ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE (REQUIRED)
Using the farm, pastures, and forests of our 418-acre campus, students apply concepts and field skills that they learn in class to the natural world. In class, students might learn of such geologic forces as glaciers and the consequences of a changing global climate; then they will head into the field to observe these effects. By examining the current forest trends and past disturbance history, students assemble the story of a particular site on campus. They gain an understanding of the ecological and cultural forces that have shaped New England and how some of these impacts play out on a global scale. Because the course uses the opportunities available on campus, it does not follow the AP curriculum and is not intended to prepare students for the AP exam. There is a field component of the course that meets for an additional 3-hour period each week.
Together we explore questions that arise naturally in the course of students’ four months here: How have our conflicting attitudes toward land shifted over time? What gets in the way of people understanding each other? Discussions help us understand people with different points of view: a mining geologist, a Vermont apple farmer, a Pakistani immigrant. Students learn the skills of close reading, clear writing, and confident speaking. Authors include, among others, William Wordsworth, R.W. Emerson, Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver, Jhumpa Lahiri, ZZ Packer, and Danielle Evans. Many students take one of the AP English exams in May.
The fall term begins with a study of pre-Columbian America and focuses on English colonization (1607-1763), the American Revolution (1763-1800), and the sectional tensions that led to the Civil War. The spring term course starts with an examination of Reconstruction as a prelude to the issues underlying late 19th and 20th century America, which we trace all the way to the present. Students develop their ability to ask important and provocative questions; to approach those questions collaboratively; to read purposefully and take notes efficiently; and to see history as a resource for the decisions that they make in their lives. This is not a traditional AP course, but students who complete all the course requirements will be well prepared for the AP and SAT II tests in U.S. History. There are no prerequisites for this course, though we highly recommend that spring semester students take the first term of U.S. History in the fall.
HONORS Algebra II, Precalculus, AP Calculus
Math classes are designed to prepare each student for re-entry at the appropriate point in the home school's mathematics program while also allowing each student to take advantage of the unique learning environment at the Mountain School. This environment includes small classes, close relationships with teachers, opportunities for both independent and group work, and a physical setting full of potential mathematics applications. Students are divided into math classes based on a detailed questionnaire completed by a math teacher at the home school. In a typical semester we have one section of Algebra II, three to four sections of Precalculus, one section of AB and/or BC Calculus, and one section of independent math. In the spring semester, we also offer a Precalculus/Calculus section that includes an introduction to differential calculus.
Intermediate (HONORS) & Advanced (AP)—Spanish, French, Latin, Chinese
The Mountain School offers French, Spanish, Chinese and Latin at the intermediate and advanced levels. A minimum of two years of high school language study is required for each course. Placement is determined by a questionnaire completed by a language teacher at the home school. In intermediate French and Spanish, classes are taught completely in the target language and students build skills through guided discussions, grammar practice, structured reading, and short, focused writing. In the advanced levels, students read major literary works, write analytical and creative essays, and take turns leading discussions. Latin classes are run like small-group tutorials and are designed to prepare each student for re-entry into the home school curriculum. The Advanced Chinese course is not an AP course. Advanced French, Spanish, and Latin do prepare students for the AP exams in May.
Students develop an understanding of Francophone cultures and literature through the study of selected texts.Readings include articles, editorials, and short stories from Francophone authors with texts such as Le château de ma mere. The course also includes a selection of movies for discussion.Weekly at lunch, students practice their speaking skills in a relaxed setting at the French language table.
The AP Language and Culture class is for students who have had at least four years of French study. This assumes that students have learned the grammar necessary to communicate their ideas in French. This class will further develop their language skills and enrich their vocabulary, centered on main themes presented in the AP French Language and Culture Framework. The course is conducted exclusively in French to provide students with an immersion experience. Class activities consist of conversations, written and spoken evaluations, and grammar exercises. Final Projects vary: movies, comic strips, short novels, magazines or plays.Students enrolled in this class are expected to read major literary works independently, as well as lead class discussions in French.
Students read short stories, study maps of the Spanish-speaking world, listen to Hispanic music and watch several films to challenge them to become more competent speakers, writers, and readers of Spanish. The grammar topics covered each semester vary depending on the needs of the particular group. A typical fall may cover all the indicative tenses, review pronoun use, prepositions, conjunctions, the uses of “ser” and “estar” and how to make comparisons. Spring semester students begin with a review of topics covered in the fall and moves into the tenses of the subjunctive mood. Every week at lunch, students practice their speaking skills in a relaxed setting at the Spanish table.
