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On a recent visit to Vermont Academy, I found a school and students dedicated to environmental stewardship. VA student environmental work is beyond anything I participated in or saw during my high school days when students concentrated on bringing recycling to the forefront.

VA students are working to raise $40,000 to install a wind turbine on campus. The turbine would generate a portion of the school's electrical needs reducing the demand for conventionally generated grid power (coal, gas, and nuclear).

Check out their case video:



I especially enjoy their negation of the "wind turbines are ugly" argument. They create a powerful choice- smokestacks or turbines.

The school is also investing in other forms of alternative energy. This past March VA installed solar panels atop the Williams Gymnasium. Like the wind turbine the solar panels will reduce VA's carbon footprint and energy consumption by supplanting boiler use.

One final note that underscores VA's commitment to reducing its carbon footprint. A particularly eco-minded student raised money through the school's trustees and others for the school to purchase it's first bio-diesel truck.

I'll leave you with this week's selection of stories to enjoy as we head into the Memorial Day weekend. Look forward to catching up with everyone next week.

Stevenson School (Pebble Beach, CA) highlights sophomore wilderness program. [Stevenson School]

Stoneleigh-Burnham School (Greenfield, MA) welcomes a new head of school. [Stoneleigh-Burnham School]

Lee Academy (Lee, ME) aims to be the first U.S. institution to open an American high school in mainland China. [Bangor News]

Grammy award winner visits The Webb School (Bell Buckle, TN). [The Webb School]

The Greenwood School Featured on PBS



Looks like I'm a little late to the game on this one, but I wanted to bring attention to this segment on The Greenwood School that aired over the winter on PBS's National Education Report. Tom wrote about his visit to Greenwood's campus in an earlier post about junior boarding schools for LD students. The video acts as a perfect compliment to his observations about the school and the type of students it serves.

Here's a bit of background in case you're not familiar with The Greenwood School:

Greenwood is a boarding school in Southern Vermont dedicated to taking bright and talented boys with learning differences and learning disabilities (LD) such as dyslexia, attentional difficulties (ADD / ADHD), or executive functioning deficits and empowering them with the skills and strategies necessary to bridge the gap between their outstanding promise and present abilities.
I'Â’ve always wondered why schools don'Â’t put greater emphasis on public speaking. ItÂ’s a skill I canÂ’'t do without and itÂ’s a skill in which all us could be stronger. The ability to present one'Â’s ideas, positions and arguments publicly is one of lifeÂ’s underrated skills.
 
A few weeks back, I spoke with the folks at Stoneleigh-Burnham School where public speaking and presentation serve as a thematic thread of the student experience throughout the curriculum. The object is to help each girl build a confident public presentation persona.
 
The program engages students- providing the practice and experience- so that SBS students gain experience and confidence through classroom and project presentations, and all school meeting presentations. Every discipline at SBS includes public presentation and speaking requirements- even math.
 
SBS graduates know how to speak-up; speak out; and, speak confidently- no matter the subject matter and/or setting.
 
Beyond the academic year, SBS also offers A Voice of Her Own; a summer program in debate and public speaking.
Apologies in advance for this abbreviated edition of the BSN. I was at the Independent Educational Consultants Association's conference and got back late last night. It was a great show, but it left me with little time to pull together news links.

A Culture of Peace-- Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury visited St. Mark's School.  [St. Mark's School]

The Boston Globe features Scoop08.com-- the first national student run political website founded in part by an Phillips Andover student.  [Boston Globe]

Our friends at the Dunn School celebrated their 50th Anniversary. Congratulations! [Santa Ynez Valley News]
Brewster Academy offers a unique take on the boarding school experience. We recently had the opportunity & pleasure to ask BA's Dean of Studies, Peter Hess, what Brewster's approach to boarding school means to students.

A graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges (B.S) and the University of Minnesota (M.Ed. Special Education), Peter joined BA in 1988 and held a number of positions (instructional support and math center teacher, team leader, and director of lower school) prior to becoming Dean in 2005.

Many thanks to Peter for taking the time to participate in our Q&A series.

Question (Q): What's different - for the student - about going to school and learning within the Brewster program?

Peter Hess (PH)
: This is a comprehensive question. There are lots of ways that a student's learning experience is different at Brewster. The first thing that springs to mind is the individual attention that students get. The whole program is designed to be more responsive to individual needs - from leveled outcomes, to instructional adaptations, to the Instructional Support program - we are very intentional about serving all of our students well.

This individual attention is also characterized in the relationships that students build with their teachers. Comments like the following are common reflections at Brewster:

"Brewster is a lot different then past schools because the teachers really know you more as a person, and are more involved with you in and out of the classroom. They learn about your personality and how to teach you best, and there is always time to go talk to them because even when you aren't in class you see them all over campus," Mike '09.
Another key difference is our recognition system, which rewards students for meeting responsibilities independently.  As a whole, students want to 'earn status' and are motivated to meet expectations in the classroom, in the dorm, and on the athletic field. In any given marking period more than 80 percent of our students earn the privileges associated with the recognition status that they have earned. Some of these privileges include studying in the dorm at night (instead of a classroom), taking "nights out," exclusive use of the library mezzanine lounge area, and use of the Student Center during study hall.

