The First Day Back From A Two Week Break….

Having morning meeting, run by Madison, in the library because it’s the warmest room in the school;

Reflecting on Beowulf’s journey as a hero;

Checking the pH of both aquaponic systems before measuring plant growth, changing the water and feeding the fish;

Reading The Seven Daughters of Eve, by Bryan Sykes, for Evolution class;

Hauling about 50 gallons of water to the geese, ducks, sheep and hogs;

Mopping up the kitchen floor when the heating pipe burst;

Gathering around the wood stove during break, some playing Uno;

Beginning the brainstorm process for Senior Project, which will culminate in presentations on June 7;

Catching up on political events in the Arab world for independent study;

Playing the piano;

Wrestling with Libeling, who has grown inches more and added another ten pounds over vacation;

Bringing in paperwork for Friday’s skiing at Cranmore;

Using Khan Academy for lessons in pre-algebra;


Preparing for Thursday’s blizzard–the first snow day of 2018!


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Seahorse in the Sky

I see a cloud that looks like a seahorse in a party hat.

It’s the only cloud in the sky so does that mean he is the only one at the party?

What is the seahorse celebrating all alone in the sky by himself?

Maybe he threw himself a birthday party and nobody showed up because the seahorse doesn’t

have any friends and everybody hates him because

he is awkward and nobody wants to be his friend because of it

nobody will make an attempt to get to know the sad seahorse for who he

really is instead of that lonely kid no one talks to.

James Joyce, Grade 7

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Purple Cowboy

He rides into town on his horse

But really he just drives a truck with a horsepower of 240

He struts in with two six shooters and spurs clinking on his ankles

But really he walks in with a laptop, a cup of coffee, and running shoes on his feet

He’s caught more rustlers, bank robbers, and kidnappers than I can count

But really the only thing he’s caught is bad spelling, grammar, and the occasional cheating kid

He makes his coffee over a campfire in a metal pot

But really he just pops a plastic cup into his Keurig

People hide behind tables when he walks into the saloon

But really people hide because he’s handing out grades

He can tie a lasso faster than you can say Clint Eastwood

But really he’s just my English teacher


Grayson Alosa, Grade 10

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St. Liebling: A Tale of the Search for Relics of the Holy Bearcamp River

St. Liebling was a simple Great Dane and Great Pyrenees puppy that joined a religious order at the age of 7 weeks old.  She lived a simple life in the monastery of the Twin Peaks and became very devoted to the faith.  When she was 8 months old, the dreaded Third Great Dog World War broke out.  The monastery of the Twin Peaks was very close to ground zero, which was the source of the Holy Bearcamp River.  The monastery had a duty to protect the holy source of the river from the invaders from faraway lands.

Liebling armed herself with a dagger and a slingshot and set out to protect the holy site.   Two days after they arrived and made camp, a group of 23 enemy soldiers tried to take the source.  But Liebling, the soldiers, and the monastery members fought off and defeated the soldiers, but barely. Later that day, out of the woods, a dog dressed in black armor, a Dread Knight, with seven knights in silver armor, appeared.  The seven knights walked slowly out of the woods and the remaining soldier dogs knew that they were dead but fought valiantly.  They slew one of the silver knights but the other knights won, slaying Liebling, who was the last standing, in the process.  But when she died, a tutti-frutti jellybean appeared.  It was four feet tall and wore a fedora with strange animated blacklegs and designer shoes.  In ways I will not describe, the jelly bean killed the Dread Knight and his knights.  In a flash of light, the jelly bean disappeared.

It is said that you can find relics at the Source of the Holy Bearcamp River.  It is said that Liebling’s dagger can still be found by the pure of heart.  It is said that you can’t find the sling shot because it probably decomposed being  made of wood and animal hide (but who knows)….This rests on the bottom of the source, so there is the tale of St. Liebling of the Bearcamp River.

Eli Girouard, Grade 6, as part of his class on the Crusades

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Draft: What Does Passing With Distinction Look Like?

What does it look like to PASS with DISTINCTION?

Passing with Distinction is not the same as getting an A. We are not asking you to do more, we are asking you to go deeper, to be more creative and insightful, to risk and share and exhibit, to create new meanings, and to take initiative.

Students who pass with distinction show patterns of engagement. They’re consistently over the bar, seeking, stretching. These are not one shot deals.

