Thetford Academy students make snowshoes

Rayne Waln, a junior at Thetford Academy, steams strips of ash in a North Thetford, Vt., wood shop on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024. The wood is 104 inches long and will become the frame for snowshoes Waln's class is making.  (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Rayne Waln, a junior at Thetford Academy, steams strips of ash in a North Thetford, Vt., wood shop on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024. The wood is 104 inches long and will become the frame for snowshoes Waln's class is making. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Jennifer Hauck

Thetford Academy students Andrew Fraser, left, Aylhea LaBadie, Rayne Waln and Maggie Mikovitz work on the webbing for the snow shoes they are making in the school's yurt on Wednesday, Jan 25, 2024, in Thetford, Vt.  (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Thetford Academy students Andrew Fraser, left, Aylhea LaBadie, Rayne Waln and Maggie Mikovitz work on the webbing for the snow shoes they are making in the school's yurt on Wednesday, Jan 25, 2024, in Thetford, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Thetford Academy students Andrew Fraser, left, Cecelia Willing and Rayne Waln ski to the school's yurt on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Thetford Vt. The students were headed to the yurt to continue the work they are doing on snowshoes they are making.  (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Thetford Academy students Andrew Fraser, left, Cecelia Willing and Rayne Waln ski to the school's yurt on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Thetford Vt. The students were headed to the yurt to continue the work they are doing on snowshoes they are making. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Jennifer Hauck

Thetford Academy students shape a wooden snowshoe into shape on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, in North Thetford, Vt. The students felled an ash tree to create more light in the school's sugarbush, helped to mill the wood and were in the process of making snowshoes. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Thetford Academy students shape a wooden snowshoe into shape on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, in North Thetford, Vt. The students felled an ash tree to create more light in the school's sugarbush, helped to mill the wood and were in the process of making snowshoes. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Scott Ellis, left, the Environmental Studies and Outdoor Program Coordinator at Thetford Academy, helps students Andrew Fraser, Tristan Coby, Maggie Mikovitz and Logan Kuban, all sophomores, bend a section of steamed ash into a snowshoe frame in North Thetford, Vt., on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Scott Ellis, left, the Environmental Studies and Outdoor Program Coordinator at Thetford Academy, helps students Andrew Fraser, Tristan Coby, Maggie Mikovitz and Logan Kuban, all sophomores, bend a section of steamed ash into a snowshoe frame in North Thetford, Vt., on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Cecelia Willing, a sophomore at Thetford Academy, works on the webbing for the snowshoes she and fellow classmates are making at the school on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Thetford, Vt. The students started with felling an ash tree, milling the wood and making the frames for the snowshoes. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Cecelia Willing, a sophomore at Thetford Academy, works on the webbing for the snowshoes she and fellow classmates are making at the school on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Thetford, Vt. The students started with felling an ash tree, milling the wood and making the frames for the snowshoes. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

After skiing and snowshoeing to Thetford Academy's yurt, sophomores Maggie Mikovitz Aylhea LaBadie,Tristan Coby, and Adam Crockett make hot chocolate before working on snowshoes they are making in class on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Thetford, Vt. Scott Ellis, left, the Environmental Studies and Outdoor Program Coordinator. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

After skiing and snowshoeing to Thetford Academy's yurt, sophomores Maggie Mikovitz Aylhea LaBadie,Tristan Coby, and Adam Crockett make hot chocolate before working on snowshoes they are making in class on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Thetford, Vt. Scott Ellis, left, the Environmental Studies and Outdoor Program Coordinator. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Photographsby JENNIFER HAUCK

Story by LIZ SAUCHELLI

Published: 02-05-2024 10:31 PM

Modified: 02-08-2024 9:42 AM


THETFORD — Cecelia Willing was deep in concentration as she wove a strand of bright yellow rope to create the webbing on the foot of a snowshoe.

At one point she paused, looking toward instructor Scott Ellis.

“I’m definitely not doing this right,” Willing, a sophomore, said. Some of her Thetford Academy classmates agreed, pausing their work in the school’s yurt that was warmed by a wood stove on a January afternoon.

Ellis, the school’s environmental studies and outdoor program coordinator, walked over to the students and examined their work.

“This is a tricky step and an easy one to make a mistake on,” he told them before offering advice and encouraging them to try again.

The students are part of the Thetford Outdoor Program. That afternoon, they cross-country skied and snowshoed from the school up a roughly third-of-a-mile-long trail to the yurt.

After removing their skis, they went into the wood-framed structure where they were greeted by instant hot chocolate and chocolate-flavored marshmallows (full sized — not mini — as some students were excited to point out).

As they prepared their drinks, the students examined the snowshoes they were working to finish and Ellis explained the next steps: Weaving the rope over and under, and securing it with knots.

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“I’ve never done anything like this before,” sophomore Andrew Fraser said. But he, like his classmates, was determined to see the project through to completion.

Fraser and his peers have a few things in common, among them a deep love for the outdoors and an inclination toward hands-on learning.

The snowshoe project provides both: Students helped cut down the ash tree, then used the wood to create the shoes’ frames. Then, they were on to the webbing which students described as the most difficult step so far. While students had Ellis’ guidance to weave the first snowshoe, they’d have to complete the second one largely on their own.

Before they made their trek to the yurt, the group met in Ellis’ classroom where the desks were arranged in a circle. The outdoor program’s mission was written across the top of a whiteboard: “to ignite academic curiosity and foster environmental stewardship through outdoor exploration, recreation and project-based experimental learning.” It counts toward English, science and physical education credits, Ellis said.

“There’s deep learning that happens in that process,” he said, citing the snowshoe project.

Ellis begins each class with a quote and that day’s involved snow — appropriate for the winter weather that awaited them outside. He talked about the steps they’d work to accomplish that day at the yurt and the challenges they may encounter.

“We’re going to be like snowflakes and stick together,” Ellis said, summarizing the concept of the quote he read.

That togetherness was evident, whether it be the way they arrived at the yurt i n smaller groups — no one alone — how they served each other hot chocolate and the way they waited for everyone to be on the same step before pres sing Ellis for the next one.

As their time in the yurt went on, the students made a point of helping each other out when they figured out a step before their classmates.

“I think it’s cool,” Willing said. “It’s a good experience for all of us.”

Jennifer Hauck can be reached at jhauck@vnews.com. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.