Archive for July 2018

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, 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.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

Looking back on the past few months, my breath is nearly taken away at the thought of all of the unique opportunities we’ve had on this campus. Directly due to the efforts of our Ironwood team, we have made a constant stride to not only engage our students with character and cultural developing activities, we have also made a noticeable effort to improve and enhance these enrichment programs and activities. This week proves no different, as our campus was engaged in a variety of activities that sparked several cultural and regional learning moments.

Throughout the week, Frye students took time to learn about forest management. As you can imagine, responsible use of our forest, particularly in Maine, is a vital aspect of survival for this region. On Monday students had the opportunity to learn about both wildfires and prescribed burning, with an educational documentary. Later in the week, students put this information to work by clearing out down and dead underbrush. They have also spent a considerable amount time removing old stumps to clear a field for recreational purposes in the future.

Students also took the time to reconstruct and maintain walkingtrails around campus. There was a need to remove invasive species from the paths, to spread more crushed stone, replace wooden bridges and even the special treat of wild raspberries harvesting along the way! Trail construction is a great way to benefit from the wonders of the woods. This method limits the impact by directed travel and also offers safe space to enjoy hikes without heavy impact to insects, animals and plants.

A few regional cultural events took place off campus for our Farmhouse students. First, a trip to the Maritime museum in Searsport. During the trip to the museum, students learned about the various ways the oceans provided a sustainable way of life for Maine families. There were several exhibits on the historical architecture of ships and a few real-life relics of historic boats that spent their life-time on the open sea.

On Thursday, Students had the privilege of attending a lecture and presentation at the Farnsworth Art Museum. Three, nationally acclaimed, regional artists spoke about their work, backgrounds, and concepts of sculpture. Afterwards, the students were able to meander through the exhibit to view the pieces and even had a chance to create some sketches of their own.

Here on the farm, we are a long way from so many of the common cultural diversities found throughout the world.  We live a fairly simple life, with traditional core values and priority driven principles. Yet, we realize the importance to contemplate new and unfamiliar lifestyles and perspectives. We hope that sharing alternative approaches to life with our students will spark some creativity and curiosity in relation to their own lives.  All of these amazing young people are certainly getting better at living life outside of their comfort zones.

We hope you have a restful weekend and thank you for putting your trust in Ironwood.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

“Milk makes your bones stronger.”

“Spinach will give you muscles like Popeye.”

“An apple a day will keep the doctor away.”

As a young sprout, each of the above elementary colloquialismswere ingrained into my memory by my ever-present and persistent grandmother. Looking back, I remember being sofocused on the content and ignoring the concept.

As a teenager, I remember phrases such as:

“If you’re not home before 10, you won’t see the light outside of your room all weekend.”

“If you drink nothing but cola, your teeth are going to rot.”

“If you don’t finish washing the dishes, you’re eating a cold supper all week.”

Again, I learned to understand the impact of specific consequences of these actions, but I was simply not capable of comprehending the bigger picture. I began to associate individual rules with isolated consequences. Within the cozy confines of campus at Ironwood, we are making a consistent and comprehensive effort to not only encourage the practice of impeccable self-care, but also teaching on the widespread impact that each of our procedures and policies have in relation to this same, self-care. Our student’s daily routine Is structured around a productive and healthy approach to life that we hope will be transferred to our student’s environment, post Ironwood.

It all starts with consistency. You’ve all been made aware of the gauntlet of activities, groups, chores, etc. that our students are expected to participate in each week.  Yet, on any given day and hour, I would guarantee that our students could not only share what is next on the agenda but would also be able to share what they will be doing tomorrow, and the next day on the same hour. This structure offers ample opportunity to be prepared both physically and mentally for what is ahead. Each student is expected to understand their projected day and prepare appropriately for it utilizing structure and routines.

Self-care is also easily translated into healthy life choices here on campus. Daily hygiene, appropriate advocation for medical attention, proper equipment for the task at hand, daily exercise, square meals and healthy portion sizes, drinking lots of water, and a good night’s rest. These simple and basic avenues to healthy living are required on campus, but it is the responsibility of the student to follow through with each of these expectations. When asked to explain their perceived progress of physical health from day one on campus to their current state, all of our students answer with pride while relating to the daily routine of self-care.

