Monday, December 01, 2008

The Obamas and Quaker Schools

Some Meeting School alums and others, such as prospective families, who read this site may not be familiar with Quakers from other places, nor with other Quaker schools --which in many ways are a different network entirely than Quakers themselves. But if you follow current events, and the transition decisions of Barack Obama in particular, you will probably have heard of Sidwell Friends School by now --the Quaker school in Washington, D.C. which the Obamas have chosen for their daughters. Needless to say, this news has generated a flurry of interest in Friends education in the mainstream press. In many ways, the Meeting School and Sidwell Friends School pursue totally different educational philosophies, but the director of the Friends Council on Education has published a beautifully-written response to the news about the Obamas, explaining the focus on values and inner spirit that informs all varieties of Quaker education.

Much of the news coverage has not been very informative about the Friends education philosophy, but this article in Time does a great job.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Teacher, Frederick Martin, to Give Speech at Rindge Historical Society

As reported in an earlier blog post, The Meeting School received recognition for the historic buildings and farmland on its campus - following three years of research by the schools U.S. History classes. As you might know, the school is located on historic Thomas Farm, whose buildings include the colonial-era Lieutenant Nathaniel Thomas homestead, built in 1771 by his first cousin Captain Philip Thomas; the 1839 George Thomas house, and the c. 1850 Greek Revival barn. The New Hampshire State Historic Resources Council listed the Thomas Farm on the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places at its April meeting, and described the older Thomas house as "a significant example of Georgian style." In their notification letter, the state Survey Coordinator wrote, "The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources would like to congratulate the school on the listing of the Thomas Farm (now The Meeting School) to the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places. We very much appreciate your stewardship and commitment to preserving an important part of New Hampshire's heritage."

Students in Frederick's History classes dug into archives at the Rindge Historical Society, the Cheshire County Historical Society and the Registry of Deeds in Keene, and even the State Archives in Concord, seeking documents that would explain the ups and downs of the Thomas Farm's growth and changes. They assembled legal, probate, and census records, and most of all, decoded the physical evidence around them in the school's buildings and landscape.

Frederick will give a lecture and slide presentation about the history of the Thomas Farm, and some of the detective work that his classes did, at the annual meeting of the Rindge Historical Society on Saturday, November 8th, from 10:00 to 1:00

Monday, October 06, 2008

Walking of the Heifers

As fall sets in and the grasses begin to stop growing the cows and sheep at TMS will take one last trip through the fields to eat what’s left before making the switch to hay for the winter. The cows have taken a trip up the road to the Bartlett Fields where they'll have a chance to graze four of the five fields. Moving them from the barn to the top of the hill is no small task. To move them with the least amount of chaos, four strands of electric wire were used to contain them in a moving box. With a person at each corner holding the wire, the wire "box" moved down the road and up the hill to the fields (its hard to see the wire in this picture). The cows were nervous about the pavement, and had a minor escape or two before finally making it to the greener pasture. Traffic that was stopped looked on in awe as the herd went walking by. Students and faculty showed great patience and persistence throughout the entire event. Lets hope the move back to the barn for the winter goes just as smooth!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Taiwanese Educators Schedule Study Visit to TMS

A group of thirty-four educators from Taiwan plan to visit TMS in March to study our educational program. Led by Professor Hwei-Pang Chen, Dean of Education at Taiwan's National Hsinchu University of Education, the group consists of principals from schools in the Taiwanese city of Tauyuan --the "second largest but most ambitious city in Taiwan," according to Dr. Chen-- who are drafting a school reform plan and would like to include choices in experiential education in their plans. They chose to visit TMS through reading our profile in the book The Parent's Guide to Alternatives in Education by Ronald Koetzsch (Shambala, 1997). Regarding our question of whether TMS's small size would provide enough people and classes for his group to interact with, Professor Chen replied, "The school size is nothing to do with a good school. As a college scholar, I always reflect on the why and how a school for our children. I believe what will happen in the Meeting School will be a valuable lesson for all of us." TMS is very active in networking in the United States through professional associations such as the New England Association of Sschools and Colleges, Independant Educational Consultants Association, The Association of Boarding Schools, and Friends Council on Education, hosting visits to our campus, speaking at conferences, participating in accreditation for fellow schools, and the like. International visits such as this Taiwanese group are always exciting, but not unheard of for us; Jackie recalls fondly a group of educators from Romania who visited seven or eight years ago. We look forward to hosting Professor Chen's group, scheduled for March 31st.

