The Bivouac program was initiated for eighth grade boys at Browne & Nichols in 1951 under the leadership of Gibby Graves ‘25 who was joined two years later by Alan Sturgis as co-director. The program, which emphasizes outdoor skills and collaborative problem solving, began on property owned by the Graves family in Temple, Maine, a site known as “Spruce Ledge”. The goals of the program were from the beginning, “to help students develop a sense of confidence in their own ability to cope with unexpected and challenging situations and to cultivate in the students an awareness of the interdependence of all members of a community”. After not being held in 1955 and 1956 due to the national polio epidemic and the decision to move the program to the ninth grade year as students started high school, the Bivouac began again in 1957 and ran continuously at Spruce Ledge until 1974. With the merger of The Buckingham School and Browne & Nichols in 1974 the decision to run Bivouac for both boys and girls was made and accomplished under the leadership of Alan Sturgis and Hunt Dowse ‘65 from 1975 to 1979 at the site of Camp Marienfeld, in Harrisville, NH.
In 1980 the first coed Bivouac was held at Camp Marienfeld and the program has run in this configuration until the present under the successive directing leadership of Hunt Dowse (1980-1987), Robert O’Brien (1981-2009) and David Strodel ’78 (2010-present).
Essential values and themes of the Bivouac program revolve around life in the squads, courses, elective opportunities to Solo or 100-Percent (swim each morning). An additional guiding principle is the emphasis of faculty-student connections accomplished through a vital shared experience in the outdoors. It is the belief of the school that the bonds developed and deepened in this remote setting form a critical basis for the community values of honesty, scholarship and kindness that continue to be strengthened and revisited throughout a student’s tenure at the Upper School.