Emotional health also plays a critical role in one’s self-care. While each of our students are making incredible progress therapeutically, the residential program offers ample opportunity to support self-care emotionally as well. On of the most pertinent suggestions of a Mental Health America article title, Taking Good care of Yourself, talks about the importance of Working toward goals. As you are well aware, each of our students are putting forth an admirable effort in regards to progression in their individualized goals. We support this process by focusing on areas of achievement and constructive criticism and with the development of creative strategies and tools. Every day on campus I make an effort to inquire about students progress in their goals. I allow a space for them to share what they are working on, as well as what they have accomplished.

I wish that self-care was as easy as finishing all your vegetables before dessert, or not sitting so close to the TV.  We are aware that self-care is ingrained in every single aspect of our day both externally and internally. We all have to make a conscious effort to hold ourselves accountable to positive, productive, and healthy decisions. We are proud to be able to support each of the vital avenues of self-care with our students on a daily basis and hope that eventually these habits become as engrained as my grandmother’s old-time advice.

Thank you for putting your trust in Ironwood and we hope you have a great weekend.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.

–Ernest Hemingway

Listening is a skill, which requires both attention and intention. It starts with our ears—making sense of words as well as of the speaker’s tone—and it also involves our eyes, because body language can say a lot. Importantly, though, deep listening requires that we push the MUTE button on our internal commentary. And this last step is probably one of the hardest, because rather than truly listen to what another says, we too often merely hear a word or an idea that connects with something we want to say. There is an old proverb that states, “We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.” It would be more accurate if it explained that the reason for two ears and one mouth is that it’s twice as hard to listen as it is to talk.

I mentioned in a previous weekly update how “noisy” it is on campus. There is an incredible barrage of activities and happenings constantly. There are 40+ students on campus and as many staff. This past week, each of our students engaged in a few activities to bring some focus to this difficult, but necessary social expectation. We started with the game Telephone. The old-timey game where someone starts off by whispering a sentence in someone’s ear. That person then whispers into the next person and so on, until it makes it all the way around the group. The result is always hilarious, but the point is that even in a simple game, its hard to listen with full focus and attention.

In another activity we split groups into two sections. One group were the talkers, and the second, listeners. The talkers were to engage into a topic of passion for three minutes, uninterrupted. The listeners were instructed to raise their hand each time they wanted to interrupt, became distracted, or drifted into thoughts of personal experience. There were constant hand-raisings. The students were able to recognize how difficult it was being an active listener, to not personalize the conversation, and to actually be fully present. This also shared a unique perspective to the talkers as to their audience, and the internal reactions their peers are having during a conversation.

To practice active listening, a third activity was facilitated. In pairs, one student would describe in detail all of the ideals of an incredible vacation. Explain each of their desires, expectations, needs, etc. After this explanation, the second student would pair their ideals and make a suggestion as to where they should go. This encouraged students to not only hear what was being said, but to also process the words into conversation reengagement, revolving around the initial statements.

Each night on campus I take the opportunity to sit down and have a meal with one of our groups of students. It is an incredible opportunity to build rapport, share in their growth, and listen. Whether it be stories of the weekend field trip to Acadia National Park, or a book that a student is reading, a moment of pride related to progress, or some validation around struggle and frustration…these are moments of elevated value, human to human.   It is a daily challenge and effort for each of us as staff, students and parents, to pause, push away the distractions in our minds, look the other in the eye and listen with full attention and interest.  As we all work on this together, we should follow the lead of our Ironwood students who are quick to acknowledge peers and staff with the Ironwood encouraged reply, “I hear you”.

Thank you for placing your trust in Ironwood.  We are grateful for the opportunity to be of service to you family and we hope that you have a great weekend.

Wilderness and Natural Science Program Update

At Frye, we have been having Monday afternoon Natural science and wilderness enrichment blocks for both the mini barn and lodge groups.

We had a lesson on the life cycles of frogs and the biological processes they go through. We discussed the different stages of life or Metamorphisms from the laying and fertilization of eggs, to tadpoles, to froglets, to frogs. The participants found it interesting how the different stages of life were so unique and radically different from each other. For example how tadpoles breath with gills, frogs can breathe with lungs on the land and through their skin while in the water. We went and observed frogs through the different stages of life at the trout pond which has a plethora of specimens’. Many of the participants were surprised at how much they learned about these unique amphibians.

I was recently inspired to discuss the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) with our residents after this invasive species was discovered in Northern Maine.  The Emerald Ash Borer has killed hundreds of millions of Ash trees and has spread through 34 States since the insect was first discovered in Michigan in 2002. This insect is thought to have been transported to North America through creates transported from Asia. With our participants we took a hike to EAB detection/ monitoring site on Frye Mountain.  We had discussions about the impact invasive species can have on the natural environment both in Maine and in different regions.  We discussed the impact that the EAB has had across North America and what is at risk with Maine.  The participants were taught how to identify the insect and how recognize signs and symptoms that it is present. After the lesson we investigated a variety of alive and dead Ash trees; we were excited that our search came up empty.

