Ninth-Grade Skills Program

Freshman year at Thacher—and freshman year anywhere, for that matter—is often full of firsts.

First time living away from home. First time on the back of a horse. First time hiking above 8,000 feet elevation. First time navigating life in a dorm community. First time writing an in-class essay.

Every year, ninth-grade dormitory heads and other faculty leaders on campus collaborate on a program that aims to provide our newest students with the support, information, skills development, and community resources they need to succeed, thrive, and be happy in their new environment. At the heart of this holistic initiative is the hope that ninth graders will come away with a deeper understanding of the values that underpin Thacher’s intentional community, a sense of what good, healthy decision-making looks like, and the knowledge that they are cared for, supported, and valued.

Golden Trout Orientation

Soon after arriving on campus, new students head to Golden Trout Camp in the Eastern Sierra for a week of camping and backpacking in the wilderness. Not only do they learn the basics of backpacking, outdoor navigation, and wilderness safety and survival, but small groups engage in activities designed to build relationships, trust, and confidence. Dialogues in which students share stories about their own culture and background or discuss what it means to act with honor, fairness, kindness, and truth in their everyday lives help jumpstart the process.  

Ninth-Grade Skills Class

Back on campus, ninth graders meet once a week for their skills class, which is led by the two faculty heads of the ninth-grade dorms. Other faculty members with certain expertises or perspectives also stop by to share their insight during relevant sessions.

Topics and issues covered often include: helping the students connect with and learn about each other; honing study and organizational skills; outlining School rules and expectations; understanding Thacher’s Honor Code; increasing awareness around boundaries, consent, and sexual harassment; breaking down the science of the brain and how students can harness that knowledge to become the most effective students and community members; practicing inclusion and celebrating diversity; cultivating self-awareness; and more. In parallel with these sessions, prefects and advisors will often initiate conversations within their group of five to six charges to approach and engage with these and other topics in a variety of meaningful ways.


"The Ninth-Grade Skills Program helped me make a seamless transition from living at home to living in the Thacher community by teaching the values, rules, and expectations of the School. I also learned vital information about living alone which will serve me throughout college and life after school."

San Francisco, California

Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.