A Chance to Stretch
Each Spring, High Mowing students and faculty spend two weeks out of the classroom. They undertake a wide range of activities that are designed to lead them beyond their normal realm of experience. Many alumni attest to the importance of Projects Block and remember its significance years later, recalling their experience as a transformational moment. During the first two weeks in May all High Mowing students participate in Projects Block, using the time to explore a particular area of study in depth. Each project had a different focus and some required extended travel, beginning the weekend before. In all, there were seven organized programs and two independent studies undertaken. Below is a sampling of past project block topics.
Service in San Lucas, Guatemala
We headed to the mountains, to the small Mayan village of San Lucas. It is located in a peaceful cove on the shores of Lake Atitlan, surrounded by verdant volcanic peaks. The group volunteered in a number of areas, organized by the local Catholic Parish which is involved with humanitarian aid work in San Lucas and many nearby hamlets. Projects are funded by the Parish, but managed by local individuals, most of whom are Mayan. Volunteer opportunities included work with children, women, reforestation, building projects and organic coffee processing.
It is central to the Mission’s philosophy that volunteer work is not a one-sided gesture of aid, but part of a symbiotic exchange in which two cultures learn and give to one another. Students experienced Spanish language immersion as part of the trip, but not the main focus. In fact, no prior knowledge of Spanish was required. Most of the employees of the Mission speak some English as well as Spanish and Tzutujil, their native Mayan language. Experience our trip via the pictorial blog we kept.
International Youth Film Collaboration Project in Serbia and America
High Mowing students teamed up with the Media Education Centre of Belgrade, Serbia, to explore the history, culture and architecture of Serbia and create a series of films about what they learned. Paired with students from Serbia, High Mowing students visited the ancient and beautiful city of Belgrade, toured several fortresses, and explored museums, cathedrals, churches and ruins. Their goal was “to discover 7000 years of History with equipment for filming, animation, radio and multimedia.”
In fact, they accomplished even more – by sharing the experience with Serbian students (some of whom returned to campus with them) and learning from their warm and welcoming Serbian hosts. The students are finalizing short films on the history, religion and natural beauty of Serbia.
Metalsmithing: Jewelry Fabrication and Design
The metalsmithing group designed and created original pieces using a variety of metals, beads and stones. They learned to solder silver and copper, and shared a quick overview of the process with the group assembled to hear their presentation. Twisting wire into intricate patterns and setting stones were some of the other skills practiced. Delicate jewelry was also created using a variety of beading techniques. Their work will be on display in the Main Building.
Propaganda and Media:
How Movies Shape Public Opinion
How are we influenced – subtly and otherwise – by the media around us? This group attempted to answer that question by viewing a variety of films designed to manipulate emotions, such as “Triumph of the Will,” by Leni Riefenstahl, which promoted Nazi Germany. By examining movies, such as “Birth of a Nation,” the group teased apart the mechanisms used to shape public opinion and control audiences. Posters, products – even the nightly News – can be used to change our point of view.
HMS School Garden and Farm
Participants in this Projects Block combined physical work in the High Mowing School gardens with visits to local farms — with an emphasis on community service and a focus on sustainable food systems. Work in the school gardens included planting and preparing the soil for the new season, as well as laying the groundwork for future projects. We also visited other farms to engage in community service and learn how sustainable practices are applied to different farm settings. An overnight trip to Heifer International’s Learning Center at Overlook Farm in Massachusetts was informative and educational. In addition, we learned about the modern food production system and how food distribution is a social issue. In preparation for this project, students will read Fair Food by Oran B. Hesterman, PhD. Check out our project blog for a better sense of our experience.
This group traveled to the Windy City to learn about a great American music form: the blues. But, because the blues originated in the Deep South of the United States, a study of the early blues was their first undertaking. Time spent in Chicago was filled with cultural and musical events: Fernado Jones of Columbia University taught them the structure of a blues song, while Harmonica Hinds instructed them on how to play a “blues harp” or harmonica. Other excursions included an architecture tour, a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, a performance of Blue Man Group, poetry reading events and comedy improv.
Independent Study in Art
Do Young An ’11 used the two-week block to study Art – in particular, Asian Art. She created many sketches of trees and figures, while studying the use and technique of brush strokes. Her body of work includes an exploration of printmaking, as well. Do Young’s artwork will be on display in the Main Building.
Community Service / Tool Shed
and Rock-Climbing Project
The rock-climbing group began their two-week block with a community service project. They built a beautiful shed to house tools for the fields at High Mowing. This shed will be used by many on our campus and was sturdily constructed from recycled materials. See a slideshow of their work building the shed.
The group then traveled to Lansing, West Virginia to enjoy the climbing at New River Gorge – an area sculpted by the second oldest river in the world. Within the 63,000 acres of New River Gorge are over 1,400 established rock climbs. "The New" has become one of the most popular climbing areas in the country; the cliffs are made of very hard sandstone, and range from 30 to 120 feet in height. Our hearty group enjoyed a variety of climbs, wildlife-viewing opportunities and swimming areas. As one student expressed, “We found each other’s unique qualities and became a family in the process.”
Independent Study in Circus Arts
Isabella Goldman ’12 traveled to New York to work with the professional circus artists at Circus Warehouse. While there, she had the opportunity to study ballet, contortion, tight wire, juggling and silks. She spent a great deal of time learning flying trapeze and practicing the strengthening skills needed to perform safely and efficiently on the apparatus.
From Alfafa to Zucchini: The ABC's of Local Area Farming
This group visited and worked on a variety of farms – including Nomadic Farms NH, our own local CSA (see write up in “Community Bulletins” section, below). The farm block students contributed time and sweat equity to get crops in the ground at High Mowing, as well as the Amherst and Temple farm sites. Twenty-two students teamed with their teachers to plant, transplant, and prepare the fields, while learning about biodynamic farming in the process. Additional trips to Noonday Farm in Winchendon, MA (which donates all its food to Haley House), Stonewall Farm in Keene (which supplies dairy products to Stoneyfield Farms), Steve Normanton’s farm (which supplies our kitchen with chicken, beef and pork) rounded out the block. There were even opportunities to harvest mushrooms and shear alpacas during the two-week period. Here is a photo slideshow of one of their day trips to a farm.