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After reading their blog and writing our own post about Gould Academy's 9th Grade class trip to China, we wanted to know more- about the program's genesis, it's philosophy & goals, and how it fits into Gould's program.

We wrote Tucker Kimball, Gould's Director of Communication and he was kind enough to fill us in and share some photos (see gallery below):

1. How does the China trip fit as part of the Ninth Grade Program? What concepts will the China trip provide, emphasize, teach, reinforce and teach?
 
Tucker Kimball (TK): This trip is part of Gould's larger Four Point Program. Four Point, as it is known around campus, provides each class with an unforgettable experience that takes students out of their comfort zones and provides the opportunity for self reflection and growing self confidence. During the last week in February, ninth graders travel internationally, sophomores remain on campus engaged with local artists and the local community, juniors spend 8-10 days winter camping in the White Mountains, and seniors follow their own passions through independent projects that often take them around the globe.
 
For many ninth graders, this trip to China is their first experience traveling internationally. Imagine being 14 or 15 again and traveling to China? It is an amazing opportunity and one that is so important to Gould's mission of preparing each student for the global community. Our ninth graders will come away more unified as a class and, individually, each one will have learned more about his/her self and that they are part of something larger.
 

2. Is the trip a culmination of a specific course of study?  Do students study China specifically before the trip or does the ninth grade program revolve around teaching concepts and China is 'this year's  trip?"
 
TK: There is an intentional, shared curriculum in place for our ninth graders that works in concert with ninth grade Four Point. Through their English and Human Geography courses, ninth graders learn about China's landscape both physical and cultural through novels, poetry, and film. They've studied Taoism, Confucianism and the Cultural Revolution. So, they have a great background before they leave and are that much more engrossed in the culture when they arrive, culminating in a very powerful experience.
 

3. Does the entire ninth grade go?

TK: Yes, every year the entire ninth grade travels internationally. The Four Point Program is a graduation requirement.


4. What's the goal for the students?  How will they use the trip after their return?  Will teaching and lessons continue drawing on the trip for the rest of the year?

TK: Each student is required to keep a 60 page journal based on themes they've covered in their English and Human Geography classes. When they return, each student creates a 500 word narrative from their journal. This serves as the script for a digital story that each creates layering narrative, photos and finally sound.
 
The reflection aspect of Four Point is a very important part of the program. The experience does not end once they return. It changes into something just as a powerful, as they begin to process the trip and how it has affected them and their view of their world. Self discovery through experience is something Gould is very good at. 

Franny Shuker-Haines, Associate Director at Buxton School (Williamstown, MA), was kind enough to chat with us about Buxton and how the school carries John Dewey's framework of progressive education into the 21st century. Buxton students are an engaged, active group. Through academics, work and community Buxton students practice their responsibilities to each other and to the larger world every day.

Question: What's the Buxton story?
Franny Shuker-Haines: Buxton has always defined itself as a progressive school. The school was founded in 1928 by Ellen Geer Sangster, a social worker, who was deeply influenced by the writings of John Dewey. Her goal was to create a school that would allow kids to learn from their experiences in the living present. To that end, she was determined that the school be diverse, interactive, intellectually stimulating, artistically rich, and community-oriented. Buxton continues to be all of those things; it is through students' interactions with each other (across every kind of societal "line" you can think of: race, gender, class, interest, ability, talent, educational background, etc.) in a variety of settings that they really get educated.

Q: What are some of the special qualities and programs that make the school?
FSH: Classes matter, but they matter as much for the content of the student-oriented discussion as for the raw content the teacher is hoping to convey. Community matters enormously at Buxton: the students maintain the physical plant through our twice-weekly Work Program, they maintain the dorms through daily work jobs, they maintain the spirit of the school through various leadership roles and caretaking duties. And the arts matter: virtually every student takes some kind of arts class at Buxton; many take many!

For a small school, we offer a wide and deep arts curriculum, because we believe in the outlet for expression that art provides, the discipline it requires, and the richness it brings to our collective lives. At the end of their time at Buxton, our students have learned what it means to take care of themselves and each other, they have felt the weight and rewards of real responsibility, they have lived among a small but very diverse group of peers, and they have learned to value their own curiosity, creativity and ability.

