Welcome to the Summer Issue of High Notes
It has been a whirlwind of activity on Abbot Hill for the last few weeks! There were celebratory graduation events and activities, followed by an intense week of professional development for teaching and administrative staff, topped off by our much-anticipated High Mowing Alumni/ae Weekend. Now, with the broad expanse of summer before us, I have a moment to reflect on all of these activities and the accomplishments of the year.
Congratulations to the Graduating Class of 2013!
It has been an honor and a privilege to spend the past two years at High Mowing with this year’s extraordinary graduating class. Although they have moved on, a powerful image expressed by this class at various pre-graduation events and ceremonies remains: the students often referred to High Mowing School, and the Spirit of High Mowing, as a wonderful “parent” who provided a safe, fertile learning environment, imbued with unconditional love, surrounded by a solid safety net (or “rules” as they called it!), resulting in the richest possible learning, self-development and transformational experiences for them. It is a wonderful vision, which will keep those of us that remain behind on task. And for that, we thank them!
At the Baccalaureate service, Bruce Darby spoke of this class as possessing incredible potential and capacity for love and transformation, which certainly resonates with my experience of them. The world desperately needs people with these capacities. And as Mr. Darby indicated, they have much work to do! Fortunately, they are well equipped with a diverse range of interests, gifts and skills, as evidenced by the impressive list of college and university acceptances and plans they have for the future. I wish them all Godspeed on their journeys. We will miss them greatly.
What do all successful Waldorf schools have in common?
A mere week after Commencement, during Alumni/ae Weekend, the David Blackmer dedication ceremony took place, As I sat in my chair at the end of the dedication, I felt a firm, friendly hand squeeze my shoulder from behind. I turned around and was delighted and thrilled to see Chris Schaefer, my past teacher and mentor from Sunbridge College, where many years ago I completed the Non-Profit Administration and Community Development program. Chris is an alumnus of High Mowing School and normally his busy personal and professional schedule does not allow time for him to come to Alumni/ae Weekend, but this year he was able to attend! I enjoyed a long visit with Chris and his wife, Signe — also one of my teachers at Sunbridge. I heard about their recent work in China, helping with the rapidly expanding number of Waldorf initiatives and schools there, and about Chris’ most recent book, Partnerships of Hope: Building Waldorf School Communities. His book describes our unique worldwide educational movement, a movement as culturally diverse as the many countries in which it thrives. I shared with him the advancements at High Mowing School over the past two years.
Ever the consummate teacher, Chris shared with me the results of a recent study, conducted by one of his students, which asked the question “What is it that all successful Waldorf schools have in common?” He told me that successful schools do three things: they focus on the quality of the pedagogy and teaching, they offer something to the broader community, and they ensure the teachers, administrators and support staff understand the school’s finances. When I later reflected on these wise words, I realized that at High Mowing School we have initiated processes in all three of these areas. The bar at High Mowing School is rising, and we can proudly include ourselves in the ranks of successful Waldorf schools! During this weekend, I heard from visiting alumni/ae that the school has never looked better. It was gratifying to hear that they experience such positivity here on the hill.
High Mowing: “…a place where people of all ages, from across the world, and down the street, can come together…”
Our annual Alumni/ae Weekend event is certainly one way we offer something back to the community — specifically to our alumni/ae. But, as a result of our intention to purchase and conserve 105 acres of Frye Farm, there is so much more on our horizon that we are planning. At the Alumni Association meeting, Kathy Boss, HMS Director of Community & Resource Development, and Brad Miller, HMS Farmer and Horticulture Teacher, described future possibilities for program development, which include not only curricular and extracurricular programs for the students, but also possibilities for the involvement of our surrounding community. The soon to be acquired property contains portions of four of Wilton’s seven wellhead protection areas, plus local recreational trails and frontage along the Souhegan River. The plan also involves the conservation of an additional 54 acres of land already owned by High Mowing. The Monadnock Ledger Transcript recently published an article on the pending purchase.
The plan to acquire this land has sparked a proposal, recently approved by the HMS Board of Trustees, to study the feasibility of growing our educational programs, and integrating and involving students in collaborative research, innovation, and experimentation in the areas of sustainable agriculture, forestry and land use. Also, at the heart of the proposal “is the desire to create a place where people of all ages, from across the world, and down the street, can come together and connect directly and compassionately with nature and her gifts.” We will soon hear more about High Mowing School’s plans — as a result of the land acquisition — to enrich offerings to students as well as to increase opportunities for the participation and involvement of the surrounding community.
