Eagle in the Hen House
Heading home from a meeting, my thoughts were elsewhere as I walked across campus past the greenhouses and chicken coops. My contemplations were interrupted by the disturbing squawk of chickens in extreme distress — mixed with another much louder, high-pitched screeching. As I left the footpath and headed across the snowy field towards the hen house, a mature eagle flew up from the entrance, disappearing into the forest. I could not immediately tell if the eagle had taken any chickens but in their attempt to escape the predator, the chickens had managed to crush and kill several of their companions (I have since discovered four hens are missing and ten perished). This is not the first time nature and farm — our Naturalist Program and our Horticulture Program — have been in competition for attention on the High Mowing campus. Earlier this year, I received a desperate message for help from a resident faculty member who discovered a bear in the beehives!
I did what I could to take care of the chickens, calling for reinforcements. Brad Miller, the school’s horticulture teacher and farmer was unavailable, so I engaged the help of Dale Dintaman, Director of Residential Life, who temporarily extended his responsibilities beyond overseeing the students' residence to focus on the chickens’ residence!
Continuing my walk home, I passed Frye Field and noticed a student deep in thought as he walked across the yard. It occurred to me in that moment that, while chickens, eagles, bees and bears do not have identity issues — they know who they are and what they are meant do in the world – this is not the case with human beings. In fact, Rudolf Steiner, the genius behind Waldorf education, said in his lecture The Modern Art of Education:
(…) with the human being, thinking and will do not come together of their own accord, so that is why we educate. With animals it is a natural activity. With human beings it must become a moral activity. Human beings can become moral beings because here on earth they have the opportunity to bring thinking into their will. The whole character of the human being — in so far as it arises from within — rests on the proper harmony being established between thinking and will as a result of the individual’s own efforts.
The will-activity of children as they develop and grow has to be directed first, in early childhood, through example, and then guided through education. Ultimately, education connects their thinking with their will, freeing them from purely instinct-driven activity. In high school — at High Mowing School — through our unique curriculum (see Kathy Boss’ article High Mowing School and Waldorf Education), we serve the adolescent’s pursuit of balance between intellectuality and desire-driven action. The task of the developing adolescent is to discover one’s unique identity, gain an understanding of what it means to be human and find the relationship of self to the world and others. There is a need to reconcile inner life and outer world, and discover one’s life purpose — not things that trouble the bees, chickens, bears, nor even the powerful eagle. Wendy Bruneau, humanities teacher at High Mowing School, outlines this process in her article Why Faust? She describes how Faust, a required Grade 12 humanities block course, meets this developmental need. As Bruneau says, “Faust addresses the central 12th grade question head on:”
(…) the essential question for 12th grade students is who am I? As they prepare themselves to go out into the world, young people ask themselves what is my place in the world? And perhaps more importantly, what kind of person do I want to be? What am I here to do? Woven in with such concerns are the related questions of the role of good and evil in the world, and the foundations of moral action.
At the core is the adolescent’s search for identity, clear thinking and independence. Ultimately in the course of this search, while encountering the education, the developing adolescent arrives at an understanding of the responsibility of exercising free agency through moral action in the world. The curriculum at High Mowing School provides an ethical and moral education appropriate for the developing adolescent — an education that “rests on the proper harmony being established between thinking and will as a result of the individual [student]’s own efforts.” This is accomplished by nurturing the development of logical thinking, beginning in Grade 9 with a focus on the observation of phenomena in the world, to a shift in Grade 10 where the students seek to not only know how it is, but how we know how it is. Grade 11 students develop insight driven by a wish to understand their own inner life and how that balances with the wider world. Grade 12 students ask, “How can I have an effect on the world? What is my place and purpose? Can the world be changed by me?”1 Kim McCormick, a High Mowing School science teacher, describes this progression through the science curriculum in her article, The Nature of Science at High Mowing School.
In an article on procrastination, Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, asserts a direct connection between achieved identity and free will, motivation and self-directed action. He states, “(…) the more a person knows who they are, the higher the level of agency. (…) procrastination decreases as developmental issues of identity resolve.”
High Mowing’s developmental approach to education, with the aim of “achieved identity” and harmonizing thinking, free volition and free agency, is sorely needed in today’s world — and not just to end procrastination. In the light of the recent travesty in Newtown, CT, it is clear that our youth need to reconcile inner life with outer world to understand the responsibility of exercising free agency through moral action.
I am honored to be serving at High Mowing School where the unique curriculum fosters healthy development of each student, enabling each to realize his or her potential and develop the skills to contribute to a more compassionate society. I hold on to hope for the future when I see the courage to be human in this world of ours reflected back to me each day at our school. It is evidenced through the upright students that meet my eyes directly at roll call, and their strivings in the classroom, labs, library and lecture hall, in plays, at chapel and festival celebrations, in the A Cappella choir, in the jazz, orchestra and art studios, on stage, and on the athletic fields, in forest, and greenhouses….yes, even in the hen house feeding chickens or while studying the tracks of bears retreating from their dinner at our beehives. And, most definitely while observing the behavior of eagles clashing with the chickens who provide the eggs for the breakfast served in our dining room.