Q: What's specially valuable about a Buxton education?
FSH: It gives young adults a sense of agency. They know that lawns don't mow themselves, for example; they also know that dedicated people doing the right thing can make an enormous difference. Through our investigative all-school trip, they learn that the world is a complex place, but that it is being run by real people who you can talk to, learn from and challenge. They learn first-hand that "diversity" is not just an abstract term, but a process of getting to know individuals well, taking them seriously, and negotiating a shared life with them. And, maybe most importantly, they learn that they do not live in a vacuum--that their actions have real repercussions in the lives of others. In an increasingly global world, these skills and lessons seem more important to me than ever.

Visit the Buxton School's website or send them a catalog request to learn more.
I recently had the opportunity to visit with Brad Bates, Dublin School's new headmaster. In his answers to our questions, he shares the thoughts and experiences that drew him to the school. He talks about his first months at the school and his vision for its future. His answers paint a picture of the qualities that make Dublin a vibrant, connected community.

Bradford Bates, Head of School, Dublin SchoolBrian Fisher (BF): What special qualities or feelings drew you to Dublin?
Brad Bates (BB): On my first visit to Dublin School I attended one of the school's daily "morning meetings." One hundred and thirty students sat in the Recital Hall with fifty adults lining the edges of the room while students and teachers took turns standing up in front of the group celebrating community. They made announcements, sang songs, reported on team victories and play performances, and generally inspired one another at 8:00 in the morning! These kids were not self conscious or hesitant, these were individuals who had clearly found their voices at Dublin. This one brief experience captured for me the very essence of this great school and convinced me that this was a place where I hoped to dedicate my efforts.

BF: If memory serves, your father attended Dublin did your knowledge or thoughts and feeling for the school lead you to Dublin?...how did you come to Dublin?
BB: My father attended Dublin and graduated in 1953. His mother died when he was young and Dublin was the major formative experience in his life. My brother, sister, and I were raised in the Dublin tradition and were taught to pay careful attention to our studies, experience art and music, get outside and ski as often as possible, serve the community, and do everything we do in life with "truth and courage." When I heard that Dublin was searching for a new Head of School, I felt this would be a perfect match for my background and a great challenge as well. My wife Lisa and I decided that this was the place we wanted to raise our own children.

BF: How have your first few months gone? What's been the most comforting and reassuring part of the school and what's been the biggest surprise?
BB: Our first few months at Dublin have been a powerful experience. We have always known that Dublin is one of the best kept secrets in the educational world, but we have been continually surprised by the small and large transformations that take place in our students when challenged to take risks in such a supportive environment. No one can hide here, we need everyone to participate in our classes, performances, dormitories, and athletic contests.

Last week my wife and I invited the seniors to our house to eat some milk and cookies and watch a ball game. The students were too busy to watch the game and ended up around our piano taking turns singing and playing. In such a media-infused culture, I found this simple and wonderful scene to be both comforting and reassuring.

BF: How have you been received by Dublin's many constituents?
BB: We have been welcomed by Dublin School's many constituents in the classic Dublin way; we have been warmly and generously embraced by everyone we have met. The culture and ethos of this place have a way of bringing out the very best in everyone who is fortunate enough to be a part of the community. We have a terrific "team" feeling here as we move forward.

BF: What do you see as Dublin's strengths and how will they move and shape Dublin into the future?

BB: Dublin School has always been about people. We have a beautiful campus, a unique New England village feel to our buildings, but our focus is always on the individual as part of a human community. Our diversity of backgrounds and interests combined with our clear mission to develop curiosity, engage in meaningful work, and live lives of truth and courage creates a structured learning environment where ideas are celebrated and nurtured and values are modeled and taught. I am confident that our graduates will shine in an uncertain world with their disciplined work ethic and creative approach to problem solving.

BF: What areas are you focusing on from the beginning?
BB: From the beginning, our team has been focused on creating a rigorous academic experience in a structured and supportive learning environment, building community by increasing family style meals and school forums, reconnecting with the opportunities offered by our beautiful 300 acre campus and the surrounding mountains and lakes, ramping up our athletic program, and providing the very best facilities for our terrific visual and performing arts programs.

BF: Looking to the future will you be exploring long range planning such a campus master plan and capital campaign?
BB: We are just completing an intensive master planning process that has been highly successful in marshalling the many talents of our great Board of Trustees and the many other constituents in our school community. We were fortunate to find an architect whose vision allows Dublin to become more Dublin than it is today. We have plans to add a number of buildings over the next ten years, beginning with an observatory and a visual arts building, but the focus of our planning committee has always been to increase community spaces where individuals can interact with one another and with our bucolic campus.

