For the past 64 years, incoming 9th graders at BB&N have begun the school year by “meeting” their new Upper School teachers and classmates in a most unconventional way—on an outdoor camping, hiking, bonding, learning, cook-your-own-food, dig-your-own-latrine experience called Bivouac. A pivotal bonding experience, Bivouac is a 11-day outdoor education and team-building program at Camp Marienfeld, BB&N’s New Hampshire retreat. In an area of nearly 200 acres of woodland, the students are divided into small squads responsible for building a kitchen area and cooking their own meals. They also participate in a variety of activities and classes within a carefully structured curriculum. The eight-member squad structure is designed to heighten appreciation of the interdependence of members of a small community.
Teachers and other adults from the School’s community have guided students through lessons in community supported agriculture, orientations about Upper School life, human relations, and diversity. Bivouac links ninth graders to each other and to the large BB&N Upper School community.
In 2004, Bivouac celebrated its 25th anniversary of going co-ed. After the 1974 merger of the Buckingham and Browne & Nichols Schools, both girls and boys separately attended Bivouac. In 1980, the School decided to make Bivouac a co-ed experience.
Today, students still build their squads on separate sides of the Camp Marienfeld property, but their classes, hikes to Mt. Monadnock, ropes courses, rock climbing, morning runs to the lake, and all other everyday experiences are co-ed.
Bivouac stands as one of BB&N’s most memorable programs and traditions. While some students (and parents) describe “Biv” as an experience that they approach with a certain degree of anxiety, nearly all agree after the fact that it was an experience they wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.