Recently, we went on a wilderness outing with the Farm House Boys group.  Sunday morning we hiked around the campus to our camp site which is located on the back side of the Beaver Pond. When we arrived at our site we were immersed in a day of learning the wilderness ways and skills at our camp site. We set up the wall tent for the group shelter; This was a little more difficult this time around because unbeknownst to me, over the winter, the tent frame was used for an activity and some of the poles were bent. All of the participants set up their individual tarp shelters for a personal space and had fun showing them off to their peers. After the shelters are in place we worked on collecting firewood for our cooking fire and then proceed with dinner. After dinner we cleaned up camp and then had discussions around the camp fire prior to bed.

On Monday, we woke up and had a hot breakfast. We cleaned up our camp site and packed our bags for a day of adventure. We hiked the trail around Frye Mountain. This trail is moderate in difficulty with some short bursts of steep sections. The 6 mile trail passes through mixed and coniferous forests, parallels a wonderful stretch of Bartlett Stream, the northern-most feeder stream of the St. George River, and crosses Frye’s summit at 1,139 feet. The trail also passes through a few different blueberry barrens which were not yet ripe for the sampling.

Our hike was at a leisurely pace, with periodic stops for snacks, and discussions. We arrived back at our camp site mid-afternoon. After we arrived back at the site, the residents had a writing assignment about what nature has done for their self-awareness and self-discovery. After the group had some down time to work on their assignment and recuperate from the hike; we made a fire and started dinner prep. We enjoyed a relaxing dinner which was cooked over a fire. Dinner clean up and personal hygiene time and an evening camp fire wrapped up the day.

The group woke up and made a fire and we enjoyed a hot breakfast of Johnny cakes cooked over the fire. We completely packed up camp and swept the area for forgotten items. We enjoyed a low key day prior to returning to the Farmhouse campus around 10:00. When we arrive back on campus we unpacked gear and had the residents get cleaned up and ready for the week.

This past weekend, we are had a similar trip for the farm house girls group. Their trip had slight variations to accommodate a graduation early on Monday morning. We will also had warmer than normal temperatures which caused plans to change to maintain a safe and enjoyable environment. We will be having two more summer wilderness trips for the farm house groups in August and two autumn trips in September and in October. 

Video: Hay Baling at Ironwood Maine

Haying is underway on our campus…a true summer ceremony. Ironwood partners with an AMAZING local and family owned farm who hays our fields, mostly for their very hungry dairy cows. Operating a dairy business is hard work these days and Ironwood feels so fortunate to host their efforts for a few weeks each year. A standard square bale weighs around 40 pounds and these big round bales can range 800-1500 pounds each…much more practical and efficient for large dairy operations. Small bales will soon follow for our hungry team of “minis” down at Frye, as all of us on campus get to witness yet another example of the rewards of honest, hard work.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

July is here and with it comes the heat! Our students and staff had a busy week that included a weekend wilderness trip, a graduation and 4th of July festivities. We indulged in good food, water balloon fights, comradery and a campus wide game of capture the flag! One aspect of our Independence Day celebrations included a memorable flag lowering ceremony led by a veteran service member and attended by both the Farm House and Frye students.

As I sat down and contemplated the 4th of July, my mind was drawn to words like revolution, freedom and liberty. I reflected upon what these words mean for our nation; how we obtained these ideals and the battles that were fought by those who came before us, the sacrifices that were made. Digging deeper, I started to question what meaning that these concepts held forme and how they have impacted my life as well as the lives of our students.

I recognized that while our students aren’t expected to be ready to assemble and serve their country at a minute’s notice, that doesn’t mean they aren’t fighting wars of their own. I see battles waged daily all around our beautiful campus in the hearts and minds of the youth we serve. Our students are fighting to free themselves of depression, anxiety, addiction and old thinking patterns. Each day brings a new opportunity to gain ground or take rest and recuperate from the effort of a battle well fought. These battles are real and they are supported by the sacrifices that their families make, back home.

Some of these sacrifices and battles won clearly came to fruition last week as we promoted 4 students to level 4 and said goodbye to another after a moving graduation this week. We sure did enjoy our 4th of July week and hope that you and yours did, as well.​  Have a restful weekend.