Partner Village Featured in Major Documentary

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We here at the barn were thrilled to learn that one of our partner communities in Costa Rica is the subject of an important new documentary film! A Small Section of the World, directed by Waiting for Superman producer Leslie Chilcott, tells the story of how a group of women in the small farming community of Biolley banded together to run their own coffee mill and take control of the future of their village. Their work from this tiny Tico town has had lasting effects all over the world, inspiring women in rural communities to advocate strongly on their own behalf and sparking an international movement in the name of properly sourced and sustainable coffee.

Over the course of more than five summers working with Biolley on our Community Service Costa Rica program, our students have learned a tremendous amount from these women and we’re proud to call them members of the Putney family. Kristin Westby, a veteran Putney leader who led our Community Service Costa Rica program in Biolley in 2013, said, “From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, the community of Biolley welcomed us with open arms and continuously presented opportunities for our students to learn about their culture. Students cooked alongside Yeimi and Laura, played endless games of ping pong with Alex, ventured through the rainforest learning about fruits, wildlife, and hidden waterfalls with Pablo, and worked on valuable construction projects with Hector and Miguel, while exclaiming “Qué chiva mae!” with Miguel along the way.”

Check out the trailer for the film featuring an original recording by Grammy winner Alanis Morissette and Costa Rican superstar Carlos Tapado Vargas, and click here to find out how to see the film in its entirety.

Some of our favorite student and leader photos from Biolley:

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Posted in Community Service, Costa Rica, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

The Return of our High School Summer Program in Cuba!

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It is with great pride and excitement that we announce the return of Putney Student Travel’s high school summer programs in Cuba! For four years beginning in 2001, Putney ran incredible summer programs for high school students focusing on the arts, Spanish language, and authentic interaction with Cubans from our base in Havana.  In late 2004, however, the U.S. government tightened restrictions on people-to-people educational exchanges, one of the only legal paths for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba.  Today, after years of diligent work (and a healthy dose of patience!), Putney has obtained a license for people-to-people educational exchange once again.  This summer, together with a crew of passionate travelers, we’re headed back to Havana!

In a series of two week programs based in Havana, our students explore this fascinating, rapidly changing country through the lens of a field-based workshop and real interactions with the Cuban people. Workshops are field-based and focused on Cuban Music & Dance, Spanish Language, and Documentary Media.  Putney Student Travel Co-Director Jeff Shumlin says, “We’re very excited to reinstate our Cuba program and offer this incredible opportunity to a new generation of students.” Putney’s philosophy of active engagement and interaction with local people aligns nicely with the U.S. government’s requirement for people-to-people educational exchange, one of the few ways that U.S. citizens can travel legally to Cuba. Going far beyond the limits of a typical teen tour, this unique program for high school students affords an exclusive and rare opportunity to experience this rich and textured country.

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We recently reconnected with several alumni of Putney’s Cuba program from the early 2000s, and they shared some thoughts and memories with us from their experiences. “There are so many vivid memories I have from my time in Cuba,” says 2003 alumna Elizabeth (Keltz) Robinson. “I remember salsa lessons on a roof top in Havana, home-stays in the countryside, learning about the culture firsthand from Cuban students, strolling along the Malecón, street artists and music, mud baths at the mineral springs, visiting Hemingway’s old house, hiking through tobacco fields, and learning about Santería in Trinidad. It was a truly remarkable group of instructors and students, and probably the most enchanting, profound travel adventure I have ever experienced.” Elizabeth now works at an environmental consulting firm in Lexington, Kentucky, and serves on a committee for a non-profit focused on sustainable urban food systems.

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Andrew Reich, also an alum of Putney’s Cuba program, said, “I do a good deal of traveling, but my time in Cuba with Putney is far and away my most memorable trip.  It was such a privilege to be able to learn and explore in a country that, unfortunately, most Americans don’t have the opportunity to visit. The leaders were engaging and capable, and they made sure that every participant had a memorable experience. I really wanted to learn about Cuban jazz.  By the end of the trip, I performed on stage at two historic Havana jazz clubs and even got a private lesson from a local jazz saxophonist.  (I still can’t believe this happened– if I didn’t have photos, nobody would believe me.)  My Spanish improved drastically.  We studied the language with a hands-on, experiential approach, and it was that full immersion that brought me to a new level of fluency.  I never expected I would be putting my Spanish to use in my career, but it actually has been a great asset. The people on this trip were incredible, and I was so glad to see that the other students had the same passion for learning and experiencing Havana as I did. We lived and experienced Cuban culture, but not before delving into the complicated historical and political context.  We didn’t ignore the elephant in the room– we addressed the issues head on and had rewarding and informative discussions so that we could better appreciate and understand what we were seeing and experiencing.” Andrew recently graduated from Columbia University Law School and is practicing law in New York.

