The work program grows out of the Mountain School’s commitment to self-sufficiency. Rather than relying on custodial or support staff, students and faculty work together to meet the labor requirements of the farm, clean and heat the campus, help with meal preparation, maintain trails, build barns, and tackle the dozens of other jobs that sustain the spirit and the physical plant of the school. This approach not only makes our work together an expected part of the day’s routine, but also fosters a spirit of volunteerism that helps us rise to unexpected opportunities.
Every student has a morning chore. Since chores rotate bi-weekly, the person washing blackboards one week might be gathering eggs or managing compost the next. The morning chores also include: helping the cook to get breakfast on the table, daily monitoring of the solar panels and our energy use, watering the greenhouses, stoking the wood furnaces, sorting the school’s recycling, and shoveling snow from the dooryards. Over the course of the term, a student will take on a variety of chores, and those with an interest in a particular chore may request it. With every student working, the entire campus is cleaned and the animals fed in about fifteen minutes.
More substantial jobs are assigned to the afternoon work period. Depending on the season and the particular needs of the day, students might find themselves harvesting vegetables, splitting wood, moving hay, washing sap buckets, spreading compost in the garden, helping with an office project, painting clapboards, moving fences, or otherwise maintaining the buildings and property. Work is assigned so that students try as many new jobs as possible and work with a different group of people each day.
For students and for faculty, afternoon work provides a welcome opportunity for conversation. Students soon discover the satisfaction of good work as well as the camaraderie that comes from working hard and well together.