Now, through our Founder’s Merit Scholarship Program and tuition adjustment programs, we are creating opportunities for students from many walks of life to experience this kind of education. It is truly a gift.
— Rea Gill
1 Information about the Waldorf curriculum and the developing adolescent from The Educational Tasks and Content of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum, edited by Martyn Rawson and Tobias Richter, a research document produced in co-operation with the Steiner Schools Fellowship Publications, East Sussex, reprinted in 2010. www.steinerwaldorf.org.uk
Students created Renaissance-style limited palette oil paintings in a class last trimester.
High Mowing School and Waldorf Education
By Kathy Boss
In 1942 High Mowing School became the first high school in North America to be founded on the educational philosophies of Austrian scientist and thinker Rudolf Steiner. We have continued to operate on these principles ever since, making us the oldest Waldorf high school in the United States and the only one to offer a boarding program. Like any Waldorf school, especially at the high school level, here at High Mowing we implement the core principles and values of Waldorf education in our own unique way.
The educational movement started by Steiner, and now known as Waldorf education, began in 1919 when Steiner, with the financial backing of factory owner, Emil Molt, started a school at the Waldorf Cigarette Factory in Germany. The school was coeducational, teacher run, and while it started as a school for factory workers children, it quickly became open to all students. Steiner and the teachers at the original Waldorf School saw teaching as an art and students as whole people, not vessels for receiving information. In an age of industrialization and materialism it was a revolutionary approach to education.
It has been nearly 100 years since Steiner opened his school in Germany, and seventy years since Beulah Hepburn Emmet took a leap of faith and opened High Mowing School. Today the values of the schools opened by Steiner and his colleagues are alive and thriving at High Mowing and across the world. Waldorf education is the fastest growing independent educational movement in the world. There are over 900 Waldorf schools in 83 countries, including over 250 in the North America.
Educators, scientists and even experts in the business world, are coming to appreciate and advocate what Mrs. Emmet and others saw in Steiner’s educational philosophy those many years ago:
- By engaging students holistically as unique people and immersing them in a diverse community of peers, we help them develop self-awareness and the ability to relate to other people and the world with flexibility, compassion and imagination.
- By connecting teaching to the human experience, nature and real world conditions, we give students lasting insights and lessons that will equip them with the tools they need to make a difference in the world and understand what it means to be human.
- By giving teachers, the people who are most connected with the students, leadership and a strong voice, we ensure an immersive, informed and dynamic approach to pedagogy and curriculum that responds to students and adapts to their developmental needs and the conditions of their lives.
While many traditional high schools are looking to break out of the industrial model of education and graduate young people with the kind of creative, self-directed, and diverse abilities that are so much in demand today, High Mowing has been doing just that for close to seventy years. The ideals of Waldorf education have provided inspiration to several generations of teachers as they have worked together to create what is uniquely High Mowing School.
A Diverse Community of Unique Individuals
An important part of Waldorf education is giving students the opportunity to become immersed in a community of diverse individuals and to develop long and lasting relationships. In this way school becomes a microcosm of society where students learn to respect and understand individual gifts and challenges and bring out the best in everyone. The teacher’s role is to foster social awareness and to facilitate collaboration, cooperation and cohesion.
As the only Waldorf boarding school in North America, High Mowing offers a unique opportunity for teens from across the country and around the world to become integrated into a community where individual differences are seen as strengths, not threats, and compassion and kindness are cultivated every day. For seventy years the hallmark of High Mowing School has been its student culture of genuine inclusivity. Students are encouraged to explore all facets of their abilities and to take risks as they explore who they are, where their potentials lie and what they want to become. Our low student-to-teacher ratio makes it possible for teachers to really know and care for every student whether they have them in class or not. And their shared commitment to building a cohesive community that honors and celebrates individuality is evident in the warmth and compassion of our students. Visitors often comment on our student’s smiles and on how much they all seem to care for one another.
Connections to the Wider World and Nature
Projects Block, Fall Focus and the Senior Project are all High Mowing programs inspired by the impulse in Waldorf education to give students real life experiences. These programs give students the opportunity to deepen the understanding that they have developed in the classroom and to learn more about themselves as they interact with the world around them. Whether they travel the world, work at an internship, help on the High Mowing farm or participate in any of a wide variety of activities, students find new questions to ask and new skills to master. Their learning becomes more self-directed and their understanding of themselves expands making their experiences both in and out of the classroom much richer.
A key aspect of Waldorf education is the emphasis on the mastery of craft. When a student is working with a material — be it clay, or glass, wood, fabric or metal — and fashioning it into something useful or beautiful, their success or failure is evident. A badly made table will not stand, when iron is too hot or too cold it will not take the right shape no matter how much you pound it on the anvil. When a garden is not tended, it will not yield. These are important lessons often overlooked in schools today. At High Mowing all students work with their hands and experience the direct results of their efforts. They develop a work ethic and a sense of accomplishment and self-worth that comes from understanding that, if they set their mind to it, they can make or learn just about anything.