We’re thrilled to be able to introduce a new generation of Putney students to Cuba this summer.  If you want to learn more about our summer program in Cuba, or how to join us this summer in Cuba, please call or email today!

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Five New Faces in the Putney Barn!

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susannah headhotThe Putney Barn is buzzing with new energy this fall, with five new full-time staff members joining us over the past few months! With backgrounds ranging from travel-writing, to teaching, to nursing, and work experience spanning from Tanzania to Thailand to the Himalaya, the Fab Five — as they’re known around here — bring with them incredible insight and excitement to the Barn. We’ve had a great time getting to know them, and now hope to extend that joy to you. Without further ado, we present to you our five new members of the Putney Barn. Get to know them!

Anna Kayes

Anna Kayes with local friends on our Community Service Dominica program.

Anna Kayes with local friends on our Community Service Dominica program.

Anna is a graduate of The College of William & Mary. She joins the staff after a year teaching English in India and Thailand and a stint at an educational provider based in Boston. She directs programs in the West Indies, Alaska, Thailand, and London, and also works to coordinate Putney slideshow presentations around the country with alumni families. She has twice led our Community Service Dominica program.

Favorite Moment While Leading a Putney Program: “My favorite moments to date have been the goodbyes at the end of the Dominica program. Its been moving and rewarding to see the tearful send-offs and know that the Putney students built strong relationships not only with one another but also with the local Dominican kids.”

Best Vermont Memory to Date: “Picking blueberries for the first time at the orchard near the Barn with new friends. The blueberries were falling off the bush, it was a clear night, and the sun was setting over the mountains.”

Defense Plan for the Winter: “Snow boots, cross country skis, a hefty block of Vermont cheddar and a Netflix subscription.”

Favorite Saying in a Foreign Language: “The Thai phrase — “a-rai gor dai” which translates loosely to “anything goes.” I probably used this the most, and learned the most from this phrase, throughout the year I spent teaching in Thailand. It was a healthy reminder each day to enjoy the journey and not get caught up in the minutia (and chaos!) of teaching.”

John Linsley

John with community contacts in Tanzania.

John with community contacts in Tanzania.

John holds a Bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University and a Masters in International Relations from Syracuse University. Before starting at Putney, John worked as a teacher, dorm parent, and program manager for an undergraduate study abroad program based in Montana. He has also guided whitewater kayaking and wilderness programming for high school and college students. John oversees programming in Tanzania, India, and South Africa. He also lends a hand with outreach and works with our team to make sure our programs are active, educational, safe, and fun. He has led many Putney programs in Tanzania.

Favorite Moment While Leading a Putney Program: “My favorite moment while leading a Putney program was reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,341’) with my co-leader, Erica, and all twelve of our students on the summer 2012 Cultural Exploration Kilimanjaro program! During the eight-day climb up the Shira Plateau/Western Breach Route we spent a night above 18,000’ in the summit crater, walking among glaciers, exploring Kili’s ash pit, and watching Mt. Meru peeking through the clouds in the distance. The memories from that trip will always stick with me!”

Best Vermont Memory to Date:  “Trail running along Windmill Ridge to the Pinnacle! It’s amazing that this run is just a few steps away from the Putney Barn.”

Defense Plan for the Winter: “I plan to bulk up on a lot of Vermont cheese to increase my body’s insulation.”

Favorite Saying in a Foreign Language: Hamna shida, which is Swahili for “no worries.”

Ryanne Fujita-Conrads

Ryanne with a coordinator from one of our Ecuadorian communities.

Ryanne with a coordinator from one of our Ecuadorian communities.

