Norfolk Academy launches its second Maymester program this spring, offering Upper School students unique opportunities to cap their sophomore and junior years.
The first Maymester took students to more than a dozen locations in spring 2022; this year the school has more than 15 offerings. Maymester is a three-week program in May and June offering an array of experiential learning, internships, and international travel. Among the opportunities in 2023: Exploration of Greece, Germany, and France; hiking the Appalachian Trail; studying life at the United States-Mexico border and climate crises; and examining art history in New York City and architecture in Chicago. The goal is that through their exploration, students will gain new interests and a better understanding of these many various topics.
This blog will be updated regularly during Maymester, which begins May 23 and continues until the close of the school year on June 8, providing glimpses into the many programs and highlighting what students are learning and enjoying.
Tuesday, May 23
NArt Maymester had a great first day, exploring the ViBE District of Virginia Beach after taking a look at Norfolk Academy's own Perrel Art Gallery. Art History Teacher Maria Moore '00, Art Teacher Betsy DiJulio, and English Teacher Rich Peccie are leading this group, which on Wednesday will travel to Williamsburg to study works at the Muscarelle Museum at the College of William and Mary with Distinguished Artist in Residence Steve Prince. A nationally renowned artist, Mr. Prince led seminars for Middle and Upper School students in February and had an exhibit in the Perrel gallery earlier this year.
The Architecture course launched on Day 1 with a field trip to Norfolk-based Hanbury, the firm that built Norfolk Academy's newest buildings—Wynne-Darden Stadium, the Massey Leadership Center, and the Lower School—as well as numerous projects at campuses across the country. Students got an overview of the firm, which has grown from 50 to 132 employees in the past five years, from Robert Reis, the firm's design director. They also got tips for architectural sketching, which they'll soon be doing when they travel next week to Chicago, and the use of firm uses 3D printing and cutting-edge technology to help clients envision projects, like the surf park and concert venue that Pharell Williams is bringing to the Dome site in Virginia Beach.
Thursday, May 25
Architecture Maymester drove to the Cavalier hotel to talk with the lead architect of the restoration of the building, Greg Rutledge. The restoration was initially supposed to have cost about $20 million but ended up costing about $40 million because of extreme rust damage to the building's frame. Throughout the process, the team aimed to conserve the historical identity of the property, as well as its importance to Virginia Beach. Over the course of the morning, Mr. Rutledge explained a few of the challenges and lessons from that 4-year renovation. After, students met with Alec Yuzhabaenko, the head architect of the Virginia Beach Surf Park Project starting this year. They learned about his entrance into the architecture world, as well as the process of getting the project underway. The park is being constructed on the empty lot previously occupied by the Dome, which functioned as a convention center as well as live music hotspot, which featured performances from artists like The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and Ray Charles. The project aims to revitalize the Oceanfront community, focusing on creating a major civic center as well as citywide attraction. The project also features an indoor/outdoor music venue, which through partnership with Live Nation will hopefully bring back the music presence that the site had before the Dome was removed.
Led by Teacher-coaches Garrett Bird and Becks Nash, ECO Maymester is exploring our climate and environment. The group's first few days were in northwestern Virginia, a little more than three hours from Norfolk. Among the adventures: Hiking Mount Pleasant Trail, kayaking the James River, and checking out Natural Bridge State Park.
On Wednesday, NArt Maymester visited the College of William and Mary, where they received lessons on public art and social justice from Steve Prince, Distinguished Artist in Residence for William and Mary's Muscarelle Museum. Mr. Prince came to Norfolk Academy in February to teach both Middle and Upper School students. On Thursday, students visited Old Dominion University's Barry Art Museum, where they studied two specific exhibits that included glass and dolls. Another Thursday trip was to the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk.
Wellness Maymester attended a reception following an incredible Virginia Arts Festival performance of chamber music (Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, and Gershwin) by world-renowned pianist Olga Kern, violinist Tiangwa Yang, cellist Sterling Elliott, and flutist Debra Wendells Cross—all pictured with our students. The performance was at Ohef Sholom Temple in Norfolk.
Friday, May 26
Week 1 of the Internships Maymester has been a success! On Day 1, we had the privilege of meeting Brooke Peccie ’13. She introduced us to LinkedIn, taught us how to form a resume, and how to conduct yourself during an interview. Since then, we have all started to build our network on LinkedIn and sent out our new resumes to our Internship supervisors. On Day 2, we conducted mock interviews with Mrs. Smythe and Mrs. Livingston, who showed us the importance of coming to an interview prepared. Following the interviews, we met in the refectory for our Etiquette Lunch. On Day 3, we started by speaking with a panel of four Norfolk Academy alumni. To finish our day, we spoke with Perry Frazer ’17 about renting apartments and homes. He spoke to us about some of the problems that he has faced and how important the relationship with your roommates is. Everyone must be on the same page if you expect things to run smoothly. Today we began our Internship orientations. We are excited to become familiar with these workplaces and meet our employers. Our group continues to grow closer and more passionate about our interests. As we head into Week 2, our excitement for the Internships themselves gets greater and greater. - Wyatt Janney '24 and Nelson Ott '24
Saturday, May 27
Forensic Science Maymester has been exploring in and around Washington D.C. this week. Students have learned from experts at the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, and Department of Justice, among other government bureaus. They've also gotten outside to more more of our nation's capital.
