on the 1927, 48 foot, Olad. We sailed around Camden Bay, enjoying the sun and ocean breeze. A few of our students even volunteered to hoist the sails on our way out of the harbor.  On our voyage we saw such sights as an osprey’s nest, the beautiful lighthouse on Curtis Island, and a porpoise. While out to sea, the view looking back was marvelous with the bay sprawling out before us, with Mount Battie and Mount Megunticook as the backdrop. We took in the sights, relaxed and enjoyed good oldfashioned conversation with the captain, first mate and each other.  

Back on the Frye campus, our students made progress towards their various hard goals with a flurry of carpentry projects. Our students made benches, a bow drill (for starting fireswhich we promptly tested) and my personal favorite, a big set of dice for yard Yahtzee! We have enjoyed the nature around us while hiking, we have played some music and also a few games of basketball during free time. Three of our Frye students have even received their invites” to present next week for promotion consideration to the Farm House!

We are working alongside of our students to make the most of the heat and to enjoy all of the summer days we have left. While we are dedicated to our school work, therapy and folder goals, we also find value in making the time for play, relaxation and the building of relationships.  Busy, focused and always trying to do our best with what we have, we see so many of your kids gaining in self-confidence, more appreciative of their parent(s), siblings and extended family members, back home.  One thing that cannot be argued at Ironwood is that the days pass quickly here and we always hear your kids speak on their Ironwood time.  “I can’t believe that I’ve been here 2 months already”, “I’m going home later this month and I never thought this day would come…now I can’t believe how fast this time went by”.  “I’m actually going to miss this place”.  We actually love hearing these reflective statements and hope that they help you some as you are doing your part, back home. Time is flying by…

Thank you for placing your trust in Ironwood.  Have a nice weekend and stay cool.

Press Release: Ironwood Maine Launches New Website

Ironwood Maine, a licensed and accredited therapeutic boarding school for struggling teens in Maine, announces the launch of its newly-redesigned website. The website, found at https://www.ironwoodmaine.com/, is now compatible across mobile devices and computers is designed to help prospective families learn more about Ironwood Maine’s philosophy for helping struggling teens succeed.

Read the full Ironwood Maine press release.