What is a typical day at Compass?
Completely atypical! We believe a variety of experiences both within and beyond the classroom help students develop the most important skills of all – adaptability, creative thinking, and genuine enthusiasm for their work.
The four pillars of a Compass education are Learning, Community, Democracy, and Direction. They form the foundation for our educational model, and we design every experience at Compass School to build on this foundation.
The “Regular” Class Schedule
About three quarters of our school days follow a daily schedule that consists of our four primary subjects: humanities, science, Spanish and mathematics.
On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, students can choose from a range of artistic, athletic and independent study options for our signature Intensive/Exploratory program.
On Wednesday and Thursdays, students take additional classes in physical education, art, or music or are involved in math or writing workshop to enhance their skills.
On Wednesdays, the entire student body participates in extensive health programming in the morning, and 11th and 12th graders are engaged in independent study project work. Grade level seminars addressing life skills, study strategies, financial literacy, travel planning, and post high school planning occur on Tuesdays.
The other days of our school year, students participate in some of Compass School’s most treasured academic and community traditions. These experiences, enumerated below, are at the heart of a Compass education:
Winterm: Embodying the ideal of our “Community” pillar is our Winter Term (known to students as Winterm). For one week in February, all classes are recessed and students work in teams from across grade levels to use their academic skills to address real community needs. We solicit “problem statements” from community partners that define a particular need for which they seek a solution. These teams work with a teacher to create plans to study this problem and produce a report, solution, or service to address the community need. Projects have ranged from painting murals in local homeless shelters to cleaning the rivers of coastal North Carolina.
Project Week: Project Week is the culminating event for the Compass school year. This is a chance for students to synthesize their learning throughout the year in self-directed, student or faculty initiated projects under faculty supervision. Students are asked to develop projects that relate to course learning goals while allowing each student to pursue areas of particular interest. Project Week concludes with a community celebration of learning.
College Day: Every year we take the entire school on a day trip to visit nearby colleges. This gives students, starting in seventh grade, the chance to see college classrooms and campus life as an open minded observer before the pressure to decide begins to build. Past college visits have included Bennington College, Vermont Technical College, University of Vermont, University of Massachusets-Amherst, Smith College, Dartmouth College, Northeastern University, and Emerson College. We usually visit multiple campuses in a day to give students a sense of the wide variety of choices in the college experience.
Mountain Day: The first Friday in October is our beloved Mountain Day. Rain or shine, the entire school hikes a mountain. Past summits have included Monadnock, Cardigan, Okemo and Ascutney. Students are sorted into groups across grade levels, and find time and again that the experience is a valuable day of bonding that brings them together with their fellow students and teachers. It is a day with a storied past that sets a tone of adventure and discovery for the rest of the year.
Giving Day: The final day of the first semester is the undisputedly one of the most treasured Compass tradition: Giving Day. In the spirit of the holiday season, at the beginning of December students receive the name of a student or teacher for whom they are expected to make a special gift. It is vitally important that no one know who has who, because at the final Giving Day ceremony, each student and teacher stands before the entire school and presents their gift in a poignant unveiling, talking about what they’ve learned about their person and why they made what they made. It’s a touching day of thoughtfulness, laughter, and celebration of our community. Gifts have included a bench made from skis, a thinking cap, a giant pencil (as in 8 feet long), collages and songs, countless cookies, hand decorated cakes, a customized sword, a shield depicting a drowning horse proclaiming “I am not afraid!” (that one is a long story), poems, hand knit hats, personalized game cards, jewelry, guitars made of cardboard, robots, and much more.
Spring Trips: As a final celebration of our community and the year’s achievements, the entire Compass School spends several days together in early May on our annual spring trips. Past destinations have included Cape Cod, New York City, coastal Maine, and Boston. Middle school trips have historically been service oriented, with students volunteering in soup kitchens in Harlem or lending a helping hand at an organic farm in Boston. These trips are also implemented with an eye toward educating students about the diversity of lifestyles found in cities. High school trips have had a more experiential focus, with groups of students touring the many museums New York has to offer, attending a baseball game at Fenway Park, seeing a show on Broadway, and experiencing city life.
Junior Class International Trip: The Global Connections Program at Compass School is a two-week service and cultural immersion trip to a Spanish-speaking country that the junior class plans, fundraises for, and executes. In recent years, classes have gone to Peru and Cuba. Other sites have included Mexico, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. A generous financial aid program and the success of our fundraising in previous years ensures that every student in the junior class can afford to attend the trip. The trip is a capstone experience for students’ work in Spanish class, and no matter their level, students consistently report learning an immense amount of Spanish during their two weeks abroad and enjoying the opportunity to apply their experiences from the classroom.
Senior Projects: Every senior must complete an intensive independent project with a substantial research component in order to graduate. Seniors develop a proposal for study of a topic of great interest, and typically conduct the project outside of school for several weeks in the spring of senior year. Occasionally, ambitious senior projects are approved that may take a semester or year to accomplish, such as an intensive study abroad experience. Projects must include a written and visual component presented to the student body at an annual ceremony. Recent projects have included job shadowing a professor at the University of Vermont, writing a feature length screenplay, conducting an apprenticeship in glass blowing, and creating a professional level photographic journal of Bellows Falls.