Our location on a beautiful hill in Wilton, NH surrounded by nature and easy driving distance to all types of natural habitats gives our Naturalist and Horticulture Programs ample room to immerse students in the natural world. Students learn to be patient and to let nature slowly reveal her secrets to them. Many hours are spent honing the senses while acclimating to being in, and feeling comfortable with, the natural world.
Immersive Academics and Arts
During the teenage years students seek strong mentors to guide them as they explore the many paths before them. They look for inspiration and for role models as they begin the work of forming the ideals and values that will guide them throughout their lives. At High Mowing our teachers are experts in their fields and they are highly committed to creating a warm, safe and inspiring environment for our students.
The developmental approach to education that is a key component in Waldorf education guides our teachers as they work together across the curriculum and in the classroom. Recently our science teachers took some time out of their summer vacations to refine and expand our science program. Kim McCormick’s article The Nature of Science at High Mowing School gives an excellent overview of how the developmental approach is applied here at High Mowing.
High Mowing offers morning block classes, a cornerstone of Waldorf education, throughout the school year. In blocks of 3 or 4 weeks, depending on the topic, students immerse themselves for about two hours a day in one subject. Subject matter is drawn from both the original recommendations in the curriculum developed by Steiner and his colleagues, and from an updated curriculum based on the ever-changing needs of students of today. Teachers, as you will see from Wendy Bruneau’s article Why Faust?, have both a thorough understanding of how these subjects relate to their students and a passion for what they are teaching. Their depth of understanding allows our teachers to become mentors and guides as students discover meaning and make connections to the world around them.
The arts are woven into the curriculum and integrated into many block and track classes. In addition, students are given ample opportunity to explore the arts deeply in classes such as painting and drawing, theatre and stained glass. Students are given not just the freedom to express themselves, but also the skills they need to convey their imaginations and perceptions of the world.
The world has changed a great deal since 1942 when Beulah Emmet opened High Mowing on her family’s summer farm and those first students stood up to have their names called and to recite the opening verse. The industrial age is behind us. The skills and the worldview needed to thrive in today’s world are those of the autodidact, the creative thinker, the inventor. And as communication speeds up and humanity continues to take up more and more space on this planet, compassion, kindness and an awareness of our impact on the world is more vital than ever before. Inspired by Steiner, Mrs. Emmet built a school that aimed to develop “wisdom of the heart open to an understanding of their fellow men, strength of mind, and freedom through richer opening vistas and high goals.” Through the years, Waldorf education has continued to inspire our teachers and to provide a golden thread binding us to that original purpose.
The Nature of Science at High Mowing School
By Kim McCormick
How does a human being become awakened to what is going on in the world? How can human activity become harmonious with what is around us?
These are central questions that guide many aspects of academic and social life at High Mowing School. For the science program, these questions are at the heart of the phenomena-based approach that defines science teaching at a Waldorf high school.
At High Mowing, the science curriculum focuses on developing the ability to perceive what is happening in the world through direct sensory experience. Instead of starting with pre-ordained concepts, students build scientific theories from their own perceptions of natural phenomena. The ability to perceive is the starting point for insight to think differently about the world.
Last year, the High Mowing science department began a review of its curriculum with the goal of refining and expanding our phenomena-based program to meet the diverse needs of our students. Michael D’Aleo, a master Waldorf teacher and consultant, is guiding the process. Two science teachers, Casey Attebery and Kim McCormick, joined educators from other Waldorf high schools last August, for a week at D’Aleo’s cabin in the Adirondacks. In this meditative setting, the group focused intensely on science block classes, examining how the blocks meet students’ developmental needs at each grade level. The insight that Casey and Kim brought back from the Adirondack workshop is key to the department’s curriculum review this year.
Moving forward, the science curriculum will focus on teaching specific thinking skills at each grade level. In grade nine, students often arrive at high school thinking they know quite a lot. Through the lenses of geology, anatomy and physiology, thermodynamics, and plant chemistry, they are asked to look again — to pay attention to what is going on in front of them — because things are not always as they seem. From observing natural phenomena, freshmen build concepts such as metamorphosis, lever, heat, and photosynthesis.
Sophomores are ready to link concepts together and build logical relationships between them. What is really going on here? Is there evidence of cause and effect? Does the reaction exhibit lawful behavior? Tenth graders ponder these questions as they study stoichiometry, motion (kinematics), embryology, and hydrology.
How do we imagine things we cannot see, but can perceive? In eleventh grade, students develop grounded concepts for things that cannot be seen, such as electricity, magnetism, and the atom. Students are asked to dissolve the material world and reimagine it.