Ryanne is a graduate of Reed College and joins us after teaching and traveling in Mexico, Argentina, Thailand, and Southeast Asia. She works in outreach — visiting high schools to speak with prospective students and managing Putney’s social media presence — and directs programs in Costa Rica. She has led Community Service Ecuador.

Favorite Moment While Leading a Putney Program: “Sharing a hearty lunch with our Ecuadorian friends after a hard day’s work. I love the hustle and bustle of the whole community coming together — caked with sweat and mud — laughing and joking with one another, the air filled with a mixture of English, Spanish, and the smell of fresh fried patacones.”

Best Vermont Memory to Date: “Picking blueberries at Green Mountain Orchards, paddle-boarding on the Putney pond, and bonfires. I can’t pick just one!”

Defense Plan for the Winter: “Cross-country skis, good friends, and a crock pot.”

Favorite Saying in a Foreign Language: “Dios le pague,” literally “may god repay you” in Spanish. In Ecuador they use this phrase as a deeper, more thoughtful form of “thank you”. I like the idea that someone’s actions may be so great you will never be able to repay them.”

Annie Agnone

Annie exploring the coastal cliffs of the Emerald Isle while leading our Writing in Ireland program.

Annie exploring the coastal cliffs of the Emerald Isle while leading our Writing in Ireland program.

Annie joins Putney from the MFA program in Creative Writing at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. She taught college-level writing courses and (with the help of a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant) drove over 20,000 miles around the United States at night to photograph and write about nocturnal culture. She manages Putney’s photo technology and directs our Writing programs, as well as other Pre-College and Cultural Exploration programs in Europe. She has led programs in Italy, Ireland, and the Czech Republic.

Favorite Moment While Leading a Putney Program: “I had a student who was smart, funny, and kind, but who had been bullied a lot in school. On the last night of the program, we each shared one intangible thing we would be taking back home with us. Hers was the knowledge that people are good, and that she could trust them. Hearing she felt that way was definitely a highlight of my leading experience.”

Best Vermont Memory to Date: “Tubing the West River with friends on an unseasonably warm day in late September. It was sunny and hot (85 degrees!), but the leaves had already changed color and we could see the geese heading south in Vs as we floated downriver for 10 miles.”

Defense Plan for the Winter: “Attack it head-on! I’ve got snowshoes, a crock pot, and a four-wheel drive vehicle. Let’s do this.”

Favorite Saying in a Foreign Language: “Fare e disfare è tutto un lavorare, which means ‘making and unmaking is all work’ in Italian.”

Susannah Poland

Susannah with her Language Learning France co-leader at Putney's leader orientation.

Susannah with her Language Learning France co-leader at Putney’s leader orientation.

Susannah was previously working in Washington, D.C. as a researcher for the chief curator at the National Museum of African Art. Before moving to Vermont, she broke away from the museum world to conduct research on Mount Everest in Nepal. She followed an international team of climbers on their expedition to Everest’s summit, and documented their operations for a study of decision-making in extreme environments. Susannah directs programs in French-speaking countries and manages Putney’s partnerships with schools. She has led Language Learning France.

Favorite Moment While Leading a Putney Program: “I led our Language Learning program in France last summer, and by the end of our 5-week journey together, each of my students said they were DREAMING in French! Everyone was shocked by their personal transformation. I couldn’t have been happier.”

Best Vermont Memory to Date: “In October, a farm near our Barn offices produces over 90 different types of heirloom apples, and there is an old apple guru in town who can identify every one. It is the most joyful, spectacular harvest. We hosted a pie-baking party and baked and ate pies all day.”

Defense Plan for the Winter: “Woolly long johns and hot toddies!”

Favorite Saying in a Foreign Language: “Ah la vache! – which is French and literally translates to “Oh, the cow!” It’s used in the same way some people say “Oh my God!”

