Hiking gives students an opportunity to walk through the woods and fields on and around the campus and learn about the ecology and natural habitat of upstate New York. Class size is restricted to eight students to ensure silence and encourage engagement with what is around them. Students are introduced to basic hiking skills, wildlife identification and items of seasonal interest such as migratory song birds, animal tracks, trail maintenance and construction. During bad weather, inside activities include map and compass use, wildlife identification and similar skills for use on the trails.
Wilderness Survival Skills
Many students who attended a wilderness program before arriving at FFS developed a keen interest in nature and in the skills required for fun-filled outdoor adventures. Our activities staff includes seasoned outdoor guides who lead weekend outings where students can learn or add to their basic camping and survival skills, bond with one another, acquire a fresh perspective on life, and strengthen their experience and appreciation of nature.
Canoeing and Kayaking
The school's location on the Upper Delaware River in Hancock, NY provides a unique opportunity for students interested in canoeing and kayaking. Canoe trips, led by outdoors staff, offer a chance to experience one of America's most scenic and historic rivers while learning canoeing basics: terminology, equipment, basic strokes and techniques, safety, and river-reading skills.
Skateboarding on campus allows many teens to experience the fun and excitement they enjoyed on their skateboards at home, and to improve their board skills. The activity is supervised by staff outdoors on the basketball court, and at a nearby skate park that features a miniramp, two street courses, a giant bowl, and a large half pipe.
The FFS runners club is for students who like the health and fitness benefits of running but who may or may not be up for the school's cross-country team. Members meet regularly on Saturday mornings for a 3-mile run, each completing it at his or her own pace, followed by a cool-down workout in the gym. Club members compete in at least two 5K races each year, a feat that challenges them physically while building discipline, self-confidence, and a sense of achievement.
The FFS campus is a great place for students to discover the joys and health benefits of exercise and fitness training. Our P.E. and fitness staff includes a certified personal trainer to help students set and reach their individual weight and fitness goals through exercise and coordinated outdoor activities, as well as weight training classes.
Dogs are a big part of the FFS campus and the focus of several outdoor activities as well as our Dog Corps Program. Responsibilities of dog training participants include dog walking, puppy socialization activities, and formal and informal obedience training. There are several certified therapy dogs and therapy dogs-in-training on campus who are regular visitors to the Houses. They are often found hanging out with students who are going through a hard time, helping to de-escalate emotionally tense situations.
The campus fishing pond is a quiet, picturesque and meditative place---the ideal spot for budding anglers to learn the science, the love, and the lore of the sport from each other and from staff, many of whom are long-time residents of the area with considerable expertise in pole and fly fishing.
The FFS campus, which is situated on what was once a dairy farm, is an organic gardener's delight, and for the past several years students have discovered the joys of planting, tending, and harvesting vegetables in the FFS Kitchen Garden. A variety of salad greens, tomatoes, root crops and corn thrive under the watchful eyes of student gardeners who also learn how to handle and prepare the harvest for maximum nutritional value and flavor. The Kitchen Garden provides the school with an abundance of fresh vegetables throughout the growing season.
Maintaining and enhancing the natural beauty of the FFS campus is an ongoing project of the student landscaping group. Working with the groundskeeper and other staff, students learn basic garden design and planting techniques as they work with flowers, shrubs and trees, and install simple rock walls and pathways. The work is highly therapeutic and helps students develop an esthetic appreciation of nature, a green thumb, and hopefully a lifelong love of gardening.
Outdoor Activities Staff
Rita Argiros, Ph.D.
Dog Corps Leader
B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Sociology, Binghamton University
Rita, the FFS premier dog trainer, assumed administrative duties in 2000 when her parents, Tony and Betty Argiros, founders of the school, retired. She was named Program Director in 2011. She was previously associate professor of sociology at St. Cloud State University where her areas of expertise included research methods and statistics, social inequality, and social problems. Rita continues to teach college-level courses in sociology and statistics at FFS. In addition to leading the Dog Corps program, she oversees the Venture Crew on campus. She is the current president of Eagle Valley Search Dogs, and she and her husband, Sid Parham, share their home with search dogs Ripley and Raven.
Jeff Brain, M.A., CTS, CEP
B.A. Psychology, Gordon College
M.A. Clinical Psychology, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Jeff is new to the outdoor activities staff but has been a runner since high school where he ran cross country, winter track and spring track. When FFS formed its cross country team, Jeff offered to help coach and was soon co-coaching the runners along with Tom Cummings and Jenn Culver. In addition to knowing the technical aspects of the sport, Jeff's experience as a therapist enables him to help the team prepare psychologically, to motivate students to run their best and build mental toughness. This includes getting students to appreciate the triple hill challenge on the school campus! Jeff is currently mapping out a campus route which would allow FFS to host interscholastic cross country meets.