High Mowing seniors learn to engage multiple perspectives and live in the space between apparent contradictory views. By investigating different viewpoints on the same topic, seniors develop flexibility in their thinking. In astronomy and visual physics, seniors explore questions such as, “What are the phases of Earth as seen from the moon?” and “What color is a specific point on a mirror as seen by two different observers?” In zoology and evolution, students classify animals into groups and study them in isolation. Yet, they learn to recognize that organisms are inseparable from the environment that shaped them and are utterly dependent upon one another.
In addition to required block classes, High Mowing offers science electives that appeal to a wide variety of student interests. For those planning to pursue science beyond high school, there are elective Biology, Chemistry, and Physics classes that introduce them to modern topics and theory, as well as provide additional laboratory skills. For students looking for a different experience of science, the Horticulture and Naturalist programs immerse students in the day-to-day work of farming and surviving in the natural world.
At High Mowing, students awaken to what is going on in the world through careful observation and contemplation of natural phenomena. When students study science in this framework, they gain confidence in their own thinking, remain open to new ideas, and begin to recognize the countless connections we have to everything around us.
Nativity at High Mowing School
By Nancy Tichanuk
Just before the Holiday Break, High Mowing School presented its annual Nativity performance. Raven Garland and Patrice Pinette provided artistic direction, and Rachael Johnson served as the production director. The pageant, which involved almost every student in the school, was rich in color and imagery. Raven, High Mowing’s eurythmist, worked closely with Patrice, who offered guidance and support based on her experience as the eurythmist directing previous years’ Nativity performances. Henry Lewers ’07, a gifted musician who also participated in several past Nativity productions, added his own artistry to the piano accompaniment.
During this year — our 70th— the history of Nativity has special significance. In an effort to convey the sense of tradition surrounding this event, High Notes offers this excerpt from our founder, Mrs. Emmet, from the early days of our school, as written in From Farm to School:
The Nativity at High Mowing grew out of one held at the Edgewood School — the Christmas story told in music, pantomime and song. It was worked out by the five seniors of the first graduating class, who had come up with us from Edgewood. Its form changed and adapted itself to our big room with its heaven-sent balcony. Between the two windows we built a shed of old beams and boards so that it looked like part of the room. This was curtained with skrim to hide the crèche until the angels came to open them. A Christmas tree with 33 red roses and the signs of the zodiac and candles balance the balcony. Above the crèche shines a star, a many-pointed star from Italy. The curtain is closed and everyone — shepherds, angels, Mary and Joseph gather behind to sing “Prelude Thought to Christmas.” Slowly the curtain opens to find Mary sitting on the steps listening to heavenly strains (from Palestrina) while the angels gather on the balcony, until her hearing becomes sight as Gabriel comes down to her. Then the vision (angels and Gabriel) vanishes heavenward to the “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” written for us by a student, who then took himself to Harvard to major in music.
Then comes the voyage to the inn in pantomime to an early English carol. Joseph and Mary cross to the inn and Joseph raps with his staff. The innkeeper stepping from behind the curtain is distressed for there is no room at the inn, then realizes as he meets Mary’s quiet look that something must be done. Worried, bewildered, he finally thinks of the shed and leads Mary and Joseph to it. He closes them within the curtain and goes back with a worried shake of the head.
The music now changes to an old Greek folk song, “Shepherds On This Hill.” The shepherds are apt to be many as they are our masculine singing group, led by a boy with a recorder. They straggle in, cold and weary and settle down to sleep. The angels, singing the same melody, descend and form a moving curtain in front of the crèche. They wake the shepherds to wonder, and joining the angels in song the shepherds move to the manger. Joseph receives their gifts and Mary shows the child — friendly, human. Then the shepherds move away to wait under the angel balcony.
The music changes to an early carol in a formal Byzantine mood as the kings come with their gift bearers, stately and magnificent in garb that came literally from the East. They cross the room, over and back and over again, a long stately voyage. They point to the star, find their way, and one by one present their gifts and then stand by the Christmas tree.
The Nativity closes with a full chorus of the “Gloria” and finally the “Sanctus.” The picture now seems like a Renaissance painting. The crèche in the center, angels above and around, shepherds to the right, kings to the left. The entire picture grew from the space of the room, the balcony, the steps, from music we found and music written for us, from materials given by friends and relations that had been to the East or had searched in their attics: a Nativity that grew at High Mowing. Every year it has been the same, almost step-by-step and note-by-note, and every year it is different because of the individuality of those who move through it.”
Scholarship and Admissions Opportunities
Calling all 8th graders and their families! The Founders Merit Scholarship program at High Mowing School grants tuition scholarship awards to successful ninth grade applicants. These competitive scholarships recognize exceptional students with excellent character as demonstrated through their academic achievement, activities, and community service.
Scholarship applications from students entering 9th grade* in September 2013, are due by February 15, 2013. Awards are $7,500 for day students and $10,000 for boarders. Scholarships are offered in the following five categories:
- Students from the Monadnock and Souhegan Valley Regions
- Pine Hill Waldorf School students moving up from Grade 8
- Waldorf students moving up from Grade 8 from any North American Waldorf school**
- Students referred by an educational consultant
- Grade 8 students moving up to high school from one of eleven specific independent schools
Scholarships will be renewed each subsequent year through graduation as long as the student remains in good academic and social standing. Complete details are available at www.highmowing.org/meritscholarship.
