Upper School

Core Curriculum

You have seen the Upper School students in orange vests with bright, smiling faces outside of our school selling cider these past few weeks. Have you wondered why? It is part of the work Montessori found most meaningful for adolescents. She believed that this is the time for these nascent adults to begin to join the society of adults, namely its economic life. It is the time for them to contribute their efforts and to receive compensation (in our case, the building up of a travel fund) in return. This "Micro-economy" work need not center upon apples. We may well sell jars of honey, chocolates, or candles as the year progresses. We chose cider because Hollis has long produced excellent apples and our property is an old orchard, where we tend and harvest our own apples. And apples are a celebration of the sunlight now fading. They are a sweet conclusion, a symbol of life, and a suitable gift to offer you. 

What is required of Micro-economy work is that it engages both the hand and the mind. These students have new, growing bodies that need to be strengthened and challenged. They need, as well, to be called to reason, to communicate, to make decisions, and to evaluate the results of those decisions. Their business name "Sunny Orchard" is such a nice, simple thing but it represents hours of discussion. This decision, however, was far easier that determining the price of a half-gallon of cider or choosing whether to offer pasteurized or unpasteurized cider. They have needed to think ahead, to think on their feet, to plan for contingencies, to compromise, to work when they were worn through.

They have needed to research regulations and processes, to talk to strangers, to write checks and keep accounts. They have worked in the rain; they have stood their ground when faced with yellow jackets and maggots. They have learned to persevere, an essential quality to a successful life as an adult. And by standing through these tests and by producing through their own efforts a lovely drink that the community wants to buy they have grown in confidence; in themselves and each other.

Academics have not been set aside. Problems with pasteurization and fermentation lead to chemistry and microbiology lessons. Contact with wasps lead to discussion and the key differences in form and function between wasps and bees. Articles and advertisements need to be written well. Conversion of units of measure, ratio and proportion, pi, and compounding interest have been required in order to achieve success. It has been real to the students. This has led to their complete engagement in the process. Engagement is the first requirement of learning.

-Jim Webster

A Rusty Cider Season

It was most dismaying to return to school in August, looking forward to a new cider season, only to find the leaves and fruit in our orchard covered with bright orange and black spots. A mild and rainy spring had caused our trees to become infected with the fungus cedar apple rust. Now our apples are small and pithy. We’ll have a lot less cider this year unless we can find another source for apples. Woodmont Orchard across the street, which has most kindly helped us out in the past, has fewer apples to spare this year. After a bumper crop in 2013, the harvest is likely to be a bust this year.

Cedar apple rust has an interesting life cycle. It requires both apples (or other rose-related species) and cedars (or other juniper-related species) in order to propagate. This spring, spores produced on junipers, wild or cultivated, landed on our apple leaves and blossoms just as they were emerging and were able to grow because the temperature was between 45 and 75° and were damp with rain. Orange spots formed as the mycelia that forms the body of the fungus invaded the plant cells. Damaged leaves means fewer nutrients for the tree and less healthy fruit for us. A couple months later spores were produced by those spots. Carried by the wind some of those millions will land on cedars planted in neighboring yards or on low-lying junipers down in Spalding Town Forest. There over the next year they will form a gall. Then, during the next spring rains, strange orange tentacle-like protrusions will emerge from the gall. Within a few hours these will begin to produce spores that the fungus forcibly propels into the air. And these float away, some perhaps to land and grow again on our trees.

Prevention is difficult. Removing all local cedars and junipers is challenging. Some apple cultivars are resistant. Spraying with a sulphur will reduce or even eliminate the infection, as will powerful fungicides. Sulphur is considered an organic solution. The rust does not kill the trees. Some simply hope that conditions are not, as they were this year, perfect for spore germination. As a back-up, we are considering working with a local farmer who might be able to spray our trees with sulphur when conditions warrant (and the children are away).

-Jim Webster

One Word Writing

A piece of writing from one of our Middle School students hinging on one word. Can you guess which word it is?

A little boy always sat alone. Not wishing, not wanting. The other kids at school constantly teased him, because he never spoke. He gazed off into the meadows and forests and valleys. Time passed; first grade, third grade, tenth grade. The boy tolerated and ignored their jostling and prodding. Finally, one day, the he just stopped. He stopped looking at meadows and forests and valleys. He stopped listening to birdcalls and the wind. He stopped. He tried to act like the others. He spent every day playing a part. He now sat with company, but he was more alone than ever. Time passed; high school, college, adulthood. The grayed man sat by his window, wishing, wanting, reading obituaries of the people who had once teased him. A leaf fluttered on the wind outside, blowing onto his lap through the open window. He studied it delicately, noticing how paper thin it was, just like him. Then he stopped. He stopped pretending, and he stopped fooling the world. He listened and saw and felt and heard. An old man sat alone. Not wishing, not wanting. -E

One Hundred Word Stories

For this week's writing project, our middle school students were asked to write a 100 Word Story. We're sharing a few here.

She is dreaming. Dreaming of flying with the birds. She swoops through the clouds, graceful and swift. She sees the city below her, but only the sky above. Endless, blank sky. She drops through the clouds so she can see the land more clearly. There are buildings, small as anthills and cars, like ants, dodging between them. And there is the ocean! Deep, empty, never ending, just like the sky. She flies towards it. There are boats and a few small islands, but so much of the ocean is empty, quiet and beautiful. Then she is falling, falling towards the sea. . . .  -HMS 7th grade student

I am a snowflake, beautiful, crystalline. I am a snowflake, carefully constructed. We are packed tight, but we know. We know that any minute one of us will fall from this cloud, from each other. I have never been a snowflake before. I have been shower water and a puddle and flower nutrients, and even holy water that has been blessed and scented. Snowflakes begin to fall. There are less and less of us separating me from open air. My first fall. I detach from the others and I am alone, falling, drifting, gliding down to an uncertain future.  -HMS 7th grade student

Eyes open to the crashing chirps of the clock. Weary days, waking, breakfast, work, money, winter; stumbling in and out of the bathroom, closet, chair, out of his house. Doors slam. The man trudges to work. Weighing and boxing paper clips, sitting for minutes, hours, days, and dreary years. 100 clips. 180 boxes. 9 hours. 162,000 clips. He trudges home, buying a hot cocoa. On the curb, a girl in a poncho stares at the puddle and paper cup at her feet, dog sitting by; guilty. Minutes later the man opens his front door, no cocoa in hand, smile flickering.  -HMS 9th grade student

One hundred words. That seems like a lot of words, but it only come out as about a paragraph, which isn't very much. I hear one hundred and naturally think "big". In the right context, one hundred is a big number, but really, when compared to even greater numbers, such as one million, its size pales in comparison, and comes off looking quite small. So, when you think of the huge amounts of words in a story, the one hundred words in a paragraph don't even come close to seeming a significant part of the story. Not even.  -HMS 8th grade student