Sunday, May 28
Where in the world is this incredible image from? Greece Maymester at the Temple of Hephaestus. The Temple was built in Athens about 450-440 BC, making it slightly older than the Parthenon. It's also the model for the 1840 Norfolk Academy building, which was designed by Thomas Walter, the Architect of the United States Capitol extension of the 1850s. It's also on our seal! We think this is the first official Norfolk Academy student group to visit the original temple. It took only 295 years!
Tuesday, May 30
French Exchange Maymester is seeing many historic locations in Paris, while also absorbing the French culture. Among the historic spots: the Arc de Triomphe; Pont Neuf (the oldest standing bridge across the River Seine); the Latin Quarter (the oldest district in the city); the Sainte-Chapelle chapel, which was constructed almost 800 years ago; Lower Montmartre outside the Moulin de la Galette, a windmill made famous by Renoir's painting; Sacré Cœur basilica, which provides a stunning view of all of Paris; Canal Saint-Martin; and Notre-Dame, which was completed almost 700 years ago (and is unfortunately currently closed for construction). Students also learned from French students how to play Pétanque, a sport like bocce.With our guide, Cindy Dubois, just outside the cabaret Le Lapin Agile.
After an energizing 6:30 a.m. flight to Chicago, Architecture Maymester fought off sleep on our first ride on the L, the red line, downtown. We lugged our baggage to our river tour and enjoyed seeing skyscrapers ranging from six stories to 108, the oldest built in 1889. Then we stopped for lunch, gathering at the Bean after our culinary venture. Our luggage enjoyed the view of the Pritzker Pavilion and our frolicking on a playground before we continued to our SOM meeting. Architect Simon enlightened us on SOM’s goals of sustainability and energy conservation and provided sage words for prospective architects: Get obsessed. - Genevieve Stone '25
Wednesday, May 31
NArt had a great first 24 hours in Washington, D.C.! After riding the train from Norfolk up to our nation's capital on Tuesday, the group began exploring. Students visited the Hirshhorn Museum in the afternoon and after had a great dinner at Union Market. On the agenda for Wednesday are tours of The White House and U.S. Capitol Building. Here is one of the students' favorite moments from the Hirshhorn Museum, a leading voice for contemporary art and culture that is located next to the National Mall.
Internship Maymester students started their internships this week. Jayden '24, who is working with teachers in the Lower School, spoke with students Wednesday about his love for music and how he has used that passion to better himself.
Maymester arrived in the Central American country of Costa Rica late Tuesday! The group is settled in, and everyone is doing well. Students had their first full day of homestays, and they visited the school and nursing home where they will be volunteering during their time here.
After getting a somewhat full night's sleep, Architecture Maymester started our second day in Chicago by picking up some amazing college breakfast food, took a brief walk through Loyola University's campus, and headed for the L train. Our first stop today was Wrigleyville, where students split into groups and traversed through the neighborhood on a scavenger hunt; we identified, drew, and created architectural styles for unique buildings, such as Alta Vista Terrace, Lakeview Presbyterian Church, St. Mary of the Lake, and the Wrigley Firehouse. Soon after, we went and watched an amazing Cubs game, which had a climactic ending. With the Cubs down 4-3 and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, a fly out ended the game. Thankful for an exciting albeit disappointing game, we again split up into groups and explored downtown Michigan Avenue, the Magnificent Mile. Students explored places such as the Apple Store and Wrigley Building, ate at the Starbucks Roastery, and window shopped at Saks Fifth Avenue and Burberry. - Zachary Armentrout '25
May 31 marks four years since a gunman shot and killed 12 people and injured six others at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. English Teacher Charlotte Zito '99 has lived much of her life in Virginia Beach. After the tragedy, she felt a calling to serve both her city and loved ones of those who died. She volunteered to join the committee tasked with choosing a design for a memorial to honor the victims. The City Council approved the committee's design choice in April; it will include open spaces, a walking trail, a tree remembering heroes who saved lives that day, and a reflecting pool with the engraved names of the 12 who were killed. The city hopes the memorial will be complete by May 2025. On Wednesday, Mrs. Zito spoke with her Podcasting Maymester class and other Maymester students about both the committee's work and ways they can serve their communities. She opened with a moment of silence and closed with a reminder that anyone can help.
