Archive for June, 2015

Class of 2015 Graduate Thesis #2

(In celebration of the Fairhaven School Class of 2015, we will be posting their graduation theses in this space. Successful candidates have written and defended theses in response to the following statement:

Fairhaven School awards a diploma to students who can defend the following thesis to the satisfaction of the Diploma Committee: My experiences while enrolled at Fairhaven have enabled me to develop the problem-solving skills, the adaptability, and the abilities needed to function independently and responsibly in the world that I am about to enter.

This year’s candidates defended their theses to a committee of staff members from Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, MA, Clearwater School in Bothell, WA, and Hudson Valley Sudbury School in Kingston, NY.)

Maggie Graduation Resized

 

 

Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion. – Martha Graham

 

 

My passion is ballet, and I am a dancer. Dance is movement, structure and artistry, and I am each of those things as well. Dance is also my Fairhaven School education; I have mentally and physically danced my way through my life. I don’t credit Fairhaven School for my desire to be a ballet dancer, but I do credit it for giving me the chance and the atmosphere to create my own education; I needed to teach myself how to be a successful person who is ready to efficiently enter into adulthood. I did so by playing games that were sophisticated and informative, experiencing the constant flow of student activity and by using School Meeting and the Judicial Committee.

I also needed to count on Fairhaven School to be the uncertainty in my life; ballet is so structured, and Fairhaven School was the part of my education that was the uncertainty. I know that it seems strange to crave the structure of ballet as much as I do, having come from such a free-flowing environment, but my brain and body craved it.

Being a Fairhaven “lifer” (someone who has attended Fairhaven School from the age of four to graduation) and growing up in an atmosphere that enables students of all ages to be treated and treat themselves as whole and real people, I have always known exactly who I am as a person. Self-knowledge is so crucial to anyone that wishes to have a successful life, and I have been mastering it for twelve years. I know exactly who I am because I have grown up at a school that encourages you to find yourself. I am a passionate, thoughtful, hard-working person.

I have watched Fairhaven grow with me—we are just a few years apart— and it has grown and changed with society. So have I. My parents founded the school, along with other adults, and I have always felt like Fairhaven School was another sibling of mine. When Fairhaven School got a Facebook page, I got a Facebook page. Because of my experiences I have had while growing up in a school that enables and encourages you to form your own life, I have the problem-solving skills, the adaptability, and the abilities to function independently in the constantly evolving and excitingly daunting world I am about to enter.

I was four-and-a-half or so when I enrolled in Fairhaven School, and I honestly don’t remember the exact point when I learned to “problem solve.” How could I remember it, I was four years old! Now, as an eighteen-year-old, I realize that I grew up problem solving. One game I used to play with former students was called the “God Game.” We never treated our god game in a religious way. I was too young to understand what my religion was, and I guess we all thought that God decided when it rained or when someone got sick. There were about six or eight of us, and one girl who would always be God. The rest of us never obtained the God status, which was fine with us. The student who was God always had what seemed to be a halo over her head; she was God and that was that. The rest of us were the townspeople and we each had a different shop: doctors’ offices, grocery stores, pet shops and restaurants. God would sit on the Old Building porch and control us; she would occasionally make visits to our houses or shops, but she preferred to watch from above. She would make one of us sick, which meant we would have to visit the doctor and spend our precious homemade money on crushed up leaves that would cure us. We would spend hours making our merchandise, claiming our territory and setting up shop, with God’s instruction, of course. We were learning how to solve the problems of everyday life: paying for food, avoiding dangerous weather, and making a living. While I was playing the God Game, I got to choose how to manage my money, my food and my time, and as an adult I will have to manage more money, food and less time. When we were playing God, it was NOT a game; it was completely real for us, and we were using it to teach ourselves how to be resourceful, and responsible. I now have this deep understanding of how to problem solve in the environment that I am about to enter.

Another aspect of problem solving that is so Sudbury-oriented is J.C. as a whole entity; J.C. is the problem solver of the school. When students interact with J.C., whether as a clerk, member, defendant or plaintiff, they knowingly or negligently (Fairhaven Law Book reference) are educating themselves in such a profound way that will translate to the rest of their lives. Students learn how to voice their opinions, how to deal with mistakes and how to become a part of the school’s democracy- its woodwork. During my junior year, I was elected as the first female student Law Clerk at Fairhaven School. While I served as Law Clerk, I was also J.C. Clerk for three terms in a row, and each term was six weeks long. During my year as the Law Clerk, a case involving illegal activity came into J.C. and completely engulfed my friend group. I was the J.C. Clerk, but I was also the friend of the defendants and plaintiffs. I learned to speak and vote for what I thought was right, even though I was potentially ruining friendships. I also learned that speaking up for what I believed in didn’t end friendships; it only made them stronger.

