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July 2008 Archives

We recently published an article highlighting the three performing arts boarding schools in the country. While our piece provides a general picture of each school- Walnut Hill School, Interlochen Arts Academy, and Idyllwild Art Academy- and elucidates the idea of pre-professional arts study at the secondary level, we just found an article that focuses specifically on Idyllwild's movie making program.

Movie Maker interviewed Bradley Battersby, chair of Idyllwild's Moving Pictures Department about how this pre-professional program works and what focused artistic study means for, and to, the department's students. The article certainly merits a read if you're interested in secondary school arts programs- especially tightly focused ones.

Checkout our article, Dedicated Study of the Arts in a Boarding School, for a general overview of the three schools.
First off, my apologies for the week between posts. Last week I took a bit of R&R and Brian is off right now. I'll see about lining up some guest bloggers to keep onBoarding Schools churning at its normal pace the next time we pause to catch our breath.

While I was away we did finish & post a list of private school job resources. It was in response to the steady flow of e-mails from prospective teachers inquiring about how & where to begin the job hunt.

While researching the article I came across a podcast by David Lourie, Head of School at St. Anne's-Belfield School in Charlottesville, VA. David recently devoted an entire show to faculty recruitment and talks about how important the process is to the school.

It's a must hear for anyone considering a career in prep school teaching. You can listen to it on their site or download it from iTunes, Odeo or Juice.

Gap Year

NPR ran a story by reporter Tovia Smith introducing and explaining the 'gap year'. In simplest terms a gap year is a period (it can be a semester or a year) between high school graduation and college matriculation that a student uses to work or pursue an interest before settling into the strictures of college studies.

Gap year programs allow students to pursue a specific interest, learn about something new, and gain perspective. Programs can be academic, cultural experience based, and or work based. The goal is to make sure to make the time productive.

Smith does nice job of addressing two important issues:

  1. What thinking, questions, and answers lead you to the conclusion that a gap year would be a good experience for you or your student?

  2. Gap years cost money and the notion that gap years are the province of students with means who can afford to take a year off persists.  Gap years can be based on income producing work.
It's interesting to see that Princeton now offers support to students who enter public service during this bridge year.

You can hear Tovia Smith's full report on NPR's web site.

Interested in learning about specific programs? Check out AQ's list of gap year opportunities.

NPR's From the Top Features Walnut Hill School Student

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New to us (the program originally aired December, 26 2007) is a segment featuring Patrick McGuire, a student cellist from the Walnut Hill School in Natick, MA. We've written about Walnut Hill and other arts focused boarding schools. It's nice to see and hear a student from one of these schools featured so prominently.

Listen to a brief interview and Patrick playing the "the slow movement from Robert Schumann's Cello Concerto." From the Top host Christopher O'Riley provides piano accompaniment.

A Boarding School Focused on its 100+ Year Mission

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Brian wrote a piece the other day that profiles Subiaco Academy, an all-boys, Catholic boarding school in Subiaco, AR.

Not only is the school one of the most affordable college-prep boarding schools in the US, it's also keenly devoted to it's mission to serve and stay connected with its surrounding community. I hope you will take time to read his piece and learn more about the good work that's happening at Subiaco Academy.
For committed day student athletes participating in summer conditioning programs, the greatest challenge is getting to the gym or to school. Once in the gym, your teammates, coaches, and trainers help with your program and push you to get better. After some gym time, non-contact drills follow easily. Most everyone who can be is present.

Summer conditioning presents challenges for boarding school teams considering how many players are spread all over the globe. This recent article talks about how  Riverside Military Academy students prepare for the fall season even though for many the training is done alone, away from campus.
We recently met and had the opportunity to speak with Alan Colby, Founding Headmaster, of Maharishi Academy of Total Knowledge. Maharishi is new boys boarding school in Antrim New Hampshire that uses a Consciousness-Based curriculum and approach. Mr. Colby was kind enough to tell us about the school and the perspectives and successes of Consciousness-Based learning.

