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,


Posted in Uncategorized

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

Crepes Take On The World, Thursday at Noon

Fall is that glorious time of year when we have excellently crisp sleeping weather, streaks of color woven across our hills, bountiful gardens going to bed for another cold season and…freezer cleaning time.
Yes.  Freezer cleaning.
This is the month where we sort and sift through each of The Community School’s four freezers,  taking stock of the goods which will get us through the coming winter, adding this season’s preserved goodies, and pulling out the buried blocks of chard and green beans–which go to the pigs who happily lick these veggiesicles.
When we take on this seasonal shift and purge, we find treasures, and these will come together this week into a multi-national tribute to the crêpe.
Buttery eggy crêpes will take on hues of China when stuffed with sesame ginger tofu and sautéed greens; give a nod to southern Italy with a ragu of sausage and tomato sprinkled with pecorino; whisk you back to your childhood with homey turkey and gravy; or jazz you up with Bananas Foster and ice cream for dessert.
Student chef, Grayson Alosa, will cook with me this week, using delectable edibles from the Booty Family Farm, Mad Hen Farm, Karl Behr, Merrifield Farm, Sandwich Creamery, Zero Mile Farm, and our very own Community School eggs.
Please RSVP so we’ll know how many crêpes to flip.  Served by donation.  Pay what you can or think the meal is worth.
Posted in Goings On, Uncategorized

Farmers’ Table Goes Gourmet: Sweet Finale

Now that the Russian cherry bombs (delightfully effervescent fermented cherry tomatoes) are in their brine, spiced deliciously with sage, garlic, lemon and green onion, I thought I’d focus on the last three dishes of our epic fundraising local foods feast.
You’ve by now read about lettuce jam and cheesy turmeric crackers, Parker House rolls and radicchio and shrimp salad, drunken mussels and grilled hanger steak with blistered Shishito peppers.  Let me know what you think of the following:
I spent several Saturday’s at the Tamworth Farmers’ Market in the basement of the UU Church, searching for lovely clear glass dishes with deep bowls and stems–perfect for trifle.  Each table will be presented with its own unique stone fruit trifle, with slivers of fresh Tamworth peaches and Vermont plums layered with toasted hunks of pound cake (my grandmother’s recipe), and held gloriously together with crême Anglaise, a very sophisticated and subtle English cousin to pudding.  Cool.  In every way.
Being fall and fair season in New England, we’re giving a nod to the perennial favorite:  the caramel apple.  Using heritage varieties perfect for one or three bites, we’ll use Pomme Gris and, if we can find some, the tiny Wickson.  Buttery caramel becomes the foil for these apples, presented on their own apple-wood sticks.  Nibble away or wrap up for later.  We have waxed paper for a to-go bag!
Last, but certainly not least, Zero Mile Farm sweet cream gelato is sprinkled with lightly dried strawberries, picked here at TCS last spring.  Each slice has the most, most, most intense strawberry flavor you can imagine.  You will eat every bite.
Please check out our website or Facebook page, or mine through the last few weeks of Exchange/Board posts for the full menu and details.  Suffice to say that this dinner will be the most delicious meal you’ve eaten in months, and will be supremely supported by libations to enhance your experience.  You’ll be glad to pay your bill at the end of the night, especially knowing that your knowledgeable, friendly, and jolly student server will benefit when we fill our financial aid coffers.
Please call 323-7000 or reply by email to reserve a seat or a table for you and friends.  It’ll be a night to remember, in all the best possible ways.
Posted in Uncategorized

Farmers’ Table Goes Gourmet Entrees: I dare you to skip this meal!