If you’re wondering just how to stretch yourself in your classes, so that you can know you’ve really gone above and beyond the bar, try the following:

  • Offer support regularly to peers
  • Go public with your work
  • Create your own on-line presence of your learnings
  • Take initiative to significantly expand boundaries of assignment
  • Find ways to travel related to your course
  • Articulate your own growth and learning in complex and comprehensive ways
  • Tie the big picture into each individual assignment
  • Don’t wait to be asked to pull from your class work to reflect for portfolio
  • Use the portfolio as a place to seriously and deeply consider what you’ve learned and

    where you should go next

  • Show how the dispositions we focus on each year connect to the work in your class(es)
  • Use your portfolio to set and gauge success with personal goals for the class
  • Read ancillary materials to gain a better sense of the area studied
  • Approach your teacher about setting personal goals for passing with distinction
  • Exhibit and document passion or enthusiasm for your learning
  • Take what you can do and teach someone else
  • Show responsibility; not once but all the time
  • Other ideas?

What does it look like to PASS?

Raise the bar on what it means to complete work, engage, learn. Don’t settle for inconsistency or less than what you know you can really do.

Passing reflects true engagement with your learning, whether you’re tired or bored, hungry or distracted: you commit to being part of the learning experience offered.

Passing doesn’t mean that once in a while you show up to your life of learning; it means that every day you are ready and willing to learn. You bring both skill and will to the table. You do well by yourself and by your teachers and peers. At the end of the day, you leave proud of what you’ve accomplished.

  • Be on time to class: every class, every day
  • Pay attention to directions. Listen, read, follow; don’t skip parts
  • Regularly participate, verbally and in action
  • Actively listen. Be respectful and attentive
  • Always come prepared, with materials and an eager frame of mind
  • Have work finished on time and ready to present. Show it off!
  • Read!
  • Save personal or non-relevant conversations for break time
  • Keep your materials organized; it will help to keep your mind organized
  • When you have work, get it done on time. You hold everyone back if you don’t
  • Meet all expectations with your best effort; half-hearted is an affront to everyone around


  • Advocate for yourself: ask for help, ask questions, share what you need
  • Take pride in what you can do, but also know what good work looks like. Don’t let your-

    self off the hook easy.

  • Respond in complete sentences; show your work–always!
  • Don’t give in to distraction. Move your seat if you need to. Hold your tongue. You can

    do it.

  • You have tremendous power–power to launch yourself forward or to hold your whole

class back: what do you choose?

What does it look like to PASS With CONCERN?

It seems like this should be obvious, but it isn’t always; let’s be clear.

When you resist being your most connected and focused self, it is very difficult to be successful, to gather and practice and learn and use information and skills to do something useful. When you hold back, for whatever reason, you end up missing parts that you need to make a whole, and farther down your educational line, those gaps really show themselves.

We call this Passing with Concern because we–your teachers and peers and parents–worry about these behaviors. We want you to grow and then glow in your success. When you don’t, we’re concerned.

The following habits and practices are worrying, and head you down a slippery path.

  • Missing deadlines and assignments, whether nightly reading or a long-term project
  • Forgetting materials you need for class, being unprepared
  • Coming to class late or feeling the need to leave class on a regular basis (for bathroom

    or water or whatever)

  • Having an attitude that everything is boring
  • Believing or saying that you’re stupid, and then not trying
  • Scribbling instead of typing or writing neatly: take pride in the work you share with others
  • Struggling with accepting constructive criticism or support to better your work
  • Interrupting or talking while the teacher or your classmates have the floor
  • Refusing help when it is offered
  • Ignoring your physical and mental needs by skipping good food, staying up too late, not


  • Letting others do all the work when you should be collaborating
  • Jumping for an answer instead of trying to solve a problem
  • Skipping steps: writing a few words when sentences are required; not showing your work in

    math because you “did it in your head”

  • Missing school too often; you can’t catch up on what we do here with a worksheet….
Posted in Bringing The Big Picture To A Small Place, Uncategorized

You Make All the Difference

Dear Friend,

This has been a powerful new school season for me, my 17th at The Community School: my daughter Madeline, a senior, literally raised by the village that is the TCS community, is applying to colleges. We’ve toured and she’s interviewed at Bard, Skidmore, Hampshire, and Bennington, so far, with Sarah Lawrence, Haverford, Hamilton, and Williams on her list. Each campus experience was invigoratingly validating to Madeline as a student and me as a parent, but also, in some ways even more so, to me as the Director of The Community School.

Each interview ended with Madeline and the admissions rep walking toward me, smiles broad, with bounteous praise for Madeline’s schooling. From her fluency in Spanish to her service on our Standards Committee and School Board of Trustees, Czech Exchange in her junior year to her senior project plans, which include a half- year independent study to learn Arabic before working with a Syrian population outside Toronto, her experiences at TCS stood out as exceptional. Bard’s rep’s enthusiasm for our integrated math and science program was palpable. We have created a mix of 6-12 graders chosen for their problem-solving ability, passion for math or science, and curiosity, to learn and use everything from algebra I to calculus, cell biology to physics, in order to solve the real- world problem of how to provide food year-round in our climate by building a permaculture-based bio-shelter. He went so far as to ask for the syllabus in case there were elements Bard could integrate into their own program.