If you are not a current eighth grade student but you know of students or families who would be interested in High Mowing School and our scholarship program, we ask you to share with them this opportunity to experience a High Mowing education.
Applications for admission to the 2013-14 school year are also due by February 15, 2013. To get all the details, visit www.highmowing.org/apply, or contact Pat Meissner, Admissions Director, at (603) 655-2391 ext. 109. You can also email Pat at email@example.com.
*or entering 10th graders whose current school program ends at 9th grade.
**Please note that because we offer a special dedicated scholarship to Pine Hill students in honor of our special relationship, the scholarships for North American Waldorf schools are available only to students attending other Waldorf schools.
Fall Sports Awards
High Mowing School’s Fall Sports Awards celebration was held on November 14, 2012. The evening began with dinner, followed by the presentation of awards. All students participating in last fall’s sports programs were honored, with special awards given to several outstanding athletes. Congratulations to all for a fine soccer season! Click here for photos of the evening.
The following girls received special recognition:
Outstanding Player Awards: Allison Hill ’13, Hillary Renaud ’13, Torrey Carl ’13
and Dominique Wright ’13
Coach’s Award: Erin Grebenev ’14
The following boys were also honored:
MVP: Sam Laszlo ’14
Offensive Player: Leopold Schlaefereit ’13
Defensive Player: Oliver Durnan ’14
Coach’s Award: Nick Wilson ’13
Rookie of the Year: Sam Renaud ’16
It’s Time for Basketball!
High Mowing School’s Basketball season is now in full swing, under the guidance of Boys’ Coach, Dale Dintaman, and Girls’ Coach, Brad Miller. As an added bonus, the Girls Team has benefitted from additional mentoring by Tolin Vaccaro ’12 and Dylan Badger ’11, who were on campus for the first few weeks of the new year to help coach.
Keep up with the season's upcoming games and game highlights by visiting High Mowing's website.
Please join us at an upcoming game to cheer the teams on!
Beautiful Minds Challenge
The exact challenge was to “Make something beautiful. Say why it is.” Several High Mowing sophomores did just that, submitting their artwork and written statements to the Beautiful Minds art competition at Marlboro College. The challenge, open to all teens, asked the not so simple question: what is beauty? Elise Drapeau '15, Jeremy Elder '15, Jacob Kydd '15 and Kameron Rhone '15 endeavored to answer that question with words and images. Individual entries were submitted by Jacob and Kameron, while a group submission was made by the two-person team of Elise and Jeremy.
In the statement accompanying his work, Shattered Beauty, Jacob wrote, “Beauty is not necessarily perfection. Sometimes an object’s flaws are more beautiful than its flawlessness. The natural perfection of an apple itself is beautiful, but its flaws make it unique and therefore more real and tangible. The question is: why do flaws accentuate beauty? I believe that although absolute perfection can be beautiful in a way, it is never unique. Flaws are what really bring out the individualistic nature of something. A unique object is more beautiful than a perfect replica. A hand-made flowerpot is more beautiful than a factory made one even with, and because of, its flaws. In my painting the cracks on the apple demonstrate how flaws can increase something’s beauty by unifying the perfect and imperfect.”
Chosen as one of 20 winners, Jacob has been invited to attend the Beautiful Minds Symposium at Marlboro College in February. He will join current Marlboro students and faculty to share ideas and learn about the creative process. Marlboro College will also offer these winners a taste of college residential life by hosting their stay on campus.
Congratulations Jacob, and all who entered the competition!
Good Citizens Award
Congratulations to Nimrod Sadeh ’13 who was recognized by the DAR Good Citizens Program for his accomplishments. The Good Citizens Program and scholarship contest, administered by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, rewards seniors who have demonstrated the qualities of dependability, service, leadership and patriotism. These qualities must be expressed through unselfish interest in family, school and community.
The local Captain Josiah Crosby Chapter of the DAR recognized Nimrod’s achievements. He is now eligible to participate in the scholarship contest, which involved the writing of an essay last December. In March, he will read that essay at a luncheon meeting of the DAR. If chosen as a state winner, he will receive an award of at least $250. Divisional winners receive a $500 cash award. The national winner will be invited to Washington, D.C. to attend DAR Congressional Congress, and will be awarded a $5,000 scholarship, as well as an inscribed silver bowl and certificate.
Best of luck, Nimrod!
Update from the Student Council
By Nina Duggan ’13
The High Mowing Student Council is split into three groups or pods: the Academic Pod, the Social Pod, and the Communications Pod. Each pod has been covering a wide array of issues.
In particular, the Academic Pod has been examining the freshmen curriculum and feelings of isolation from the other grades. The Communications Pod has been working on issues of transparency in the student council, making sure all of the student body knows what is going on and what the student council has been doing. They have also been working on facilitating communications between faculty and students.