Maymester students studying Poverty in America are volunteering with Habitat for Humanity during part of the course, helping build a home in Accomack County on Virginia's Eastern Shore.
Materials Science Maymester today visited EOS Surfaces, which is owned and operated by Ken Trinder, an NA parent. A few alumni work there as well. The company makes biocidal countertops, meaning pathogens (from Covid-19 to Ebola) cannot survive on their countertops. They are finding a lot of applications in healthcare and other public spaces.
Thursday, June 1
Thus far our trip to Costa Rica has consisted of a fulfilling mix of excitement and new experiences. On our first day, we travelled from the airport in San Jose, ate traditional Costa Rican food for lunch, which left students pleasantly surprised. The second day began in a rural forest, where we went on a stunning hike, and caught rainbow trout. We also had the opportunity to see a resplendent quetzal bird. After that, we met our homestay families in Santa Maria. Naturally, it was a bit scary to speak solely in Spanish, but eventually the hospitality and evident kindness of our families melted all aspects of awkwardness. Excited conversation broke out, with students jockeying for the opportunity to tell the group about his or her fantastic family experience. Today, we started by splitting our group into two. The first group went to the town's elementary school. The kids at the school were excited to see and interact with our students, and many friendships were made. The other group went to a nursing home. (The two groups will switch their activities later.) Many of the students expressed that they gained much wisdom through interacting with the elderly at the home and also improved their Spanish. Next, the two groups reunited for cooking lessons in the city's church. During this lesson, they learned how to make traditional tortillas that they later enjoyed with their homestay families. To finish off the day, students enjoyed the afternoon with their homestays, eating the tortillas and later, dinner. We wrapped up the night with more reflections. Everyone spoke about the incredible kindness that their families have shown them thus far.
Maymester Civil War has been making its way around battlefields of that war, which lasted from 1861-1865. Among the first stops: Manassas National Battlefield Park and Antietam National Park.
Among the recent stops for France Maymester: An excellent view of La Défense and Paris, the Eiffel Tower, and the Bateaux Mouches tour on the Seine River.
Today was an amazing day to be a part of the NArt group! We started the day at the National Gallery of Art. There we were asked to complete a scavenger hunt to guide our way through the west wing. Some students, along with Mr. Peccie, went on a one-hour tour on rediscovering art, which was educational. After that we met for lunch at the Pavillion Cafe in the sculpture garden and discussed our findings. Then we headed back into the west wing and met with a friend of Mrs. Moore and assistant curator at the NGA, for another tour and a look into the life of curators. After the tour we were given the choice to spend time in the east wing, go the National Postal Museum, or head back to the hotel. All in all it was a great day! - Sarah '25 and Taylor '24
Along the Border Maymester arrived in El Paso this afternoon, and we had a picnic with our instructors and staff from the World Leadership School at the Chamizal National Memorial Park, looking at the history of the border region and its history and many complex issues, adding many perspectives to our classroom work before the trip. We left El Paso to go to the Retreat Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where students had opening discussions, followed by walks on the pecan tree groves and soccer games as the sun set.
Friday, June 2
Headmaster Dennis Manning and his wife Beth joined our French Exchange today at Institution Saint Dominique. Mr. Manning presented a plaque to Directeur de l'Etablissement, Frederic Gavat and Directeur du Lycee Aurelien Ollo commemorating 20 years of exchanges. In attendance were participants from this year's exchange (13 Americans and 20 French) and most of the St. Do students from last year's long and short-term exchanges. Both Mr. Manning and Mr. Ollo spoke about the importance of these exchanges, lasting friendships, and a shared hope for another 20 years of partnership going forward.
Materials Science Maymester has hit the road. The group is in North Carolina, where on Thursday students visited North Carolina State University. As an example of their studies, here is Leo '25 using a Scanning Electron Microscope to look at a tadpole at 3000x+ magnification.
Maymester: Germany arrived about 11 a.m. today at the Frankfurt Airport. The first thing we saw was The Residenz in Würzburger, where we toured the palace and the garden. We then got into the bus to head toward Rothenberg, the first town we are staying at. We are having a meal together at the hotel and then doing a tour with the Nightwatchman after. - Reagan '24
This morning, the Along the Border Maymester started by visiting the border wall and talking with border agents. We asked questions to better understand their first-hand experiences on their job. Then we ate lunch of authentic local cuisine at Café Mayapan, which assists inspiring entrepreneurs. After, we received a history of Immigration lesson and seminar from Professor Natividad at New Mexico State University. We recharged by eating at the Holy Cross Retreat Center and followed that by reflecting upon the perspectives that we heard today and what new perspectives we gained.
