The Mountain School is an alternative school affiliated with Milton Academy. It enables 11th-graders, who hail from public and private schools across the country, to spend a semester of tightly-packed days cultivating the food they eat and working closely with professors in rigorous courses that involve experiential learning and public speaking. Students develop close relationships with faculty members, since they all live and work together on the Vermont farm. In addition to taking standard courses such as a foreign language (like Spanish or Chinese), physics, and English, one of the required courses is environmental science, which is offered not in the classroom, but outside in the fields and forests. Although students should be mindful of coordinating Mountain School courses so they are in the appropriate sequence (given their home school’s requirements), all courses that students take at the Mountain School easily transfer as AP or honors credits; the Mountain School’s curriculum sometimes even allows students to get ahead of their classes back home. Unsurprisingly, access to technology is minimal at the Mountain School — there is no cell phone service, and there is limited Internet access.
The program accepts 45 students from different states and backgrounds and encourages them to form close bonds with each other. Each student is assigned an advisor, who works with no more than four students per semester. Advisors and students meet at least once a week for half an hour to discuss their experiences in the program. Admission to the Mountain School is need-blind. While the tuition ratematches that of Milton, the school encourages students to apply for financial assistance if they need it.
What are the outcomes of the Mountain School’s innovation?
In the last seven years, the seven most common colleges that Mountain School alumni have attended were Middlebury, Yale, Brown, Colorado College, Oberlin, Carleton, and Princeton.
Among the greatest benefits of attending the Mountain School is the strong alumni network — and regular alumni events — that graduates enjoy. Additionally, program alumni have access to a unique funding opportunitiy in the form of a grant called the Garden Hill Fund, which sponsers former Mountain Schoolers who create projects for the benefit others. Beyond these tangible benefits, students report experiencing significant personal growth and cultivating strong lifelong friendships.
How is the Mountain School’s innovation relevant to the larger ed space?
With each cohort of students, the Mountain School demonstrates just how effective low-tech learning methods can be. In a survey of its graduates, the Mountain School reported that most attendees in 2012 had not farmed, camped outside, or lived with a group of peers prior to attending the program. These experiences are rare for many teens, and while the ed space tends to embrace opportunities created by technological advances, the Mountain School directs students in a different direction — by helping them get in touch with nature and with one another through an intense living and learning experience. The Mountain School’s impact and influence attest to the intellectual, social, and emotional growth that an environmentally-immersive educational approach can facilitate. (Reposted from https://www.noodle.com/articles/innovative-schools-2015#mountain)