Painter Hillary Irons visits TMS from McDowell Colony

Pictured is Hilary Irons, a painter at the McDowell Colony, who gave a wonderful talk and showed her work at TMS on Monday. Sadly, Hilary did not attend TMS as a young person -- but her sister (Lydia), brother (Asa), father (Henry) and uncle (Tony) all did! So when Hilary settled into a fellowship at McDowell --the oldest artists' colony in the U.S., in nearby Peterborough-- she wanted to come visit the Meeting School as well. On Monday she came for dinner (she lucked out -- Tom's sushi) and afterwards treated us to an hour-long presentation, including slides of her work, a lecture about her journey as a young adult into deciding to pursue being an artist, and questions-and-answers afterwards where students got to ask her what Parsons Design School was like (where she completed her undergraduate degree), why she decided to go to graduate school (she recently finished studying painting at Yale), and what high school was like for her. Her talk was gentle, engaging, inviting, and inspiring.
Students in the drawing class found her abstract paintings most interesting. Rebecca Faison '12 said "they were full of intense colors, and they could be looked at in different ways... really cool." Some appreciated her more activist side: Faith Jochum '09 observed that the abstract paintings were all about Irons' concern about nuclear waste and nuclear warfare; Faith especially pointed to Hilary's use of tourist and blog photos of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in the Ukraine. Pictured below are two of her paintings, used with her permission: an earlier work, and one of her more recent abstract works of the kind that caught the students' attention.In her talk about choosing to be an artist, she said, "The real requirement for taking this path is a willingness to look into your own creativity and accept it as important and valid. Then, even if your work is hard or confusing, or if success comes slowly, creative growth will be a constant. I hope that any of you who like making things will take your desire to do so seriously, and let your work open you up to the world around you."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bringing in the Harvest

This summer we've grown over 900 row feet of onions to store in the root cellar and use for meals during the school year. About two thirds were harvested this week to dry in the barn until the necks have shriveled and the greens fall off. The other third is still standing in the garden, getting bigger and sweeter. We look forward to many great meals made with home grown onions from the farm.
The brussels sprout crop is also looking excellent as the summer comes to and end. The large green and purple sprouts will be left on the plant until we get a few frosts which sweetens them. As you can see in the picture the lower leaves have been taken off to allow for better growth in the the sprouts near the top of the plant which are often much smaller than the sprouts at the bottom. Many will be eaten fresh from the plants, although most will hang in the root cellar for winter use.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Red House Student Kitchen

The past two weeks of school have been alive with cleaning in the Red House Student Kitchen. With help from many of the students William and Eileen, the Red House faculty, cleaned the gunk and funk out and have readied the space for a new year of student use. The kitchen has taken on a new look with a set schedule for cleaning in the evening, and a nifty closed sign to remind us when the kitchen is unavailable. The organization and cleanliness will lead to a more enjoyable place to hang out, and prepare food in the afternoon and evenings.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Haying Time

Pictures of hay bales stacked up in hay wagons are iconic farm images -- and stay tuned for those in a few days, 'cause baling is exciting!-- but in some ways cutting the hay is the more dramatic moment. You've committed. You've checked the weather, you've watched the hay grow, you've thought about how long the season has left... can you let it grow some more, or will it get too brown? (It loses nutritional value then --and the cows and sheep want to be well-fed!) If we cut now, will a thunderstorm come along and ruin the hay? If hay gets wet after it starts drying, it can get moldy and become unfit to eat. But it has to dry out completely before it can be baled. You have to know quite a bit: be familiar with the patterns in the local ecology and local weather --and how to fix the baler if it breaks in the middle of the field! (Hint: keep a good supply of shear pins.) Then you commit, and cut, and the sweet sound of harvesting echoes back to the boarding houses from the meadows. Then, two days later, you call for all hands on deck! and all the faculty and interns who are available head out to the fields to help bring it in. Hot work, out there in the sun, and tiring -- but satisfying.

Like the rest of New England, the Meeting School's farm got so much rain this summer that it was hard to get a big crop of hay in the first cutting, back in June. So the second cutting is more important than ever. If students are lucky, they may find that rain slowed us down again, and one or two fields remain to be cut when they arrive. Then they'll get to help with the baling. Remember: the hay-bale toss isn't just a Farm Olympics event!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The annual Alumni Reunion & Summer Getaway become one!

In light of the challenging economic state our country is in and remembering our commitment to ecological sustainability we recognize that the impact of hosting two separate gatherings this summer would be unwise. We are combining The Meeting School Alumni Reunion with the annual Summer Getaway from July 18 through August 3.

The Summer Getaway provides an opportunity for you and your friends/family to spend a day, the weekend, or a full two weeks at TMS. You’ll have the chance to help with chores or milking, pitch in with garden work, and enjoy the many outdoor activities that the Monadnock Region has to offer.

At this year’s Getaway/Reunion we’re hoping to shingle the west side of the barn. This is a large project, and will require a commitment from five or so people throughout the two week time frame. The TMS barn is an historic structure, and was recently listed on the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places. We hope to preserve the building by taking off the asphalt shingles, and replace them with cedar shakes to match the front side. Come help reface our fantastic barn!