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Top 10 Colleges Represented by Putney Leaders 2014

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Putney Student Travel leaders and Putney Pre-College instructors come from all walks of life. They distinguish themselves in fields ranging from the arts and athletics to journalism, law, medicine, and international development. Collectively, the leaders from our summer travel programs in 2014 held degrees from over 100 different colleges and universities, with more than half of our leaders currently holding graduate degrees or enrolled in postgraduate study. Scroll down to see the top 10 colleges and universities from which our 2014 summer leaders have earned the greatest number of degrees. We’re not listing all alumni from these colleges because we’d run out of room, but you can read all leader bios here! Spots 11-20 are occupied by Harvard University, University of New Hampshire, University of Texas Austin, Vassar College, Duke University, University of Notre Dame, Monterrey Institute of International Studies, Boston College, Amherst College, and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

10. New York University – Alex Carter, left, has a degree in Medieval Renaissance Studies from NYU. She has spent multiple summers as a staff-member on our Pre-College summer programs. Her brother, Carter Carter, is an NYU grad and veteran Pre-College instructor as well!

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9. Dartmouth University – Meaghan Ferrick, left, got her BA in History and Religion from Dartmouth before continuing on to a Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a M.Ed from Stanford University. She led last summer’s Community Service Tanzania program. Other Dartmouth grads led programs in Madrid, Barcelona, and Paris.

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8. University of Vermont – Andrew Turgeon, right, is a Vermont native and graduate of University of Vermont. A former intern at National Geographic, he has led our Community Service Peru and Foundations Costa Rica programs. The 2014 Foundations Costa Rica program featured three UVM grads, with Associate Director and UVM grad Zufan Hagos leading our Community Service Dominican Republic program as well.

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7. Brown University – Evan Coleman has twice led our community service program in Costa Rica. He graduated with honors from Brown with an English degree and currently teaches English at a boarding school in Maine. Brown graduates also led Foundations Spain, Language Learning Spain, and Community Service Ecuador this past summer.

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6. University of Wisconsin Madison – In addition to spending four years at the Putney Barn, Maggie has led numerous Putney programs. She led Community Service Fiji in 2014 for a second consecutive summer. A native of Wisconsin and a graduate of University of Wisconsin Madison, she is a dyed-in-the-wool Badger. Fellow Wisconsin Badgers led programs in Belize and at Amherst College in 2014.

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5. Kenyon College – Ted Samuel has led Putney programs for seven summers, most recently Community Service Tanzania. He got his undergraduate degree in International Studies from Kenyon and is currently enrolled in a PhD program in Anthropology at American University. Kenyon graduates also led programs this summer in Costa Rica, Australia, Belize, and at Amherst College.

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4. Stanford University – George Philip LeBourdais has taught for many years on our Pre-College program in France. He is currently studying for his PhD in the History of Art & Architecture at Stanford University, and has a BA from Middlebury and an MA from Williams. Other Stanford grads led Language Learning France, Pre-College Florence, Pre-College Paris, and Community Service Tanzania in 2014.

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3. Columbia University – Charlie Gillihan led Community Service Costa Rica in 2014. He has is BA in Nonfiction Creative Writing from Columbia and his M.S.Ed in Chemistry Education from Lehman College. Other Columbia grads led Language Learning Spain, Pre-College at Amherst College, Cultural Exploration Thailand, and Pre-College Barcelona.

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2. University of Massachusetts Amherst - With close proximity to Putney, VT, and a longstanding Pre-College program in town, we’ve always drawn heavily on UMASS Amherst grads for great leaders. Lucia Donatelli, right, has twice led our high school summer language program in Spain. She has her BA from Brown University, her Master’s from UMASS Amherst, and is currently enrolled in a PhD program at Georgetown University.

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1. Middlebury College – All three of the Pre-College Paris staff members pictured here have a degrees from Middlebury. Bob Pokorney, right, has his Masters in French from the Vermont college, as well as a Masters in Interpretation and Translation from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Middlebury grads led Cultural Exploration Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Pre-College Paris, Community Service Costa Rica, Cultural Exploration Belize and Pre-College Florence in 2014.

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Zorica’s Reflection from Community Service Ghana

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Zorica, Community Service Ghana 2014

Zorica, Community Service Ghana 2014

Zorica Radonovic, a senior at Maine East High School in Des Plaines, Illinois, traveled with us on our community service program in Ghana last summer. One of many students joining us through the Putney Open Door Fund, Zorica got connected to Putney by the Schuler Scholar Program. She recently wrote an article for their website on her experience in Ghana and what true community service means. We loved it so much we wanted to share it here. Thank you for sharing, Zorica!