Future Planning: Next Year and Beyond
Hand in hand with plans for community development and as part of the long range planning process is the ongoing development of our curriculum — a process in which the faculty, students and trustees have been engaged for the past year. Many meetings, conversations, surveys, research, and open space planning have resulted in a new vision, mission, statement of values and objectives for developing High Mowing School. In preparation for the next steps in this process – identifying priorities and developing strategies to realize these objectives – there was a rich envisioning session at the end of our professional development week, which was attended by trustees, and teaching and administrative staff. We began with the question, “What will High Mowing look like in 10 years?” The collective imagination was inspiring! Along with many other exciting images, our vision included an outdoor amphitheater, and indoor recreational and performing arts facilities, with students participating in a diverse array of curricular and extracurricular activities. These ranged from a student-run farm selling fresh and preserved produce and products, to horseback riding, exploration of trails through the forested land, and yoga and meditation in a Zen garden. We envisioned year-round student-use of our campus, through summer camps and a Gap Year program, with students accommodated in combined faculty-student family-style clustered housing. Our imaginations glimpsed indoor and outdoor classrooms with all students engaged in courses that provided multi-sensory, multi-modal approaches to learning. And of course we envisioned a long waiting list, with potential students eagerly anticipating the news that a spot had opened up for them!
Meanwhile, in the near future, a pedagogical task group has been selected to work over the summer with consultant Helen-Ann Ireland on future program and curriculum development beginning with the 2014-2015 school year. However, plans are also in the works for program and curriculum enrichment for next year. For example, a pilot academic program with a unique approach to learning will be launched – you can read about it in High Notes in the article A Quest for Knowledge. Next year we will also have a movement (PE), athletics and outdoor education program director. Peter Sheen will be joining our faculty to teach movement education classes, and will also begin working on the design and development of a comprehensive movement, athletics and outdoor education program. He will work with Dale Dintaman and the Residential Life faculty to create, implement and oversee a movement and outdoor activities program for all students — with particular attention to the boarding students on weekends.
The math and science teachers are developing our four-year curriculum scope and sequence, which identifies the knowledge and skills every student must demonstrate before graduating from HMS. The entire department is also looking at how to integrate horticulture activities and programming into the overall science program. The Humanities Department has reviewed our grade 9 and 10 integrated English programs and clarified the overall goals — with an emphasis on writing instruction. English teachers worked together with main lesson teachers in several sessions during professional days to plan the curriculum – and this collaborative work will continue in the fall. The department is also looking at the World Languages program and how to integrate the international exchange program into the World Language curriculum. The Arts Department is engaged in conversations to define overall aims for their Department, and more specific aims and objectives for sub-departments and programs. The music program is currently under review by the music teachers and the Pedagogical Leadership Circle. The ESL-International Student Program, designed and piloted this year by Bev Boyer, has been highly successful, After a comprehensive review, there will be some changes to the program to improve the quality of the experience for ESL/international students. In addition, changes for next year have been made to the International Student Admissions protocol to implement a more rigorous process of admitting ESL students — so their success is ensured and the positive social experience and culture of all HMS students is preserved.
Student Life and Support Services will be strengthened next year with changes to the counseling programs. Andrea Badger, College and Life Path Counselor will be available on a full time basis, and we are launching a pilot Wellness Counseling Program. There will also be increased human resources in the library. In addition, the student Community Work, and Advisee Programs are under revision with the intention of creating more effective programs.
HMS block classes have always included the visual arts. During professional days, the science, math and humanities teachers began planning and collaborating with the arts teachers, to include even more integration into the block lessons for next year — such as sculpting and other practical arts, eurythmy and music. The faculty is also working to create opportunities for juniors and seniors to focus on a concentration area of their choosing (with adult guidance) in order to develop a deeper relationship to a topic and create an individual path to graduation. These focus areas might include the Naturalist program, the arts, horticulture, writing, science, math or something of particular interest to the student. The faculty is re-affirming their commitment to a ‘wholeness of experience’ from morning to night by developing a comprehensive Community Life Curriculum. This will ensure what happens during the academic day is fully supported and integrated into all aspects of the life of all of our students.
High Mowing has a rich program of humanities, math, science, world languages, fine, practical and performing arts, diverse movement education and individual interest electives — all immersed in and surrounded by nature — and there is no intention to change this as we begin work identifying priorities and developing strategies for the future beyond next year! However, many educational scholars are calling for a focus on preparing students with 21st century skills. In order to stay current with the needs of the times, High Mowing faculty have been identifying the skills that will be demanded of students after they graduate from high school. This past year we have been reviewing the programs and re-examining the goals of the curriculum at High Mowing School and defining and refining what already serves the students well. As a modern Waldorf high school, we firmly believe that through many different approaches to learning our students develop capacities which give them flexibility in life.
Some of the role models (besides Rudolf Steiner) who will inspire the work of future planning are giants like Howard Gardner and his multiple intelligences theory and theory for teaching for understanding, Daniel Goleman and his popularizing of the work on emotional intelligences, Wiggins and McTighe and their work on backward design, and Marzano for his cutting edge work with rubrics and scores for assessing student work. All of these people put the teacher-student-content relationship at the center of an excellent program. This is a marker for High Mowing as well. What puts High Mowing on the cutting edge of delivering curriculum is that it has always had these theories in practice. It is the intention of the planning group to refine this work.
