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.


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.


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, 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.