Problem solving comes in all shapes and sizes, and while I was solving the problems of running J.C. and executing all of the Law Clerk duties, another student who just so happened to be the youngest and newest student (four years old) was just starting to solve her very own problems through the J.C. system. Being clerk, I watched her come into J.C. almost every single day as a defendant. She would sit down, or hide under the table, and eventually start to figure out how to defend herself. During the first month, an older student, sometimes me and sometimes not, would have to carry her in and sit with her for her multiple mess cases. Then, she found her independence and started to rebel against the system and completely refuse to come to J.C., which made my job as clerk very challenging. It also made me excited and proud that she had found her own voice. She has just finished serving her two-week term on J.C. and did so effortlessly. I believe this is because she has solved her own problems through the J.C. system. I use her as an example because I had similar experiences of trying to solve my problems through J.C. when I was four-and-a half years old, although I had way less cases then her.

So, how does adaptability tie in with ballet? Because for the past five summers, with the sixth rapidly approaching, I have attended a summer intensive; three to five weeks of ballet from nine in the morning to five in the evening. Summer intensives are every dancer’s idea of heaven. For three of the summer intensives, I lived away from home in New York City and once in Philadelphia. Living in New York City was daunting but “ I fell in love with New York.” (Mikhail Baryshnikov) The programs I attended in New York didn’t offer a meal plan and/or housing accommodations, so I learned to adapt to the environment around me (all five boroughs) and I bought my own food, mastered the subway system and lived without my parents. Fairhaven didn’t give me my ballet skills, but it did give me the adaptability that made it almost easy for me to embark on the adventure of being an actual, functioning adult. Yes, it was scary at first; I was fifteen and going on the subway every day alone. I remember the first day I used the subway alone, I made it to my last stop and was walking home and I passed a newsman with a camera facing him. I asked the person next to me what happened, and she told me, “A man stabbed a young woman for no reason earlier, and the police haven’t caught him.” I ran back to the apartment and made sure my awareness was turned up a notch. I like to think that while I was a student at Fairhaven, it served as a mock adulthood. I had freedom, responsibility and respect, and I learned how to master each of those qualities by practicing them daily.

I think that the quality that came remarkably easy during the whole experience was, and still is, making my own choices and living with the outcome. Yes, sometimes I get jammed up with making the “right decision”, but Fairhaven School is, among many other things, modeled around the concept that children can make their own decisions, and live through the consequences or triumphs. One of the hardest decisions I’ve made while at Fairhaven was choosing to stay for my senior year. I had the option of attending the ballet school that I attended this past summer (2014) on a full tuition scholarship. I decided to stay at Fairhaven and complete my education. I am a Fairhaven lifer, and my inner Fairhavener wasn’t done learning the choreography of my final dance. I also learned from being there in the summer that I didn’t like that ballet school as much as I thought I did, and even though they gave me a full tuition scholarship, I was able to recognize that living in Philadelphia wasn’t what I needed.

I have the abilities to function independently because I grew up doing so. From the day I enrolled in Fairhaven School, I was able to teach myself how to function independently; I formed my education exactly how I needed it to be formed, depending on the day. Sometimes, I needed Fairhaven to be my time to relax my brain and body. The ballet world is very demanding at times, and I used my school days as a recovery period. Other days, it helped me gain confidence and stage presence. I participated in plays from the ages of four to fifteen. When I was nine, I was Alice in Alice In Wonderland. It was directed by two teenagers whomI adored, and I remember feeling like I was wearing a badge of honor when they gave me the role. There were a bazillion lines to remember, and I spent HOURS drilling them into my head. When the night of the show came, I was nervous and this older teenager told me, “At least you haven’t puked yet. One of my friends that was Alice threw up before she went on stage.” I didn’t puke, and after each completed play or ballet performance, I started to gain my stage presence. I also gained confidence, and confidence stems from self-knowledge, which I have mastered.

Functioning independently is such an important part of succeeding at Fairhaven School, and every student does it, whether they know it or not. This year, I am functioning off campus as well. I am working two jobs, and I am leaving school every day at one o’clock to drive my carpool to Silver Spring to dance for three-five hours a day. I am teaching a ballet class to three-six year olds, which is also something I could see myself doing in the future, and I absolutely love doing it. I have such a huge love and admiration for children, and I grant that to Fairhaven School as well. I would be more then happy being a nanny for a family in New York City, or a mom. This brings me to my next job: a part-time nanny for a Fairhaven family. I go to their house two mornings a week, then to school for about an hour, then to ballet, then, I am home, and eager to start again. I also have a car that I pay for monthly with the money that I make from my jobs.