The entire faculty and staff at High Mowing School are working hard to consciously and intentionally manifest our vision:
At High Mowing School we recognize and nurture the highest potential in each person. We are a community where students discover who they are and develop the capacity for living fully into the future as it unfolds for them. We aspire to be a model for Waldorf education in the 21st century, and a catalyst for positive change in the world. Our graduates are confident, innovative leaders in diverse pursuits, reaching their goals and contributing to a sustainable, compassionate and peaceful future.
It is inspiring work to be part of an educational movement with such potential for current and future generations. One look at the Class of 2013 reminds us of why we are here. The whirlwind of activity on Abbot Hill, which has passed for the moment, is far from dormant. It is simply gathering momentum. You can feel the energy in the air. It’s time to breathe deeply and move forward.
Graduation at High Mowing
By Mary Graham, parent of Fiona Graham ’13 and Gillian Graham ’05
The day dawned with pouring rain as seniors made their way to the Big Room for their last roll call at 8:00 a.m. An hour later, the sky lightened, a cool breeze wafted through the tents, and the sun came out to create the most beautiful day in recent memory for graduation on “the Hill.” Families gathered, old and new friends connected, and the community assembled to witness the ceremony for High Mowing School’s 70th graduating class.
This occasion also marks the end of an era for me as a parent — the last graduation in my family after twenty years of Waldorf education on Abbot Hill. It’s been a priceless experience, and this long-awaited day has a taste of bittersweet finality as the realization dawns that this happy occasion is also the parting of friends, a rite of passage, and a portal to new and unknown horizons.
The music begins and twenty-six seniors walk down the garden steps in stately procession to their seats. The rain has cleared, yet there are many moist eyes among the parents, teachers, and friends who have gathered here under the tents. Rea Gill, Executive Director, greets the audience with warm words of welcome. Jonathan Northrop follows, describing the class with inspiring words of introduction, painting a picture of old souls, wise beyond their years.
Luke Sanchez ’13, chosen by the class, is the Senior Speaker. He relates his experiences searching for deeper meaning in his education and finding what he was seeking at High Mowing. It is clear to all that he has grown into a poised young man, able to speak from his heart to a large assembly and confidently pursue his path in the world.
The Senior Cap goes to Oliver Durnan ’14, and is presented by Syd Oliver ’13. And, the Faculty Scholarship Award is presented by Wendy Bruneau to Peter McColl ’13, in acknowledgement of his cheerful and tireless service to the school.
Silas Beardslee ’06 delivers the Commencement Address. Articulate, engaging, and witty, he recounts to a rapt audience his fascinating journey of adventure, service, extreme hardship and self-discovery, told and experienced from a perspective of deep inquiry and intuitive insight. His courage, determination, and wisdom in the face of both opportunity and adversity are an inspiration to all who would seek a life of purpose, morally lived. I am deeply moved by his strong love for the world, and what he has been able to accomplish in just a few years.
And then, Robert Sim, Academic Dean, and Cary Hughes, Dean of Students, begin the cherished High Mowing tradition of speaking about each senior with affection, admiration, and humor, presenting to each a diploma and a warm embrace.
As a parting gift to all, the student-led a cappella group, MRP (Music Related Puns) forms a line facing the seniors and sings Wanting Memories by Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell. It is an emotional song, presented in beautiful four-part harmony — a fitting finish and farewell to a class that will be greatly missed.
Following the closing verse, spoken by Naylani Halpern-Wight ’14, the graduates step out of the tent into the warm sunshine and toss their caps high into the sky. The sky’s the limit! Or is it? Tears of sadness and gladness mingle in the happy confusion of congratulations that follow. No limits, Class of 2013! You came together to share this experience from all over the US and from Canada, China, Bali, Switzerland, Spain, and Israel. Now you will again disperse, to colleges, gap-year experiences, and new adventures. The deep connections and memories you’ve made here will sustain you throughout your lives, wherever your journey takes you. May you all go forth from this hilltop haven, fearlessly finding what you seek, generously giving of your gifts, and living deeply from your hearts’ knowing. The world, I know, will be a better place for it.
See more photos of the day, and login to the website portal pages to watch a video of the entire ceremony.
What's Next for Our Seniors?
The Class of 2013 is a diverse group of talented individuals. Their plans for the future reflect that diversity. We wish them well in all their endeavors and can’t wait to hear more about what they do and where they go. Their immediate plans include:
Boston University (MA), International Relations | California State University/Northridge (CA), Sociology and Communications | Champlain College (VT), Business | Clarkson University (NY), Engineering | College of the Atlantic (ME), Human Ecology | College of the Holy Cross (MA), English, Modern Languages, and Philosophy | Colorado College (CO), Music and Liberal Arts | Curry College (MA), Health and Wellness | Eugene Lang College of the New School University (NY) | Franklin Pierce University (NH) | Hamilton College (NY), History, Computer Science, and Chinese | Hampshire College (MA), Spiritual Philosophy and Technology | High Mowing School Digital Arts program (NH), Post-Graduate Internship | Kenyon College (OH) | LEAPNOW, through Antioch University, study and service in India | Middlebury College (VT), Music and Mathematics | Pennsylvania State University (PA), Business, Psychology, and International Communications | Queen’s University (Ontario), Nursing | Savannah College of Art and Design (GA), Graphic Design and Illustration | The Evergreen State College (WA) | The FEMA Corps of AmeriCorps NCCC (IO) | University of Connecticut (CT) | University of King’s College (Nova Scotia), Interdisciplinary Humanities | University of New Hampshire (NH), computer science | Wheaton College (MA), Music, Business, Religion, Philosophy, Film, and Education
Welcoming the Advent of Spring
May Day reminds us of the joy we feel each spring when winter loses its grip on the land. It’s time to plant, sing and dance. And, that’s just what students did — literally and symbolically — on May Day this past April 27.
