Ironwood Maine Web Update

After a renewing new year celebration, all of the students are now stepping into what they want their new year to look like. Students have made resolutions and expressed things they were grateful for in the year of 2018. The year of 2019 has started off with a bang. Students are motivated and wanting to do the best for themselves. Everyone is getting into the motion and putting their best foot forward for a fresh start. I took the time to interview a few residents and here is what they had to say.

“It’s a new year! I am looking forward to my Birthday at home with family, finishing my sophomore year of high school, and enjoying everyday life. I was so miserable last year and now I look forward to the new opportunities and a fresh start with my family and friends.”

“The new year usually doesn’t mean a lot to mean, but this year is different. I am motivated. I see a lot of changes coming. I am actually making a plan for my future, which I never thought I would do.”

“I am looking forward to completing the Ironwood program, spending time with family and going to college. I am also planning to put more effort into staying in shape and exercising, perhaps I’ll join a soccer team. I think I might even get a job, I am so excited for all of these things!”

During educational groups, students are practicing how to identify struggles within themselves as well as within the group. Students have made headway with these goals and are open to learning new things about themselves that they did not know before. These types of groups are always exciting and inspiring, but I wanted to get a more in-depth perspective. I choose to interview Lily about one of her recent therapy groups. 

Q. What was the intent/goal of The Tin Can Foot Pass activity?

A: The goal of this activity is to highlight the strengths and challenges of the group; how does the group support each other, is communication respectful and is it clear? Often the strengths and challenges that come out in the activity are present outside of it as well. 

Q: What do you think is the most important part of the experimental group?

A: The most important part of the experiential is for residents to challenges themselves and push themselves outside of their comfort zone. When this happens resident often realize they are capable of more than they first thought. 

Q: What is your favorite part of leading these groups? What is the most challenging?

A: My favorite part is watching the group work through a difficult activity and find a creative solution through effective communication and problem solving. The most challenging is knowing a solution and allowing the group to struggle. 

The new year is a year of discovery and growth. It is a year for change and acceptance. Students are ready to keep progressing as is obvious from the multiple graduations and level promotions already this year! 2019 is the year of growth and illumination for all students at Ironwood, and it is underway!  Have a great weekend.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

“There are far far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

C.S. Lewis

Over the past several days, the entire Ironwood campus has managed to partake in many productive, exciting and fun events. While we have all been away from our family, it has been easy to recognize that we are never alone. Our friends and staff have been supportive, our memories are still with us and the hope and opportunity that lies ahead provides the most comforting of thoughts.

As the new year neared, each of our students had some time to reflect on 2018. Students were asked to take pride in what they had accomplished, acknowledging their challenges and all that has been overcome. We spent time sharing precious memories and past events that made many smile. It was easy to recognize for many that 2018 was a year to be proud of.

Students also spent time pondering what they wanted most out of 2019. Not only did everyone share their own individual resolutions like “Continuing to learn Japanese…creating a better relationship with my family and waking up with a smile everyday”. They also spent time thinking about ways to support the follow- through of these important goals. Later, students viewed a movie about a young man who struggled to return home after being separated from his family. He finds a similar lost wolf companion in the forest and starts a friendship that would change his humanity. “Alpha” is the movie, if you’d like to view it over this weekend.

In between groups, school, chores, and snow shoveling, there has been plenty of opportunity to enjoy the snow, as well. Epic snow sled races down the Beaver Pond hill, makeshift snowboarding (on sleds), snowman making and a “revolutionary war style” snow ball battle that was hilarious to observe.

During a social group, students had the opportunity to learn about different styles of leadership…Democratic, Authoritarian, and Laissez Faire. Students split into groups and took turns being their own leader of the group and picking one of these styles of leadership. Then, the stage was set for a 3 way game of capture the flag. After each game, the students discussed what was beneficial about each style and when it might be appropriate to use this in a general life setting.