B.A., St. Thomas Aquinas College
A career writer, editor and journalist, Jan is also a gardener and landscaping enthusiast who, for several years, has led student landscaping crews on campus beautification projects. He began working part time at FFS in 1986 and full time in 2000. His primary duties here include teaching English 12 and Honors Composition, conducting Living Skills classes, and serving as Family Leader of FFS Talbot House. He has also served as principal of the FFS middle school. A celebrated author of award-winning books for children and young adults, Jan has addressed audiences throughout the country and abroad on at-risk teens, addiction, and writing. He lives with his wife, Valray, and daughter, Julia, in Bethany, Pa. where he sits on the Borough Council.
Jennifer Culver, CPDT-KA
Certified Pet Dog Trainer, Knowledge Assessed
Certified Search and Rescue K9 Handler
Certified Animal Rescue Technician
Jenn, a certified dog trainer and behaviorist, joined FFS in 2011 as administrative assistant to FFS program director Rita Argiros, running the Dog Corps program and teaching dog training classes. She is an experienced veterinary technician and canine good citizen evaluator, and operates her own dog training business, Elite Instinct Canine. In 2004 Jenn founded the not-for-profit animal rescue organization Life Long Tails and blogs about dogs at www.caninecopilot.com. She is a member of the Eagle Valley Search and Rescue team, and a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals. Originally from Syracuse, Jenn now lives in Hancock with her eight dogs. When she isn't busy with all her dog-related activities, she enjoys hiking and running.
Hiking, Wilderness Survival, Runners Club, Fitness Training
Certified, Personal Weight Training
Certified, First Aid/CPR
Concussion Management Training
Tom has been on staff at The Family Foundation School since 2001, sharing his love of sports, fitness and the great outdoors with scores of students. His primary roles at the school include senior student supervisor and golf and cross-country coach. He is a certified fitness trainer, and is also certified in First Aid/CPR, and in concussion management. Prior to FFS, Tom worked for Glacier Painting in his native Brooklyn, NY. He currently lives in Beach Lake, PA with his wife Denise and their children Sydney, Chase and Max. In his free time he enjoys playing as much golf as he can.
Ann Janauer, Ph.D.
Canoeing and Kayaking
B.A., Ph.D., Binghamton University
Daughter of The Family Foundation School founders Tony and Betty Argiros, Ann is part of the school's outdoor activities staff as well as an administrator and member of the science faculty. She joined FFS in 2006 as a chemistry teacher, having previously taught at SUNY Delhi and Sienna College. In 2011 she was named Dean of Students. Ann and her husband Gerald also serve as Family Leaders for Betton House. In addition to canoeing and kayaking, they enjoy hiking and bicycling with the students. Off campus they are avid backyard farmers and active promoters of local agriculture, including organic produce and dairy products, grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork.
Gerald Janauer, Ph.D.
Canoeing and Kayaking
B.S., M.A.T., Ph.D., Binghamton University
Like many staff, Gerald wears more than one hat at The Family Foundation School, including outdoor activities leader. He joined the faculty in 2006 as a chemistry teacher, has served as Science Department Chair, and in 2011 was named Academic Dean. He also shares his photographic interests and skills with students in photography class, an extracurricular activity he established in 2007. Gerald and his wife Ann, Dean of Students at FFS, serve as Family Leaders for Betton House. They are both outdoor enthusiasts who have introduced many FFS students to canoeing and kayaking on the Delaware. They live in rural Hancock where they enjoy gardening, bicycling and hiking.
B.S., Health and Physical Education, Marywood University
B.S., Athletic Training, Marywood University
National Certified Athletic Trainer
A graduate of The Family Foundation School, Dee joined the FFS staff part-time in 2008 and full time in 2010 as a health and physical education teacher. She is currently an outdoor activities leader and fitness trainer, and has served on the coaching staff. A certified athletic trainer and a licensed health and physical education teacher, Dee holds degrees in athletic training and health and physical education from Marywood University. She was previously employed at the Marywood Fitness Center and at Wilderness Way. Dee and her husband Dan live in Honesdale, PA with their two children and are avid basketball fans.
New York State Coaching Certification Program
Larry has been part of The Family Foundation School since 1996 where he currently serves as fitness trainer as well as student advisor, senior floor staff, physical education teacher, and basketball and softball coach. His extensive coaching background includes working with junior and senior high school boys and girls in basketball, football, softball and Little League, in Carbondale, Forest City, Honesdale, and Kingsley, Pa. His career has included coaching his two sons, both of whom are now coaches themselves. Larry and Cindy, his wife of 30 years, live in Honesdale and have recently become grandparents.
Running Club, Fitness Training, Skateboarding
A.D.A., A.A.S., Alcohol & Drug Abuse Counseling, Sullivan Community College
Carlton has been with The Family Foundation School since 1997, and was named Athletic Director in 2010. His role as outdoor activities leader includes heading up the running club, fitness training, and overseeing the student skateboarders. He has served as counselor for two family units, as well as facilitator for the student adoption group, and has been part of the admissions staff. He also serves as the girls' basketball coach. In 2004 he was named Section IX OCIAA Coach of the Year. Carlton's prior experience includes working in several substance abuse rehabs as an adolescent drug counselor, and with mentally challenged adults. The father of six children, he enjoys spending time with his grandson Isaiah.