Am I done learning and developing as a human being? No, and I probably never will be, which is so exciting to think about. I know that I will be constantly learning new things, which is another thing that Fairhaven School enabled me to do- learning how to learn. At Fairhaven School, I learn through conversations, mistakes, new students, or in most cases through watching and listening. The Fairhaven community is constantly moving, and there is always a new dance for me to learn. I have learned so many valuable things through watching my peers; the teenagers when I was six or now the little boys trying to determine who the “Murderer” was in their made-up chase game. I have been especially aware of watching my fellow students this year, partly because I am more aware of this concept of learning through watching, and because I am becoming extremely sentimental about leaving.

My plans for next year are constantly evolving and moving, like me, and although I’m not sure if I’ll be living in Maryland, Boston or San Francisco, I know I’ll be dancing. I am attending Boston Ballet for five weeks this summer with the hopes of staying year round at their school that is attached to their main company. I have been accepted into Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s training program in San Francisco, and I have that as my second option. My backup plan is to stay at my current ballet studio, Maryland Youth Ballet, continue working, and then audition for ballet companies next winter. Although I was accepted to Goucher College, I have decided to not attend because I want to pursue my passion to be a ballet dancer. College is something that will always be an option, but my window to be a professional dancer is brief.

I am confident that the abilities I have gained while being at Fairhaven School are enough for me to function as an adult next year, wherever it takes me, and the rest of my life. I will take these miraculous qualities Fairhaven School has enabled me to obtain with me wherever I go in my life, dancing the whole way.

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Class of 2015 Graduate Thesis #1

(In celebration of the Fairhaven School Class of 2015, we will be posting their graduation theses in this space. Successful candidates have written and defended theses in response to the following statement:

Fairhaven School awards a diploma to students who can defend the following thesis to the satisfaction of the Diploma Committee: My experiences while enrolled at Fairhaven have enabled me to develop the problem-solving skills, the adaptability, and the abilities needed to function independently and responsibly in the world that I am about to enter.

This year’s candidates defended their theses to a committee of staff members from Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, MA, Clearwater School in Bothell, WA, and Hudson Valley Sudbury School in Kingston, NY.)

Brennan Graduation Resized

Player 1
As you are reading these words, there is a good chance that I am currently playing something, of some sort, somewhere, with someone. Whether I am at school, thinking of just the right word to say, based off the clues of pineapple and ocean. Around a table, covered in dice, maps, and half eaten pizza slices, laughing with friends. Sitting at my computer, trying to shout over four other people, miles apart from each other, about what we should do to win. In an open space, creating a story with others out of nowhere, in which the limits exist only as far as we are willing to push them. Or, curled up on the couch next to my dog, with nothing but a game system and silence.

Play is a very important thing to me. It has sculpted my life in so many ways, and I am sure in some ways that I do not even realize. I have spent more time playing than I have most other things in my life, and I do not feel as though a second of it has been wasted. In my time at Fairhaven, and notably through play, I have had the opportunity to develop important skills, which I will use for the rest of my life. Particularly, the capability to examine a problem from different angles and to solve it in an effective way, the understanding for when a situation requires change and when I need to change or whether I need to cause it, and the personal responsibility to make choices for the good of more than just myself.

Background

When I began at Fairhaven, in 2006, coming from a strict public school setting, I was at first overwhelmed by having the freedom to do whatever I chose to do. However, I very quickly found a place there that drew my attention more than anything else had so far. The first time I stepped into the AV room, I was met with a group of people all laughing and yelling and looking at two huge TV screens playing Godzilla on playstation2. These people became my friends faster than I had ever made friends before. Being able to spend my entire day talking, laughing, and playing games with my friends was one of the best experiences I had ever had in school.

Over the course of my first year, my interests expanded to playing games and watching videos in the two computer rooms, battling and trading pokemon with friends on our gameboys, walking around the school chanting all sorts of things with my friends (our favorite activity when when we could not agree on what to play), and playing countless games we invented ourselves including hunters and prey and the nothing game. Since then, my range of playing has widened to include theater, both plays and improvisation, roleplaying games such as Dungeons and Dragons, the drums, creating short films, and 3D game art and animation.

As for interests not necessarily involving play, I have been a part of several classes ranging from various math classes, to creative and compositional writing, to art classes, and even astronomy. In the last five years I have become very involved with the Fairhaven judicial system. I have been elected as JC clerk and alternate more times than I can count, as well as for one term of School Meeting chair, and am currently the elected student Law Clerk. While having learned valuable lessons from nearly everything I have done at Fairhaven, I feel that involvement with the judicial system has taught me about problem solving, adaptability, and responsibility in a unique way that without Fairhaven I never would have had the opportunity to experience.