The day began with an opening skit in which Winter was driven from the land. In this case, Winter was a silver-clad entity with his own opinions on the matter — and driving him out took the combined efforts of a few supernatural beings. Once the job was done, merriment ensued and so did Maypole and Morris dancing. Onlookers enjoyed traditional songs, followed by face painting and games. There was even a student-made racecourse for marbles, which directed them through the activities of a day at High Mowing!
The festivities continued with inspiring and entertaining student performances, the annual pottery sale and more. But more than anything, participants enjoyed a celebration of spring and everything good that stems from coming together as a community. For images of the day, click on the photo below.
In Support of Science Education
High Mowing School recently announced the creation of an exciting new fund, established in memory of David Blackmer. A member of the Class of 1945, David reconnected to the school in the 1970’s. At that time, he moved back to Wilton, NH, so that his children could attend High Mowing. Over the course of the next decade, his commitment to the school expanded. In 1978, with the passing of our founder, Mrs. Emmet, David’s involvement solidified into an important role of support and guidance.
David was an accomplished scientist and inventor, and a pioneer in the field of acoustics. It is our privilege to announce The David Blackmer Science Fund, established in his memory, to support science education at High Mowing School. In the future, it will fund:
- Science related programming — including field trips, speakers and guest teachers
- The purchase of specialized scientific equipment
- Subscriptions to scientific periodicals and media
- Scholarships for HMS students attending non-HMS programs — such as the Science Olympiad and FIRST Robotics Program
- Professional development for science teachers in areas related to their scientific field or the teaching of science
Thanks to the generosity of several current and former board members, as well as the David Blackmer Family Foundation, gifts to the David Blackmer Science Fund will be matched 1:1 up to a total of $15,000, doubling contributions to this new fund! To make a donation, please contact Kathy Boss, Community and Resource Development Director, at (603) 654-9408, ext. 105. She will be happy to answer any questions you might have. You may also contact her by email at email@example.com
We are grateful to David Blackmer for his support of High Mowing, and excited about the possibilities this new fund creates!
Faculty and Staff Transitions at High Mowing
It is a bittersweet time of year, full of transitions at High Mowing. While our recent graduates move on to the next phase of their lives, so are several faculty and staff members. Departing faculty members include: Sturdy Knight, Residential Life support and English 9 teacher; Katherine Murray, Residential Life faculty; Sarah Philip, School Nurse; Casey Attebery, Math and Science teacher. We will miss them all and wish them the best in their new endeavors. Additional departures include three administrative staff members: Nadia Shahmehri, Admissions Assistant; Marcia Page, Development Assistant; Nancy Tichanuk, Associate Director of Print and Publications and High Notes editor/designer. We thank them for their tireless efforts and contributions to High Mowing!
We would like to welcome several new staff members, who will be joining us for the next school year: Peter Sheen, Colleen O’Connors, Amy Inglis, Kyle Finnell, Liva Jostad-Laswell, and Kim Campos.
Peter Sheen, has been teaching in Waldorf schools for over 20 years and is currently teaching at the Princeton Waldorf School. He will join HMS as our Director of Movement Education and Athletics. He grew up in England and was educated at Michael Hall, a Waldorf boarding school. He is an ex-tennis professional and has completed Spatial Dynamics movement education training. He is certified as an elementary and high school teacher, with a focus in high school art and art history. He is also a talented musician. In addition to overseeing the athletics program, and coaching basketball and soccer, Peter will be teaching movement education classes (PE) as well as developing a comprehensive movement program. Additionally, he will work with the Residential Life staff, on the creation, implementation and oversight of the movement and outdoor extracurricular activities program.
Colleen O’Connors, has been teaching for over 20 years and has a biological sciences undergraduate degree as well as Waldorf teacher certification. She also speaks three languages! In addition to teaching science and other subjects, she taught English as a foreign language for many years at a Waldorf school in Switzerland. At High Mowing, she will be teaching science, math and English 9.