The Social Pod has been working on items revolving around dorm life and overall dorm happiness, as well as events organization. Several Student Council members, including myself, have also attended faculty meetings and have provided a student presence and given student input on issues that were presented by the faculty.
Each pod has written up its own mission statement and has been working out goals for the coming year. We have finished with elections and each pod has a secretary and an operational leader. We have also elected representatives of this inner circle of reps and secretaries and have elected an overall secretary and operational leader for the council, as well as another rep to go with the operational leader to faculty meetings.
Making Music with Mozart Mentors
This past fall, Naylani Halpern-Wight ’14 joined Mozart Mentors, a semi-professional chamber orchestra at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Mozart Mentors was created by Clorinda Noyes, a member of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, and Tony Antolini, the director of choral music at Bowdoin College. This unique orchestra combines the expertise of professional musicians with the talent and enthusiasm of budding artists — providing a much-needed venue for the music community. One professional musician in each of the string sections of the orchestra acts as a mentor to the student musicians in their group.
Naylani was invited to join Mozart Mentors after participating for several summers in the chamber music program at the New England Suzuki Institute — whose founders also initiated Mozart Mentors. On December 1 and 2, she performed in two concerts of Charpentier's Messe de Minuit pour Noel, playing first violin.
Reflections on Fall Semester Abroad
By Mercedes McMahon ’14
“Ich bin Amerikanerin.”
“Wirklich? Mann merkt es nicht.“
The above conversation translates roughly:
“Really, it isn’t noticeable."
I can safely say that this conversation was one of the happiest moments of my entire time in Germany. It was almost as if my “real life” had been put on hold and my “new life” could be measured entirely in small successes like this one. Every bus ride that got me where I wanted to go, every person who didn’t switch to English as soon as I opened my mouth (and they’re rare now) and every time a complicated grammatical concept translated easily to natural speech, was one more gold star on my imaginary chart of successes.
I don’t remember exactly what I was expecting my overseas experience to be like, but I do remember the first thought that popped into my head as I stepped off the plane at Zurich airport. I had been flying all night and just entered the airport, when I noticed a large sign in German with a French translation underneath it. I read it fairly easily — all it did was direct people to the shuttles that take them to the baggage claim area. But, all I could think was, “Oh no, my Spanish is going to be a disaster after this trip!” After that, everything else hit me and I realized that I was almost 4,000 miles away from home in a foreign country. And here I was worrying about being out of practice with my Spanish when I got home! It suddenly sank in that I wasn’t going home for 118 days. Even the idea of “home” seemed unbearably far away at that moment.
Now that I am nearing the end of this journey, I can tell you that the experience has been paradoxically too short and too long at the same time. The day I arrived feels like yesterday, but my first day of school here feels like it was years ago. My life in Germany is measured in successes and moments. All of the other stuff in the middle is a bit of a blur.
As I write this in December, I will be on plane returning to the US in only 14 days. I am honestly not sure how I feel about this. It will be wonderful to be HOME for the first time in four months, to see people, sleep in my own bed and return to my life — because it is, after all, my life in a way that is simply not the same here. However, I have finally carved out a place for myself in this no longer quite so foreign country. It was not easy. In fact, at times, it seemed impossibly difficult. But, I have built myself a life here. It is made from all the precious moments saved in my memory: the first conversation I had in which I didn’t have to ask how to say something, the time that someone asked me for directions, and all of the moments that I just fit into this strange world effortlessly. I can only assume that this life will be put on hold when I return to the US in two weeks, suspended indefinitely until the day when I return. And I will return. I have the feeling that Germany isn’t quite done with me and I am certainly not done with Germany.
Block Classes Now in Session
Here is a window into the classroom at High Mowing School, with a look at what students are currently doing in some classes:
Organic Chemistry with Lab / with Kim McCormick and Sturdy Knight
In this block we’ve turned our attention to three areas: 1) Practicing careful observation and recording skills, 2) Learning the scientific processes by which substances are transformed by plants into diverse organic materials that are further transformed by humans, and 3) Working safely in a scientific laboratory with chemicals, glassware, Bunsen burners, and other lab equipment.
Greek Drama and Studies in World Theatre / with Dale Coye and Jonathan Northrop
The block began with a review of the origins of drama and theatre in ancient Greece. We also touched upon the major historical developments in the world of theatre up to the present day. The block includes readings from the works of famous playwrights and will culminate in a staged performance of Crusader, Muslim, and Jew, a reworking of one of the most famous plays from German literature, Nathan the Wise by G.E. Lessing. It takes place in Jerusalem in the 12th century at the court of Saladin, the Muslim leader at the time of the Crusades. Lessing was a leading figure of the Enlightenment and this play is a plea for compassion and Humanism in the face of bigotry and intolerance. Performances will be held during the school day on January 31, and in the evening on February 1. Families are warmly invited to attend the Friday evening performance, in the Big Room, at 7:00 p.m.