While there has been plenty to celebrate, the mission of the Ironwood campus has remained focused on individual growth, accountability, and progress. Highlights of student hand rolling sushi and a night sky filled with fireworks to welcome the new year has not distracted our students from what is most important, making the most out of their day and accomplishing their individual goals in preparation for a return home. All of us at Ironwood are excited to see how much our students can accomplish in the months to come. Happy New Year to everyone and we wish you a most pleasant weekend!

Ironwood Maine Web Update

“I will promise to be true to myself, because I am the only person I can truly count on.”


This week at Ironwood, both the Frye and Farmhouse residents have been participating in numerous activities that have raised the holiday spirit and produced New Year’s resolutions and program goals. 

​Here on campus, preparing for Christmas and other holidays have been a big task, both at Frye and the Farmhouse. Down at Frye, the boys and girls have been caught up in the throes of Christmas decoration competitions. The boys decided to go with the “more the merrier” theme, while the girls perfectly crafted a few glorious decorations and trimmings. Rumor has it that the best dressed room will award its occupants with a pizza party! Up at the Farmhouse, decorating has been made competition-free, but an activity that was all-inclusive and thoughtful. Also, at the Farmhouse, all received ugly sweaters to bring to the weekend musical play, “Elf”. It was evident that everyone had a great time off campus, while at the musical. 

​DBT this week was especially significant as the meeting was designed to celebrate the holiday season while integratingthe DBT skills of mindfulness and grounding. This was accomplished by focusing on our 6 senses; sight, feel, sounds, smell, taste, and finally, movement! To represent the senses, the DBT group split into smaller groups and each did an activity that focused on one of the senses. With Christmas picture books representing sight, cinnamon cookies for smell, drawing cards for movement, music for sound, decorating and eating treats for taste, and feel. It was an impactful group as it helped resident develop a more positive outlook on the holiday season and the new year ahead. 

​All of these activities do not postpone our day-to-day demands, however, cooking and preparing for Christmas eve and day has especially been an uplifting and positive experience for many residents. Cooking these “huge” meals bring a sense of accomplishment and gratitude, building up positive experiences during the holiday season and excitement at the dinner table. 

​Joy, hope, and gratitude during this holiday season willhopefully carry on and inspire new traditions and resolutions for future Christmas celebrations and in general life for the new year and beyond. Family remains the center of thought, as 2018 ends and we prepare for a promising New Year.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

“To the world you may be one person but to that one person you may be the world.”

Dr. Seuss

​We can only imagine that many of the staff and residents are feeling a sense of relief that the week has come to an end. While still true, this feeling does not stem from long days, or physical taxation. Rather, it is a result of the many successes and accomplishment of our students. This week, it is ever more understood that the rewards of progress can take a lot out of you.  To engage in pure trust, a willingness to be accepting, vulnerable, honest, and driven takes far more energy than shoveling snow. Yet, our residents constantly rely on these traits and thisreflection (of ours) comes from a series of 5 graduations in just one week! Our appreciation goes to them, as they head home with a clearer understanding of how this complex world works and how important family and GOOD friend are in maintaining a life of success.

Holiday efforts steamed forward this week with an atmosphere of both comfort and joy. Preparing for the holidays at Ironwood is an embodiment of community; no one act or gift is for any one individual; it is all communaland shared with appreciation. This holiday provides us with grounding for many learning opportunities, with one that stands out the most…family. Looking beyond the many recent graduations, there remain many students that continue the challenging work of their program. In addition to supporting their continued progress and validating their feelings, we also have great compassion to all of you, as parents. We think about how you have fostered your son or daughter’s growth, shared with them that they are important and worked relentlessly in creating a culture for them that was globally rounded. Each of our students feel safe and comfortable knowing that you are also working within this program to help create a better familyenvironment, when this journey is over.

In addition to school, chores, and clinical groups, students continued to spend time spreading the holiday cheer. After this most recent snow fall, there was an epic sledding race down the hill to the Beaver Pond. Both campuses are knee deep in yarn as many create their very own holiday stockings and students are still designing seasonal campus “flair” with a variety of art project for decorations. 

