By Jazzy Randle, V Form
This past semester, I spent my time at the Mountain School in Vershire, Vermont. The Mountain School is a semester school on an organic farm that enrolls forty-five students in the both the fall and spring terms. When they presented at St. Mark’s my freshman year, I knew that this would be a place for me to be challenged and to learn more about myself. The mission statement of the Mountain School is “To cultivate a diverse and interdependent community of scholars who learn to know a place and take care of it. Through collaborative learning and shared work, students emerge from their semester prepared to reach beyond the self and focus on the common good.” With this goal in mind, I went to the Mountain School to experience something new and to meet new people.
My overall experience there was an enjoyable one, even though my days were super busy (and fun). I woke up around seven o’clock to get dressed and to do my chores, which had to be done before breakfast. Chores normally changed every two weeks and varied from a number of different things. My favorite chore was feeding the laying hens. Every morning, I had to feed them and let them out of the barn. In the evenings I had to round them up and “persuade” them to go back into the barn, which comprised of chasing chickens with the sound of paper bag noises. The first time I did this chore, I was terrified just to go into the barn! However, with the help of Gwen, one of our full-time farmers, I learned how to do my new chore with ease.
We had many other animals there as well, including sheep, cows, pigs, and turkeys. The Mountain School has an efficient, self-sustaining farm. We used these animals for food, clothing, and fertilizer. Normally, I would consider myself a vegetarian at home, but here I ate meat. Eating meat at the Mountain School has minimal impact on the environment, and the animals live long, happy, and healthy lives unlike those on conventional meat farms.
In the afternoons we had work periods that consisted of various jobs that needed to be done in order to keep the farm running. In the beginning of the semester, this typically involved a lot of harvesting crops, making apple cider, preparing vegetables to be eaten, moving the animals to different grazing fields, or even collecting hay. My favorite work period was wood crew. Every Friday my team of about seven people would venture out into the school’s woods to cut down trees to be used for fire wood. I had felt so proud of myself when I cut down my first tree all by myself, and I have my Mountain School Ax License to prove it.
After work period ended at 3:50, we had classes until six o’clock, and dinner started promptly at 6:15. My favorite class was environmental science; we learned about how the New England landscape formed, and I was able to discover a new passion that have for learning. Now, I am really interested in agricultural engineering and environmental engineering. I will be forever fascinated by how food grows and how the earth works.
One of the exciting things I did at the Mountain School was SOLO. On SOLO, we were dropped into the woods for four days and three nights—completely alone. We were totally isolated from the societal world and each other. This was meant to be a one-on-one experience with yourself and nature. There were no cell phones, computers, or iPods allowed on the trip either. One of my challenges was finding things to keep myself occupied. I did a lot of thinking, singing, writing, reading, appreciating, and observing my surroundings (I read a really good book called Looking For Alaska!). I spent most of my time at the stream just watching the water flow, searching for the day-blinded stars. I wrote in my journal a lot as well. This trip retaught me how to be patient, silent, and how to truly listen and tune into nature. I learned how to take a pause and enjoy myself. My biggest challenge, however, was getting over my fear of sleeping outside alone. I am proud to say that I made it! Even though I only saw two moose, my other classmates saw bears, wolves, and cute chipmunks.
I experienced my highest highs and lowest lows at the Mountain School. From feeling socially awkward to feeling accomplished and proud when I cut down my first tree by myself, this experience was extraordinary. I had always thought that I was a hard worker, but the Mountain School gave a whole new meaning to diligence. Being there has helped remind me that I am living my life for myself, not for the grade or for my parents. Having said this, it was hard for me to leave this place and these people this past December, but this was a wonderful experience of a lifetime that I am so glad to have had. As I am readjusting back into the St. Mark’s culture, I will always remember not to lose myself in the sea of stress, commotion, and chaos of the world outside the Mountain School.
Jasmine Randle, V Form, is a boarding student from Chicago. She likes to sing, meet new people, and travel.