Question (Q): How have the challenges of building a new school gone?

Alan Colby (AC): The challenges of building a new school are not significantly different from starting any new enterprise. We just keep the goal in mind and forge ahead. Our job is made easier by the fact that we are drawing on a very successful model in the Maharishi School in Fairfield, Iowa. The Maharishi School, where I previously was principal pioneered innovative educational approaches with great success. We are just transplanting their techniques and approaches to our school and adding the special features of a boys boarding school that specializes in leadership, sustainability and outdoor education.

Q: Who's your audience? Your literature makes the case for the universal nature of Consciousness-Based education, but many -- including me, before my research -- know little about the approach.

AC: I will address your comment first and then answer your question. The adoption of innovation always takes time and in some areas of life the time it takes is longer. For example, the latest electronic gizmo is accepted quickly if people are intrigued. The acceptance of innovation in the architecture of our homes takes much longer. Innovations in education probably fall somewhere in the middle. The fact is that modern education faces many challenges with only marginal success, while Maharishi School in Iowa is producing comparatively outstanding success in many areas. People for whom education is important are starting to notice.

This brings us to your question. The reason that Consciousness-Based education has universal appeal is that learning takes place in the consciousness of the student. You can have the best teacher, the best curriculum and the best teaching strategy, but if the student is asleep in the back row it is all for naught. The condition of the student's brain physiology is essential to the educational process. If a student is rested, not stressed-out by the educational process, and his brain is functioning coherently, learning is fun and fulfilling. Our approach sets up the student's brain for learning and then motivation and fulfillment follow naturally, especially when combined with our teaching strategies and curriculum.

Q: What kind of educational pieces do you have for potential families?

AC: Families want what is best for their children. We offer the pieces that develop the whole person. First we offer the Transcendental Meditation program, which fosters the coherent functioning of the student's brain physiology. It is a very simple, natural meditation technique practiced twice a day. It is not a religious practice and has been shown to be compatible with the lifestyles of people from very diverse backgrounds. Next, we offer high quality traditional academic courses through specific teaching techniques that motivate the student and encourage critical thinking. The themes of leadership and sustainability run through all of our courses. Programs in sports and the arts, and training in outdoor living provide opportunities for application of knowledge and the growth of confidence. Students are not left to struggle with new material outside of the classroom. Knowledgeable faculty supervise structured study time, so help is never far away. Students' physiologies are nourished with organic, chemical-free vegetarian food and students are encouraged to rest properly. This last point is very important. Despite research showing how lack of sleep impairs mental and physical functioning, most high school students neglect this basic physiological need. Exhaustion does not yield success.

Q: Interestingly, parts of Maharishi Academy's curriculum appear quite traditional, with the approach to learning and academic material being the key difference. Can you explain some of the major differences in how students move through material and the ways that they are elevated?

AC: We teach the traditional subjects that are taught at college preparatory schools. There are, however, significant differences in how we present knowledge. Everything at Maharishi Academy is taught in the context of the student. Qualities which students find in their own lives and especially what they experience in the development of their own consciousness are also discovered to be present in the traditional academic subjects that they study. In this way everything that they learn is relevant to themselves. The students understand the practicality of each topic and how it is connected to themselves. We do not hear the comment, "Why am I studying this and what does it have to do with me?"

We also teach a trans-disciplinary subject called the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI). SCI offers foundational principles upon which all of the other subjects are built. These principles also connect back to the student's own experience. This approach improves student attention and motivation, and fosters the growth of critical thinking skills.

We also train our faculty in a system of teaching that uses specific charts to allow the attention of the student to swing from the details, or "parts" of a lesson to the wholeness or big picture of the lesson. Details are taught in the context of the whole. In this way we avoid irrelevance and the resulting boredom. Learning is a natural process and in this way it remains fresh and interesting.

Q: How will the students participate in evaluations and studies so that they know and understand their progress through the uniquely Maharishi components of the curriculum?