You may be able to gather that this week has been grounded in celebration. Most have learned to understand that “celebration” includes spending time with family, decorating, offerings for people you care for and surrounding yourself with those who are invested in making your life better. We are excited to be able to create some unique traditions this season. While not the same as home, we will do everything we can to deliver joy and a safe environment of community, for your sons and daughters.

Happy holidays to you all, from all of us here at Ironwood. 

Ironwood Maine Web Update

“Good, better best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.” 

St. Jerome

This week at Ironwood, students continued their motivation to succeed and to be authentic. There has been a strong sense of team-building and teamwork among the students and the Ironwood family as a whole.

The spirit of the holidays is in the air. The Farm House held an Ethnic Night feast, where the students got a taste for the culture of Israel. The students were able to learn about and appreciate the Israeli culture. Along with holiday traditions, there has been the lighting of the Menorah, the opening of the Advent calendar each day, and the decoration of the Christmas tree! The Farm House had the opportunity to see the Bangor Ballet perform their abridged version of “The Nutcracker.” Snowball fights, sledding, and winter walks provided laughter and fun for all.

This week, our therapeutic experiential group sparked some meaningful discussion in the boy’s group about group dynamics. The boys were split into two groups and given two pieces of construction paper, scissors, and tape. Their task was to use these materials to create a runway for a small, wooden ball to roll on. The group that could keep the ball moving and on the track won.

In smaller groups, the boys discovered the incredible teamwork and communication they were capable of and became motivated to do their part in the group to support one another. The boys all agreed a change needed to happen to improve the group’s function as a whole; it starts with individual effort.

The students this week served their community by baking and decorating cookies to be enjoyed by community members and organized a system to get the job done well. It was a creative and rewarding experience!

In music class, the students contributed the song choices for the next Family Weekend. They worked as a team to make sure all opinions were acknowledged and considered. Each week, the music class allows students to showcase their talent and produce a performance they can be proud of.

Ironwood has provided students with the support to keep moving forward and persevere through difficult change, which ultimately leads to personal growth and repair. The simple pleasures of the holiday season have inspired the students to hold onto their motivation, recognize the strength within them, and be invested in their success!

Ironwood Maine Web Update

In the coming weeks. we will be rotating “authorship” of the Family Weekend Update to one of our senior level residents, hoping that this altering perspective will be appreciated by all of you, back home. For this week, we are including the format that will be shared as a guide to our future, resident reporters:

QUOTE: This quote should be both meaningful and related somehow to a “theme of the week”

Empathy – (n.) the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions.

INTRODUCTION: This should be a brief summary of what you plan to talk about, explaining the theme of your processing of events.

All throughout the week here at Ironwood, we’ve had a variety of opportunities to grow by way of others. Just living in this residential setting, we are exposed to a wealth of experiences that teach us about the world around us, our peers, teachers and ourselves.

CAMPUS OVERVIEW: This first section should cover a general overview of the week at both Frye and the Farmhouse campus. Group dynamics, recent changes, or seasonal fun as examples. Not a lot of detail is needed, but try to give a good overview of points of interest.

The winter season holidays are still in full effect here on the Ironwood campus. There has been a consistent drizzling of snow to support our efforts in making Ironwood as cheerful as possible. Students have been decorating their trees, making wreaths, engaging in snow ball wars, and participating in Hanukkah. All students are encouraged to participate in the cultural immersion of the holiday, while campuses partake in the lighting of the Menorah. This experience offers a great opportunity for each of us on campus to gain a deeper insight and respect of alternative heritages and perspectives.