Amy Inglis, Kyle Finnell, and Liva Jostad-Laswell will be Residential Life interns during the 2013-2014 school year. Amy Inglis grew up in a Waldorf family – both her parents attended a Waldorf high school in England, and Amy was educated at the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School. She has a degree in studio art, is an artist and photographer, and loves sports and horses. She is an AmeriCorps volunteer, currently working in California at a Camphill Community — an organization that provides community homes for children, youth, and adults with developmental disabilities. Kyle Finnell is a history and sociology major, with a minor in philosophy. He loves sports and being outdoors. He is also an AmeriCorps volunteer, currently working for a Camphill Community. Liva Jostad-Laswell graduated with honors from the Sacramento Waldorf School (her sister is a High Mowing alumnae!) and she has a degree in literature and creative writing. She served as a volunteer for AmeriCorps and worked for two years at a Camphill Community in New York. She currently works in Austria as a high school English teaching assistant. Kim Campos, a local registered nurse, will be our new part-time school nurse.
We welcome them all and can’t wait for you to meet them on campus next fall! We are currently engaged in a search process for a Physical Science teacher, and we are in a hiring process to fill the vacancies in Admissions and Development.
History Comes to Life in 1776
If there was ever any doubt that history repeats itself, High Mowing’s spring musical put that notion to rest. Once again, producer Dale Coye created a memorable onstage experience, with the help of Wendy Bruneau (costumes), Mark Ferguson (music) and a host of student and staff volunteers. But, history repeated itself in other ways, as well. Through the performances of our talented students, the audience experienced how Congress has previously had difficulty building consensus around important issues — just like today. In the spring of 1776, the thirteen American colonies were in turmoil. Fighting between the English troops and revolutionary militias threatened to engulf the colonies. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Congress struggled with the responsibility of whether or not to declare our independence.
Through lively dialogue and debate, 1776 follows the short but intense period of time leading up to the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence. Carried along by the wit of Ben Franklin (Zach Adinolfi ’13), the hard-driving tenacity of John Adams (Leo Schläfereit ’13), and the soft-spoken brilliance of Thomas Jefferson (Jeffrey Searls ’15), the story unfolds. Complete with high drama and delightful comedy, High Mowing students delivered stirring performances as members of the Continental Congress, transporting the audience back in time, to the days of long horseback rides to deliver important messages and lack of central air-conditioning to cool political heads.
Heartfelt duets by Adams and his wife Abigail (Sophia Darby ’13) personalized the political struggle, while the self-centered singing of Richard Henry Lee (Alex Adinolfi ’14) added humor and warmth. Sam Bernstein ’13, as Edmond Rutledge, brought a dark side to the play as he sang about molasses, rum and slaves. And Siddhartha Phillips ’13, as a simple courier, brought the difficulties and desperation of the colonial troops to the forefront.
All in all, it was an amazing performance of a very rich play. Bravo to all — and special thanks to The Fort at Number 4 and the Historical Society of Cheshire County for their help with authentic costuming.
Prom at High Mowing
For many students, Prom is the highlight of spring at High Mowing. An all-inclusive event, the entire school is encouraged to attend. This year was no exception, and on Saturday, May 18, the young men and women at High Mowing dressed up to enjoy the evening and this year’s Carnival theme. The processional from the dorms marked the start of the event, with dinner and dancing soon following. For photos of the evening, click on each of the three sections: Promenade, Prom and Buddy Photos.
In Pursuit of Musical Excellence
It’s been said, “the willow plays the water like a harp.” But, if you heard Fiona Graham ’13
play that very same instrument, you might question the abilities of the majestic willow tree! Such are the melodies and tones she elicits from this impressive instrument.
Perhaps this should come as no surprise — Fiona began playing lever harp at age five, studying with international touring harpers Michael Rooney and Grainne Hambly. In fact, she has travelled several times to Ireland to study and participate in overseas music festivals. As if that weren’t enough, at the age of eight, Fiona also began violin lessons with Candace Wharton of Francestown.
Two years ago, with the assistance of High Mowing’s David Anderson Music Fund, she began lessons on the pedal harp, and currently studies with Kathleen Lyons of Bow, NH. The pedal harp is a more versatile instrument — and larger than the lever harp. It is sometimes called the classical or concert harp. Picture the large, ornate harps seen in grand ballrooms or orchestras. The pedals allow Fiona to play with both hands while changing the pitches of the strings with her feet. This allows her to play classical pieces exactly as they were written by the original composer.
As a performing artist, Fiona has played with the Sinfonietta, the Keene Chamber Orchestra, and the Nashua Chamber Orchestra. She has also attended the New Hampshire All-State Music Festival for the past three years. This past April, she headlined a concert to benefit the David Anderson Music Fund at High Mowing — raising money for the very same program that funded her own lessons.
Performed on April 20, this inspired program featured three pieces with Fiona on pedal harp, as well as a variety of chamber music pieces where she was joined by Andrew Koutroubas (cello), Mark Ferguson (piano), Aurora Pearson (violin), Cam Twarog (violin), and Joe McConaughy (viola). Fiona's featured pieces included Nocturne in E-flat by Glinka, Arabesque no. 1 by Debussy, and Pavane, op.50 by Fauré.