BF: Do have any thoughts or designs on changes and innovations will make Dublin stronger?
BB: As a history teacher at my previous boarding school I was fortunate enough to work with an inspiring group of teachers and we all worked together to create an innovative approach to teaching history. At Dublin I see an opportunity to develop an overall method or approach to learning, tying together our academics, athletics, the arts, the residential curriculum, our use of our beautiful campus, that I see as a way to further distinguish the school and collaborate with other schools seeking to innovate and design schools that will truly change lives and prepare students for the unique demands of stewardship and citizenship in a global economy.

BF: Make your case; why Dublin?
BB: Speaking of changing lives, in his book Colleges That Change Lives, Loren Pope argues that "a familial sense of communal enterprise" is an essential element of great schools today. This sense is infused in all we do at Dublin and is the very reason that the lives of students, teachers, and even heads of schools are transformed in powerful ways here. We all thrive at Dublin because each individual's unique talents are needed daily, and all of us participate in the school play, on our athletic teams, in our community dinners and forums, in community service, in our weekend "work gangs," and in our annual camping trips. Dublin is intentionally small and has found a niche among students and families who want to feel that they count in the life of the school. We could not be more excited as we begin this next chapter in the history of Dublin School.

To learn more about Dublin School, visit their website or send them a note.
Midland School's Director of Admission, Derek Svennungsen, spoke with AdmissionsQuest boarding school blog about the school and progressive education. Midland, located in Los Olivos, CA, is an all-boarding, co-educational college preparatory school. If you're not familiar with the school, here's a brief description from their site:

"As other schools get larger and build more buildings and create more overhead, Midland makes do with redwood classrooms and cabins, an intentional and profound educational philosophy, and a belief that students, and adults, benefit greatly by living close to nature. As our students learn to do more with less, they also live--on a daily basis--the values of independence, interdependence, and stewardship of the land. As we continue to stay close to our mission and philosophy, Midland remains a powerful antidote to society's excesses and materialism."

We thank Derek for participating in our Q&A series.

Question: How is Midland a classically progressive school?
Derek Svennungsen: Connection is core of Midland's program. Academic classes connect students to the land in powerful ways. Freshmen take Midland 101, a class where students are on the property at least once a week. Students learn how to use maps and compasses, study the school's geography and history, learn the native and non-native flora, and take several camping trips whose purpose is to connect their learning to their lives.

Other classes, such as Writing with a Sense of Place, Geology, and Naturalist Studies, all make extensive use of the outdoors. Sophomores, in their chemistry class, install a solar array to help power the school. And as a culmination of their academic experience, each senior writes and presents a senior thesis, an extensive paper based on some question they want to answer.

Our facilities further contribute to the experience; classrooms are simple redwood cabins, one of which has only three walls, and are wood heated. This simplicity connects students to the natural world, and to each other, because there is nothing artificial to interrupt the specific and unique learning experiences that Midland offers.

Beyond the classroom, Midland's job system puts kids in direct control over the running of the school. Midland hires no custodial or wait staff; all campus jobs are done by students, and the job program is overseen by senior job heads. When a 14-year old is learning how to do dishes with a 17-year old, and they work together every day for an entire semester, an invaluable sense of pride, empowerment, and connection emerges.

Even in our rusticity and labor-intensive approach to living and learning, Midland is steeped in progressive values.

Q: What does progressive education cultivate in students?
DS: Today's youth don't spend much time working on the behalf of others. In our "do this for me" society, it is rare to be of genuine service. Midland counters this attitude by directly involving students in the academic and job programs. So instead of looking for others to solve problems, Midland students learn to be active and engaged, and look for ways to contribute. What occurs, then, is a unique combination of independence and interdependence. Students learn how to do things on their own, but most of what they do at Midland is done for the greater good of the community. This is a powerful lesson that can only be taught experientially and on a daily basis.

The best example of this is our Shower Fire system. The student showers are heated by wood fire, and each day, it is a different student's responsibility to make and stoke the shower fire. So the student is sifting ashes, cutting wood, and starting and maintaining a fire, all on his or her own. And every other student benefits from this one student's efforts. There is very little resistance to these job requirements, because it is the way the school is run, and the seniors are in charge of all these systems. So being of service becomes a natural, even a welcome, part of each student's experience here. It gets in the blood.

