The Experimentory FAQs

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What is the status of the Experimentory 2020 program? What are the 2021 program dates?

All 2020 residential summer programs at Deerfield Academy have been cancelled as of April 7, 2020. We are confident that suspending the Experimentory 2020 is the most prudent path forward to support the health of our participants and the public health of our greater community.

However, we’re already excitedly anticipating the Experimentory 2021! We will set the dates for our two week sessions and four week session this coming fall. Be sure to check back in September!

Should I attend for four weeks or two? What are the differences?

A hearty soup can be a delicious meal in itself or served in a cup to accompany other courses. Likewise, the Experimentory is wonderful in large or small servings. Our students can strive to maximize their creativity and character over the course of four weeks or just two.

That said, if at all possible, we highly recommend the four week experience if it works for your family. And don’t just take our word for it.  Students who have taken the two week courses in the past all wish they could have stayed for the four week program.  Time is a key ingredient when building collaborative friendships, working on a project, and building creative confidence. Attending the four week session will also mean you will be able to take more classes, take the four-week version of some classes, and go on more field trips.

For many, the deciding factor is the impossibility of being two places at once: if your summer menu already includes a family vacation or an early first day of school for example, the side order of Experimentory is for you! If you have other concerns that put you on the fence, please feel free to contact our office to address your specific questions and concerns.

What are the differences between the boarding student and the day student experiences?

Day students are important members of the Deerfield Academy community during the school year, so we’re happy to have them join us.

Generally, day students live within a driving radius of campus. Day students will join us either during or after breakfast and participate in all daily activities: courses, sit-down lunch, co-curriculars, and free time. They’ll stay into the late afternoon ending around 5:30 each day with the option to stay for dinner and evening activities until 8:30. Day students may also choose to join us for some evening and weekend field trips and activities.

That said, day students will obviously miss out on living in the dorm and the activities that happen there. There is great value in community with your classmates away from home. However, while day students may be on campus part time, they are full Experimentors – we are passionate about helping them maximize their creativity and character.

Can students attend just a portion of the program – arriving late or leaving early? Can students leave campus for previously planned events?

The Experimentory is designed to be an immersive learning experience where students form a close-knit community that learns, works, lives and plays together. Interruptions inhibit both community building and learning.

Full attendance is expected of all students.  All students are expected to arrive on their check-in day and stay through the end of their session.  Leaving early will forfeit the student’s session completion certificate and session comments and feedback from teachers.  As a rule, students cannot leave the program for any reason, including weddings, family events, athletic or arts events, or academic events.

Likewise, day students are required to follow the full day schedule all weekdays, but are always welcome to join in for extra events.

Of course family or medical emergencies sometimes arise and we accommodate these however we can.

Will attending the Experimentory help me when applying to Deerfield Academy or another boarding school someday?

The Experimentory is designed to introduce our students to Deerfield Academy and boarding school life in general.  Our teachers and many of our staff members are at Deerfield all year round.  Further, the skills and concepts of the Experimentory are just the sort of skills that we believe make a successful student at any institution.  However, the Experimentory is not linked to Deerfield’s admission process and brings no specific advantage in admission to the Academy.

That said, Experimentory students get a taste of Deerfield Academy’s campus, teachers, culture, and values. This personal, experiential knowledge is valuable data for students and parents to know whether Deerfield Academy – or boarding school in general – is a good fit for them.

Is financial aid available?

The Experimentory offers a limited amount of financial assistance for domestic students. Financial aid is based on need and is applied for along with the program application. We are not able to provide financial aid to cover the cost of the entire program. We are ready to consider financial aid applicants of all kinds – i.e. both day and boarding student and two week and four week students.

All students applying for financial aid must apply for both the program and financial aid by February 1 to be considered.  Financial aid applicants will be notified of their admissions decision and financial aid decision together via email later that month.

Is “Experimentory” a real word?

It is, of course, a completely made-up word, but still made up of meaningful parts. To start, it contains the word “Experiment.” We learn on our feet by trying, failing, considering what went wrong, and then trying again. It contains the word “mentor.” Our teachers coach and guide rather than simply lecture and instruct. And the suffix “–tory” – as in factory or dormitory – means place. So we’re a place to experiment with mentors.


How many courses are offered? Does everyone take the same courses? Do students choose their courses?

The answer to this question changes from year-to-year – after all, the Experimentory is all about trying new things!

The Experimentory includes two 2-week sessions (affectionately referred to as “Session 1” and “Session 2”) or one 4-week session.  Each Experimentor will take two courses each session. Most classes last just one session and some span both (meaning they are only available to boarding and day students attending for four weeks). In short: not only will different students be taking different classes, some may be taking two, some three, and some four over the course of their time here!