Q: How does the Brewster program shape the student's classroom experience differently?

PH: The key component of our program that makes the classroom experience different is our commitment to the concept of 'best practice'.  Brewster supports practices in the classroom that have a proven record of positively influencing student learning, and we put lots of structures in place to help ensure that these practices are implemented with integrity.

What does this mean for the student? It means that when information is presented in class, students can count on having lots of opportunity to do activities in class that call on them to practice and get feedback on their learning. It means that when they are working within cooperative groups, the activity will be structured so students have to help each other, teach each other, and check on each other's learning.

 
Q: Does Brewster place any special, different, or unique requirements/performance-demands/responsibilities on students?

PH: Brewster is committed to the concept of mastery learning. Students must demonstrate that they have learned the requisite content and reached a requisite skill level on assessments to progress in the curriculum. If a student fails to demonstrate mastery, the teacher assesses the reasons for lack of mastery and then works with the student toward mastery and further assessment. This helps ensure that no student is allowed to progress through the curriculum without staying up to speed.

The other demand that we place on students is to demonstrate their learning in authentic ways. More and more we realize how important it is for students to develop the 'habits of mind' that call on students to inquire, apply, synthesize, research, create, and problem-solve. This has always been part of our design, but we are now looking at even better ways for students to demonstrate their learning in a variety of formats. Technology is an invaluable resource in accomplishing this goal.


Q: What are the different feelings, perspectives, and experiences felt by students as they pursue academics and classroom experiences at Brewster?

PH: It is hard for me to speak for students but some tangible evidence comes from surveys done by students on each of their teachers twice a year. These surveys are overwhelmingly positive (average item ratings over 3.4 on 4.0 scale) and reflect the high level of respect and appreciation that Brewster students have for their teachers.

Comments made by students include:

"Ms. Chaffee is a great teacher! She uses many great techniques to help EVERYONE to learn, and she moves at the perfect pace, and gives us SO many opportunities to ask questions and study in class, so if we have questions we can ask our team, or her. She is also big on STAD groups which is also [great], cuz it really helps us learn and help each other a lot! Ms. Chaffee is an awesome teacher! Keep up the good work!"

 "I thought history was a boring subject but with Mr. Weeks it is fun. The learning environment is very comfortable. Everyone is involved. Mr. Weeks also tries to tie in real life scenarios with the topic we are doing."

 "Ms. Cornwell is a very good IS [instructional support] teacher. She has helped me with setting goals for this year and also has helped me organize and manage my time. Her IS block isn't like a study hall, which is good, but from time to time she will help me organize my thoughts to write a history paper or an English paper."

Q: Given that the student's academic work occurs within a defined teaching team, how does this shape/effect the student's interaction and relationships?

PH:When we first implemented this structure 13 years ago, there were some concerns expressed by students. Now that it is very much a part of the way we do things, students are used to it.  Students interact quite a bit with students on other teams whether it be at meals, in athletics, on clubs, or on weekends.
 
Q: What's the greatest affect of the Brewster program on students/what does every student know or experienced upon graduation?

PH: The biggest affect the program has had on how students are different by the time they graduate is that Brewster students have shown that they can handle challenging academic tasks in a responsible manner.  They have developed skills that will allow them to be successful in college.  As evidence, 96 percent of our students return for their sophomore year in college (the national average is about 70 percent). On a 5-point scale, students rated how well they felt Brewster prepared them for college at 3.8.  Nearly 70 percent of graduates say that Brewster gave them an academic advantage in college. More than 92 percent of the graduates of the past six years (1999-2004) have said that if they were to do it over again that they would attend Brewster.
 

Q: What's the best praise about Brewster's program that you've heard from an alumnus?

PH: We get a lot of positive feedback from alumns on how the Brewster program has helped prepare them for the challenges of all areas of college. Here's just one recent comment from a 2006 graduate:  "Over the past few months I've really had time to reflect on my years at Brewster and have come to realize that they have not only changed my life in a positive way, but have truly allowed me to achieve and put me where I am today. ... I've been able to maintain a 3.94 GPA throughout my first year and a half, am playing varsity lacrosse, and having a great time in college. ... You folks at Brewster support the students and do so much to ensure that we are set up for college and the rest of our lives."

Visit www.brewsteracademy.org to learn more about the school and it's programs.
 

Most people are not aware of the fact that there are a number of boarding schools that serves the needs of boys and girls of middle school age (10-15). Some of these schools are for high achieving, highly motivated students; others are for children who struggle with some aspect of the learning process and for whom academics can be a challenge. This range is one of the great things about junior boarding schools; there is a place for anyone. The job of the Educational Consultant is to help the family find the right fit and to guide the family through the admission process. For more information about this unique group of schools and specific info about each school, check out their website at www.jbsa.org.

