This summer, The Independent Day School, in Middlefield, will build an outdoor yurt in honor of the son of a former staff member, who died in a boating accident a year ago.
“It'll really be a great honor to Spencer, who was a person who loved nature and was out in nature a lot, so a great thing to build in his memory,” said head of school Marijke Kehrhahn.
Spencer Mugford’s body, 21, was found about a week after he went missing with friend Sofia McKenna, 20, off the coast of Avery Point in Groton over Memorial Day weekend last year. McKenna’s body was not recovered, she is presumed dead.
His father Charlie Mugford worked as director of enrollment management at IDS for more than two years. Spencer Mugford also worked at the school for a summer, as part of the Fearless Facilities Team.
He is remembered as a nature and animal lover and a “fearless learner,” as Charlie Mugford described him on The Spencer Mugford Memorial Fund webpage.
“As a child Spencer would frequently show up with snakes, black widows, wounded deer, injured birds, and on two occasions actual alligators,” Charlie Mugford writes. “Spencer’s early fascination with animals and the outdoors grew into a deep understanding of the fragility of our world and ultimately a passion for promoting the responsible stewardship of nature in all of its forms.”
School administrators and his family both hope that they can instill that same passion for environmental protection in students through the yurt.
A few years ago, the school established centers of excellence, including one for environmental education and literacy. They hope the yurt will serve as a physical space for that specific learning, especially through its location on school’s 33 acres of grounds.
“We have an extensive nature trail system and a lot of land that students can go out and watch birds, catch frogs, catch fish, be in the forest, be in the fields,” Kehrhahn said. “So we wanted to put the yurt right at the entrance to our nature trail so that it will have direct access to the natural environment as well.”
The 20-ft round yurt will be made of natural materials and sit off the ground, on small posts. Kehrhahn said windows and a skylight will provide natural light in the fully wooden structure. There will be no water or electricity to the structure, and no furniture either, although Kehrhahn said they may have students build a few benches.
The school received approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission and is currently working with Smiling Woods Yurt on the final design before applying for a building permit. Kehrhahn said they hope to receive the yurt’s panels and kit this June and have the structure ready before the start of school this fall.
The yurt will be fully paid for by The Spencer Mugford Memorial Fund. Charlie Mugford could not be reached for comment.