There are so many experiences that are so ‘uniquely Sterling’ that it could be the topic of a juicy debate which one is, in fact, the most Sterling of all.  Community Building Through Winter Recreation, popularly known as Bounder II, could very well take the cake.

Bounder II directly addresses two “compass points of sustainability”, Social and personal Well-being. Towards social sustainability, this course helps students be more effective group members, as both leaders and participants. Different decision-making models are introduced and used by student groups in a variety of settings; outdoor activities including snowshoe travel, a night hike, orienteering, and cross-country skiing. Student groups also organize their own evening activities. Each student is the designated decision-maker for his or her group during a segment of the course. Instructors play a reduced role in order to give students increased chances for leadership. Towards increasing personal well-being, the course activities are selected to encourage appreciation for the natural world and decreased dependence on mechanization for travel and recreation. One indoor activity that also reinforces course goals is using hand tools to create a canoe paddle. Empowering students to be active and creative in the Winter aids mental and spiritual health. The decision-making process used by group members, relationships, and personal growth are the foci of a reflective journal.

Think about it…new Sterling students arrive into a class where they learn how to work with each other, navigate their surroundings, find their voice within a group and learn to love the harsh, long and stunningly beautiful winter wilderness of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.  What  a powerful way to kick off an education in environmental stewardship.  Before the end of the first week of classes, our Bounder II students have come to know one another and their Faculty quiet well.  Community at Sterling is immensely strong but it is because of courses like this that it can remain that way as new students find their way to Craftsbury.

Allison Van Akkeren was so moved by some of the reflections of her most recent  class that she asked if they might be willing to share.  To our delight, the students agreed!


on snow shoeing…

Our group had a wide range of physical abilities and it was nice to know that when breaks were needed the whole group stopped without complaining. ~Alexandra Oles

on Progressive Dinner…

I enjoy working for my food.  It makes it taste better. ~Harrison Myers

on snow shoeing…

The group came to a dark clearing filled with bits of sunshine.  We all spread out, found our own piece of sun and stood in silence for a while.  I couldn’t help but think about the sun, the same one that was there six thousand years ago, shining on people who were doing exactly what we were doing now.  These systems around us transcend time, connecting us to the past, present and future. ~Carly Rice

on paddle-making…

The project became much easier and much more fun once I had three sets of hands helping me and I was able to offer my hands, too.  After this class we all won’t be up a creek without a paddle again! ~Carly Rice

on Introduction to Bounder…

I loved the sustainability compass that we learned.  North being (N)atural, East being (E)conomic, South being (S)ocial, and West being individual (W)ell-being. ~Sarah Wheatley


The themes and lessons that resonated throughout these journals were:  leave more space and slow down…joy is derived from helping others…tolerance for all abilities without complaints…slow down…gratitude for Sterling…working for food!…tradition, heritage & scope…connecting with the wood…learning to fall first…classified by feeling instead of abilities was liberating…time with teachers….finding peace in the process…sustainability compass…importance of play and worship…

The students got closer to their classmates, their teachers and themselves.


Filed Under: Academics Blog Core Curriculum

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