I recently visited 2 junior boarding schools devoted to working with students with learning differences--The Greenwood School in Putney, Vermont and the Linden Hill School in Northfield, Massachusetts. Both are for boys only and enroll a small number of students-- Linden Hill has 32 students, Greenwood 44. Remediation of a language based learning disability (dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, etc.) is the focus of each school although they will also enroll boys with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I was impressed by the level of personal care at each school. Teachers and Administrators know each student and their specific needs. Faculty training is extensive and constant. Students often enter the school with low self confidence and a lack of academic success and leave with a new set of academic skills and a belief they can be accomplished students. The programs are highly structured, success oriented and offer an array of competitive and recreational sports and extensive arts and other extracurricular activities. The boys who graduate from these two schools will usually enter a secondary boarding school that can continue to provide academic support and, in some cases, language remediation. Each school has a Director of Placement who will help the family select the right high school and will assist with the application process.
It's the end of the week and time for another Boarding School News post. Today's highlights a wide range of news items-- from students working to raise funds for Darfur relief to the greening of school campuses to a boarding school grad being honored for his athletic and academic accomplishments. Enjoy.

For Darfur: Saint Andrew's School (FL) students work with Kanye West to raise funds for Sudan. [The Miami Herald]

Cardigan Mountain School became a bit greener. [Cardigan Mountain School]

The Webb Schools build with the environment in mind. [The Webb Schools]

Westover School turned 99! Happy Birthday to my friends at WS. [Westover School]

Florida Air Academy grad named as Kansas University senior scholar athlete of the year. [KUsports.com]


As an educational consultant it's important for me to visit and revisit schools to keep a pulse on the community, administration changes and on current & past students. Not to mention curriculum modifications and new courses being offered (for instance more boarding schools this year and next are offering Mandarin Chinese). With this in mind, I recently visited a group of boarding schools in California's beautiful Ojai Valley.

These schools have much to offer with the wonderful year-round weather where they can eat their meals outside and also hang out on their beautiful campuses. Students are outside using their environment for academics, skiing, hiking, camping, horseback riding, mountain biking, surfing in the pacific, water polo, volleyball, swimming, etc.  Actually what's not to like about a California boarding school?
 
Below are my impressions (in notes form) of the schools I visited:

Dunn School: Excellent learning skills program; small; caring; talented students; artistically sound; good academics; great personal attention to students and families. Friendly hands on type of school. They're welcoming a new headmaster in July. Fifty years of experience; beautiful campus; art building houses a fantastic program!  School setting and campus are absolutely breathtaking; incredible scenery-- horse country.
 
Midland School: A school with a clear mission that definitely prepares kids in academics, life skills and beyond. Excellent academics along with a faculty committed to the school and its philosophy. Strong relationships between faculty and students in a simple, self-reliant lifestyle. Close to nature in teaching students to appreciate life's fundamental joys and challenges. Definitely a school community entrusting students to take leadership roles while having collective responsibility in taking care of oneself and others in the community. I loved Midland's simple lifestyle and values. Beautiful land with very bright students who are both ambitious, artistic and take advantage of their 2,860 acre classroom!
 
Oak Grove School: Offers a small boarding high school in which students live in a home-like dormitory. A totally vegetarian campus; growing their own organic foods that are prepared in-house. I feel this will be the first green campus among independent schools. Students were very interactive, friendly, genuinely love their school and give back to it daily. Great science facility; strong visual and performing arts; strong music program. Kids were very at ease and comfortable with their faculty. Food was excellent!  They have recently been featured in a TV show about healthy eating for kids and living green. I loved the school and they are trying to grow there boarding population. It truly is a breath of fresh air!
 
Besant Hill School: Visual and performing arts are outstanding. Beautiful campus complete with a yurt were they hold school meetings (a terrific space). Very talented musicians who compose & preform their own music. Interesting campus. Perfect for the self-motivated student.
 
Villanova Preparatory School
:  An Augustinian High School; strong academically and athletically. Has a very high Asian boarding population. Community service is very important. Lovely campus and facilities.

Here's are two list to checkout as you explore boarding schools in CA:

Ojai Valley boarding schools

All California boarding schools

Today's BSN gives a 'tip of the cap' to boarding school athletes & athletics. Brian's Shattuck-St. Mary's post talks a bit about the natural fit between boarding schools & sports. The headlines serve as a nice compliment to his entry.

Congratulations to all of the student athletes featured in today's BSN:

A St. Albans School senior faces a not so common choice-- attend a top university or sign a MLB contract. [Washington Post]

New Hampton School and Waterville Valley Academy team up to provide a new alpine ski program. [SkiRacing.com]

A standout soccer player at Wilbraham & Monson was profiled by WBZ News in Boston. [WBZ 1030]

Andrews Osborne Academy Rider Wins National Championship [Andrews Osborne Academy]

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2008 is the previous archive.

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