Problem Solving

When someone is playing a game, what are they doing? Whether it is chess, dungeons and dragons, pokemon, or even tag, a game is something where there is always an obstacle of some sort that must be overcome in order to achieve success. I have been solving problems since my first day at Fairhaven. I did not need to realize it, or understand the significance of it at the time, but I believe the abundance and variety of my play has taught me to solve problems in ways I never would have known how to otherwise.

In a game like Pacman, the obstacles as well as the decisions you are able to make are very straightforward. This leads to formulaic game play. Which means, while it can be difficult to succeed at first, through an understanding of the game as well as a mastery of the basic motor functions required (which are both gained by playing) the game can become quite simple. This is an example of a problem that can be overcome by having the experience of certain situations. Many problems in life can be thought of in the same way, such as cooking for yourself, managing your own time, or caring for an animal. While these problems may seem daunting to someone at first, through experiencing them yourself and developing the skills needed, they become simple everyday activities.

However, there will always be problems that cannot be solved by simply having the necessary experience to deal with them. Dungeons and Dragons is a game in which a player is constantly presented with obstacles which they could have had no way of accounting for. Unlike in Pacman, the actions a player can take are limitless. This makes the ability to approach a situation with creative and intelligent problem solving skills an incredible strength. For example, if a player is put in a situation in which they must slay a rampaging, giant boar that plows through every tree or building in its way, and the player knows they cannot fight it head on, simply having more experience with the game would not solve that problem. Having the idea to climb a nearby structure and leap onto the creature’s back in order kill it takes inventive thinking, rather than mere familiarity.

I have had ample opportunity to learn these methods of problem solving at Fairhaven, as well as opportunities to put them to the test. One such opportunity is when I felt that it made no sense to have to be a member of the Kitchen Corporation in order to sell anything at school, as the Kitchen Corporation is responsible for maintaining kitchen supplies. So a friend and I went through all the proper channels of the school in order to charter Vendor Corp. This meant bringing a motion forward to School Meeting, stating the reasons for why Vendor Corp would be a positive addition to the school, and debating back and forth before finding a solution that passed. It was difficult to come to a conclusion that appealed to everyone, but eventually we were able to reach a compromise that felt fair for all parties.

One of the most common opportunities for problem solving stems from my involvement with the judicial system. Whenever a problem emerges involving the judicial system, which happens often, whether it is something smaller like the sentence lists not being checked, or something as impactful as a lack of student interest in JC clerking, as the Law Clerk and an involved School Meeting member, it is my duty to see that these issues are met with a solution. I have spent hours in the weekly School Meetings discussing these problems and having to solve them in thoughtful and innovative ways in order to consider not only the judicial system itself but also the students involved. As if this was not difficult enough on its own, it also has to be done along with other school meeting members, each with their own opinions of right and wrong, in a space where everyone has the same amount of say in the end.

The field that I will be pursuing next year is 3D game art and animation, and the majority of that work is done in group projects. I feel that the experience of solving problems with a group of people rather than just on my own, and in creative and intelligent ways will serve me excellently in the future.

Adaptability

One thing that I feel greatly helped me develop the ability to adapt to different situations was improvisation. When I first joined the improv class at school, I realized that it was an activity that I had been searching for my whole life. It felt like an activity that allowed me to express my creativity in a way that I had always longed to do, but never knew how. Creating worlds in an instant, where anything I could convey became reality, was an incredible thing to discover. Ever since that first class five years ago, I have rarely gone more than a week without it, from taking the classes at school, to going to shows on the weekends, signing up for camps over the summer, and even joining an out of school improv troupe.

Improv perpetuates an environment of spontaneity, in which a player must accept any offers a fellow player makes and incorporate that into the reality of the scene. There are many skills I have learned from improv, and there are some I feel relate directly to adaptability in the world off-stage. The ability to listen to your fellow players is critical to a great scene. If you are unable to listen, then you are unable to know when a change has occurred, and how to act accordingly in order to drive a scene forward and keep things from becoming confusing. Intuition is something equally as important in improv. When in the middle of a scene, you do not have the time to think through your next action. You have to trust yourself to advance the scene, without choking on the thought of making the “wrong” decision. I know that these skills of being perceptive in my environment and trusting myself to take action, have helped me to become an adaptive individual.

Outside of improv, another key to being adaptable that I have learned at Fairhaven, is the ability to manage my time. Though you are never required to take part in anything scheduled, I always feel as though there is something I need to get done. Finding a way to balance classes, theater, judicial responsibilities, and time for playing is something that I have had to do for myself my entire time at Fairhaven. At present and in the most recent years, I have been able to make a schedule that works for me fairly easily; however, that has not always been the case. There have been occasions where I have struggled to make time for everything I felt was important. Often this lead to me having to take a step back and let something go. While this was hard for me, I feel that having to determine what the best thing for me was at the time was a necessary learning learning experience in order to develop adaptability.