As a fundraiser for High Mowing School’s Music Fund, the concert offered Fiona a way to give back to our supportive musical community. Established in memory of David Anderson, a member of High Mowing’s class of '96, the David Anderson Music Fund provides scholarships and supports music events in the local community. Many talented, young musicians — such as Fiona — have received assistance in pursuing their musical ambitions through the generosity of this fund.
Fiona is planning to continue harp and violin studies next year as a liberal arts major at Colorado College. We wish her luck in her future plans and hope to hear great things from her!
Weaving a Portrait of Joe
Joe Laszlo ’13
is an unpretentious young man — evidenced by his surprise at being the subject of a High Notes
article. Joe does not seek the spotlight. Rather, he is usually found doing good things just because they need to be done, often when no one is watching. As a member of the Class of 2013, Joe embodies the character and grace that many of our graduates possess. High Notes
was curious to learn more about Joe through his own reflections on his time at High Mowing.
Joe came to High Mowing as a freshman. During the past four years, he has taken a wide range of classes. “I liked that I got to try a little bit of everything at the beginning — to find what I enjoy. At a different school, I would probably have never experienced weaving, for example. At High Mowing, there are many great classes to choose from. Students have the freedom to pick and choose within that realm.”
In his free time, Joe took on extra tasks, such as crafting the beautiful wooden Christmas book, or helping teachers when they needed practical assistance. In fact, Joe gained a reputation for his skillful ability to work and create with his hands. In some of his classes, he acted as an assistant teacher — not because he wanted attention, but because other students knew he possessed the skills and willingness to help them. In weaving class, he wove four or five times as many pieces as the other students, in addition to repairing many of the looms and sorting out problems with other student’s work.
“I like solving puzzles,” he said.
Perhaps one of the reasons Joe is so good with his hands revolves around the great deal of practical work he does with his family — such as raising horses and doing other farm chores. “I am comfortable with big animals, any animals on a farm,” he said. He also reminisced about time spent outdoors as a child. “This gave me an understanding of the outdoors. It made me comfortable outside. I don’t mind being outside in unpleasant weather, for example.”
When asked what the most valuable thing at High Mowing was for him, he brought up his connection to the teachers. “The teachers trust the students. They give the students the tools that they need, and then allow them to discover things on their own.”
The success of this method has played out in Joe’s Weaving elective class. Over the course of two trimesters, Joe learned to weave over six different patterns on a four-harness loom. “It looks complicated at the beginning. But once you learn how to do it, it is actually very simple.”
As a final thought on what weaving has meant to him, Joe said, “I always enjoy doing my best and helping when I can. I like to help other people so they can enjoy weaving the way I do. I like weaving, because it gives me time to think. If the pattern is complicated, it is harder to have conversations. With a simple treddling pattern, I can enjoy the company of others or think about solving other problems while I am working with my hands.”
We wish Joe the best in his future endeavors and know that he will weave his compassion and good nature into everything he does.
Touching Lives from Across the World
As a result of the growing international population at High Mowing, there are increasing opportunities for all students to learn about cultures other than their own. Rachael Johnson
has observed this first-hand through her role as an art teacher at High Mowing. “I have the honor of helping students tap into their creativity, and the opportunity to talk with them about how the creative process plays out in their lives,” she said. “I was particularly struck by the rapid transition made by two of my students, Sidra Yu ’14
and Leah Li ’15
, who travelled here from China. One of the classes they took, Renaissance Oil Painting,
involved rendering a still life in the traditional chiaroscuro technique of the Renaissance masters. The other class, Painting Styles,
focused on the evolution of painting in Western civilization.”
Sidra and Leah began with little experience in the visual arts. Impressed by their passion and the speed at which they progressed, High Notes wanted to learn more about their experiences coming to High Mowing and making art. Both girls eagerly agreed to an interview with Rachael:
I sat with Sidra and Leah over lunch one day, to ask them about their artistic journeys thus far. Both had done very little art in China, due to a lack of formal art instruction in the public schools. They both agreed that if a student in China intended to do art professionally, they must specialize at a young age and study at special schools for artists. They added that the academic day lasts from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with students attending study hall from 7:30 to 10:00 pm. — leaving very little time for extracurricular art.
Sidra said she was initially nervous about taking an art class at High Mowing, because she felt she lacked experience. Leah added, “In China, art is not considered an important subject.” In fact, both often felt great pressure back at home to work hard academically in order to get into a good college. As a result, the girls said they would not be able to make art if they were still in China. And what a great loss that would be!
The paintings shown here are examples of the fine work produced by these two young artists. The first is a painting by Leah — a study of Lady of Wellington by John William Waterhouse, created with the limited palette she learned in Renaissance Art class. By contrast, Sidra’s painting is an original work depicting a scene from the marketplace in her hometown in China. The skill of these gifted young women is remarkable and their joy in the process is even more admirable. It is clear they have both benefitted from the opportunity to explore and develop their artistic talents — a journey they may not have taken had they stayed in their native land.