Q: How is progressive education valuable today?
DS: Most schools present themselves as places where a wide range of things will be done for the student. The promotion of this value has dangerous effects on students, who learn to expect things to be done for them and available to them.

At Midland, we look at it the other way: if you come to Midland, think of all the things you can do to benefit the school. This is a progressive and student-centered way of looking at what education is really for. And the results are students who don't expect to be pampered, who are accountable, and who want to be connected. This is why progressive education, and The Midland Experience, are so valuable today.

Q: It seems like understanding and connecting and sharing with others is a Midland cornerstone?
DS: We have two all-school assemblies each day, run by the two senior head prefects. Everyone has a chance to contribute during these assemblies. Five nights per week, we have family style dinners, in which faculty and students are mixed together by the senior head prefects, and each student stays at that assigned table for the week. This nightly chance to talk, eat together, and teach appropriate table manners is a centerpiece of our community. There is always something from our garden in the meal, often harvested by students earlier in the day or week. After dinner, many students study in faculty homes, which further connects students and adults.

It sounds like empathy is one the qualities that Midland students grow to understand? Midland is a tough place to go to school. The daily demands of academics, jobs, athletics, the environment, and living in a small community pose challenges that no other school offers. Midland students, having made the choice to be a part of this unique experience, are naturally empathetic. They understand that it's difficult, and they understand that everyone is making sacrifices here as we work against society's "me first" attitude. They've made the choice to be here because they believe in connectedness, in hard work, and, whether they know it or not, progressive education. We think John Dewey would feel right at home here at Midland School.

For more information on Midland School, visit their web site of submit a catalog request.
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.


Gould Academy Takes to the Snow

We recently spoke with Mark Godomsky, Gould Academy's On-Snow program director. On-Snow results from Gould's commitment to using and connecting the school to its surroundings. In Bethel, Maine, this means students on and in the snow- in programs ranging from recreational skiing, to ski patrol, to a competition program the trains year round.

Question (Q): Can you tell us about the genesis of the On-Snow program? What are its roots? Did it grow out of an earlier program?

Mark Godomsky (MG): It's not a stretch to say that skiing has been at Gould for nearly as long as it has been in America. I've got a pair of jumping skis that belonged to an alum from the class of 1933. They were presented to me by the former Gould Nordic coach, a man by the name of Dick Taylor who was also captain of the 1964 U.S. Olympic X-C Team. There is a lot of tradition here of outstanding snow sports and outstanding coaches. People like Dick and going back to the 1950's people like Paul Kailey, a Middlebury alum who helped develop the competitive skiing program here and who was also a pioneer in developing Sunday River. Gould's On-Snow Program today is a continuation of a historically strong offering that is steeped in tradition. Along the way we've added "newer" elements like the competitive freestyle and snowboarding programs and Ski Patrol. Like those before use, we continue to look for ways to make the programs better and continue the tradition.


Q: Why On-Snow right now? Anything special about the opportunities or timing?

MG: These high quality programs offer a variety of opportunities for student-athletes in the winter that are tough to find within the traditional boarding school realm.  

A student at Gould can spend six days a week on the mountain snowboarding or freeriding, developing his/her skills and staying fit. Another student might spend six days a week learning life saving skills, working toward certification as a member of the National Ski Patrol. And finally, a student can train hard six days a week with a qualified, full time coaching staff made up of former NCAA Division I racers and coaches. There is something for everyone who enjoys being on the hill or on our 40km on-campus trail system.


Q: Do you envision On-Snow growing into a pillar or major component of the school?

MG: I'd say it is a large component and one of many unique programs that sets Gould apart from other traditional New England private boarding schools. We're only six miles away from Sunday River Ski Resort. The backside of the mountain is the backdrop for our campus. Our relationship with and proximity to arguably the best ski resort in the northeast with some of the most varied terrain is very attractive and difficult to find anywhere else in the East. But, it's not about being a pillar or a major component. As I heard recent alum and current U.S. Ski Team member Bump Heldman '07 say this past fall, "At Gould, I got a great education and could ski with the U.S. Ski Team." He was a standout catcher on the baseball team, a positive member of the community, a great student who was accepted at strong schools, and was the recipient of this year's Eastern Ski Writers Association Award. One of our core values at Gould is to develop the whole person. The On-Snow Program is part of the package.

