Introducing New Winter Co-Curriculars

This winter, two co-curriculars, Woods Squad and Table Tennis, were added to the outdoor and alternative team programs. Woods Squad focuses on environmental stewardship in the school’s Beeslick Woods at a varsity commitment level, and Table Tennis provides students a platform to further their experience in a popular community sport. 


Woods Squad

Woods Squad, a program led by Dr. Kathryn Fleishman, instructor in English, and Mr. Gregory Bender, instructor in economics, holds historical significance. This co-curricular was originally initiated by Mr. George Van Santvoord, the school’s headmaster from 1926 to 1955. Jennifer Rinehart, instructor in Environmental Science, was the most recent faculty advisor for the co-curricular, running from fall of 2015 to 2016. However, when Mr. Nathaniel Vish, instructor in mathematics and outdoor program coordinator, joined the school, the Woods Squad was revived. He worked for three years alongside Mr. Josh Hahn, assistant head of school and director of strategic initiatives, to fully relaunch the program. Expeditionary Leadership was the starting point in the fall of 2020, serving as a halo program for activities that had the potential to be individual co-curriculars. The strong interest in the student body around these outdoor programs made the reintroduction of Woods Squad possible.

In preparation, faculty advisor Dr. Fleishman read archival documents on past student engagement in the woods, while Mr. Bender investigated forest management with a focus on climate mitigation through carbon economics. Mr. Vish said, “We didn’t want to launch into the air, especially when the [co-curricular] is as important and storied as Woods Squad.”

The Woods Squad will not only continue Mr. Van Santvoord’s legacy of outdoor exploration, but students will also learn to apply wilderness skills when maintaining the cabins and trails that have shaped the school community from the very beginning. This co-curricular will give students the unique ability to connect with 827 acres of campus when most interact with only 20 during their entire time here. Dr. Fleishman said, “Long winter months can be a bit gray and discouraging, so having a group of people committed to going outside everyday and doing meaningful work will give [the community] a new [sense of] appreciation of the woods and each other.”


Table Tennis

Unlike Woods Squad, Table Tennis is a brand new addition to the co-curricular program. Observing its popularity at the school, Dr. Wei Liu, instructor in Chinese, sent a proposal to Ms. Robin Chandler, co-director of athletics, hoping to increase indoor winter sports options. The co-curricular will happen in the student center, and Dr. Liu plans to hand the reins over to the students who have honed their skills by informally competing in the game room. Additionally, she will play a documentary on how table tennis served as the icebreaker for US-China relations in 1972 and reach out to professional Chinese table tennis players to lead lectures or virtual training sessions. Dr. Liu notes that this low-cost sport played a large role in the childhood of many kids from Asian countries like China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines. 

The two new winter co-curriculars will officially commence after Thanksgiving break.  


Hanna Sun ’24
Hanna Sun ’24