Archive for October 2018

Ironwood Maine Web Update

The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows” – Sydney Harris

Believe it or not, The Ironwood Campus saw it’s first few flakes of snow this week. While some of us are excited for the continued changing of the season, others are still trying to make the most of these fleeting warm afternoons. All of us though, are preparing for what is to come.

The campus has been buzzing with the delivery of new gear. Our residential services team spent an impressive amount of time shopping, sizing, organizing, and delivering cold weather gear. While the students may be timid toward the lower temps, they were all excited to try on their new gloves, hats, jackets, and snow bibs.

The horses are also taking extra steps to prepare. Their winter coats are getting longer, their food will soon be soaked in warm water, and wool blankets will soon be adorned for each of our stable members. Currently though, each of our horses are still able to enjoy most of the days frolicking through the campus pastures and participating in student riding lessons, horsemanship’s workshops, and EAP sessions.

The students have also transitioned from outdoor sports and rec enrichments to character development blocks. Students will have the opportunity over the next several months to learn and practice a variety of skills that directly support their growth as young adults. One of the lessons revolves around public speaking, and gives the students a chance to hold their own debate!

Within every activity, responsibility, and conversation that takes place on campus, a space lies for processing and feedback. This concept of constant challenge and growth is an integral component of success for everyone here on campus…staff and students alike. We recently shared with our students a TED talk presentation that focuses on how to get great at something. These presentations not only share how important, and effective coaching and feedback can be, but it also neutralizes the concept. We watched a surgeon, wildly successful in his field, and in business, openly willingly to engage someone to point out his flaws on a regular basis. This example of openness, offered a sense of relief for each of our residents.

Early this week, the students harvested some of the last produce from our garden. Pounds and Pounds of blue potatoes were pulled up to soon be made into colorful cuisine. A supply of collected sunflower seeds were also separated and roasted for a down the road small treat. And most enjoyable, baking pumpkins were harvested and turned into the finest dessert fall has to offer!

The students also participated in some fun off-campus activities. One group went to spend time and an assisted living facility to offer conversation and good times for their residents. A competitive game of bingo allowed for some good-natured fun. Another group made their last trip to Acadia National Park. During this trip, the students excepted the daunting challenge of taking on one of the most difficult hikes in the region, the Precipice Trail. While the students were forced to deal with their fear of heights, they also displayed an awesome ability to be supportive on one another during trying times.

All in all, it was another enjoyable and productive week here on campus. There have been countless opportunities for challenge and comradery. We hope that each of you are discovering newways to appreciate the world around you and we wish you a restful and safe weekend.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

It’s prime peeping season in New England! The air has chilledand the leaves have turned to their fluorescent display of magic spectacle. Fall has officially arrived here on the Ironwood campus and we couldn’t be enjoying the atmosphere more.

Early in the week, students took a trip off campus to visit afamily farm that was acknowledged as one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a Sunday “in all the land”. Students leisurely strolled through the orchard rows and hand pick a variety of ripe apples. Courtland, Macintosh, and several other types of fruit found their way back to campus for future snacks and desserts to be enjoyed over the next few weeks.

In-between school hours and scheduled group sessions, students have taken up the fall-favorite sport of leaf-catching. It’s about as silly a game as you could imagine, as residents see just how many falling leaves can be caught before hitting the grass below. To make things more interesting, some students have even been awarded merits for the most impressive leaf catches.

I was able to experience another special moment during a dinner on campus this week. Beyond the garden-picked greens, home-made macaroni and cheese and fresh baked banana bread, there was another contributing factor to this gathering. One of our residents prepared to return home and we all took a moment to acknowledge and appreciate the efforts and accomplishments made, while at Ironwood. A funky memoir of sorts started the dinner as our “Master of Ceremonies” Alicia, read the Dr. Seuss classic, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”. Afterwards, our large family table of nearly 30 staff and students took turns speaking about inspiring characteristics and supportive words, wishing this student well.

To end the week and further celebrate this season, Ironwood held our annual campus wide Harvest Festival. All students joined up in a full day of fun activities, meals around a campfire, Halloween candy, apple cider, and even a spooky movie! There was a “Spooky Adventure Race” in which students had individual timed trails with a course that included a rat toss, pumpkin run, and hay bale jump. Another station allowed students to show off their crafty sides creating fun foam cutouts glued together to make strange creatures. The upstairs barn turned into an improv theater where students not only dressed up as whacky characters, but also took turns acting out theater skits with their unique personalities. In the barn, students took turns completing another Race in which they had to work together to label all the parts of a horse and saddle. While the students were rushing to complete the task thinking they were being graded on time, Our Barn Manager was actually grading each team based on their teamwork, problem solving skills, ability to ask for help, and also their level of mutual respect. And of course, a pumpkin carving station for the creation of scary (or funny) jack-o-lanterns.

It was an especially fun week here at Ironwood. While its obvious we’ve been able to enjoy some of the classic new-England fall traditions, each of our students have also managed to stay focused on their individual goals as well. Truly embodying our “work hard, play hard” philosophy

We wish you the very best this weekend and hope that all is going well at home.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

Tonight, I shared dinner with one of our groups on campus. The meal was legitimately incredible. A salad with handpicked, student grown greens, freshly harvested mashed sweet potatoes and chicken marsala. Upon entering the room, I was appreciative of the invite to join from the student body, quickly realizing what a treat it was.

The dinner conversations proved to be equally rewarding. One student shared their excitement of nearing high school graduation…a thought that not long before, seemed unlikely. Another shared their grit and fortitude in relation to battling with a stubborn cold. I shared in the excitement and pride of two students who were proudly showing off their new, “level-up” colors.

