Note from the Director

Almost all parents looking at Running River ask me how students do when they move on from Running River. After 15 years, we have data proving that they do quite well, both socially and academically. Most importantly, they leave with a clear internal sense of who they are and how they learn. They leave with a love of learning and the skills to learn anything they set their minds too. They are confident, strong, balanced kids who know how to be part of a community, and also how to be independent, in the best sense of the word. We keep in touch with many of the students who leave, and are more than happy with what they tell us about their experience with learning to adjust to big schools. It is never easy at first, but they find their way. They also know that learning is a lifelong pursuit, and that it is up to them to figure it out when the system they are in doesn’t bring the meaning and depth they are used to. They know how to pursue their passions.

Below are the answers to questions from some of the students who left to go into public middle school (one left after 7th grade to get some special programming). I did not edit their answers. Every child has a different experience and I honor that.

Update: It’s been a few years since these responses were written. All of these students are now in high school or college. I got them together in December, 2013, and videotaped a discussion of their years at Running River and their transitions to middle, high school and college. Sawyer, whose answers are below, received straight A’s and made the Dean’s Honor Roll as a freshman at American University in Washington D.C. He is graduating in the spring of 2016 with a 4.0 grade average, after 3 years of college, and next year will recive his masters degree in math. Colton, who also answers questions below, was Valedictorian of his high school class with a 4.0 average. He is now in college playing baseball (on a scholarship) and an incredible musician.

In their own words

Colton, age 17 (attended RR from 1st – 6th grade)

What do you feel you learned the most from RR (academic and personal)?

I learned so many things about nature and how to respect nature, and I learned a lot about different animals and what their tracks look like etc. I learned how to do woodwork, and learned how to ski and how to cook! Academically I learned proper writing mechanics. I also learned how to solve math equations, and other academic skills which have helped me a lot through middle school, and high school.

What do you think helped you as a person the most…what will you remember the most?

I think that all of the hikes and outdoor learning really sunk into me. Now I am able to tell different animals from there tracks I know that if I was stranded out in the wilderness, that I would be able to survive. When I was at Running River, I learned good social skills that have really helped me throughout my life since RR.

How was your transition when you started a new school? What was hard? What was easy?

The transition was exciting! and sad. I felt very confident in starting middle school but I really loved my experience with Running River. I didn’t want to leave RR because i really loved the hikes, I loved the teachers and all of my friends that I had there. Running River was such an amazing experience and I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to go to such a great school.

How was it learning to take tests and get grades? Did you feel prepared academically? How is it going?

When I left RR i felt confident in started a new school life. I knew that i would be just fine in any class. I did really well in my classes, and I got good grades. I did really well in tests also. I am now a junior in high school with a 4.0 GPA which i have sustained for all of high school. I am well in the top 25% of my class. I have been on the varsity Baseball team for Centaurus High school ever since my sophomore year, and I’m working on getting a Baseball scholarship for a good college team. I’m hoping for a scholarship for a division #1 team.

How was it socially leaving such a small school and going to a big school?

It was a huge change. I didn’t really have a lot of friends outside of RR, but I made friends pretty quick. My middle school had a lot of kids so it was definitely a big change. I experienced mean kids, and nice kids. I felt confident in making friends, and I was never a shy kid.

What did you feel you have most carried with you?

I carried all of the wilderness, and social skills with me. Along with Academic skills which have had a huge affect on me through all of high school. I am very glad I went to RR it was the best thing to happen to me as a kid.


Sawyer, Age 16 (attended RR from 1st – 5th grade, then attended Casey Middle School. He wrote this when he was in high school.)

What do you feel you learned the most from RR (academic and personal)?

RR was a wonderful experience for me and has set me up for success in my current schooling. Academically the teachers at RR focus on what you are good at and continue to better that particular skill. For me it was math. Right now I am 1 year ahead of the norm and I will be taking both advanced Pre-Calc and AP Statistics next year because RR pushed me in math. Although this had some downfall because most people have trouble reading my handwriting and am am only an average reader. I wish we could have bettered my handwriting, but I would not be where I am in math today. So it’s a trade off.

Personally I have become an extremely caring and polite person. I greatly respect all opinions even if I strongly disagree with them. Today I have more friends that are girls then guys because I don’t act like a normal teenage boy. RR has greatly increased my maturity level with all people. I have also grown to respect my surroundings both in nature and in every day life. RR has most definitely made me a better person and a contributing member of society.

What do you think helped you as a person the most…what will you remember the most?