Our courses change from year to year. Since our courses are creative and project-based, we want to give teachers plenty of space to try new things and make adjustments each year. Sign up for our mailing list and/or subscribe to our blog to be notified when classes are set for the next program year.

Students rank all the classes we offer in the order of their preference. We assign courses first based on the order in which students applied to the program, and then using these stated preferences. Students will be notified of their course assignments before they arrive for the program.

Meanwhile, you can read about past courses on our Courses and Teachers pages to get an idea of what our 2020 courses will look like.

What are the courses like?

It might be easiest to start with what Experimentory courses are not: long lectures or pages of exercises copied out of books. People maximize their creativity by maximizing their engagement and exploring new ideas. Experimentory courses, therefore, are centered on hands-on student projects, interdisciplinary perspectives, and group collaboration.

There is no a “typical” Experimentory class, but classes in the past have included things like a tour of a local farm, building superhero costumes out of cardboard, meeting a professional film editor, wiring solar panels for a Mars colony prototype, playing improv games to get over stage fright, presenting a building design to your classmates, hosting a debate on the worst superhero power, and sharing your latest “its-so-crazy-it-just-might-work” idea with the class.

Will students be graded?

Joyful learners and creative innovators explore new things, take risks, and see an idea’s failure as an opportunity to learn before trying again. Too often fear of grades can get in the way of those things – so, we don’t give grades.

Of course learners and innovators also value feedback, and our teachers would be poor mentors if they didn’t give feedback. Students can expect teacher suggestions and perspectives throughout their work, and both students and parents will receive written comments at the end of each session. These comments are praise for effort and suggestions for the future, rather than a final statement about a student’s work.

Will students have homework?

Experimentory teachers design their classes with the intention that all necessary coursework and studies can be completed in class. Sometimes students will use their DFG or other free time to brainstorm with their group or finish up a project, but those are the exception to the general rule. This gives us space in the evenings and weekends for leadership training, team building, field trips, and other fun!


Is there an application deadline?

Students are accepted on a rolling basis starting in November. Our Priority Deadline is February 1. While we will likely continue to accept applications beyond that date, you will be less likely to receive a spot in your top choice session or classes after that date.

What types of writing samples should international applicants submit?

International students must submit a graded writing sample as part of their application. We are looking for a writing sample that shows the applicant’s English writing competency and includes teacher comments that push the writer to improve. Any graded writing assignment from the applicant’s current school year that includes teacher comments will suffice.

Is it OK for parents to help their students as they write their application?

We encourage students to involve their parents in the application process – in fact there may be details in the application that parents will need to help with. However, essays and creative problem solving questions must be written by the student.

Applicants, remember: this isn’t a test with “right” and “wrong” answers or a grade at the end – it’s a snapshot of you and your interests. We look forward to getting to know you!

Student Life

How many students attend each session?

Ask any Deerfield student and they will say that community is what makes Deerfield so special. We therefore try to focus on the community during the Experimentory as well. We believe this can be accomplished through knowing every student and so our programs are relatively small.

In the past we have had about 80-90 students in each session. This might change based on enrollment and available dorm space, but we expect it to remain relatively close to that range.

What are the dorms like?

Dorm life is based on the corridor where between 12 and 14 students live with teaching fellows and proctors. Staff are involved in the lives of the students who live on their “halls” and are a daily presence in their lives shaping the familial atmosphere found during The Experimentory.

All rooms are furnished to provide each student a small closet or wardrobe, an 80” twin bed (with linens), bureau, desk and chair, mirror, wastebasket, and an overhead light. Window curtains are provided. Every room has carpeting in it. Each dorm floor has a filtered water system to provide filtered tap water for drinking. Desk lamps, smart strip surge protectors, alarm clocks, and fans are not provided but students are encouraged to bring these items with them or purchase them locally.

Will students have roommates?

Although our dorm arrangements are subject to change each summer, it is likely that students will have roommates each year. Our double dorm rooms are spacious to give both roommates ample space and their own furniture. Admitted students will be notified of their room assignment in the weeks before the program starts in order to give roommates the opportunity to get to know each other before they arrive.

What kind of activities are available during free time? Is free time structured or unstructured?

There are two kinds of free time built into the daily schedule: co-curricular time and free time.

Co-curriculars are structured. Students sign up for one activity they will participate in every afternoon that week. These activities can vary from visual arts to sports to hobbies to games. Past years’ co-curriculars have included open swimming at the pool, squash, digital photography, soccer, baking, hiking, and “life skills.” The options available depend on a mix of student and staff interest. We purposely change the lineup each week to encourage students to enjoy a mix of favorite activities and new activities.

