Founded in 1971, Bent Twig was an alternative school started by UMass Amherst graduate students who were working on degrees in education. It was originally located upstairs in the Marion Town Hall and served grades 1-12 all together. It then moved to a wing of the Sippican School in Marion. Midway through the second year the program split in two parts. The program for younger students remained at Sippican School, while the program serving older students moved to Old Rochester Regional High School and was renamed the Independent Learning Center.
At the Independent Learning Center there were 4 teachers and 40 students. The teachers were permitted a remarkable degree of freedom to create their own curriculum from scratch. They did not follow the standard curriculum. The classes mixed students from different grades. There were no letter grades – all classes were pass/fail. The program benefited from tremendous local support, especially from the parents of current students. Detractors viewed the center as a hippy school focused on radicalizing students.
Independent projects were encouraged. Jennifer Briggs Francis and Mae Barrett embarked on their study of edible local plants all of their own accord. They researched their topic and created a large map, measuring 12' x 8', locating wild, edible plants in the Tri-Town. Motivated, curious students flourished in this unconventional program.
In the early 1970s there was also a tremendous back to nature movement and during that time the "Golden Age of Backpacking". Jim Hubbard and Carlton Vaughn credit Jennifer and Mae's work as being one factor that influenced the founding of the Survival Program.
In the beginning, the Survival program was focused on science and environmental studies, Survival participants camped out in the woods of Rochester. Jim Hubbard explained that Rochester turned out to be not far enough away. John and Horace Field, Jr. (brothers ) suggested Northfield as the ideal location for this type of outdoor experience. The Field family has had close ties to Northfield ever since the brother's grandfather, William DeYough Field, starting spending his summers in Northfield for health reasons. The program was transferred to Northfield in 1975. Toward the end of the decade the emphasis of the program shifted to a rigorous boot camp involving a strenuous obstacle course.
In the 1980s Jeff Rodman redefined the program and left his mark on this decade. He shifted the emphasis back to academics and encouraged students to enjoy backpacking. In addition to a focus on science, Jeff shared his fascination with the history of the local area with the students. He made sure they learned about the King Phillip War, the Colonial Wars, the Squakheags, and Shays Rebellion. Jeff also added community service. The students cleaned up a remote colonial cemetery annually. They would also help Jimmy Field with his cord wood.
Best time growing up in Mattapoisett! We all loved the Field's property and we grew closer to our classmates and formed bonds that have never been broken! Jonathan Mifflin, '80
Rory McFee's approach defined the 1990s. He continued much of the science, history and backpacking introduced by Jeff Rodman, but he also aligned the curriculum to the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS ) which began in 1993. Rory focused on bringing arts to the program. There is now a rich history of music, poetry, and skits all performed around the campfire.
Song To Survival
Sung to the tune of Galway Bay
(Have you ever been across the sea to Ireland ?)
Have you ever been to Northfield and Survival?
Well let me tell you something if you do,
The legends and the stories they have told you
Are crazy and quite loony, but all true.
To try to tell you each and every story
Would take us through to Monday of next week
We’ll just name names and tell of situations
The references will all be quite oblique.
There was the night of Kunces and his eyeball,
Of Hilley rolling down the Notch in flight
There’s Judy and her snoring in the moonlight
And Rodman’s laundry basket was a sight.
Oh, Joe LeBlanc he gave us Subaru blues,
And Brownell’s bombadiering was a hit.
The Petermeter measured all the clapping
While burping contests gave us all a fit.
John-John shoveled snakes for William Keough
And Shaun and CJ loaded packs with rocks
Ryan Hughes whacked Gardner to stop snoring
And we all loved those early morning talks.
We met three Daryls walking in New Hampshire
While BG sneaked a ride up Flower Hill
Jeffrey lost us once down near the golf course
And Bob’s Bimbettes are bumping/grinding still.
Poor Rory’s left his truck all over Northfield
The four-wheel drive is smashed beyond repair
Horace Field has let us use our new site
‘Cuz power lines have made us lose our hair.
Judy is our Mom; she fills the gough pot
While Sara, Nat and Marsha lead in song.
Carol points the way to leafy knowledge
When dinner’s ready, Margaret rings the gong.
Uncle Paul protects us from the deer herds
While Mike the loose ends figures all the while.
Russell ties the knots and uses big words
Carl Briggs and Kocur help to make us smile.
Now Nils, he plays the guitar with abandon
And Mr. Chris, he loves the written word.
The road to Laurel Lake is long and dusty
But screams in those cool waters are not heard.