It’s surreal to think that this past summer, I would wake up to a rooster crowing, step out of the bunks at “the Yard” and look past the tall plantain trees to see the waves of the Gulf of Guinea crashing so gracefully on the shore five minutes down a hill from where I was standing. Ghana is an extremely beautifully place, from the intricate kente weaving to the constant dancing and celebration for no particular reason to the amazing Ghanaian cuisine consisting of fufu, banku and ampesi with palava sauce. The yard, or Trinity Yard School, is a vocational school located in Cape Three Points, Western Region, Ghana that provides under-resourced teenagers with more opportunities after junior high school. The school focuses on advancing English, math, and technological skills, among others, and sponsors its students to go to high school and apprenticeships using donations that it raises.

CSGH_PeterMyers (1473)During my time in Ghana with Putney Student Travel, I realized what community service means: it means getting out as much as you put in, and I’m not talking just physical work. Although volunteers do put in physical work to help others, more often than not, the volunteers are the ones who leave the experience gaining different perspectives and attitudes in ways they never could have imagined. The gain for volunteers is not in physical form (unless you want to consider the muscles gained); instead, volunteers grow and expand mentally and emotionally. I’ll be the first to tell you that hard work really can pay off, and not just in the form of fresh coconuts. One of the most amazing and rewarding feelings was to be called a hard worker by the head mason at the Yard, Emmanuel, as I was digging a trench in 90 degree weather for three hours.

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Now that I’m back home, I am continuing to have new revelations every day. I realize that I didn’t go to Ghana to help the Ghanaians as if they couldn’t do the work without us, but instead I went to work with them. I learned more about Ghana through simple conversations after work at the bike shop with Francis and the other yard boys than I could ever get from a textbook. The yard boys and girls were teenagers my age who were from the village, Cape Three Points, and had either graduated or were going to graduate from Trinity Yard School. There were about 25 of them in total. I learned firsthand what the juju religion really is and even was surprised to hear about their own skeptical opinions of it. I learned about the gangsters and street life of Ghana, the popstars and musicians, the school system, the importance of soccer, their food, and the corruption in the government all through conversations. I was also able to witness all but the “gangster” aspect firsthand, and the conversations helped me see the Ghanaian perspective.

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I am forever grateful for the opportunities Schuler has given and continues to give me, including this trip to Ghana: the Schuler Scholar Program is my Trinity Yard School. Because of my experience in Ghana, I’ve learned to constantly ask questions, to listen to directions in a creative way, to fix things without the right tools, to take effective bucket showers and to find reasons to smile even when our car got stuck in a couple feet of water. The friends I’ve made were the same people I was volunteering with. They taught me about their daily lives and helped me see how valuable conversation and human interaction is. I’ve made lifelong friends who don’t mind spending a couple of Ghanaian Cedis to call me now and then to ask me how I am doing. They remind me that although it is extremely important to do well and study, it is also important to call my parents and friends and ask them a simple question, “How are you doing?”

Posted in Africa, Ghana | Tagged , , , , ,

2015 Catalogs Fresh Off the Press!

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The Barn staff is proud to announce the arrival of our 2015 Putney Student Travel Catalog! With some incredible new programs, as well as stunning photos from summer 2014, we can’t wait to share our excitement about the upcoming year. If you have traveled with us on our middle school or high school programs abroad, be sure to check your mailbox — your very own copy should be arriving soon! If not, be sure to visit our request a catalog page to order your copy and start planning for summer 2015!

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5 Things to Know About Putney’s New Look

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Notice something different about us? Haircut? New shoes? We’ve revamped our website! While we had grown quite fond of the previous version, it was time to spiff up. We’re very excited about the updated look and functionality of our new site, and thought we might introduce you to a few of the bigger changes:

1) See more, much more! – With all of the incredible photos that come back from our summer travel programs, we wanted to make sure we were showing them to you in the best way possible. Our new look features significantly wider header photos, meaning that the epic Andean landscapes or elegant Roman architecture don’t get confined to the margins of a page.

2) View by Categories – Our new organization system gives you the ability to view our summer trips by Program Type, Grade, or Location, making it easier to find the program that fits you best. As always, you can also view all of our programs in one place on the Overview page.

