Although the pandemic forced Deerfield to temporarily suspend several of its summer programs, due to positive health indicators, the school is bringing back the Experimentory, a trademarked Deerfield summer experience.
The Experimentory is Deerfield’s summer program for rising seventh, eighth, and ninth graders. It allows younger students to sample the Deerfield experience and learn innovatively and creatively. The Experimenory will be returning for the summer of 2021 with changes to accommodate state and federal health requirements.
This new variation of the program will be called PERISCOPE. The most noticeable change compared to previous years is that it will be held virtually instead of on the Deerfield campus and will incorporate both synchronous and asynchronous content.
The shift online occurred primarily due to Massachusetts requiring a 10-day quarantine for newcomers coming into the state. Deerfield wanted to ensure that international students were included in the program, thus implementing the shift to a virtual experience. Director of Summer Programs Jordan Brown emphasized, “A big part of the Experimentory is bringing students in from all over the world, just like Deerfield Academy.” He continued, “We had to make the decision back in the fall; we just weren’t confident that by the time summer came that students from outside of the US would be able to even get into the country.”
With this shift to online learning, there are some experiences that will invariably be lost. The Experimentory alumna Thayer Newton ’24 had concerns about how a virtual program might affect applicants’ interest. “I don’t think that these kids will actually get a window into what the Deerfield experience is like,” she expressed.
Despite these obstacles, the Summer Programs team is working hard to ensure that PERISCOPE will be a successful and fun experience. Currently, they are finalizing the course list for the summer while considering student input. Past courses have covered stage acting, the history of the universe, engineering, architecture, public speaking, and the science of athletics. Most are taught by current Deerfield faculty.
The quality of the courses will remain the same as in past years, according to Mr. Brown. “It’ll be super hands-on, experiential, engaging. Those are the types of courses we offer, virtual or not.”
In another effort to foster strong connections, staff will engage attendees in a small group discussion experience focused on leadership and community. This new element of the program will promote not only student interaction, but also real-world skills.
As part of the program, students will also be able to take virtual, interactive tours of the Deerfield campus, participate in Zoom sit down meals, and attend digital school meetings in a mission to engage with Deerfield and each other as much as they can despite the barrier of a screen.