The Mountain School, located in Vershire, Vermont, offers its students a unique experience: students live at the school for one semester and take regular classes while learning about environmental science and history outside in nature.
Last year, Cort Breuer ’18 spent the second semester of his junior year at The Mountain School, and is recommending that sophomores enroll for next year in order to make sure that more students can live through his experience.
The environmental science course allowed students to discuss theories and experiments in the lab before searching the campus for real-life evidence of the concepts they just learned.
“I got a better understanding of environmental science and climate change, how interactions between humans and the land have certain outcomes, how you can reconstruct the past, and the history of the land from the actual evidence in nature. You can see where you are in the present, and where you are going in the future” said Breuer.
“It’s definitely a school where you get more out of it the more you put into it. The students plan all the Saturday activities, all the Friday discussions, the weekends are completely self-directed. Stepping up and choosing to do things is a central part of the school,” Breuer said.
Breuer took advantage of the academic independence and signed up for a full course load with a heavy amount of work.
“It is more rigorous than a 5 honors course load here at Wellesley, around 5 hours of work a night. The school asks a lot of its students, and expects a high level of work and work ethic from the students. You get honors credit; you can get AP credit if you want.” said Breuer.
Not every student’s schedule has to be this intense; the level of difficulty and number of courses is up to the student.
The Mountain School, however, is not only about academics: it develops skills like independence, leadership, and perseverance, and also builds a strong community.
“There were normally two committees a week, one dedicated to Fridays and one dedicated to Saturdays. Fridays after dinner were discussion based. Some days we would watch a movie and then discuss it, other nights it would be an activity and discussion.” said Breuer.
Alden Smith, director of The Mountain School, emphasized the importance of community at the school.
“Because the students and teachers live, work, and play together, and rely on each other for food and fuel, the bonds between people are deep and lasting,” said Smith.
Similarly, Smith imagines that the lasting community contributes to the student’s empowerment in the future.
“Having created something lasting and hopeful together, Mountain School students leave knowing they can make a positive difference in the world,” said Smith.