While doing some research this fall to support TCS’ path less taken, I noted that many colleges and employers want what we offer; that our slow down/dig deep philosophy is not unusual but increasingly essential. Trinity’s checklist for their admissions application readers contains the characteristics we’re nurturing here at TCS: curiosity, empathy, openness to change, ability to overcome diversity, risk taking, delayed gratification. Olin’s required two-day building challenge interview looks a lot like our integrated math and science class. MIT’s Maker Portfolio shares qualities of our new portfolio system, designed to have students showcase and reflect, over time, on their growth in areas above and beyond traditional academics, including critical thinking dispositions. Yale includes the option to submit a short video on the prompt describing, “A community to which you belong and the footprint you have left.” Think TCS kids would have any struggles with that application addition? No way! Colleges and employers and communities want our students. Why wouldn’t they? They’re bright, considerate, considering, alert, compassionate, nimble humans.

Also evident to me, as I undergo with my daughter this process of moving her into life beyond TCS and home, is the fact that our students are articulate and dialed in to the world around them. They carry a compassion for the plight of others, an understanding of how solving problems—large and small—will directly impact their own futures (as well as yours and mine), that collaboration is essential to understanding point of view—and vice versa. They know how to find information and totally get it that the days of memorizing from books are long gone, that the 21st century requires the ability to process information and use it. We must be active doers in this world of ours. And our kids are sure doing a lot.

Happily and importantly, it isn’t only Madeline who revels in and benefits from our work.

You can see what we’re up to simply by checking out our website or Facebook page. We update those almost daily with new photos, blog posts by kids, smidgens of info from me or other teachers. What you won’t see is that we need your support if this life-changing, world-changing, mind-blowing school is to reach those who want it, who need it, who will use it well. Your donation subsidizes the tuition our students can’t afford to pay, and thus, the future of The Community School. Carroll County has the second highest poverty rate in the state, at 10.5%. Most of our parents are self-employed or work in the service industry. Many people tell us with the best of intentions how amazing TCS is, and that if we only moved the school to a more affluent region, we’d have a waiting list for admissions. Abandoning this glorious place and these dedicated people is not who we are or what we want, so that leaves us relying on the generosity of you, our faithful, visionary, buoyant friend.

Will you support the insight and ingenuity of our teachers? Make learning a real thing–not a hypothetical? Keep the fires lit on Bunker Hill Road? We’d be so grateful if you’d be willing and able to send a donation, however large or small–one shot deal or once a month. You need to know that we can’t do this creative, ebullient, majestic work without you. You make all the difference.

With great fondness and gratitude,


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Bioshelter Reflection Blog #2: Madeline Moneypenny

Today we reviewed the information we have gathered so far in a journal exam. It tested our preparedness and organization, since keeping accurate records is an important part of the scientific research process. For math we reviewed conversions, flow rates and the answers to the equations we used in our own systems. We looked back on our nascent notes, when most of us didn’t even know what hydroponics and bioshelters were. Our early brainstorms were expanded upon by our trips to Steve Whitman of Plymouth and D Acres in Dorchester.

After the exam we began watching Apollo 13, since it has many examples of problem-solving. Space programs also seem to value collaboration, preparedness, and the ability to troubleshoot. Even within the first few scenes we saw evidence of some of their systems failing, and how they had to fix them. NASA’s ability to predict outcomes and think creatively mirrors how we access our hydroponics systems. We may not have human lives in our hands, but in a hydroponics system, your plants and fish are utterly reliant on you. If they die it means we’ve failed to make some crucial adjustment. The ability to work together to solve and predict problems before they happen is something this group is striving for.

Today we continued to reflect on our work so far. We began to connect how problem-solving and collaboration play out in more intense scenarios in the adult world. With the hydroponics systems in a waiting stage, we are looking forward to the next project.

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Bioshelter Blog #1: Gabby Croto


Our Bioshelter class is split in two, due to the timing. One hour before and after lunch, and our class is split into two groups. I am in a group with Madeline, Skylar, Connor, Anthony and Albert. Yesterday in the first half of the class, we prepared our aquaponic system and checked if everything is alright, for instance, the  fish are not dying and that the water is clear or close to it. In the second half of the class, we had to do a peer review with the two groups. The group I was in split up. Madeline and I worked out what we were going to say as a group. We had to talk about what problems we had and  how we were going to come up with a way we were going to fix a particular problem. As an example, our original design for the bioshelter was taking too long so we had to come up with an alternative. We had to write the steps we took to build our system, how our aquaponic system turned out, and the math we used in finding out how long our water pump needed to run for our plants to get enough water. The plants we have are kale and lettuce. I’m pretty sure the lettuce died.