Responsibility

Of the skills I have learned at Fairhaven, responsibility may be one that was not as directly developed by playing as much as some of the others. However, play had a large part to do with my initial experiences with responsibility. Once my interests at school expanded to include the computer rooms, where I spent countless hours with friends, playing more games than I can remember, I began to wondered why there were so many more rules about computers than there were most other parts of the school. This curiosity led me to join my first corporation at school, along with my friends. Being part of a corporation was unlike anything I had ever done before. Not only was I able to witness first hand discussions and decisions being made about the computers, but I was also allowed to have a say in them. The experience of having a real effect on my environment, made me realize the privilege of being at a place like Fairhaven and how important it was to be responsible with the impact I had.

Perhaps that message did not quite sink in until partway through my second year. While at an after school event, myself and a friend of mine went around the event saying and doing various inappropriate things. I thought it was funny and harmless. I did not realize at the time what I was doing to the school’s image, at an event with many people loved the school, like I did, and where for some people, it was their first time there. This was the first time my playing had a serious negative impact on anything. I never had to take responsibility for playing before, and it made me realize that my actions can effect others and the importance of considering what those effects might be.

I will always be grateful for the second chance the school gave me after what I had done. Even though I was suspended, and I believe I should have been, I learned a lot about what it meant go to a place like Fairhaven. It is more than a school, it is a community, and being part of a community means having to take responsibility for your actions. It means learning from your mistakes and becoming a better person because of them. It means giving back to the place that has given you so much. Since that experience, I have involved myself in countless aspects of the school, from joining several other corporations and committees, to being a part of creating them, as well as taking over a school business from one of my friends that graduated, and taking on many different positions within the school’s judicial system. Each of them has granted me the opportunity to become responsible for whichever group I was a part of, as well as for myself. Especially my time as JC clerk. During my time clerking, I feel that I became responsible for the school in a way that I never had in any corporation or committee.

The JC is an aspect of the school that I feel Fairhaven needs in order to provide a free and democratic learning environment to any student who seeks one. Overseeing not only its smooth functioning, but also its judicial integrity, has been an incredible experience about what it meant to be responsible. While I am not currently a JC clerk, I still take responsibility for making sure the judicial system is functioning and treated as an important facet of the school, but now as the Law Clerk. I do this not only because it is my job as Law Clerk, but also so that I can repay the school to the best of my ability for helping me become the person I am today.

The Future

To put it simply, leaving Fairhaven is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done. It has been so much more than a school to me, it has been my family. Even if I were to spend another year here, or two, or ten, or fifty, I would never learn all that I could learn from a place like this, but I know it is time for me to move on. I am at a point in my life where I have been met with crossroads, and I know which path to take. It is true I can never experience everything Fairhaven has to offer, but there are things in life that Fairhaven cannot. I am ready to experience those things, to face them head on, to show them what someone who has effectively used their time at Fairhaven can do.

Next year I will be going to Burlington, Vermont, to attend Champlain College, where I have been accepted into the 3D game art and animation program. I have been interested in 3D art and animation for close to four years, particularly character creation. Characters are one aspect of play that have always inspired my imagination and creativity. Characters have always played a large part in most of my interests, from video gaming, to D&D, and theater. Creating and playing characters that are unique and interesting has never failed to bring me joy, and I doubt it ever will. Thanks to the freedoms of Fairhaven I have had the time to realize that about myself, and use the skills I have learned here in order to ensure that in the future I will be able to pursue my passion in creating characters.

I cannot know for sure what life will be like next year, but I know that my time at Fairhaven will always be one of the most important things to ever happen to me. I know that I will always find a time for play in my life. I know that whatever problems I may face, I am fully equipped to handle them. I know that if things around me are changing in ways I did not expect, I have the knowledge and abilities to adapt properly. I know that I am a responsible individual that can make hard decisions when I need to. I know that Fairhaven has taught me lessons that are more valuable to me than I realize, and I will never forget my experiences here.

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Class of 2015 Graduate Thesis #1

(In celebration of the Fairhaven School Class of 2015, we will be posting their graduation theses in this space. Successful candidates have written and defended theses in response to the following statement:

Fairhaven School awards a diploma to students who can defend the following thesis to the satisfaction of the Diploma Committee: My experiences while enrolled at Fairhaven have enabled me to develop the problem-solving skills, the adaptability, and the abilities needed to function independently and responsibly in the world that I am about to enter.