AC: All of our evaluations, whether they are of traditional subjects or SCI, share a common approach. We use traditional letter grades. Evaluation criteria are clear before any assessment. Tests or evaluations should be substantially free from stress and yet thorough and profound. We subscribe to authentic assessment. In other words, there should be a congruency between what is taught, how it is taught and how it is tested. If there is rote material to be memorized, it is assimilated through effortless repetition in the classroom. If the students are tested on this material, there is no sense of panic, because they are very familiar with the material by the time they are tested. There are no long hours of "cramming." Written tests, which are only one form of assessment, are generally open-book or at least open-notes. In this way, the students are evaluated on their ability to apply, analyze, synthesize and make judgments. They do not merely parrot what is in a book. If they have learned a skill, they should be tested on their ability to perform that skill. Assessment should give substantial, accurate feedback to the student, teacher and parent. Finally, assessment should be summative and celebratory. Evaluations are an opportunity to put all that a young man has learned into one package and to celebrate the accomplishment of owning that package.

There could be a physiological assessment of the individual progress gained through the practice of Transcendental Meditation technique. In fact, this is done at Maharishi University of Management where they have sophisticated labs. However, the growth that results from the practice of this technique is self-evident and does not require specific testing. We do have a simple procedure for checking that the meditation is being practiced properly, and we provide a supervised time for the twice-daily practice of the technique.

Q: In college admission-crazed America, how will the Maharishi approach prepare students in the college admission process?


AC: Our job is to prepare a student to do his best in all circumstances. One of these circumstances is the college application process. We prepare students for the college admissions process by helping them develop a nervous system that is balanced in potentially stressful circumstances, such as taking college entrance exams. We also set aside time every year to build the skills necessary to score well on the tests. Practice sessions bring to light academic areas which need review and further practice. Our curriculum includes practice writing college entrance essays. Finally, the reputation that has already been built by Maharishi School in Fairfield, Iowa will alert colleges to applications from our school. Their students have proven the effectiveness of our system of education. This and the common desire of colleges to diversify their student populations set applicants from our school in a very good position.

Q: Make the quick case to a parent who knows nothing of Maharishi Academy. Why Maharishi for their son rather than another school?

AC: Maharishi Academy allows young men to realize their full potential in a low-stress, high-success environment. To be successful and fulfilled a young man must be able to think clearly and effectively in any situation. He must be confident and able to consider the big picture as well as the fine details. His creativity should be lively and unhindered by stress, fatigue or ill health. The Transcendental Meditation program and the specific teaching strategies employed at Maharishi Academy for Total Knowledge help develop this foundation for success and fulfillment in college and for the rest of his life. In other schools, a young man can accumulate stress and fatigue and develop a distaste for knowledge. Learning is a natural process and a fulfilling experience. It should not be associated with cramming and late nights, resulting in dullness. A parent takes a very significant, positive step in providing for their son and fulfilling their role as a parent by enrolling them in Maharishi Academy.

To learn more about the school visit their web site-- www.maharishiacademy.org.


We came across a school website that got us to stop and take a look the other day. The Fork Union Military Academy's site makes the most use out of more web tools than  any school site that I've seen in recent memory. Beyond their embrace of web 2.0 technologies, we also like the fact that kids/students are clearly part of their intended audience. I think- visually- the site clearly appeals to applicant age viewers.

On the site, they incorporate a number of features to connect and build their community. From podcasting about a variety of topics to utilizing the FUMA 411 Forum- they're the first school we've found that uses a message board- the site is well positioned to deliver the news of the day. Take the forum, it presents information both to current and applying students; provides discussion sections for family and friends; The Chaplain's Corner keeps the extended community involved with the schools spiritual work; and alumni have a dedicated section. We like their willingness to start and provide a public place on the site for all members of the FUMA family to meet and exchange ideas/news.

Some of the discussion dates show that it's still developing, but it allows the wide school community to stay connected and maintain a feel for campus happenings.

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AdmissionsQuest's blog dedicated to boarding school admission & schools.

About this Archive

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

June 2008 is the previous archive.

August 2008 is the next archive.

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