“If you are interested in art,” said Leah, “painting is not work. It is hard, but it is fun.” Smiling, Sidra added, “I surprised myself. I never thought I could do something like this.”
You Can't Take It With You
A few days before Commencement, the senior class dazzled friends and family with their performance of You Can't Take it With You, by Kaufman and Hart. This is the story of the zany Sycamore family, where three generations live together and each does as he or she pleases. When the one normal family member, Alice, falls in love with the wealthy, stuffy Tony Kirby, cultures collide... and Tony has a revelation about life. The play was entertaining and the performances rich with nuance — much like the senior class itself.
View more photos of You Can't Take it With You on our website.
Immersed in Projects Block!
From studying and creating their own comic books, to exploring metalsmithing techniques, sustainable farming methods and more, students who remained on-campus for Projects Block had a wide range of learning opportunities. Those who traveled off-campus enjoyed the dramatic geological features of Arizona and Utah or followed the pilgrimage path to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. Projects Block offered students an immersive experience in a particular area of study of their choosing, which was in-depth— and often transformative.
From April 28 through May 11, students participated in the following outdoor experiences, community service opportunities, cultural immersion and spiritual quests:
Arizona and Utah: Community Service and Rafting
This Projects Block offered hiking, and geological and archaeological tours. The group camped in northern Arizona and southern Utah, including Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon. During a three-day rafting trip on the San Juan River, students saw ancestral Puebloan ruins, fossils, wildlife, and some of the most dramatic geological features in the United States. They also travelled through Navajo and Hopi lands. With Native American guides, students visited archaeological sites as well as living villages. As the community service portion of their trip, the group did an Earth Day clean-up of a Hopi village. Click here for photos from the trip.
Awareness Within and Without: The Wisdom of the Inner Life
In this Projects Block, students spent six amazing days off-campus at the Karmê Chöling Shambhala Meditation Center in Barnet, VT. Here they learned the basics of Buddhism, with an emphasis on the human need to grow spiritually, along with daily opportunities to learn and strengthen their own meditation practices. Students also experienced an extraordinary contemplative environment, where they were able to take part in community projects, ceremonies and rituals. During the second week, they visited the Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Portsmouth, NH. Here, students studied and practiced meditation and centering prayers, while experiencing an intentional community life based on the ideals of compassion, generosity, and awareness. It was a deepening and strengthening experience and a chance to learn more about the Buddhist path.
During the Brain-Tanned Buckskin Block, students immersed themselves in an ancient tradition while engaging in a very modern pursuit: making clothes. Buckskin clothing may well be the most durable item in anyone’s wardrobe and tanning hides is one of the oldest crafts practiced by indigenous cultures throughout the ages. It is a labor-intensive process, requiring the scraping, soaking and softening of animal skins. It is also a group activity, bringing together many people in pursuit of a common goal. In this block, students learned the art of tanning deer hides, rendering them into comfortable and durable articles of clothing and other useful items. The end results were soft to the touch and strong enough to offer protection against inclement weather, scrapes and bruises. Click here for photos of the tanning process.
Comics, Animation and Visual Storytelling
This Projects Block was all about stories, in words and pictures. Students studied the works of the masters of comics and animation, discussing how and why they were successful. They also created their own art, exploring aspects of space, sequence, and visual layout in conveying a narrative. The result was a well-rounded collection of student-created comics. Through this block, students developed literacy and critical thinking skills relevant to both image and text, and told their own stories in the process. Click here for a glimpse of their creative process.
Garden and Farm Project
Participants in this Projects Block combined physical work in the High Mowing School gardens with visits to local farms, with an emphasis on sustainable food systems. Work in the school gardens included planting onions, collecting and drying dandelions, weeding the greenhouse, tending the chickens, preparing the soil, and laying the groundwork for future projects. Students also visited Orchard Hill Breadworks, the bakery that makes High Mowing’s bread, and the Grafton Village Cheese Company for a tour of the cheese production facility. Additionally, they enjoyed a two-night visit at Heifer International’s Learning Center at Overlook Farm in Massachusetts — an educational center whose goal is to end poverty and hunger by helping communities become sustainable through agriculture. Finally, students learned about the modern food production system and the social issues tied to food distribution. FInd our more about this project in their informative blog.
Local Volunteering: Think Globally, Act Locally!
In this Projects Block, students immersed themselves in local service projects for those in need. Projects included improving the play area for pre-school children at Marguerite’s Place in Nashua, as well as work in the food pantry at the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter. Time was also spent at The Cornucopia Project in Peterborough, setting up a community garden to supply vegetables for the local food pantry. Two trips to Ashby, MA involved yard work for an elderly resident with limited mobility, as well as raking the play areas at the baseball field and basketball court. Work at local Bee Fields Farm involved building the foundation for a goat shed. Back in Nashua, students helped PAL (Police Athletic League) with the Heritage Rail Trail project, putting gardens and murals in an urban renewal area. Finally, two projects in Manchester involved painting the inside of the new home for Families in Transition and cleaning a sewing center for women refugees from Africa.