This year’s candidates defended their theses to a committee of staff members from Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, MA, Clearwater School in Bothell, WA, and Hudson Valley Sudbury School in Kingston, NY.)

Brennan Graduation Resized

Player 1
As you are reading these words, there is a good chance that I am currently playing something, of some sort, somewhere, with someone. Whether I am at school, thinking of just the right word to say, based off the clues of pineapple and ocean. Around a table, covered in dice, maps, and half eaten pizza slices, laughing with friends. Sitting at my computer, trying to shout over four other people, miles apart from each other, about what we should do to win. In an open space, creating a story with others out of nowhere, in which the limits exist only as far as we are willing to push them. Or, curled up on the couch next to my dog, with nothing but a game system and silence.

Play is a very important thing to me. It has sculpted my life in so many ways, and I am sure in some ways that I do not even realize. I have spent more time playing than I have most other things in my life, and I do not feel as though a second of it has been wasted. In my time at Fairhaven, and notably through play, I have had the opportunity to develop important skills, which I will use for the rest of my life. Particularly, the capability to examine a problem from different angles and to solve it in an effective way, the understanding for when a situation requires change and when I need to change or whether I need to cause it, and the personal responsibility to make choices for the good of more than just myself.

Background

When I began at Fairhaven, in 2006, coming from a strict public school setting, I was at first overwhelmed by having the freedom to do whatever I chose to do. However, I very quickly found a place there that drew my attention more than anything else had so far. The first time I stepped into the AV room, I was met with a group of people all laughing and yelling and looking at two huge TV screens playing Godzilla on playstation2. These people became my friends faster than I had ever made friends before. Being able to spend my entire day talking, laughing, and playing games with my friends was one of the best experiences I had ever had in school.

Over the course of my first year, my interests expanded to playing games and watching videos in the two computer rooms, battling and trading pokemon with friends on our gameboys, walking around the school chanting all sorts of things with my friends (our favorite activity when when we could not agree on what to play), and playing countless games we invented ourselves including hunters and prey and the nothing game. Since then, my range of playing has widened to include theater, both plays and improvisation, roleplaying games such as Dungeons and Dragons, the drums, creating short films, and 3D game art and animation.

As for interests not necessarily involving play, I have been a part of several classes ranging from various math classes, to creative and compositional writing, to art classes, and even astronomy. In the last five years I have become very involved with the Fairhaven judicial system. I have been elected as JC clerk and alternate more times than I can count, as well as for one term of School Meeting chair, and am currently the elected student Law Clerk. While having learned valuable lessons from nearly everything I have done at Fairhaven, I feel that involvement with the judicial system has taught me about problem solving, adaptability, and responsibility in a unique way that without Fairhaven I never would have had the opportunity to experience.

Problem Solving

When someone is playing a game, what are they doing? Whether it is chess, dungeons and dragons, pokemon, or even tag, a game is something where there is always an obstacle of some sort that must be overcome in order to achieve success. I have been solving problems since my first day at Fairhaven. I did not need to realize it, or understand the significance of it at the time, but I believe the abundance and variety of my play has taught me to solve problems in ways I never would have known how to otherwise.

In a game like Pacman, the obstacles as well as the decisions you are able to make are very straightforward. This leads to formulaic game play. Which means, while it can be difficult to succeed at first, through an understanding of the game as well as a mastery of the basic motor functions required (which are both gained by playing) the game can become quite simple. This is an example of a problem that can be overcome by having the experience of certain situations. Many problems in life can be thought of in the same way, such as cooking for yourself, managing your own time, or caring for an animal. While these problems may seem daunting to someone at first, through experiencing them yourself and developing the skills needed, they become simple everyday activities.

However, there will always be problems that cannot be solved by simply having the necessary experience to deal with them. Dungeons and Dragons is a game in which a player is constantly presented with obstacles which they could have had no way of accounting for. Unlike in Pacman, the actions a player can take are limitless. This makes the ability to approach a situation with creative and intelligent problem solving skills an incredible strength. For example, if a player is put in a situation in which they must slay a rampaging, giant boar that plows through every tree or building in its way, and the player knows they cannot fight it head on, simply having more experience with the game would not solve that problem. Having the idea to climb a nearby structure and leap onto the creature’s back in order kill it takes inventive thinking, rather than mere familiarity.

I have had ample opportunity to learn these methods of problem solving at Fairhaven, as well as opportunities to put them to the test. One such opportunity is when I felt that it made no sense to have to be a member of the Kitchen Corporation in order to sell anything at school, as the Kitchen Corporation is responsible for maintaining kitchen supplies. So a friend and I went through all the proper channels of the school in order to charter Vendor Corp. This meant bringing a motion forward to School Meeting, stating the reasons for why Vendor Corp would be a positive addition to the school, and debating back and forth before finding a solution that passed. It was difficult to come to a conclusion that appealed to everyone, but eventually we were able to reach a compromise that felt fair for all parties.