Accommodations for the Gateway/Reunion will be in student housing or camping sites around campus. Small travel vans are also welcome. Beds in students houses are on a first come, first serve basis so make your reservations today! We request a small donation for housing arrangements, but won’t turn anyone away for financial reasons.

Meals are pot-luck style and can be arranged with the Getaway coordinator. There are two grocery stores less than a half mile, and several restaurants within a half hour drive if you want to do meals on your own.

We ask that parents with children supervise them while on campus due to the animals and farm equipment that are in constant motion throughout the summertime.

To register or find more information go to the Summer Getaway under the Outreach Programs tab on our homepage.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

TMS Buildings and Farmland Listed on NH State Register of Historic Places

The Meeting School's campus is located on an historic farm, where five generations of the Nathaniel Thomas family lived and worked beginning in 1770. Most of our buildings, including most notably our two farmhouses and our main barn, were built by the Thomases in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and retain significant historic value. We have just received exciting confirmation of independent recognition of this historic significance. Over the past three years, the U.S. History classes at TMS have been researching the history of the Thomas Farm, digging into state and local archives and historical society holdings, searching and assembling legal, probate, and census records, and most of all decoding the physical evidence around us in the buildings and landscape. The project began by focusing simply on the oldest house, but the state's historic preservation officer encouraged us to expand our research to the whole farm. In March, history teacher Frederick Martin submitted the final application to nominate the Thomas Farm to the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places. The State Historic Resources Council listed the Thomas Farm on the State Register at its April meeting. In their notification letter, the state Survey Coordinator wrote, "The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources would like to congratulate the school on the listing of the Thomas Farm (now The Meeting School) to the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places. We very much appreciate your stewardship and commitment to preserving an important part of New Hampshire's heritage." Congratulations especially to all the history students involved in the research!

Excerpts from the press release and the NH Division of Historical Resources website appear below.

Historic Properties Honored

CONCORD, NH--- Twelve properties have been listed in the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places. The State Historic Resources Council met October 29, 2007, January 28, and April 28, 2008. The following properties were considered and listed: [see their website for the other eleven great properties]

Thomas Farm, Rindge. This property is comprised of 130 acres of woodland, pasture, gardens and orchards. Its buildings include the 1771 Nathaniel Thomas House, a significant example of Georgian style, and the 1839 George Thomas house. Five generations of the Thomas family lived on and farmed the property from 1771 until 1931.

The New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places is one part of the state's efforts to recognize and encourage the identification and protection of historical, architectural, archeological and cultural resources. These irreplaceable resources may be buildings, districts, sites, landscapes... that are meaningful in the history, architecture... or traditions of New Hampshire residents and communities. The State Register is administered by the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources (NHDHR), which is the state's Historic Preservation Office.

Listing on the State Register of Historic Places is one of several ways to acknowledge a property's historical significance, [and] can contribute to the preservation of historic properties in a number of ways. For more information, visit [the NHDHR] online at or by calling (603) 271-3483.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Long Emergency" Energy Class Meets Peak Oil Author, Makes Biodiesel

Several TMS students and faculty recently attended a lecture by author Richard Heinberg, a widely recognized authority on fossil fuel depletion and its effect on society. His talk, held at Keene State College, was titled "Peak Everything: Creating Resilient Communities in a Time of Radical Change." Seeing him was especially exciting because we have been reading three of his books in the course "Energy Depletion and Society: the Long Emergency." Happily, he turned out to be as engaging in person as his writing is --and he was even friendlier than he sounds on paper. TMS attendees included students in the course, but also other community members who'd had their curiosity piqued by their friends' committment. After he spoke and answered questions --including one of ours-- we were able to chat with him a bit, give him a course syllabus, get him to sign a book, and pose for a picture.

We seem to run into a lot of authors, actually. It turns out that a TMS alum from the '70's is friends with James Howard Kunstler, author of the book the course is named after: The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century. Apparently he mentioned us to "Jim" over dinner, and we may be able to help arrange another visit like Heinberg's.

In other "Long Emergency" news, last week we had a demonstration of how to make biodiesel. Eli Garrett, son of faculty member Sheila Garrett, is a mechanical engineer --and race-car driver-- who produces biodiesel in quantity as a hobby. So Eli's visit to the school on Mother's Day included a stop to whip us up a sample batch of biodiesel in his blender. The class had previously discussed issues of food production and rising prices for vegetable oil around the world --but Eli used waste oil, already used at a restaurant for deep-frying. Pictured here (l-r) are Frederick (the Long Emergency teacher), Meg, Eli, and Caleb.

