Chapter One: The Freshman Experience

On this semester-long journey of self-discovery, freshmen are urged to become their own open book and embrace Mark Twain's sage advice: "The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why."

Their First Chapter

Chapter One—a program unique to Fountain Valley School—gives freshmen a solid foundation for high school success while familiarizing them with FVS culture. The name Chapter One is in reference to Founding Headmaster Francis Froelicher’s words to the first class of FVS students in 1930 when he told students that each of them “is in a position to write their own history.” For today’s freshmen, Chapter One is the first chapter in their FVS history.

Chapter One: Abridged does for new sophomores, juniors and seniors what Chapter One does for freshmen—giving new students a solid foundation for success while familiarizing them with Fountain Valley’s culture and expectations. 
Having spent at least two hours a week for four months in this class, I've almost fully adapted to a new school and a completely different life, classes, friends, teachers and sports. Having so much time devoted to smoothing this transition has changed me a lot, and I feel that I'm now pretty much ready to head into the rest of my chapters at FVS. I have better identified who I want to be and what I can do to get there. I am embracing FVS core values and have begun to develop my own themes such as achievement, legacy and community.

Chapter One Curriculum

Through a series of exercises and discussions, freshmen begin by taking inventory of their personality traits and identity through the lens of living and learning at Fountain Valley. They discuss their personal strengths, challenges and concerns as they see themselves in Fountain Valley’s unique learning environment.

Growth Mindset and Grit

Next, they work on understanding the importance of developing a growth mindset and grit—how to thrive on challenge and use failure as a springboard for growth. Students explore the concept of neuroplasticity and learn how the brain’s capacity increases through learning. They also discuss self-care and self-advocacy and delve into tactics to manage stress and develop mindfulness in their daily lives. And just as importantly, they discuss where to find help when they need a little extra support.

Living Our Core Values

Once they’ve gained a greater understanding of their sense of self, students then look outward toward developing empathy for others. They choose one of the School’s core values and plan an on-campus service project. For example, the freshmen class chose “compassion” and spent one of their free periods raking leaves to help the maintenance staff.

Reflection and Synthesis

Throughout their Chapter One experience, each freshman builds a website that documents their growth and aids them in answering an essential question of their own design that serves as a guide to self-exploration. For example, “How does creativity and optimism lead to becoming a successful student?” Students post journal entries that are syntheses of knowledge and self-reflection as well as photo galleries, inspiring quotations, and “artifacts” which are a collection of experiences, people and things that have played important roles in their lives thus far. As a culmination to Chapter One, students present their website to groups of peers, faculty and members of the School’s leadership team.

Pushing Outside Your Comfort Zone

Outside of class, each freshman is tasked with earning points throughout the semester by accomplishing a wide range of activities designed to engage with and contribute to the community.

Examples include:
  • Write a thank-you note to your coach, bus driver, adviser, houseparent, or a teacher—someone who has assisted with your adjustment to FVS.
  • Walk the FVS labyrinth, solo, one time, to ponder school, life, home...
  • Speak with someone who you don’t yet know well. Go beyond the surface. Learn about them. Listen.
  • Visit Mr. Webb's office and ask him a personal question about his life, favorite books or movies, sports teams he likes, etc.
  • Assist with barn work or barn cleaning during a free period.
  • Day students: spend a night on campus or invite a boarder to your home.
  • Boarders: invite a day student for an overnight on campus.
  • Spend some time getting to know a student from another country and learn some significant information about his or her homeland. 
  • Spend some of your free time tutoring another student in a class in which you are strong.
  • Perform a Stupid Night Out skit, solo or with friends.
  • Read a section of They Wrote Their Own Histories: The First 70 Years of Fountain Valley School and share something that you learned about FVS history with the Chapter One class.
  • Turn your cell phone/tablets/iPads off (give to a teacher to hold) for 48 hours—avoid all social media on your computer as well.
I want to leave a legacy here, even if it’s just an emphasis on kindness or hard work. Reflecting has stressed the importance of what matters to me, and I am grateful to have had the time to learn lessons about my own identity.
FVS is a private, college-preparatory, co-ed, day and boarding school for grades 9-12 in Colorado Springs.
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