Mrs. Silva works out all the angles
As Mr. Rogers leads the outward bound
Though many others help us o’er the tough spots,
It’s mainly our own courage that we’ve found.
Survival’s many people helping others
To find the inner strength they knew they had.
There is no room for selfish, lazy hikers.
To finish is to be strong…and be glad!
(Written by Bob Gardner, under duress, minutes before one of the Friday night skits – circa 1996)
The early 2000s continued to be shaped by the leadership of Rory McFee, Judy DeMailley, and Anne Silva. Sue Wheeler took over the program in 2006. Sue is an avid backpacker who introduced best-practice backpacking approaches to the Survival Program. All participants learn about environmental conservation and preservation. Sue promotes a “leave no trail ” philosophy. Foraging is now discouraged, but picking up garbage is encouraged.
SURVIVAL TURNS 30! 2002
The Location: Berkshires Northfield, MA
Survival Founders, Leaders and Sustainers
The Survival Program was founded in 1972 by Jim Hubbard and Carleton Vaughn with the support of former ORRJHS principal Bob Gardner. It takes more than a village to pull the Survival Program together each year. The heart of the program exists in the people who pour their time and energy into this community rite of passage. Forty plus people spend thousands of hours in the preparation before the event and during the supervision of this outward bound/ outdoor educational event.
The chaperones consist of approximately eight eighth graders, eight high school students, eight college students, eight community adults and ten Old Rochester Regional Junior High School faculty members. The younger chaperones watch and learn as the older chaperones involve themselves with the seventh-grade survival participants.
Jim Hubbard was program director from 1972-1974. According to Jim, the program was in- spired by Bent Twig students Jennifer Briggs Francis and Mae Barrett. They made a large map indicating the location of edible plants in the Tri-town.
Bob Gardner was principal of ORRJHS when the Survival program was founded in 1972. He attended in the program from 1972-2013.
Tom Grondski was program director from 1978-1979. He was a math teacher at ORRJHS. Under Tom’s direction students were challenged with an obstacle course.
Jeff Rodman was program director from 1979-1993. He is now a principal in Kennebunkport, Maine. Jeff focused on the educational component and personal growth for students.
Judy Demailly has made 38 of the 43 Survival journeys. She first started chaperoning in 1978 because of her credentials as an EMT. She has been “mom” to over 3800 participants, not to mention hundreds of chaperones. Her “gow” meals have satisfied many famished hik- ers over the years.
Rory McFee has gone on 37 Survival trips. He was director for 8 years. He always brings his guitar and enjoys watching groups of students perform for the first time in their lives. Rory took on the responsibility of taking special needs or behavioral issues students on the trip.
Bill Keogh was an industrial arts teacher at ORRJHS. He took over the complicated logistics of the program in 1985. He deals with everything from equipment to orienteering training.
Anne Silva (math teacher and Technology Director at ORRJHS ) has been a regular partici- pant since 1988. The majority of the photographs in this exhibit come from her extensive digital archive.
Mike Meunier started chaperoning Survival when his daughter participated and never stopped. He contributed initially as a medic for Expedition. He became involved in managing many aspects of logistics.
Paul McGee chaperoned Survival for the first time in 1994. In 1995 he took over the compli- cated logistics of the program with Keogh and Meunier. He is the communications liaison with the local community of Northfield, MA and the National Guard. Horace Field III has given him the authority over decisions made regarding his property while Survival is underway.
John Johnson chaperoned Survival from the mid 1980s until 2013. He was assistant base camp director. He took on the responsibility of taking special needs students on the trip. He was the official comedian as well.
Kevin Thompson’s Survival experience started when he was in 7th grade at ORRJHS and he has been going ever since. For many years he traveled from Oklahoma to chaperon the program. Kevin is a talented outdoors person and is great with students.
Bob Dumas is a Mattapoisett police officer and he has supported Paul Magee in the logistics and medical aspects of Survival since 1996. Starting in 2014 he took over as the leader of logistics. Now Paul works for him.
Sue Wheeler is the current director of Survival. She is a well-qualified outdoors person. She is involved in Venture Scouts and is a certified climber. She is also very organized and deals with mountains of paperwork that are required to make the program happen.
T. G. Lewis started as a chaperon his senior year of high school and has gone almost every year since. He earned a Ph. D. in outdoor education.
Russell DeMailly has only missed three years since he was in 7th grade in 1983. He works as a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital. His medical expertise is valued by the Survival program. He is the official nurse for the Expedition portion.