THERAPEUTIC GROUP(s): Pick one group that had a significant impact on you or a student that you “interview” this week. (Peer groups, Experientials, EAP, DBT) Explain the session concept and activity. Share what you felt was impactful and how it relates to the theme of the weekly update

In our therapeutic experiential group this week, the students participated in a blind drawing activity in which each was given a drawing to describe using lines and shapes only to the chosen artist. The artist could not see the group and the group could not see the artist. The challenge was that directions could only be dictated one word at a time and each member of the group needed to contribute. This activity brought some conflict to the surface in the boy’s group as some residents became impatient and intolerant of others, who had difficulty with the activity. Discussion then followed around how to respectfully engage in conversation when feeling frustrated or annoyed by another person, along with the problems associated with assuming what another person is thinking or feeling.

ENRICHMENT ACTIVITY(s): Pick one or Two of the enrichment groups that had the most positive effect on you this week. (culinary, exercise, music, nightly meditation, wilderness, etc.) Explain in detail the activity or event. Why it was so remarkable to you and/or the other students, and how it relates to the theme of the update.

This week in character development with Ethan, we dove into the quality of Empathy. Like most of the traits covered already, this is one that I think is essential for our students. Through a variety of examples, it was hoped that students could understand and acknowledge the differences between Empathy and Sympathy and when it is best to utilize each. Empathy is an essential trait to help us interact with others in our world and to maintain strong relationships with the people in our lives. In an effort to help teach these concepts, this week’s role model was Helen Keller. She was a great example for us all to see how to overcome obstacles in our lives.

In Social Skills group, the students engaged in a sort of Class Debate expressing opposing points, using critical arguments to support their position. Topics that were debated ranged from whether or not students should have hot apple cider every Sunday, the name of the outdoor bathroom facilitates, to more lighthearted topics such as, supporting or opposing whether Ironwood should become an underwater campus. After some lively debates, students discussed their process in which they formed their arguments, how they elected to contribute to the discussion and if they felt that they were listened to (respectfully) during the debate.

CONCLUSION: In a few sentences, try to summarize the entire post in relation to a particular theme. Express how you hope the readers can utilize the shared insight in their own way.

The opportunities this week to learn about ourselves and the people around us were copious this week. In this time of holiday spirit, it is ever so obvious that being able to put ourselves in other people’s shoes is important for our own success. We hope that each of you have had similarly rewarding experiences this week and will be able to enjoy a restful December weekend.

Ironwood Maine High School Graduations

We are getting ready for nine Ironwood High School graduations in the coming weeks…NINE!  This is a record breaker in our 12 year history, as our fully licensed and accredited school is preparing more and more students for college admissions, post-Ironwood.  When parents first reach out to us, the educational prognosis for their teen is most uncertain. As these bright boys and girls become engaged in our programming, their success in the classroom often follows.  This is what everyone is hoping for after all and we’d like to acknowledge our amazing educators for all that has gone in to the development of these nine diplomas.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” – Dr. Seuss

It has been a winter wonderland here on Frye Mountain as of late. 3 snowy storms in nearly as many days have blanketed our landscape with plenty of opportunity for seasonal activities. Students and staff alike have been all smiles as they navigate extra chores to winterize the campus on their way to new and exciting activities. As our old friend Dr. Seuss reminds us above, life really is what you make of it.

Life for our heard of horses is still something to be sought after. Our Barn Manager is ever present with her ability to teach our students how to care for the animals. Recently a seasonal blanketing protocol as well as barn expectations have just been released explaining exactly how care for the animals in the event of low temperatures or inclement weather. The horses don’t seem to mind the cool weather much, but maybe its because their oats are toasted in warm water.

In between groups, school, and chores this week, students had several chances to test their arm accuracy with snowball fights and a makeshift “target range” It is a wonder how quick a day can turn around with a 5-minute bought of epic snow ball wars. Speaking of the season, Students took a walk into the woods to find the perfect tree spruce tree to decorate their side of campus. Word around school is that the most fantastically decorated tree will warrant a few merits.

If you had happened to walk into the farmhouse garage this Wednesday, you might have been taken aback. Eyeless white faces in robes of plastic creepily milling about would have welcomed you. After a timid inquiry, I learned that the students were making paper mâché face mask that will harden, dry, and ultimately be painted at a later art class. Other students this week spent some time in a group focused on community service preparing natural wreaths. The students took time to gather materials and begin constructing the Christmas decorations which will end up being given to the local co-op for sale and distribution.