Projective Geometry / with Casey Attebery
Standing on the shoulders of the “finite” geometry developed by Euclid, projective geometry opens up the broader vista of the infinite by posing questions about the nature and influences of planes, lines, and points at infinity. From these questions, one can begin to glimpse the polarities between point and line, on the one hand, and between point and plane, on the other, that give rise to the living world around us.
We have approached the subject primarily through philosophy, drawings and constructions, beginning with sacred geometry of the ancients, and reaching towards the “Pappus Line” (an Ancient Greek anticipation of projective drawings). Through the study of graphs, we learned about projections as functions that “project” higher-dimensional objects into the two-dimensional plane. In the closing days of this block, we are studying how some larger, higher-dimensional graphs cover, or “project down to,” smaller cycle graphs. This block also includes the required reading of Flatland by Edwin Abbott.
Faust / with Wendy Bruneau and Robert Sim
Faust is literally the achievement of Göethe’s lifetime and is one of the great iconic stories of Western culture. In this block we read the play closely, with an eye toward appreciating its art and its meaning, discussing many of the important themes and questions it presents. We have discussed Göethe’s life and the connections between his life and work. For a more in-depth look at this block, please see the related article, “Why Faust?” in this newsletter.
Just before the Holiday Break, juniors and seniors in the Chemistry track class worked in teams of two, with only one hour to separate a mixture of iron filings, salt, sand, and poppy seeds, into its four components. Teams were scored on the accuracy of their percent composition of dry materials at the end of the hour, as well as for laboratory technique and written documentation.
By Wendy Bruneau
Goethe’s Faust is a perennial college text, but in many Waldorf schools it is a standard block in the 12th grade. Why do we bring this play, published almost 200 years ago, to our seniors? What does it have to say to them? Every year as I hand out the books at the beginning of the block, someone inevitably asks “why are we reading this?” I’ve had to face this question squarely in order to stand at the front of that room and feel confident that they will see the answer at the end of three weeks.
As high school teachers, we recognize that that the essential question for 12th grade students is who am I? As they prepare themselves to go out into the world, young people ask themselves what is my place in the world? And perhaps more importantly, what kind of person do I want to be? What am I here to do? Woven in with such concerns are the related questions of the role of good and evil in the world, and the foundations of moral action.
To address these questions, the senior-year curriculum includes required block classes with topics focusing on the study of the self and views of the human being, and the human race, through time. For example, the seniors study human evolution, world religions and the Transcendentalist poets, all important topics in understanding what it means to be a human being. Faust addresses the central 12th grade question head on, although from a different perspective than these other block classes. It does this in two ways: first, through the story itself, and second, through the biography of Goethe.
In the previous year, the students will have studied Gilgamesh. This ancient story addresses the question that worried the people of the earliest civilizations: why is there death?
In the modern world, we accept death. As Goethe wrote, we have moved beyond that question to the conundrum of the modern world: why is there evil? How is it that human beings are the most benevolent and altruistic creatures on the planet – as Steinbeck wrote, “the only species willing to die for a cause” — but also the most cruel and evil? The catalog of horrors of the last century — from Nazi Germany to Rwanda to Darfur — calls us to try to understand evil, and to face the ultimate question of what it means to be a human being when humans are capable of such extremes in behavior.
Goethe gives us in Faust the splendid character of Mephistopheles, who struts onto the stage in a way that instantly brings to mind both Milton’s extraordinary Satan and the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil: “please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste.” His wisecracking character is instantly intriguing to students. Mephistopheles takes no guff from anyone, he has the answer to everything, he makes fun of education, he argues with God, and looks down on the mass of humanity as insects who stick their noses “in every piece of dung.”
Students are fascinated by this character; they too have developed quite a swagger in that senior year as the big kids on campus! But this is the devil! Are we supposed to like him? What a surprise to learn that God, as presented in Faust, requires the devil to keep humans striving toward the accomplishment and achievement of which only they are capable.
Seniors are almost ready to step out into the adult world, and they feel quite proud of themselves that they have come so far, quite grown up and ready to leave the sheltered world of high school. But at the same time, they are afraid. They want the rights and freedom that come with adulthood, but they don’t want to lose the qualities that make childhood so magical. They don’t want to become cynical or jaded. They don’t want to lose their imaginations and live a life of dulling routine. They may worry about becoming their parents (or at least blindly repeating what they perceive as their parents’ lives).
Mephistopheles hits to the core of this fear. Here he is, laughing at humans because (in his view) their lives are pointless — they just keep doing the same things generation after generation, trying to achieve, no matter how he tries to stop them.
As for that scum of beast — and humanhood,
There’s just no curbing it, no quelling,
I’ve buried them in droves past telling,
Yet ever newly circulates fresh blood.