Competent students of Spanish refine their skills as writers, readers, speakers, and listeners of the language. Intensive grammar review of all topics, short speeches on current events, composition writing and revision, and discussions based on literary texts and current films allow students in this course a wide range of opportunities to achieve fluency in all areas. We use Una vez más as the primary grammar text and workbook. Though other texts may change depending on the needs of the students in a particular semester, some examples includeGabriel García Marques’s Crónica de una muerte anunciada and poems by Nicolás Guillén. Some weeks at lunch, students practice their speaking skills in a relaxed setting at the Spanish table. This course prepares students for the AP language exam, and with some individual study, for the SAT II test.
HONORS Intermediate, AP Vergil and/or Casear
Latin classes are run like small-group tutorials and are designed to prepare each student for re-entry into the home school curriculum. At the intermediate level, the course emphasizes grammar. Texts may include Wheelock's Latin and the poetry of Catullus and Ovid. At the advanced level, students focus intensely on Vergil’s Aeneid or on the work of Caesar, depending on what they have covered in their AP courses at home in the previous semester, learning to translate the original text into smooth English and to recognize the various figures of speech that enhance the language. The teacher chooses books and passages by the AP syllabus and students’ previous experience. The advanced course prepares students for the AP exam in May.
HONORS and Advanced
The Honors and Advanced Mandarin Chinese courses’ primary materials are the Integrated Chinese series textbooks. The courses, much like small-group tutorials, are designed to keep students abreast of the courses at their home schools. We select the textbook and chapters for each semester to best match the needs of each group of students. Our Mandarin courses also take advantage of the unique learning environment by supporting students to learn to communicate about aspects of life at The Mountain School, such as their experiences in the kitchen, woodlot, and on the farm. Over the course of the semester we balance the textbook work and the locally useful vocabulary with assignments that further educate students in Chinese culture, such as reading traditional ghost stories, learning songs, trying Chinese riddles, and watching films. Both courses have a strong focus in improving speaking skills and listening comprehension.
Led by a local artist and teacher, students explore the media of drawing and painting. The course emphasizes creative expression and allows beginners to succeed and experienced students to be challenged. Students learn visual language, apply various techniques, and solve problems by means of a creative process. The semester of work includes keeping a daily tree journal. Students’ work culminates in a final project of the student’s own design and a celebratory art show.
This class considers the nature of human inquiry, particularly in the fields of science, and some of the controversies that have sprung from our urge to understand better how the world works. Drawing on a wide range of readings—among them Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, the Unabomber’s manifesto, and McKibben’s The End of Nature—Humanities provides a forum in which one can discuss the tough issues that often accompany advances in human knowledge. Interdisciplinary writing, dialogical thinking, public speaking, and small-group discussion are the core skills of the course.
The autumn syllabus includes study of motion, force, gravity, work, and energy and the spring syllabus includes harmonic motion, electrostatics, magnetism, and optics; either can be tailored to meet the requirements of individual sending schools. Laboratory exercises give students hands-on experience with physical principles and build their skills in investigative science. This honors level class covers a rigorous first-year physics curriculum. Since math is used extensively in solving problems, students should have a solid foundation in algebra and trigonometry. The program is designed to meet the needs of students coming from or returning to a rigorous math-based physics class while also developing a solid foundation in conceptual physics. This class is not intended to prepare students for the AP Physics exam.
CHEMISTRY (SPRING SEMESTER ONLY)
This course is designed to provide a challenging second-semester of introductory chemistry to students who have already completed the first semester at their home schools. The course integrates the special opportunity of a working organic farm in its teaching principles. Students use the campus setting as their laboratory: they measure the boiling point of maple sap, analyze nutrient cycling on the farm, and write reports of demonstrations. Typical topics include: molecular geometry, kinetics, equilibria, acid-base interactions, thermodynamics, and redox reactions. Teachers from the home school complete a questionnaire indicating a student’s experience to make the transition as smooth as possible. This course prepares students to take the SAT II subject test but is not intended as an AP course.
OUTDOOR PROGRAM: 1 Physical Education credit: 3.5 hours/week for 16 weeks
The Outdoor Program helps every student develop the skills to travel safely and comfortably outside, to camp with minimal impact on the land, and to understand the intricacies of the natural world. On weekly outdoor hikes, students hike and gain proficiency in map and compass skills, basic camping techniques, and animal tracking. A three-day solo camping trip in the early fall or late spring gives each student the opportunity to practice these skills and to connect intimately with one specific place. We have designed a solo camping experience that allows even those who have never previously slept outdoors to thrive.
The Outdoor Program also encourages students to try recreational activities specific to our locale. In the spring, students enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on our campus trails. Safety is always our highest priority: all faculty are certified in Wilderness First Aid and CPR, and a portion of the faculty are either EMTs or Wilderness First Responders.