Free time is much more open. Students can spend their free time at the dorm, in the field/gym, in the library, or other locations around campus. This is time to hang out with friends, play cards, read a book, play pick-up sports games, etc. Sometimes students and proctors plan activities for these times that are less-formal than co-curriculars but still organized – Capture the Flag, for example, or an arts time.

Our schedules are open enough that there are other free moments throughout the day. Usually there are Frisbees and footballs flying in the quad until they are hard to see in the evening light. Uno games break out between meal time and class. We have fun.

What do students do on the weekends?

We try to model a good life balance at the Experimentory and so our weekends take a break from our normal academic programming – although that’s not to say we aren’t busy. We take field trips, face off in epic team field games, have movie nights, enjoy campus cookouts, and more. However, it’s important to note that your choice of session will determine which particular activities you’ll enjoy with us.

Day students are enthusiastically welcomed, but not required, to participate in weekend activities during their sessions.

Who can students talk to if they need help during the Experimentory?

There are many sources of help and guidance during The Experimentory. Students are encouraged to approach any faculty member, teaching fellow, proctor, office staff, medical staff, or the director with any issues they encounter. Staff are well-trained on how to help with needs that arise – from academic questions to homesickness.

What if a student is homesick?

Given that this is the first time many of our students are away from home, we understand that students may be nervous and/or homesick. It is important that parents talk about this as a family before the program begins and create a plan for how to handle homesickness. Our staff are trained on how to work with students who are homesick. Usually, after a few days students realize that they are not alone and that their experience is a normal transition in building confidence.

What is the dining experience like?

Dining at Deerfield during the summer is a treat. The menu features foods from around the world including vegetarian, gluten-free, and vegan options. Though many meals are buffet style, students will also experience sit-down meals with assigned tables every weekday at lunch. This is a cherished Deerfield Academy tradition!

Will there be food choices to accommodate students’ allergies and food restrictions?

The Dining Hall offers vegetarian options for every meal, and its staff are ready to accommodate any allergies, medical restrictions, and cultural or religious restrictions. Our Director of Dining Services is also readily available to discuss any specific dietary needs students might have. Students will notify us of any allergies and food restrictions in their enrollment forms.

However, applicants with severe allergies should be aware that Deerfield Academy is not an allergen-free campus.

Can boarding students bring their personal electronic devices with them? Can they bring and use cellphones?

We want our students to come to the Experimentory to be at the Experimentory, and often electronics encourage us to withdraw rather than engage with others. In fact, Deerfield has a strict phone use policy during the academic year because we value the community that is formed in face-to-face communications. For this reason, we limit electronics and cellphone usage to designated times and purposes.

Students will be provided with all technology needed for use in coursework during class and study time. They are valued essential tools for our programming. They will also be given a Deerfield email address that will allow them to communicate and share documents with home and within the program. However, the iPads are usually collected and charged during activity and community times.

Having a cell phone while at The Experimentory is a great way for students to keep in touch with their families while away from home. It is also a good way for the staff to maintain contact with students when traveling off campus on fieldtrips. However, there are certain rules that students are required to follow in regards to cell phone use.

When students first arrive on campus, they are required to call their families to let them know they arrived safely. After these phone calls, the staff will collect all cell phones. They will be securely stored for the first five days of The Experimentory. This allows students to adjust more quickly to being away from home through development of new friendships and full engagement in activities. If parents would like to check in or contact their student during this time period, they may call the Experimentory Office.

After that first week, cellphone use is restricted to designated evenings. Again, this helps students unplug from outside distractions to fully engage in our program and one another.

Students should leave all other electronic devices at home.  We will collect any tablets, computers, smart watches, or similar devices and students will not have access to them. Videogame systems and televisions are prohibited.

We would like to say that our students don’t even miss gaming, texting, watching TV, following social media, etc. while they are here, but that’s not quite possible. We can say that our students have plenty of other things to do, have a lot of fun, and create a wonderful community.

Can day students bring their personal electronic devices with them? Can they bring and use cellphones?

Just as with boarding students, we want our day students to come to the Experimentory to be at the Experimentory.  For this reason, we also limit electronics and cellphone usage for our day students.

Day students will be provided all technology needed for use in coursework during class and study time, so personal electronics should be left at home.  Day students may bring a cellphone to campus, however, cellphones will be collected at morning check-in for the day and returned at departure.  We recognize that cellphones are important for day students to coordinate plans for pickup at the end of the day. Therefore, day student cellphones will be kept in the Experimentory office and students will have access to them as needed.