From RR the biggest thing that has help me, is to take away something from every day, every experience and every person and use your knowledge to make better and more practical decisions later in life. The two things I will remember the most from RR is the camping trips and the life experiences my teachers had. I take what my teachers tell me and use that knowledge. I put this knowledge to the best use I can so I will get the most out of everything I do.

How was your transition when you started a new school? What was hard? What was easy?

My transition to a public school from RR was easy and hard. Academically middle school was very easy for me because I played into my teachers. I am very good at playing “The Game” of school because I get on my teachers good side then decide what I need to do to get a good grade, so I don’t put too much effort into something that is not worth much. Socially middle school is a *&%$# because every thing is so clicky and your image is everything. There is so much drama and stupid stuff that goes on due to the lack of maturity. The first year is the hardest but after that you find the people that you choose as the friends that are best for you. RR helped me choose the right crowd to hang out with and that is why I am in such a good spot today.

How was it learning to take tests and get grades? Did you feel prepared academically? How is it going???

Test taking is a skill that some people have and some people don’t. I am lucky because test are very easy for me. It is a very hard skill to teach, and yet after your educational career it is almost useless. I have a 4.1GPA and have very little trouble in school. This comes from both RR and the great teachers I had at Casey and now have at BHS.

How was it socially leaving such a small school and going to a big school?

As I stated above, socially it can be very hard and stressful. Although RR helped me develop my social skills, it was easier for me then it might be for someone coming from a public elementary school. Today high school is not nearly as socially stressful and I get along with most everyone.


Jessica, Age 13

(Jessica was at RR from K-7th grade. In 3rd grade, after struggling academically and getting all the help we could give her, she was tested with dyslexia. From 4th-6th grade Jess went half time to RR and half time to Hillside School, a fantastic school for children with learning disabilities.)

What do you feel you learned the most from RR (academic and personal)?

I learned a lot from Jane. She was the best teacher. I learned a lot about acting and Shakespeare. Personally, I learned that after I left RR I was able to communicate with people, like teachers, about my needs, and now I have 504plan so that helps. And I made friends faster.

What do you think helped you as a person the most…what will you remember the most?

I will remember how to talk to people, and get my feelings out by talking in a certain way.

How was your transition when you started a new school? What was hard? What was easy?

It was easy to make friends with people, it was really hard to switch to the amount of homework I got, so I almost failed my first trimester. I think it would be helpful if I learned more history before switching schools. Math was ok, science was really good, then we switched teachers and now all we do is read text books and I hate it, but it’s okay.

How was it learning to take tests and get grades? Did you feel prepared academically? How is it going???

I felt that at the beginning of the year it was really hard because I was getting slammed with homework, and during class we would take notes all class and the teacher would talk at the same time. I couldn’t do both, so I got the teachers to print my notes so I could listen to what they were saying. It’s going really good – I have lots of friends and I played basketball and got 1st place in Chemistry. I love my teachers. I really miss hiking with my “Tigers” class. When I first started at the new school, I couldn’t keep up. It was as bad as if I had ADHD but I don’t. I miss having counsel, and I miss all the teachers at RR.

How was it socially leaving such a small school and going to a big school?

It was really fun. It took some time to get to know where all the classrooms are, and remembering names, but over all I’m soo soo soo happy!!! :)

When you leave Running River, you carry respect for people, and an understanding of people, and how to communicate with others.


Nefeli, Age 14 (attended RR from K-5th grade, and left to go to public middle school. She is now a sophomore in college, but wrote this when she was a freshman in high school.)

What do you feel you learned the most from RR (academic and personal)?

At Running River I learned a lot about what it meant to be a community and how to resolve problems with people in a respectful way. It was like being in a family at school and I loved it. Academically I loved learning about history and I learned a lot. The things I learned at RR helped me a lot through middle school.

What do you think helped you as a person the most…what will you remember the most?

It was like being in a family at school and I loved it. I’ll always remember that, and it helped me to make friends easily when I changed schools.

How was your transition when you started a new school? What was hard? What was easy?

It was pretty hard. Mostly because I didn’t know anybody, and the atmosphere was so different. People weren’t as nice, no one really looked out for you. But I got good grades and once I started to make friends everything was fine.

How was it learning to take tests and get grades? Did you feel prepared academically? How is it going?

Tests were stressful and it took a little while for me to get the hang of the grading system and all the requirements for assignments. But now everything just feels normal, but it is still stressful. Getting good grades is tough, but just try your best.

How was it socially leaving such a small school and going to a big school?

That was probably the hardest part. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t like being left out of things, but I floated around and hung out with many different “groups” before I found some close friends. The key is to just try and adapt to your surroundings and be really social and friendly.