Metal and Glass: The Craft of Handmade Jewelry
Humans have adorned themselves with jewelry for more than 100,000 years. Throughout history, it has been used to convey status, enhance beauty, and display powerful symbols. In this Projects Block, students made their own jewelry while exploring a variety of metalsmithing processes. They learned to work in copper and sterling silver, using basic cutting, bending, hammering, and soldering techniques. They designed their own projects, creating original jewelry in the process. Items incorporating chain weaving, stone setting, and glass bead making were among the options for more advanced students. All had the opportunity to create expressive and elegant pieces that required patience and skill to produce. Click here for photos of the students at work.
Spain: Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Pilgrimages to holy sites were common in the Middle Ages — but not so common for today’s teenagers. In this projects block, students followed a portion of the well-worn path to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. It is here that the relics of the apostle St. James are to be found. But to get there, students had to carry their belongings on their backs and walk more than a dozen miles each day, staying at hostels along the way. In the course of this journey, they discovered villages and towns from long ago — many with dwindling populations. Walking (and sometimes singing) throughout the day, students were immersed in the history and culture of northern Spain and medieval Europe. This included a most unexpected and remarkable opportunity to view — and wear! — holy vestments from hundreds of years ago. Click here for photos from their trip.
Theatre: From Playwriting to Production
This was the perfect Projects Block for budding thespians and theatre-goers alike. Students worked with C.J. Lewis, visiting artist from the New Hampshire Theatre Project, immersing themselves in all aspects of performance. Over the course of two weeks, they honed their writing skills, practiced forms of movement and acting, and discussed set design, lighting, improvisation, and more. But, best of all, they staged their own performance. The characters of Harold, Rand, Handy, Gakt, Earl, Dori, Govini, and Melvin formed a unique, yet familiar family in a piece that combined clowns, drama, monologues, and movement. Students tackled head on the complexities of individuality and family dynamics in this collaborative performance. Bravo! Click here for photos of their class and field trip experiences.
Students also undertook independent studies in a variety of areas. Three students engaged in an exploration of the history and ecology of Block Island, RI. They recorded and reported their findings in a blog. Their project included volunteering at different organizations — including the Nature Conservancy — as well as visiting historical sites.
Student Photography on Display
If a picture is worth a thousand words, volumes of poetry and prose were created in High Mowing’s Photography II class. Under the guidance of photographer and teacher Dianna Normanton, students Mollie Ward '14, Joy Wang '13, Merri McMahon '14, Sorrell Nielsen '14, and Alexandra Adinolfi '14 were engaged in a yearlong study of black and white photography. The culmination of their work was recently on display at the Hilltop Café on Abbot Hill Road. The exhibit showcased the thoughtful interplay of composition, form and light in their photographs — which ranged from ethereal images to bold architectural statements. The exhibit ran from April 19 through May 31, with an opening reception on Friday, April 19. “The students focused on expanding their personal style and vision,” said Dianna, “and each created a cohesive body of work.” Over the course of the year, students learned advanced darkroom techniques and experimented with various papers, developers and toners, exploring how they affect the artistic quality of photographic images. Please click on the image below to see a sampling of their work.
A Quest for Knowledge
Do you remember the wonder of learning everything you could about something as a child? Perhaps it was dragons or newts — or the planets in outer space. Why is it that as we mature, our opportunities for immersive learning seem to lessen? As teenagers, topics have the potential to take on much more meaning, spanning questions of purpose and how things work — from auto mechanics to Zen Buddhism. Deep experiences foster deeper connections and opportunities for learning.
At High Mowing, this is a premise upon which many of our programs are founded. And we are excited to be launching a new program of study that follows this trend: The Quest Project, a pilot program open to seniors during the 2013-14 winter trimester. The purpose of this program is to offer students an opportunity to fully engage in a self-chosen area of learning about which they are passionate.
Students enrolled in The Quest Project will participate in Morning Activity and Block classes, with Quest Project activities every day after morning break. The Quest Program replaces most other classes for the remainder of the school day and will require some evening and weekend work, too. Students may choose to enroll in a track class during this program, as long as it does not conflict with any Quest Project sessions. The format includes a three-week Orientation, two three-week Question periods for topic development, research and presentations in the various disciplines, and an Individual Endeavor or Collaborative Endeavor. Projects are facilitated by teachers who are Program Coordinators (PCs). Additional instruction may be coordinated with other High Mowing teachers and/or community guides.
For additional information, contact Robert Sim, Dean of Academics and a Quest Program Coordinator.
2013-2014 School Calendar Available!
As we head into the blissful days of summer, it’s not too early to think about the coming school year. Many families have travel and vacation plans to make. Others may want to join us on campus for special events and performances. Download a printable version of the school calendar for 2013-14. And, don’t forget to check our website for updates, as dates sometimes change. A fuller version of this calendar will be available in the form of a student planner, available at the start of the school year next fall.
Happy summer! We look forward to seeing you again soon.