Through the play, Mephistopheles appears in different costumes, either red or black, representing two aspects of evil. In red, he presents the active, passionate side of evil — the violent, the rash, the angry. In this guise he goads Faust to kill a man. In black, Mephistopheles represents the colder side of evil — the calculated, the neglectful, the unfeeling. In this costume, Mephistopheles first introduces himself to Faust as representing the void that came before creation, stating that his ambition is for the world to go back to that void of darkness and nothingness. He prefers the “Eternal-Empty.” Ultimately, what he represents is not active evil as we usually think of it, but rather the evil of simply not caring, of finding life hopeless, pointless and not worth pursuing.
What has this constant doing ever brought
But what is done to rake away to naught?
Exploring these two aspects of evil, and discussing where we see them in the world, brings home the idea that it is not only what we do that may cause harm, but what we allow to be done. What an important idea to face when considering the question of who one wants to be!
When we meet Faust himself, we find a disappointed, middle-aged man grousing about in his dusty study. He is a professor, a learned man, but feels fragmented, unfulfilled; he has wasted his life in second-hand book learning, never made much money, never had anyone love him. How can any teenager identify with such a character? In the negative! This is precisely what they don’t want to be. They don’t want to go out into the world and become complacent, boring adults who never achieve what they once set out to do. They want to change the world!
But then we see Faust have an epiphany; after a miserable night in which he contemplates suicide, he walks through the town on Easter morning and passes through the masses of common folk. They talk about drinking, about who is handsome, who is going with whom — all silly and pointless chatter, from Faust’s educated point of view. But these people are happy and smiling, and he is miserable! Is it better to be superficial and ignorant? Is that what brings happiness? If not, why is that? It would be so easy to be like a cat snoozing on the bed all day, but would it be any good for long?
Through his association with Mephistopheles, Faust puts aside his dusty books and sets off into the world of sense experience, to find things out for himself, to really live. Under Mephistopheles’ tutelage, he starts with bars, skirt-chasing and visits to satanic dens — all very unsatisfying.
But then Faust goes on to grander things: an imperial court, a science lab in which life is created in a glass jar, a massive building project, marriage, and fatherhood. By the end of the play, Faust has quite literally changed the world. And — contrary to popular misconception — he doesn’t have to sell his soul to the devil to do it. Goethe leaves us with the extraordinary idea that redemption lies not in refraining from doing bad things, but in doing things, getting things done, exploring and learning, even if terrible mistakes are made along the way. It is human action and effort which are the antithesis of the void that Mephistopheles would prefer. As Goethe wrote, “how can you come to know yourself? Never by thinking, always by doing.”
Faust ultimately brings us the message seen on so many T-shirts: “life is good.” And not only that, but you can choose what kind of an adult you will be.
Goethe’s biography is also brought to bear on this subject. Like the play itself, his life is not presented as a venerable relic, but as something alive – Goethe’s life has something important to tell us today. Like Goethe’s characters, the man himself is intriguing to students and can be identified with easily, which is not something they expect to find in this “dead white guy” at all! Goethe burnt himself out as a teenage law student, overdoing the coffee and alcohol and staying up all night madly writing poetry. He was a love-sick youth, hopelessly in love with his best friend’s wife. What teenager has not suffered the pain of unrequited love? Goethe’s coup, however, was to turn this experience into a best-selling novel which made him the toast of Europe. He was then hired to be a companion and mentor to a young nobleman, providing further adventures, many on galloping horses and involving close encounters with the law. But the wild living was always tempered, in Goethe’s case, by responsibility and achievement.
Goethe is the anti-Peter Pan. For those students who aren’t quite sure if they are ready to step out into the world, his life says, “It is good to grow up; it is exciting and rich with possibility.” Here is man who was a bureaucrat for much of his adult life — but was also a celebrity novelist, a scientist, a great dancer, a writer of poetry in praise of intimacy with the love of his life. There’s that message again: You can choose what kind of an adult you want to be, and in spite of its many difficulties, life is good. “Nothing is worth more than this day!”
Now out into the world with you!
Images above: Emerson by Amber Johnston '11; Faust by Mica Low '10; Faustszene by Friedrich Gustav Schlick; black and white still from FW Murnau's 1926 film. A version of this article was published in Renewal: A Journal for Waldorf Education in the Spring/Summer 2010 issue.
Batik and Weaving
The craft of batik and weaving are popular courses this year at High Mowing School, taught by Studio Arts teacher, Rachael Johnson, whose students recently created works of art in both mediums.
In the Batik, Silk Screening, and Block Printing class, batik dyes were set up for the entire trimester. Instruction was given to students on the basic techniques, with projects designed to master certain aspects of the medium. Students were limited only by their own imaginations in terms of the subject matter they portrayed. As a result, they created stunning designs and captivating portraits, landscapes and more. Working with the challenges of dye color order, applying wax, and rendering detail, even the cosmos was within reach!
In the Weaving elective, students explored preliminary techniques of weaving on a large loom. The entire process of weaving took place during the trimester — from designing and choosing colors to taking a finished woven blanket off the loom. Students clearly enjoyed working in this practical, artistic medium, which connected them to cultures older than the Egyptians.
Prior to the Holiday Break many of these beautiful, handmade items were on display in the school for all to enjoy.