Q: Can you lay out the pieces of On-Snow and what each might mean to a participating student? Competitive versus non competitive?

MG: Gould's Competition Program provides student-athletes the opportunity to train and compete at the highest level in a number of disciplines: Freestyle, Snowboard, Alpine and Nordic. Skiers and snowboarders compete between 30-50 times a year, travel all over the country and the world, and are on-snow four hours a day six days a week including school vacations. During the off-season, they train in trampoline and water camps and in a variety of summer conditioning programs both on-snow and off. Due to the number of hours required, the Competition Program requires a student-athlete who is truly committed to athletic and academic success.

For students who enjoy competition but are looking for a less rigorous program, Gould offers its Prep Program. This is designed as a traditional prep school team sport, where student-athletes participate in a school race league and compete once a week. The program requires a commitment of three hours a day five days a week when school is in session.

On the non-competitive side, Gould offers some very unique programs. A large number of students take advantage of the Rug Rats Program, teaching local elementary school kids how to ski and snowboard three days a week. Those who participate find the experience to be very rewarding.

Gould's Ski Patrol Program is the only one in the country that helps students become certified members of the National Ski Patrol. The program requires training six days a week including one day of classroom work. Students work with full-time Sunday River patrollers. It typically takes three years of training before a student becomes a certified member and requires a strong commitment.

We also offer a Ski & Ride Program which gives students the opportunity to spend four days a week on the mountain with one day of conditioning. This is a popular program that gives students a way to stay fit and enjoy Sunday River. There are no weekend commitments and the groups are small averaging eight students to one teacher.

Q: How large is the program? What percentage of the student body participates in On-Snow?

MG: It is a large program. This past year approximately 80 percent of our student body (roughly 250 students) were involved.

Q: Is On-Snow designed to work and serve as the focal point of winter sports? Either way does this mean anything for other winter sports such as basketball and hockey?

MG: It is certainly a very popular and robust program, and we have a different class day schedule in the winter to maximize day light hours on the mountain and Nordic trails. The program has little to no impact on our basketball program. Our varsity boys' team won the western Maine Championship two years ago and were in the post season again this year as was the girls' team. Overall, our competitive athletic programs are strong.

Q: On-Snow seems outdoor oriented, does Gould have any notions of expanding On-Snow into the fall or spring programs- giving them any more of an outdoor flavor?

MG: We offer a lot of opportunity for dry land training and conditioning in the fall and spring. This summer we are offering an on-snow training camp at Mt. Hood in Oregon. Going back to our whole person core value, along with academics, athletics, arts and community life, we believe that intensive experiences in the natural world is an important part of developing the whole person. Our location in western Maine on the edge of the White Mountains is a terrific asset and plays a role in our identity. Gould also offers rock climbing, fall student orientation trips, an eight day winter camping trip for the junior class, and each fall the entire school takes a day off to climb a mountain together.

boarding-school-review.pngWe recently had the opportunity to talk with Javier Colayco, founder of Boarding School Review (BSR), about how his boarding school experience shaped his efforts to help promote & feature boarding schools via the web.

BSR presents school profiles and alumni reviews to families exploring boarding school options. Javier is a 1996 graduate of Northfield Mount Hermon School.

Many thanks to Javier for taking part in the Q&A.

Question (Q): You graduated from Northfield Mount Hermon School. Tell us a little bit about your NMH experience and why you returned to working with boarding schools.
 
Javier Colayco (JC): Northfield Mount Hermon School (NMH) was a terrific experience - I felt I grew so much both intellectually and as a person. I had previously been more of a shy kid, but boarding school drew me out of my shell. It challenged me to become more independent, and as a result I grew more confident of myself. I feel that the more difficult things I've done later in life, such as starting a business, were possible partly because of the growth I experienced while at NMH.

Q: What appeal did working with schools hold for you? How did BSR evolve from an idea to a feature-rich site?
 
JC: Having had such a great experience in NMH, I wanted to help others also discover boarding school. And I recognized that at that time (early 2003), there weren't many websites where families could find college-prep boarding school information. Finding and comparing statistics on schools was difficult. Finding reviews of schools from former alumni was also hard. I thought that starting a website that addressed these difficulties could make the idea of attending boarding school more accessible, broaden the school choices that families would consider, and ultimately attract more students to the school search process.
 
Q: What presented the greatest challenge as you got started in the process?
 
