Specialized Program Components
The Little Keswick School Community Meeting is an all school meeting held each Thursday afternoon in the Depot. It is a time for the community to get together and recognize student accomplishments for the week. There are two main components to the meeting: student level changes and the announcement of the Respect Award and Community Champion winners for the week. Students receiving awards call upon their peers and staff to receive verbal feedback recognizing their hard work and achievement.
Throughout the residential program, students experience various ways of relating to others, while they learn life skills that are useful in relationships at school, at home, and in their community. Lessons in social skills, independent living, and recreational activities are provided daily. During these structured times, students have the opportunity to build relationships with peers from their dorm group. At the same time, students are able to use leisure time to develop hobbies and non-technology based activities and interests. Through these experiences students learn to structure their own down-time at Little Keswick and at home.
Twice a week, during Clubs and Quest, students are able to choose an activity. These activities might be board games, cooking, rockets and models, fishing, or survival skills. During these times students socialize with peers from different dorms. While participating in the activities students practice social skills and form valuable friendships.
Weekend Schedule and Trips
Weekends at Little Keswick are packed full of structured activities. Throughout the weekend, students participate in community-wide activities such as soccer and basketball games. Individual dorms plan activities based on student interests that can include fishing, reading, drawing, sports, or canoeing. One staff and student favorite activity is Friday Night at the Movies. On Friday nights, all students get to watch a movie. When viewing in the depot students bring their flashlights, blankets, and lawn chairs to sit in front of a large projection-screen television and enjoy a classic movie or a new release.
Hikes in Shenandoah National Park and other local outdoor spots are quite popular in the fall and spring. Other trips may include apple-picking, UVA sporting events, fishing, indoor swimming, and visiting local attractions such as Luray Caverns.
Each quarter, a special trip is planned to celebrate the success of the upper level students. Putting high-level social skills to the test, these trips may include a day in Washington D.C., Kings Dominion, or canoeing down the James River.
Every year, the students who are transitioning from Little Keswick attend an overnight camping trip at Virginia Beach. During this time students reflect on the personal goals they have reached and are able to celebrate the friendships and social gains they have made during their time at Little Keswick School.
Throughout the year our community celebrates many different festivities together. In October, students and staff participate in a Halloween day. A theme is chosen and staff and students creatively dress in their best costumes. The day begins with trick-or-treating on campus, followed by a haunted house, hay rides, and costume contests. The evening ends at the dining hall, with a party full of games and treats. To end the night, students participate in breaking a piñata and doing the limbo before they head back to the dorms to rest from all the fun.
At least twice a year, the staff and students participate in athletic events with one another. Just a few examples of this include staff-student basketball and softball games. In the gym or on the field, students and staff run around with smiles and energy. Songs, halftime shows, and a visit from the school mascot, the Timber Wolf, make these games a time to remember.
In the spring, Little Keswick holds our very own three-mile running/walking event. Students and staff participate and celebrate as each staff and student work toward his/her own personal goal of crossing the finish line. At the end of the event, all participants receive a t-shirt and a finisher’s medal to mark their accomplishments. The occupational therapist joins us with massage booths for our tired and sore muscles, while staff and students sip on sports drinks and eat granola bars.
Other examples of campus fun at Little Keswick include a Superbowl party, a chili cook-off, and a yearly Spirit Week/Carnival. Each event demonstrates the excitement and sense of community upon which Little Keswick thrives.
In the Spring of 2014 we closed down our garden behind the soccer field and we built raised beds behind the gymnasium and closed them in with a fence. With nutrient rich soil and lots of seeds we began planting for the Summer and Fall seasons. With the joined effort of both students and staff we were able to enjoy fruits and vegetables from June to September. Some of the favorites were tomatoes, watermelons, squash and green beans. We look forward to Spring 2015 when we can get back to work!
Each evening, students participate in a group meeting. This structured time is one key to building healthy dorm relationships and dynamics. During the meeting, students give and receive feedback, and they reflect on their goals as individuals and as a group. Therapists attend these meetings once a week to facilitate group counseling and to introduce themes and goals for the dorm. During this time group and individual goals are monitored, and students learn how to effectively communicate.
Chores and Jobs
All students who attend Little Keswick School help support the community. As a community, students and staff share chores on a daily basis. These include everything from sweeping floors, organizing shelves, and straightening up game closets, to taking out the trash. With chores built into the day and evening structures, students learn responsibility, organization, and a sense of community pride.
Little Keswick also offers an on-campus Jobs Program. Students may express interest in working in a particular area on campus. One example of this is when students apply to work in our kitchen. Students then participate in a mock formal employment process by submitting an application and participating in an interview. Once hired, students work with a supervisor to continually evaluate their performance. The student is responsible for completing the job on a regular basis, finding a replacement when necessary, and maintaining contact with his supervisor. Besides kitchen helper, other examples of student jobs are horse helper and counselor helper. The Jobs Program is devised to support students’ strengths and to teach responsibility, a strong work ethic, and community pride.
Students of all ability levels participate in athletic activities on a daily basis. With an emphasis on health and fitness, students are encouraged to participate in group games such as soccer, lacrosse, basketball, softball, ultimate frisbee, flag football, tag, and cooperative learning games. Through these activities, students practice skills such as sportsmanship, leadership, and communication.
In addition to regularly scheduled athletics, Little Keswick has a soccer team and a basketball team in which all students participate. Students have practice throughout the year to develop the athletic skills needed to participate in games competing against local schools. Both on and off the field, Little Keswick players are known for their sportsmanship.