Scott: What does this look like to you? A farm? How about now? A school, right? From cattle to classrooms, sheep to study sessions, this unique farm school combines education and agriculture.
So, tell me, what is The Mountain School?
Alden Smith: So, The Mountain School is a one-semester program for juniors in high school, forty-five of them who come each semester, just for four months at a time, to live and work and study on our farm.
Scott: Sixteen-year-old Bram Kyer is a student here at The Mountain School, where he learns, works and lives.
Bram: Yeah, they’re usually pretty full days. They usually start off at around 7:45 – I feed the sheep. And then from there, you have breakfast at 8. Then, I have usually anywhere from two or three classes in the morning. And then after that, I have lunch. And then I have a two-and-a-half hour work period.
Scott: The learning hasn’t ended just because we have left the classroom. Out here in the forest, the students are learning techniques on how to preserve the land’s maple crop.
Under the guidance of their teachers, students chop down trees, cut logs and split wood to clear space for the maple trees to grow. And the chopped wood actually heats the larger buildings on the farm. After their midday work period, students then head back to class.
Hannah Wilton: And then we go back to two more classes and then dinner. And then after dinner, we go straight, usually, into doing our homework.
Scott: The course load here at Mountain School is not easy. Describe to me your classes.
Hannah: Our class sizes are very, very small. My French class has four. Especially for environmental science, it’s a whole…it’s so different. It makes such a big difference. We do the reading and then it’s, like, we actually go out and look for the things that we read about. And it just makes it so much more, like, applicable to your life and you actually remember it.
Scott: With forty-five students from different schools across the country, the ability of The Mountain School to provide transferable credits is a must.
Smith: All of our courses are either honors or AP level. We tend to have applicants who really are excited about doing that level of work with other people who really want to be there and do that work.
Scott: With students and staff living in such close quarters, teachers make themselves available around the clock.
Jules Desroches: I called my math teacher, like, last night and I was like, ‘Corin, math homework is hard. And can I meet with you tomorrow morning?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ And I met with her this morning and I’m going to beat my quiz down!
Bram: We’re all here because we’re interested in the things that we’re learning. We all want to be here, whereas, you know, you don’t find that in every school.
Scott: While The Mountain School might be considered advanced in its academics and innovative teaching methods, there is something missing.
So, I have talked to a lot of your classmates about it. It was one of the first things I noticed when we pulled up to The Mountain School, is that, um, this doesn’t work. There is no cell service. How do you guys handle that?
Jules: In Maryland, I leave with my phone, my wallet, like, my headphones and my keys. And, like, now it’s just not necessary.
Hannah: Here, you kind of like are forced – not like in a bad way – but, like, you’re forced to make close connections with every single person here, whether they, like, are a student, a teacher, a staff.
Scott: It is those connections, both personal and environmental, that the leaders of The Mountain School hope will last beyond the farm.
Smith: What I hope they’ve learned here is to be humble, to be grateful and to be helpful.
Scott: Scott Evans, Channel One News.
- How is the Mountain School different from other schools?
- What do the Mountain School’s programs offer students that they might not find elsewhere?
- What do you see as the advantages of attending a program like this one?
- Are there any downsides to participating in a semester-away program like the Mountain School’s?