I also monitored a conversation where a student engaged with another, asking what had previously been done to create upset? It was an honest effort approach for relational growth, asking for and receiving feedback, and taking ownership in prior actions, even though there was no ill intention to begin with.

While we all have moments of mistakes, regressions, and instability, it is clear that most of our students are trying to look inward more, allowing these daily experiences to shape themtowards a better future place.


Early this week, Frye students participated in a class exercise to identify their strongest and weakest attribute. They were asked to sketch out a puzzle piece in a way that represented that attribute while not using words…only imagery. The studentswere given 2 puzzle pieces to decorate, one for the strongest and one for the weakest.

At the end of the session, they were asked to share their artwork and explain each attribute, to include why they chose them. After they spoke about their puzzle pieces each student incorporated their piece into the group’s puzzle. Once everyone had finished sharing, the group discussed how each of their individual attributes effected the group as a whole.


This week’s Gentleman’s Group managed to enjoy a scenic walk through the colorful forest. On the way to the designated location at the Beaver Pond, the young men were encouraged to reflect on how amazing the world around them is. Classical music was played, during this exercise.

When the group arrived at their destination, they discussed the structure of a haiku. The boys were invited to find inspiration from the short journey just taken, or from the landscape of Frye mountain directly in front of them.  After a short time, the group took turns sharing their versions of Poetry.


Early in the week, several of the students had the opportunity to participate in the Triangle of Life. This group initiative places the student’s in a state of being stranded on three separate islands at the Beaver Pond, designated by three stone seats. The objective was to figure out how to get three essential items (food, water and a radio) to each island in order to survive until the group could be rescued. The group was given a rope and three buckets, but the items were spread between the three islands and an island in the middle. Residents could not throw any items other than the rope and there could never be any more than four items on each island.

At first, the group was chaotic; with each island making separate plans, talking over one another, and competing to get all three items. While some of the participants attempted to speak up and get the group to work together, it was generally unfocused.  While they ultimately completed the task, it was clear there were things to work on. Discussion followed about the current state of the group and some of the students were quick to voice their frustration with the lack of focus and respect among the group. This initiative ended with each resident offering a way in which they could improve the environment in the boy’s group.


This week the young ladies on campus participated in an activity designed to acknowledge and communicate respect to one another. Each of the girl’s names were printed on a piece of paper. The group was instructed to write something kind about their peer on the paper. They were told it could be an inspirational quote, something that they admire about the person, a characteristic that was positive, or a creative drawing that reminded them of a positive quality. Once each paper had been written on by all, the students were allowed a moment to process what their peers had written about them. Afterwards they each were asked to share something that they learned about themselves.

Our campus is a busy place and so many of our residents are showing us exponential growth.  We hope that family members back home are also finding inspiration for positive internal change.  Have a nice weekend and stay safe.

Ironwood Maine Web Update



The girls group began by checking in on how they are doing individually and as a group. They highlighted their strengths in being welcoming and supportive of the new resident in their group. The girls spent time creating two lists of the group strengths and limitations. They each chose one point from each of the lists to consider working on for the week. The group played “hangman” using a values/moral theme and then processed the deeper meanings.


The group today broke down the DBT concept of the Behavior Chain Analysis with personal examples. Residents were given the opportunity to write their behavior issue on the board and explore with their peers the objectives that created their vulnerability, the prompting event, and the links that then lead to the behavior. Appropriate and effective consequences were also discussed. One student explored the reasons that she pushes people away instead of letting people get close to her today. She wrote down this information on her own paper after as she stated that it truly helped her realize that she has a lot of fear from past events that trigger this behavior.


In this week’s session, the boys chose to work with Duncan and the task was to get him to push a large yoga ball with his head through two cones. Duncan was afraid of the ball and most of the session was spent trying to help Duncan feel comfortable near the ball. The group discussed situations in which they have had to overcome discomfort or fear and how they worked through it.


Ethnic Night

This past weekend was a celebration for all. The farmhouse students welcomed in the Latino culture as Mexico’s Ethnic night was brought to campus. In this half-day event students prepared a variety of educational presentations, cultural demonstrations, and of-course, a meal specific to the region. Students enjoyed discussing all of the unique qualities of our culturally rich neighbors, all the while filling and eating their homemade tacos.


This week’s group began with an activity called Fears in a Hat in which residents anonymously write down a fear that prevented them from being themselves or moving forward in their program. They placed the slip of paper in a hat and then, each resident picked out of the hat and read the anonymous fear out loud to the group. The majority of the group shared the fear of being judged, rejected or failing and discussion revolved around how the group can better support one another.

Social Group

This week’s session offered an opportunity to talk about the issue of gossip. The students were asked to define gossip and then share their perspective on what kind of a person spreads gossip…and why? Topics of discussion followed including: “Why don’t we feel comfortable listening to gossip or sharing gossip?” The group then looked at the underlying causes for gossip in a group, how stories get distorted and further, how people can be emotionally wounded. The group facilitator introduced trust as a needed component within the community and discussed various facets of trust. To complete the session, students shared lessons that they learned individually and their plan of action moving forward. This group was also assigned to find a movie about a female character/hero, that can be viewed and critiqued, to learn how self-trust can develop over time or through certain experiences.

Staff Appreciation – Dan F., Residential Counselor

Dan is from Waldo, Maine and proclaims to love this state and the people who reside here. Dan expresses that he is honored to fulfill a role at Ironwood and be a part of our amazing team. Dan shares that there is nothing more rewarding to him than hearing a student talk about how much they have developed over time, and being able to support that transformation. Dan’s tries to live life by this Amelia Earhart quote:

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process, is its own reward.”

Have a great weekend!