3) The Pre-College Fit – With the increasing interest in our summer Pre-College programs, we are proud to showcase both the individual strengths of each campus destination and the ways in which students can combine destinations to make a truly unique summer.  Quite different from our Community Service, Global Awareness in Action, Language Learning, and Cultural Exploration programs, our Pre-College offerings operate in six international cities (London, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Florence, and Shanghai) and one United States college (Amherst College).  Take a look!

4) Custom Programs – Did you know that Putney Student Travel organizes custom travel programs for high school students? Our new site highlights this exciting aspect of what we do! Check out the page and get in touch if you’d like to speak with us about working together on a trip for your class, organization, or group. We’ve been running custom programs for many years and love combining our experience and in-country connections with your curiosity and curriculum.

5) Blue – We loved the brown, but sometimes you get a little tired of wearing the same thing every day. You know?

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The 4th Annual Putney Collective Marathon!

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After another year of endurance training and countless burpies, and reinvigorated with some fresh legs, the Putney Barn team emerged victorious from our fourth-annual collective marathon last Wednesday. Splitting the 26.2 mile feat between the Barn staff, we set out determined to complete the race in under four hours. In a tremendous display of strength and collaboration — with the help of joyous shouts of encouragement and the occasional energy boost from a sip of pure Vermont maple syrup — the team rallied together, and our anchor runner, John Linsley, crossed the finish line with a time of 3:52:11. Congrats team! Check out some photos from the glorious day.

Mike started off the event with a stunning display of speed and style.

Mike started off the event with a stunning display of speed and style.

Lauren brings it in strong with encouragement from Jeff and Ryanne.

Lauren brings it in strong with encouragement from Jeff and Ryanne.

And they're off!

And they’re off!

Mike and Anna show their support.

Mike and Anna show their support.

Patrick - so quick we could barely catch him on camera!

Patrick – so quick we could barely catch him on camera!

Renee, the master of syrup.

Renee, the master of syrup.

Alex, the marathon fairy.

Alex, the marathon fairy.

Susannah passes the syrup to speed-demon Troy.

Susannah passes the syrup to speed-demon Troy.

TROY.

TROY.

Baby Maceo gets ready for his first collective marathon!

Baby Maceo gets ready for his first collective marathon!

Hannah and Maceo off for a run.

Hannah and Maceo off for a run.

The beautiful Anna Kayes in her element.

Anna Kayes in her element.

John Linsley for the finish!

John for the finish!

 

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Author Tim Weed Talks Books, Travel, and Writing

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Tim Weed

Tim Weed

We caught up with author Tim Weed to talk about his recently published young adult novel Will Poole’s Island. The book, a gripping coming-of-age story set in colonial New England, has garnered some great reviews. Kirkus Reviews describes Will Poole’s Island as an “immersive, riveting portrayal of early colonial New England.” Author Joseph Monniger called it “a superb novel, written with truth and daring at its core.” We couldn’t agree more, as evidenced by the fact that the staff copy has made it’s way through the Putney Barn like wildfire! Tim  worked for many years in the Putney Barn, has led over a dozen Putney summer programs abroad, and most recently joined us as the guest writer on our Writing in Ireland program.During our conversation he shared his thoughts on the interrelated nature of travel, writing, reading, and the outdoors. His approach to all of the above has infused Putney Student Travel’s philosophy for years and we’re proud of his most recent accomplishments!

First off congratulations on the publication and great reception of Will Poole’s Island. Has it changed your day-to-day life?

Thank you! Actually, it hasn’t changed much. I write every morning, I travel quite a bit, and I do my best to get outside every day. What has changed is that I’m doing more book events: book talks, signings, literary festivals, classroom visits, that kind of thing. So I’m busier. But for the most part life goes on. I’m having fun.

Will Poole's Island

Will Poole’s Island

How can members of the Putney Student Travel family get their hands on a copy?

All the major on-line retailers have the book in stock: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Indiebound, etc. You can also get it through your local bookstore: it’s carried by Ingram, the country’s largest book distributor, so it’s easy for stores to order copies.

Will Poole benefits from stepping out of the confines of his home and immersing himself in another culture, how important is this sort of experience – in your view – to a young person’s development?

Very important. If I look back at my own formation, it’s the experiences I had out in the world – both international travel and what you might call informal wilderness adventure – that had the greatest impact on who I am and the direction my life has taken. A few weeks of this kind of hands-on, fully immersive experience is worth a whole semester of academic education, in my view.