Madeline needed to copy down the math from me because she didn’t have it yet. I did do the math but didn’t write it down, and so we took the rest of the first half trying to figure how i got my answer. Our teacher Brie helped me the first time but couldn’t remember what she did. After class, the three of us, Brie, Madeline and I went to a former math teacher of mine, Pat. She helped us out and we finally got our answer.

In the second half, when we came back from our lunch break, we had three minutes to finish up everything before we presented to each other. Madeline’s group (the group I was in) decided who spoke about what. I spoke about how we fixed the problems we had. The problem we had was (as I stated earlier) our original plan was taking too long to complete. We came up with another idea and  so far it is working. We had to tweak some things and we kept some of the same aspects on the new design from the old. The other group went first and they did very well. They spoke well and stated each problem and how to fix that problem well. I think the group I was in did well too. Some of our speaking skills needed improvement.

Today in both hours of the class, we worked on  peer review. Everyone was given a piece of paper that we had to use to basically rate how each person in our group, all the good and the not so good. The way it was set was along the top, it had a 0-10 collaboration effort; 0-3 being they barely helped, asked no questions or for help, and interacted with the others; 4-6 meant they did some interaction, helped in the slightest bit, and asked no questions or for help; 5-9 was they helped, spoke to others regarding our project and did ask questions and for help; 10 was lots of help, interacting, making suggestions, answering questions/asked questions, being very collaborative. With that, we had to take each person in our group and choose one of those boxes that we thought best fit their behavior in building the aquaponic system, then, we typed up a detailed explanation on how they did, and whether they help or not.

Both groups worked together enough to build working aquaponic systems which is great! If one person was working on it and not everyone, they would’ve come out much different.

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Poetry Drafts from Reading & Writing Workshop

Hard Times

Running down the street

Past the general store

Past the pub and past the drug store with the NO LOITERING sign


Just underneath the sign

An old man sits

I look in disgust and the man looks up

I run away swiftly


I remember how he was sitting

Hunched, seeming sad

Then I remember the cardboard sitting next to him

It said It’s a beautiful day, but I can’t see it


I remember back and feel embarrassed

at how I looked at him and ran

And how his face was sad

The man had fallen under


Hard Times


Stephen Dotterweich, Grade 6



Arthur wants me to write a poem

So I will write a poem

Though I failed yesterday’s class

and I just want to go home

I will sit and write this poem


Albert Riddle, Grade 10



It’s not as great as you hope

When your feet land on the deck    perfectly   and your wheels land at the same time and you don’t

fall    it’s the best   you did it   u just landed your first heel whip   but that great feeling only lasts

for a minute and then   maybe   you get it again but it’s not that   great feeling like the first time


Ben Reiser, Grade 8



The concept of death

The concept of death has been a constant with me since a young age,

The concept of death may seem scary to others but I feel the opposite,

The concept of death is a part of life that everyone has to come to terms with like it or not,

The concept of death is one that people resent and try to find a way around

but in the end their efforts are pointless endeavors wasting what little time they have on this earth

to try to find a way to make it longer,

The concept of death





In the fall,

In the fall I smell cinnamon, pumpkin

and damp leaves.

In the fall I see leaves painted

with gold, orange and red.

In the fall I feel a cool breeze,

a cool breeze which tells the 

birds to fly south.

Face it winter is coming.


By Madelyn Twiss, Grade 7




I sit here

I know someone isn’t here

I sit and wonder how empty it would be

I know them

I think They know me

I think

I wish time was forever

I wish they would stay….


By Emily Belair, Grade 7



I see a DRESS in the thrift store                         I think the DRESS is loved

Its trail is a bit brown                                            It’s got memories

Its sequins are falling out                                     It’s got mysteries

The DRESS looks loved                                        The DRESS is like a stamp

I know a stamp comes from the post office and the DRESS comes from the store

But what I don’t know is the story behind their journey….


By Emily Belair, Grade 7

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The Green Light In My Life

I am a pickle fanatic

One of many who chooses to delight in the sour, salty flavor of the 


Some say I am strange because I love all parts of the pickle;

the ripe pickled cucumber,

The mouth watering juiciness, and the stunning, superb color.

This world has been blessed

with such a delightful eating opportunity,

yet some deny the powerful but graceful taste

of the magnificent pickle.

The pickle can come in odd shapes and sizes, tastes

and sometimes though not often,

different colors or shades of green.

The wonderful pickled cucumber taste;

salty and overflowing with refreshing tang.

Pickles:  green, juicy, wonderful pieces of art

A true blessing to this hateful world.


Lyza Sirois


Posted in Bringing The Big Picture To A Small Place