One of the most common opportunities for problem solving stems from my involvement with the judicial system. Whenever a problem emerges involving the judicial system, which happens often, whether it is something smaller like the sentence lists not being checked, or something as impactful as a lack of student interest in JC clerking, as the Law Clerk and an involved School Meeting member, it is my duty to see that these issues are met with a solution. I have spent hours in the weekly School Meetings discussing these problems and having to solve them in thoughtful and innovative ways in order to consider not only the judicial system itself but also the students involved. As if this was not difficult enough on its own, it also has to be done along with other school meeting members, each with their own opinions of right and wrong, in a space where everyone has the same amount of say in the end.

The field that I will be pursuing next year is 3D game art and animation, and the majority of that work is done in group projects. I feel that the experience of solving problems with a group of people rather than just on my own, and in creative and intelligent ways will serve me excellently in the future.

Adaptability

One thing that I feel greatly helped me develop the ability to adapt to different situations was improvisation. When I first joined the improv class at school, I realized that it was an activity that I had been searching for my whole life. It felt like an activity that allowed me to express my creativity in a way that I had always longed to do, but never knew how. Creating worlds in an instant, where anything I could convey became reality, was an incredible thing to discover. Ever since that first class five years ago, I have rarely gone more than a week without it, from taking the classes at school, to going to shows on the weekends, signing up for camps over the summer, and even joining an out of school improv troupe.

Improv perpetuates an environment of spontaneity, in which a player must accept any offers a fellow player makes and incorporate that into the reality of the scene. There are many skills I have learned from improv, and there are some I feel relate directly to adaptability in the world off-stage. The ability to listen to your fellow players is critical to a great scene. If you are unable to listen, then you are unable to know when a change has occurred, and how to act accordingly in order to drive a scene forward and keep things from becoming confusing. Intuition is something equally as important in improv. When in the middle of a scene, you do not have the time to think through your next action. You have to trust yourself to advance the scene, without choking on the thought of making the “wrong” decision. I know that these skills of being perceptive in my environment and trusting myself to take action, have helped me to become an adaptive individual.

Outside of improv, another key to being adaptable that I have learned at Fairhaven, is the ability to manage my time. Though you are never required to take part in anything scheduled, I always feel as though there is something I need to get done. Finding a way to balance classes, theater, judicial responsibilities, and time for playing is something that I have had to do for myself my entire time at Fairhaven. At present and in the most recent years, I have been able to make a schedule that works for me fairly easily; however, that has not always been the case. There have been occasions where I have struggled to make time for everything I felt was important. Often this lead to me having to take a step back and let something go. While this was hard for me, I feel that having to determine what the best thing for me was at the time was a necessary learning learning experience in order to develop adaptability.

Responsibility

Of the skills I have learned at Fairhaven, responsibility may be one that was not as directly developed by playing as much as some of the others. However, play had a large part to do with my initial experiences with responsibility. Once my interests at school expanded to include the computer rooms, where I spent countless hours with friends, playing more games than I can remember, I began to wondered why there were so many more rules about computers than there were most other parts of the school. This curiosity led me to join my first corporation at school, along with my friends. Being part of a corporation was unlike anything I had ever done before. Not only was I able to witness first hand discussions and decisions being made about the computers, but I was also allowed to have a say in them. The experience of having a real effect on my environment, made me realize the privilege of being at a place like Fairhaven and how important it was to be responsible with the impact I had.

Perhaps that message did not quite sink in until partway through my second year. While at an after school event, myself and a friend of mine went around the event saying and doing various inappropriate things. I thought it was funny and harmless. I did not realize at the time what I was doing to the school’s image, at an event with many people loved the school, like I did, and where for some people, it was their first time there. This was the first time my playing had a serious negative impact on anything. I never had to take responsibility for playing before, and it made me realize that my actions can effect others and the importance of considering what those effects might be.

I will always be grateful for the second chance the school gave me after what I had done. Even though I was suspended, and I believe I should have been, I learned a lot about what it meant go to a place like Fairhaven. It is more than a school, it is a community, and being part of a community means having to take responsibility for your actions. It means learning from your mistakes and becoming a better person because of them. It means giving back to the place that has given you so much. Since that experience, I have involved myself in countless aspects of the school, from joining several other corporations and committees, to being a part of creating them, as well as taking over a school business from one of my friends that graduated, and taking on many different positions within the school’s judicial system. Each of them has granted me the opportunity to become responsible for whichever group I was a part of, as well as for myself. Especially my time as JC clerk. During my time clerking, I feel that I became responsible for the school in a way that I never had in any corporation or committee.