You create a very strong sense of place in Will Poole’s Island, specifically New England during colonial times. What sort of things help you to internalize a time and place, and help you cultivate that world in your writing?

When I was researching the book, I visited as many of the relevant historical sites as I could: churches, houses, burial grounds. I also spent a lot of time out in nature – in the forest, on rivers and mountains, out on the water, on the moors and beaches of Nantucket, and as far away as Cuba and the Yucatán. I did this because I figured out that natural landscapes, while they are changing, are the closest we have to a constant. In a very real way nature is a direct link to the distant past – and to the distant future too, hopefully. Spending a lot of hours in the places that became the setting for the book gave me everything I needed to imagine my way back to that time, and as a result of this sustained mental exercise, when it came time to write the novel, I began to get a feeling of accumulating energy, as if the story were telling itself.

Tim front row, third from right, with our Writing in Ireland group on the night of their final reading.

Tim front row, third from right, with our Writing in Ireland group on the night of their final reading.

In addition to Will Poole’s Island, you’ve had many works of travel writing published. How do writing and traveling go hand in hand for you?

For me, writing is an essential part of traveling. It’s a way to filter the experience, to interpret and record and bestow meaning. Travel allows you to see the world fresh; good writing does the same thing. This is why travel programs with a writing component, or writing programs with a travel component, are so consistently enriching. Travel lends itself naturally to writing. And all you need is a pen and a journal!

As a longtime program creator and writing instructor, and recent expert on Putney’s Writing in Ireland program, what advice do you have for young writers? How about for young travelers?

The best advice I can think of for both groups is to READ GOOD BOOKS. With so many electronic gadgets in our lives, it’s often difficult to find the undistracted time to immerse yourself in a sustained narrative. But it’s so important to do it! Every good book is a ticket to a new world, and by entering fully into these worlds we expand our consciousness immeasurably.

If you’re going somewhere, reading about that place before you go will enrich the travel experience by at least one hundred percent. If you bring a great novel along, you’ll never be lonely or bored. Books are our teachers, our metaphorical grandparents, the most direct contact we have with the wisdom of our elders in a society where such contacts are few and far between. Plus, in the long run, a good book is a lot more fun than a video game or yet another on-line conversation. I’m not knocking gaming or social media – they have their place – but you have to strike a balance. This is one of the biggest challenges encountered by young people in the modern age. But it’s a challenge that has to be faced. The good news is there are a lot of great books out there – you just have to find them, and structure every day so that reading is part of it.

What’s next for you?

More of the same. More writing, more travel. I’ve got two new novels in the works, and I hope to have time to finish a few shorter pieces as well. In the coming year I’ll be traveling to Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, Cuba, Spain, and probably Ireland or Prague as well with Putney. I’ll also be setting up visits to schools, libraries, and other educational institutions to offer writing workshops, discuss Will Poole’s Island and the process of researching and writing it, and answering questions about what it’s like to be a writer in the current environment. So, please pass the word along to your teachers and librarians! Interested parties can read more about the book and/or contact me directly via my website: www.timweed.net.

Thanks for the questions. It’s great to be part of the extended Putney family, and I hope to run into some of you out there!

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Directors’ Retreat 2014: Cape Cod

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The Putney Barn Team is back and ready for summer 2015 after our annual directors’ retreat  this year in Chatham, Massachusetts, on beautiful Cape Cod. The relaxing ambiance of the harbor served as the perfect backdrop for an amazing three days getting to know new members of our team, reviewing this past summer’s student travel programs, and brainstorming exciting new ideas for next summer. After group meetings in the New England sunshine, we found some time in the twilight hours to take kayak and boat rides, forming new friendships with local seals and horseshoe crabs. Others found some free time to bike or jog along the shoreline and enjoy the gorgeous ocean views.

The Putney Barn is ready for another great year

The Putney Barn is ready for another great year

After long days of hard work, soaking up a breathtaking sunset with good friends and delicious food reminded us of how lucky we are to have such an amazing team of passionate co-workers here at the Barn. We’re excited to hit the ground running back in Vermont in preparation for another successful season. Give us a call, send us an e-mail, and get pumped for summer 2015!

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