Chicago Architecture traveled from Loyola University to Washington Park via the L. We stopped at the edge of the neighborhood and the park at the DuSable Black History Museum and briefly sketched the facade, a hefty stone-faced block; we also discussed redlining, a discriminatory housing practice that targeted Black families in Chicago and many other cities across the country. Then, crossing through the grey and mostly bland park, we toured the University of Chicago, and later the Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is a house of many overhanging roofs, through use of Wright's signature cantilevers, and few families (it was, in simplest words, more interesting than most of his other houses). We then reboarded the L, traveling back towards the Loop, and walked around the city, finding dinner in small groups and absorbing the buildings around us — dwarfing us as though the Goliath. The day concluded with a production of West Side Story at the Chicago Lyric Opera House. - Austin '25
On Friday morning, Wellness Maymester was at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, where the group went on a meditative hike on the Bald Cypress Trail.
Saturday, June 3
Appalachian Trail Maymester is hitting the trail hard. Led by teacher-coaches Ms. Dewey, Mrs. Scott, and Mr. Dunn, students are hiking several minutes each day.
On Saturday morning, Along the Border had the privilege of walking around a farmers market to support small businesses. We enjoyed snacks, collectables, and art. A few of us had tattoos done by an artist along the way. After a quick break for sandwiches, we got to work packing boxes at the food pantry for senior citizens in need with the organization El Pasoans Fighting Hunger. We worked for hours and grew closer as a team unit. To end a long day of hard work and fun we paid a visit to a well-known frozen custard place in Las Cruces. The view was beautiful and the ice cream was delicious!
Sunday, June 4
At 9:45 a.m., Maymester Germany wheeled our luggage over the cobblestone streets, back to our bus. After a two-hour bus ride we made a stop at the transportation museum. Here we saw old cars, planes, tanks, and artillery from all of German history and had a German lunch. We got back on the road at 3 p.m. and arrived in Heidelberg at 4:30. We then walked around the city, made a reservation at Schnookeloch, and rode peddle boats up and down the Neckar River. At 6:30 we all split up into small groups and got dinner. We then had a couple hours of free time to peruse local shops. Guten Abend! - Julian '24
Sunday morning started off for Along the Border with a tour of the Border Security Corps, a nonprofit organization that takes in immigrants for 48 hours and helps them find their final destination. We then partook in a windshield tour, which helped us better appreciate our privileges in life, including developed cities at home. After lunch, we visited the Women's Intercultural Center and learned how it provides classes and training to women. It helps them gain skills and higher education needed for employment. To end the night, we enjoyed Tejano music by the local band, Satisfied, at Young Park in Las Cruces, New Mexico. We danced together and appreciated each others' company greatly.
Monday, June 5
Internship students visited Richmond today, receiving a tour of the state capitol and nearby government buildings.
On Monday morning, Along the Border made our way to the Lutheran Peace Church and were able to cook with Doña Carmen, after which she told her family’s moving story of immigration. It was an amazing and impactful experience, and we all learned a lot. We gained a new perspective on immigration and its difficulties. In the afternoon, we went to beautiful White Sands National Park, where we went sledding down the dunes.
Remaining in Heidelberg, Germany Maymester visited a student prison connected with the prominent Heidelberg University. We learned how tardy, disrespectful, or outright naughty students were once punished by being placed in the so-called student prison. Carrying on, the group made its way to the famous castle of Heidelberg. Constructed under Frederick V and being dated back more than 800 years ago, we learned how rulers came and went and the castle was destroyed and rebuilt time after time again but remained as the face of Heidelberg for centuries. As we left the castle, we completed a hike up a mountain that produced a view unmatched by any other. - Dylan '24
Tuesday, June 6
France Maymester enjoyed a cooking class with chef Mathieu, near Hôtel de Ville. Students cooked macarons, milk chocolate and white chocolate raspberry Grenache. The next day they visited an opera house.
Germany Maymester took a cruise up the Rhine River this morning. We had about a two-hour bus ride to the boat that led us on a scenic journey that displayed many beautiful castles and famous landmarks. Some of the most intriguing, Mice Tower and Loreley Rock, are associated with famous legends. The myth says that a woman sat atop the rock, but threw herself down into the water over a faithless lover. She then became a siren who lured boaters into the rock causing them to wreck. After learning about it in German class, it was cool to see it in person. After our tour ended, we got back on the bus for a four-hour journey to Löningen. Eagerly awaiting meeting our exchange students, we finally arrived in front of the school, where they greeted us with dinner and we got to chat. Finally we all separated from the group and met our host families. - Carrie '24
The eagle has landed. Here is Appalachian Trail's final group shot at the National Park boundary sign. Lots to celebrate and unpack from the adventure.