Learning

We Believe:

  • by interacting with people and places, we develop a sense of responsibility and caring
  • when we discover our aptitudes and interests–and find them valued by others–we become eager learners.
  • we should be proud to use our bodies to do hard work.  There is great satisfaction in sharing in labor for the sake of a common need.
  • cooperation and collaboration are essential to a sustainable society.
  • true learning calls on our mind, heart, and body.  It requires perseverance.
  • we are all capable of creating things of beauty.
  • family and community participation in the school is essential–in classrooms, on trips, with maintenance of school grounds, and at fundraising events.

Our Learning Environment Offers…

to middle schoolers, grades 6-8

  • active classes designed to engage the whole child
  • teachers who love the energy middle schoolers bring to the table
  • individual support in development of critical skills and executive function
  • a safe and nurturing place for exploration of self and social growth
  • a curriculum which gets kids outside, on a regular basis
  • multi-age/grade classes which focus on individual skill development rather than age

to high schoolers, grades 9-12

  • an experiential program which incorporates college preparatory thinking and academics with critical skills development
  • studies which are integrated and problem based, building skills and dispositions essential for addressing the world’s issues
  • opportunities for in-depth and individualized studies in a variety of subjects
  • international travel to sister schools in the Czech Republic and Costa Rica
  • individualized support in the college application process
  • a proven track record–over more than a decade–of 100% college acceptance

Courses at The Community School

In order for such a small place to do justice tot he wealth of information, perspectives, experiences and resources available to teachers and learners, our studies follow a thematic rotation:

  • The Ancient World
  • The Americas: post-contact to the Industrial Revolution and Westward Expansion
  • The Modern World of the 20th and 21st Centuries

Periods are studied in two-year cycles.  Applicable coursework is included in these thematic studies.  Also integral to understanding the world is travel; during the first of the two years in a cycle, the high school students plan  an expedition to culminate their two years of study. We have long-time relationships with schools in Costa Rica and the Czech Republic, and have studied and worked in France, Germany, and Canada, as well as various locations around the U.S.A.. In addition to this expedition, courses offer day trips, over nights, or week-long trips to the mountains, the coast, or major metropolitan areas.  Service work or social actions help our students to be purposeful travelers and not mere tourists.

Our full-time program courses fall into three categories:  core classes, afternoon blocks, and stewardship.  One credit equals 120 contact hours with teacher and subject.

CORES meet three to four days per week, all year, for at least one hour per session.  They include English, science, math, and foreign language.  Students earn 1.2-1.5 credits per course per year.  This consistent immersion builds both skills and dispositions essential for a strong academic foundation.  Students are grouped largely based on their experience with or exposure to material or skills.

An integrated, multi-age math and science pilot begins in the fall of 2017.  This course will run for two hours per day, four days per week, all year.  It will consist of students grades 6-12 chosen for their problem solving abilities, curiosity, and collaborative skills, and will introduce students to real-world problems for which they will use (largely but not exclusively) math and science skills to solve.  Any given project could include exposure to and use of advanced maths, including calculus, probability and statistics, and will delve deep into scientific principles.  Students engaged in this program will be working through real problems on our property.

For example, students will:

  • design and construct an Archimedes screw which will use the current from the river on our property to generate electricity for our farm.  This will include factoring flow rates in different seasons, projecting and planning against disturbances in the  riparian ecosystem; figuring conversions for electrical current; and building the screw mechanism and infrastructure, and working with state and federal oversight agencies
  • breed pigs specifically for our micro-region, including traits for foraging ability, hardiness, meat proportions, reproduction, and growth.  This will include historical research on breeds, genetics work, animal husbandry, food chemistry, curing (dealing with ambient factors as well as managed), and marketing of a “new” breed
  • expand our current composting endeavors to a commercial scale, including both hot composting and vermiculture.  Students will plan and manage for micro biome health of the compost, explore pathogenic factors to a public waste system, measure and manage for appropriate chemical content of end product, design and construct and manage compost beds,

Within five years, it is the expectation that the majority of our core classes will become integrated and problem-based.

BLOCKS run for one-two quarters and meet four afternoons per week for 90 minutes each session, typically with offerings for middle OR high school.  These intensive studies allow time to delve deeply into fairly specific areas of history, social justice or the sciences.  Courses are designed with student input and each earns approximately .60-1.20 credits.

Past courses include: Mediation and Conflict Resolution; Modern Conflict and War; Food Systems and Climate Change; Economies and Markets; Ethics In A Modern Society; Communicable Disease; Branches of Government:  Checks and Balances, or Road Blocks; the Individual and the State; Ice Ages and Climate Change; Evolution of North America; The Power of Myth; Evolution of Species; Crusades–Ancient and Modern; The Role of Martyrs in History; Religion and Genocide; Remember the Ladies: Pilgrims to Suffragettes; Supreme Court and the Constitution; The Atomic Age; Guns, Germs and Steel.

STEWARDSHIP meets on Fridays.  From 8:30-noon, students immerse themselves in one intensive elective:  the arts, wood working, farming, cooking, health and sexuality, invention, hiking, mountain biking, skiing or boarding, musical theater, chemistry, astronomy, and more.  Expert crafts people or other specialists from our region often teach these courses, designed to build skill and passion.

Assessment and Evaluation

We believe that assessment and evaluation are tools to help learners plan, grow, and to record that growth.  To that end, we assess in many ways–from extemporaneous conversations to formal presentations;  journaling or lab notes to annotated plan; pencil and paper tests to problem based projects.  Students learn to assess themselves and to trust their own insights rather than to rely fully on extrinsic observation.  Areas assessed include specific subject content and understanding, abilities to use skill sets to solve problems or do something, dispositions, and critical skills:  leadership, creative thinking, organization, problem solving, communication, ownership, and critical thinking.

Evaluations are narrative.  We do not use a traditional alpha-numeric system, but instead note on individual transcripts whether a student has met basic class criteria (Pass), as done so in an exceptionally vivid way (Pass with Distinction), has marked some impressive personal growth (Pass with Personal Honors), has not met basic expectations in the most half-hearted of ways (Pass with Concern), or has failed to meet even basic expectations (Fail).

We neither assign grade point averages nor rank our students. We are happy to offer individual narrative recommendations for scholarship consideration, college course prerequisites, or in other areas which typically rely on standardized norms.

Special Education

The Community School is NOT a therapeutic setting and does not offer formal Special Education or counseling services.  We do not have certified special educators on staff.  We do currently work with the local school system to provide remediation in reading through the Wilson Reading Program, for the select students who come to us with IEPSs and particularly low reading skills.