Regardless of the season or agenda for the day, there will always be an opportunity for us to complain and wither in uncomfortableness. It is so good to see that given encouragement and opportunity; our students are making the choice to appreciate the moments they have.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.”
– Henry David Thoreau

On campus this week, there has been a lot to be grateful for. While spending time with staff and students, it is obvious that this group is thankful for both who they are, and what they have. In preparing to complete this update, I asked a resident if he would be interested in helping me summarize the happenings on campus, by interviewing several other peers. Here is his/their feedback:

This week started out with residents returning mentally and physically back to Ironwood from Family Weekend. Some took more time than others to adjust to the daily routine, but everyone was supportive of one another.

One Farmhouse resident expressed their thoughts as, “I loved seeing my parents after being away from them for so long, but while I was off campus, I really missed all my friends back at Ironwood.”

It has been even more challenging to get through the daily routine at the Farmhouse this week because five Blue residents are on their home visits.

This past Tuesday, we said goodbye to Autumn who was our master gardener who is spending the winter traveling, and is planning to be back to work next spring. We celebrated her departure with a dinner made from foods grown in the garden. She will be missed by everyone who has worked with her.

This week has also been extremely cold. Temperatures have fallen to as low as 4 degrees, and residents from the southern part of the country are not quite sure how to react. The cold has been keeping us mostly indoors but we have found plenty of opportunity to test our winter gear and it’s been keeping us all warm and toasty.

“I have never seen snow that sticks to the ground before,” said a Frye resident after it started snowing this past Wednesday.

Thanksgiving was a day enjoyed by all and it was topped off with an amazing dinner. The smell of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing filled the Schoolhouse, where both campuses stuffed themselves full of food. Frye and the Farmhouse spent the day together playing dodgeball, watching a movie, and visiting with one another.

I heard one resident say, “Thanksgiving Day here at Ironwood was one of the best days of their lives.”

I think that everybody enjoyed the day off from school, and I know that everyone loved the movie, “Elf.”

“It has been so long since I have even watched T.V, anything would have been good, but this was so much fun!” said one resident after this hilarious movie.

The past week has been full of joy, gratitude, and happiness. Everybody seems to be in a good mood as we move on from Family Weekend and Thanksgiving and start looking forward to the season of winter.

It was great to see many of you this past weekend and we hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

It’s official, we’ve retrieved the rock salt and snow shovels from storage and put them to use this morning. On top of the years first winter storm, a parade of eager parents and siblings created a tremendous whirlwind of activity as the 1st day of Family Weekend began, today.

Launched by an opening presentation to all families 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 several weeks apart. After that, the families head off for a day of family therapy, experiential groupsand some free time to catch up and explore the campus together. Today’s “ice-breaker” called for each family member to take a moment to acknowledge what they were grateful for. They then wrote their thoughts on a leaf, to be clipped to a tree, all together creating an impressiveTree of Gratitude.

After a weekend full of campus activities, the Level 2 students say their goodbyes until January. This time together is a great indication of the effort and progress of Ironwood work thus far, as well as an indication of what work needs to happen in the next chapter. Level 3 & 4 students leave campus on Saturday afternoon to enjoy some well-deserved time away from campus, with their family in the beautiful surrounding area of rural Maine.  

This always leaves the question as to what happens to the residents are not able to participate in the Family Weekend event. Similar to the rest of campus, the day is set up to be positive and pleasant. Students spend the first morning as usual, tending to the daily chores and barn animals to then complete a typical day at school. The rest of the weekend is filled with fun activities to keep everyone on their toes and busy. Students cook meals over fires, take hikes in the woods, building camping shelters, and playing board games in groups.

As most of you are witnessing first hand, we are all grateful to be a part of this journey with you and are looking forward to playing a small role in your family reunification.

Have a great weekend!