Danville Express

Living - April 17, 2009

Lessons in living

Death Valley excursion lets students explore 'the outer limits of their comfort level'

by Geoff Gillette

We expect kids to learn many things in a school environment. Such as reading, writing, arithmetic. Organizers of the Athenian Wilderness Experience (AWE) at the Athenian School in Danville are working from a different list entirely. Juniors at the school recently completed the month-long course, which taught them how to work together and survive in the harsh setting of Death Valley.

The program, a graduation requirement, has been a staple at the Athenian School for 30 years, said Upper School Head Dick Bradford. AWE puts students, in their junior year, in either Death Valley or the high Sierra for 26 days, where they are taught survival skills and then left on their own to put those skills into practice.

AWE is a part of the "experiential education" provided at the Athenian School, a private institution with 300 high school students and 150 middle school students. The school was founded by Dyke Brown in 1965 with the concept of educating the whole individual through several "pillars of education." One such pillar is outdoor education, which led to the formation of AWE.


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