The Community School’s program blends college preparatory academics with applied learning, often in multidisciplinary topics. Many classes apply lessons to real problems on the school’s 310-acre farm or in the surrounding community. Learning to do community service or to participate in weekly School Meeting are as important as mastering traditional academic subjects. Long term projects such as restoring the school’s fields to productive use may involve the entire school and a variety of disciplines.
The program includes three elements: academics, essential skills, and projects.
Students must obtain 21.25 credits to earn graduation. These follow fairly standard requirements for college entrance: 4 credits in English; 3 credits each in math, science and social studies; 2 credits in a foreign language; 1 credit each in vocational/home economics, physical education; ½ credit in technology and the arts; and ¼ credit in health. In addition, students must complete 120 hours, one full credit, of community service and 120 hours of work on an independent senior project.
Essential Skills include topics we think are necessary for success in the 21st century: problem solving, leadership,understanding of democratic process; appreciation of cultural diversity; facility with maps and geographic information; experience with creative and inventive thinking; skill in teamwork and problem solving. Resources in our program include the immediate school, the Doris L. Benz library, our shop, kitchen, computer studio, 234-acre working forest, and 4-acre organic vegetable garden. The program also visits private forests, state and federal forests and wild lands, nearby communities, Boston, New York, and Washington, DC. Our comparative forestry program has taken students to Monteverde, Costa Rica, and the northern Bohemia town of Litvinov in the Czech Republic.
Projects involve students and groups of students in long term applications of their learning. Students help manage our white pine forest and have tracked its health for more than 10 years in a University of New Hampshire air pollution study. Students have literally changed the face of the earth in our gardens, turning barren fallow fields into extensive vegetable, herb, and flower gardens. Students have developed our geographic information systems program into a series of maps for school and community use.
History, social studies, biology, chemistry, environmental studies, physics, philosophy, technology and land use are presented in a block schedule. Blocks vary in length from 2 – 8 weeks and may integrate more than one subject, offering partial credit in several areas. The block allows for laboratory work, field trips and problem solving.
Students build skills in English, math, and foreign language classes, scheduled four to five days each week. The work done in these classes helps to enhance skills developed in block time, cover core information in essential subjects, and develop year-long relationships with teachers.
English classes are assigned according to skill level. These courses teach and reinforce basic reading, writing, listening, speaking, and viewing skills, allow students to immerse themselves in literature, provide opportunities for revision, and give students a consistent forum for their writing.
Math courses include: pre-algebra, algebra I, geometry, algebra II/trigonometry, advanced math/precalculus, and calculus.
Foreign Language classes include Spanish I, II, III, and IV.
TCS trip weeks have traditionally augmented themes being studied in our block classes and can range from wilderness experiences to city travel, community service to historical and scientific exploration. This year we offer two exciting all-school trips.
- Our September 2012 trip to Bath, Maine will allow a study of salt-water ecology (oceanography). Our historical/cultural focus will be on the role of Blacks and Women in 20th century New England.
- Our May 2012 trip to Prince Edward Island will give us an opportunity to study immigration, music in culture, and sustainable agricultural practices.
Stewardship classes are held once a week, lasting 1-8 sessions. These enrichment classes offer opportunities for vocational, technology, health, and Phys Ed credit, as well as time for science-related project work, and art and music electives. Community members and students may occasionally be invited to lead a stewardship class.
In addition to block, core, and stewardship classes, all students are involved in various classes designed to expand their ability for personal artistic expression. In the past, students have enjoyed a wide range of offering from music history and choral singing, to drawing and painting, ceramics, and drama. In addition to an exciting collaborative boat-building course, art classes this year will focus on expanding skills in theater and woodworking.
Grading at the Community School is done on a Pass/No Credit basis. A Pass with Honors grade indicates exceptional commitment or major learning breakthroughs.
The Community School does not compute grade point averages or class rank. Students are graded non-competitively. Multi-aged classes allow students to progress at their own speed. Frequent evaluations describe the information, skills and behavioral expectations of the course and specifics as to the student’s achievements and needs. Copies of these are presented in the college application.
Classes at The Community School range from 8 to 12 students in size. A lively mix of full and part time teachers provide expertise in every facet of the curriculum with support from our farm manager, staff, and administrative specialists. Each student chooses a teacher as an advisor. Advisory groups meet daily to talk, do daily chores, and plan group activities.
Extensive travel, numerous field trips and long workshop classes are designed for students who are highly motivated and self-disciplined. The school does not provide any special services. Tutoring is sometimes arranged on a private basis.
Unique features of our program include study of place, contemplation of nature, community-based learning, and art education for all.
Learning is the doorway to the wonders of culture, the natural world and community. Every student should hear the poetry of the ancients. Each one should trace the routes of the first explorers and learn the names of a dozen trees. These experiences in youth are the tinder that kindles a lifelong curiosity and delight in learning.
The Community School faculty strives to help every student learn to speak articulately, to write clearly, to read voraciously. We want every student to feel capable in math and science. Every youngster will be familiar with the U.S. Constitution, its history and its role in a modern democracy. Every student will be well schooled in world geography, cultures, literature and art. In addition to a strong foundation in traditional academics, Community School students explore in other essential ways. Every student, for example, performs 120 hours of community service. Students travel extensively, learning how to learn anywhere in any condition. Classes call on students to work as a team, to think creatively, and to solve real problems in their communities. A weekly School Meeting teaches students how democracy works and how they may participate effectively in a democratic society.