Back with more descriptions of the Farmers’ Table Goes Gourmet fundraiser coming to The Community School on September 30….
You’ve gotten through a few libations, three hors d’oeuvre courses, Parker House rolls, and three salad courses (including the Wonder Fries!). We’re into the entrees, by now, and each has a distinct palate hit.
Begin with tender, succulent chicken thighs, slow smoked until falling off the bone.  Imagine a white platter as canvas, morsels of meat, plump blackberries, darkest blue-gray juniper berries, and translucent shreds of lemon peel are the paint.  Pretty as a picture, good enough to eat.  The blackberries are popping with sweetness brought to distinction by the contrast of the pickling brine, redolent of shallot, allspice, and bay.  What will be the first to disappear from your plate, the chicken or the blackberry?
Next comes the clean brine of mussels mingled with their inherent sweet buttery-ness.  They get a bang of flavor from my drunken mussel recipe, which isn’t the typical “add wine/beer to the pot as you steam” sort of drunken.  Giving a nod to my favorite Thai dish, Pad Kee Mao, or Drunken Noodles, our shellfish will get a quick simmer and toss in Bird’s Eye pepper, Holy Basil, fish sauce, dark sweet soy, and ginger. Pull the pinky-beige nuggets out of their shells, pop in your mouth, repeat.
For those disinclined to rave about meat, you’ll appreciate the first steak on our menu:  pickled lime-marinated cauliflower steaks.  This dish requires several days of preparation, as every nook and cranny needs extended exposure to the vibrant Indian-inspired rub and marinade which bring this overlooked vegetable to tender new heights.  The fermented limes help to break the firm vegetable into almost succulent bites. Grilling over hot coals provides a char which caramelizes the outer edges, bringing sweet to the salty, sour marinade.  I could eat this dish for three meals each day….
If you’re more of a steak-steak sort of person, then you will find yourself over the moon as the last platter comes to your table, adorned with slices of melt-in-your mouth tender hangar steak, gently rubbed with sea salt and black pepper before getting a hot sear on the grill. Scattered over the slices you’ll find whole blistered shishito peppers, tossed in chunky sea salt.  Shishito are a Japanese cousin to Padron peppers, sweet and flavorful, and infinitely eat-able.
You know you’ve still got room for dessert, so check in tomorrow, as I save the best (???) for last.
If you’re sufficiently salivating, wipe your chin and give a call or send an email to reserve your seat or table for the best meal you’ll have all year.  This dinner is celebration-worth. Forget your anniversary last March?  Make up for it now.  Someone’s 37th birthday coming up?  This beats the heck out of pizza and beer.  Feel like simply supporting a terrific school that does a lot in and for our community?  Come on over.  Your $100 per person ticket makes all the difference to us, and just might make all the difference to you.
Love to get your reservation!
Posted in Uncategorized

Farmers’ Table Goes Gourmet: Lettuce Begin

If you’re in the know, Farmers’ Table Goes Gourmet is an experience you’ve
allowed yourself: a 13-course meal composed of the most luscious local
ingredients, displayed and served beautifully, for your delectation, and to
benefit The Community School.

Let’s explore the menu. Feel free to call and make your reservations at
any time!

The hors d’oeuvres cycle is made of three unique platters.

The first, lettuce jam and cheesy turmeric crackers, might at first glance
feel a bit…healthy. But imagine a wooden platter topped with rough edged,
golden crackers sprinkled with coarse sea salt. Imagine a beautiful
smallish bowls filled with a bright green puree that smells herby and
brinish. Imagine a small round of semi-soft goat cheese, tangy and bold.
Take a cracker, smear with jam, top with a sliver of cheese. When this
rises to your lips, your nose will piece together these separate parts and
your salivary glands will take note. You absolutely will not stop at one.
You might ask your server for another portion of crackers.

But then you’ll turn your attention to the caramelized onion dip and
housemade chips, which will have an entirely different aura. This is not
Lipton’s Onion Soup dip. We start with beef bones and roast them with a
little bit of sherry and some onion skins, until they’re very brown. The
pan juices are set aside, after the pan has been deglazed with more
sherry. The nibbles of beef are shredded off the bones and set into the
juices. To this we add a little of Red Gable Farm’s heavy cream and
yogurt, strained to thicken quite a bit. This is set aside while thin
slices of onion are browned in butter until dark and succulent. These are
pureed with a bit more heavy cream until silken. Salt, pepper, a pinch or
two of Steele Farm’s ground hot peppers. Yes, you can scoop this creamy,
fragrant wonder with a spoon, but the better foil would be the hot and
crisp chips made fresh from local russets. Sliced unbearably thin and
deep-fried, you’ve never had such a potato chip.

To cleanse your palate, we’ll offer a pickle plate. Moroccan carrot
pickles offer bright orange snaps of carrot, redolent of lemon and
coriander; good old New England dilly beans, all garlic and dilly goodness;
Russian tomatoes, salt-brined gems of cherry tomatoes which, when popped in
your mouth whole, zip and fizz delectably. Thinly sliced wafers of various
Vermont-made salumi will give you an intermittent chew between the crunch
of the pickles. Your digestive juices will be suitably stimulated for the
next round of dishes!

Check in tomorrow, for the soups and salads….

Posted in Uncategorized

Farmers’ Table Goes Gourmet: scholarship fundraiser



On Saturday, September 30, we’ll bring you a phantasmagoric dining experience, featuring the most luscious of local foods, prepared with love and creativity.  Join us for this feast, as we come together to celebrate all the good that The Community School  does in the world.  Your ticket supports the financial aid which makes slowing down and digging deep possible for the 80% of our students who need financial aid in order to learn with us.

Check out the menu on Facebook, pick up the phone, and make a reservation!  Save a seat or an entire table, for you and your friends.

Love to feed you!

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