Back in April, we took a field trip to the Massachusetts Innovation Collaborative, LLC, in Fitchburg, to see their PV (photovoltaic) solar and geothermal installations, and to the Leominster office of the Trustees of Reservations to see their PV solar panels, "green" building materials, and composting toilets. Pictured here are LE students in the basement of the Trustees building, checking out the solar panel wiring and the massive composting toilet apparatus.

Readers interested in learning more about what the course has studied, or about peak oil in general, can visit the course's Wikiversity site: Peak oil, energy, and society.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maple Sugaring Season Starting Fast

Sugaring season has begun throughout New England, and with students returning from their Intersession projects last week, its starting here too. Rimai is teaching a class called Life in New England this spring that has been working on tapping over 60 trees around campus. They started boiling recently, and houses have received the first batch of delicious syrup. It looks to be a great year for maple sugaring in the area, and the class will have a lot of work ahead of them to keep up with the sap flow.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Experiential and Progressive Education Featured in Independent School Magazine

The Meeting School’s distinctive educational philosophy and teaching methods blend Quaker practices with the larger tradition of the progressive education movement. Co-founders George and Helen Bliss took a year-long tour of innovative progressive schools in Europe and the U.S. before starting TMS in 1957; co-founder Joel Hayden was an alum of Deep Springs College and a professor at Antioch College, two progressive flagships in the early 20th century. Four articles in the Spring 2008 issue of Independent School, the magazine of the National Association of Independent Schools (TMS is a member), profile the current state of progressive and experiential education –strong and growing!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

LL Cool Cow Has Not One, But Two!

LL Cool Cow is notorious for being the crazy one. Shes our wild cow, always spontaneous and different. Her calves are usually the same. On Wednesday morning Megan, the farm coordinator, found LL in labor after months of speculation over whether she was even pregnant at all. She said "I went out to milk and found one baby walking out towards the field, and LL was starting to have another." Its Twins! A bull and a cow to add to the herd.

Here they are in the stall looking confused without mom close by.

They don't have names yet. Naming animals here can be a tough task. The person who finds the babies, or the mother in labor, gets to pick the names. The babies have to share the same first letter as their mother. So these babies will have names that begin with L.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


To remember Dr. Martin Luther King Junior this year there were four options to chose from. Students and faculty members came together for a brunch at 10:30 where everyone chose their afternoon activity.
One group watched the four-hour Malcolm X movie staring Denzel Washington. After the movie, the participants had a discussion that sparked students and staff to think about race in ways we aren't often confronted with. One faculty member said it was, "the deepest conversation about race I've ever had here at The Meeting School."
Another group continued the tradition of baking cookies and delivering them to neighbors with decorated boxes and quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. The neighbors have written thank you notes in past years, and come to expect Meeting School students at their doors each year.
A group went to the local nursing home to play cards, sing songs, and talk for the afternoon. This trip has become very popular, and we've been asked to come back whenever we have time.
The last group went to Northampton, MA to participate in a program offered by Northampton High School and the American Friends Service Committee. The program included speeches, workshops and musical events. Students were excited to be with people from other schools, and in a group of people with more diversity than we're used to at The Meeting School.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Noah Merrill to Give Forum on Iraqi Refugee Crisis

The Meeting School is pleased to welcome the public to a forum Saturday the 19th from 9:30 to noon. Noah Merrill, a journalist and former American Friends Service Committee member will be speaking and answering questions about his time spent in Ahman, Jordan working with Iraqi Refugees. Noah returned last February from six weeks of intensive work in Jordan among Iraqi refugees displaced as a result of the ongoing Iraq crisis. During this time, he conducted over 40 in-depth formal interviews with Iraqi families, and met informally with many more. Merrill participated in frequent consultations with staff of international humanitarian organizations, UN staff, and representatives of Iraqi civil society and political groups. In addition to interviews with Iraqi families and conducting an assessment of the humanitarian and political situation in Jordan, Iraq, and the region, he was involved in direct advocacy and service work on behalf of Iraqis facing acute needs in Jordan, including working to secure release from detention, ensure access to needed medical care, report abuses by officials, access information about refugee services, and facilitate border passage into Jordan.
Merrill will speak and answer questions with hopes of bringing the realities of the Iraqi refugee crisis closer to home. He will share the stories of Iraqis forced from their country by violence and chaos, and describe their struggles to survive in an increasingly hostile environment. He will address the regional economic, environmental, and political implications of the growing refugee crisis, its roots in Baghdad and Washington, and the gathering threat posed to the world by the continuing creation and portrayal of the "Sunni-Shiite" conflict. Finally, he will highlight prospects for constructive action to move beyond opposition to US military occupation and toward promoting a lasting, healing peace for Iraq through partnership with Iraqis.