JC: Getting started was probably the hardest part - there's a lot of inertia you need to overcome when starting a new business. It's a bit overwhelming since you're not quite sure where to start. There's naturally also some fear of failure that you need to overcome. This is where it helped to be focused, organized, and very self-motivated - which, coincidentally, are all traits you build in boarding school. Once we committed ourselves to the site and built some momentum, it became much easier to approach and deal with any problems that arose.
 
Q: Did schools welcome your perspective or did they require some convincing?
 
JC: It required some convincing at first, as I think a number of schools were still getting used to the idea of using the Internet as a main channel for reaching out to students. Soon, though, I think they saw that families were increasingly using Boarding School Review, finding it very helpful, and actually drawing in more students to the school search process. What also helped was that we tried to be very receptive to feedback from schools - some of the best features of the site have come from admissions and communications officers making great suggestions.
 
Q: What's the biggest change or adjustment that you had to make in your approach or plan?
 
JC: Initially, we thought that we could basically build a successful site with just our own vision and ideas. But we found out pretty quickly that that there were a lot more people out there - admissions officers, educational consultants, families in the search process - whose input and ideas were often better than ours. So we became much receptive to feedback, and pro-active in looking for any suggestions or areas where we could improve. That change in mindset helped a lot in both improving the site and involving schools in its evolution.
 
Q: What's your relationship with NMH like? Have you been featured in any of their materials or programs?
 
JC: I was actually featured in an NMH brochure - in 1995! I was a student at the time, and I had a small blurb about me since I was singing a brief solo for Christmas Vespers. I don't think the solo went very well, which is why they haven't asked me to appear in any materials since! Nonetheless, I think we're very friendly with the great admissions office and communications people there.
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.
 

In Part II of our conversation with Mark Sklarow (Executive Director, Independent Educational Consultants Association), he talks about the history and current state of consulting- how it's evolved and what consultants do today.

Question (Q): Tell us a bit about the history of educational consulting- it's beginnings, where it stands, and the future.

Mark Sklarow (MS): Consulting first appeared 30 years ago and for quite some time was a field practiced by only a few dozen specialists with extensive knowledge of the boarding school world. This began to change about 15 years ago when many consultants began adding college consulting to their work. Five years later LD counseling and assistance with students exhibiting emotional and behavioral difficulties also grew. During this time IECA recognized that it was critical that we as an association establish stricter standards, promote training and education and raise the level of knowledge and competence of members. As the field grew both in demand and the number of consultants, increased emphasis on ethics became central to the IECA mission.

Q: How has the industry changed with the rise of the Internet? How have consultants adapted?

MS: The rise of the internet has led across the board to a decline in intermediaries: web users are less likely to need the help of librarians; they go to the source- less likely to need the help of a salesman as they make purchases online; they are even less likely to seek medical advice for small matters, consulting the web.  

This same trend is clear in all areas of school admission: why seek advice when I can open web sites for schools? The answer should be clear: the thousands of matches for boarding experiences, tens of thousands of matches for school admission and the general glut of information has left families more confused, not less. However the role of consultants is evolving. They are no longer intermediaries. Rather, they act as guides, advisors and coaches to help steer families through the hundreds of thousands of information bits to the real, critical information that will serve their needs and the needs of their child.

Q: National internet based consultancies-- how do they work? Any changes in the way consultants works with a family? Are they using tools like web sharing, Skype, etc to bridge the distance gap?  

MS: The basic should remain unchanged: all consultants whether web-based or seen across the kitchen table should be experts who can gather as much information as possible about a student and family and use their years of knowledge and experience to distill information down to what is most useable and the best-possible matches to serve a student's academic, emotional, social and community needs.

Q: Are there any obvious trends into which the industry is moving or trends that are shaping the industry?

MS: Yes, as the field grows, we see a growing specialization of members, especially as it relates to students with special needs: gifted, LD, emotional, behavioral and more. Increased specialization to include practices with increased knowledge of art, music, and athletics is now becoming apparent. Consultants also must know more about public schools, charter school and for-profit institutions in their own community.  

Another differentiation we see is in how services are delivered: in person, internet, evenings...and how fees are assessed: hourly, as a package of services, even as a part of an employee compensation plan. Through it all a major requirement is for consultants to become more knowledgeable, continuing their education and training both in formal settings and through campus visitations.



We want to thank Mark again for participating in our Q&A series. Drop us a note if you have ideas for future Q&A posts.

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