The JC is an aspect of the school that I feel Fairhaven needs in order to provide a free and democratic learning environment to any student who seeks one. Overseeing not only its smooth functioning, but also its judicial integrity, has been an incredible experience about what it meant to be responsible. While I am not currently a JC clerk, I still take responsibility for making sure the judicial system is functioning and treated as an important facet of the school, but now as the Law Clerk. I do this not only because it is my job as Law Clerk, but also so that I can repay the school to the best of my ability for helping me become the person I am today.

The Future

To put it simply, leaving Fairhaven is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done. It has been so much more than a school to me, it has been my family. Even if I were to spend another year here, or two, or ten, or fifty, I would never learn all that I could learn from a place like this, but I know it is time for me to move on. I am at a point in my life where I have been met with crossroads, and I know which path to take. It is true I can never experience everything Fairhaven has to offer, but there are things in life that Fairhaven cannot. I am ready to experience those things, to face them head on, to show them what someone who has effectively used their time at Fairhaven can do.

Next year I will be going to Burlington, Vermont, to attend Champlain College, where I have been accepted into the 3D game art and animation program. I have been interested in 3D art and animation for close to four years, particularly character creation. Characters are one aspect of play that have always inspired my imagination and creativity. Characters have always played a large part in most of my interests, from video gaming, to D&D, and theater. Creating and playing characters that are unique and interesting has never failed to bring me joy, and I doubt it ever will. Thanks to the freedoms of Fairhaven I have had the time to realize that about myself, and use the skills I have learned here in order to ensure that in the future I will be able to pursue my passion in creating characters.

I cannot know for sure what life will be like next year, but I know that my time at Fairhaven will always be one of the most important things to ever happen to me. I know that I will always find a time for play in my life. I know that whatever problems I may face, I am fully equipped to handle them. I know that if things around me are changing in ways I did not expect, I have the knowledge and abilities to adapt properly. I know that I am a responsible individual that can make hard decisions when I need to. I know that Fairhaven has taught me lessons that are more valuable to me than I realize, and I will never forget my experiences here.

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Class of 2015 Graduate Thesis #1

(In celebration of the Fairhaven School Class of 2015, we will be posting their graduation theses in this space. Successful candidates have written and defended theses in response to the following statement:

Fairhaven School awards a diploma to students who can defend the following thesis to the satisfaction of the Diploma Committee: My experiences while enrolled at Fairhaven have enabled me to develop the problem-solving skills, the adaptability, and the abilities needed to function independently and responsibly in the world that I am about to enter.

This year’s candidates defended their theses to a committee of staff members from Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, MA, Clearwater School in Bothell, WA, and Hudson Valley Sudbury School in Kingston, NY.)

Brennan Graduation Resized

Player 1
As you are reading these words, there is a good chance that I am currently playing something, of some sort, somewhere, with someone. Whether I am at school, thinking of just the right word to say, based off the clues of pineapple and ocean. Around a table, covered in dice, maps, and half eaten pizza slices, laughing with friends. Sitting at my computer, trying to shout over four other people, miles apart from each other, about what we should do to win. In an open space, creating a story with others out of nowhere, in which the limits exist only as far as we are willing to push them. Or, curled up on the couch next to my dog, with nothing but a game system and silence.

Play is a very important thing to me. It has sculpted my life in so many ways, and I am sure in some ways that I do not even realize. I have spent more time playing than I have most other things in my life, and I do not feel as though a second of it has been wasted. In my time at Fairhaven, and notably through play, I have had the opportunity to develop important skills, which I will use for the rest of my life. Particularly, the capability to examine a problem from different angles and to solve it in an effective way, the understanding for when a situation requires change and when I need to change or whether I need to cause it, and the personal responsibility to make choices for the good of more than just myself.

Background

When I began at Fairhaven, in 2006, coming from a strict public school setting, I was at first overwhelmed by having the freedom to do whatever I chose to do. However, I very quickly found a place there that drew my attention more than anything else had so far. The first time I stepped into the AV room, I was met with a group of people all laughing and yelling and looking at two huge TV screens playing Godzilla on playstation2. These people became my friends faster than I had ever made friends before. Being able to spend my entire day talking, laughing, and playing games with my friends was one of the best experiences I had ever had in school.

Over the course of my first year, my interests expanded to playing games and watching videos in the two computer rooms, battling and trading pokemon with friends on our gameboys, walking around the school chanting all sorts of things with my friends (our favorite activity when when we could not agree on what to play), and playing countless games we invented ourselves including hunters and prey and the nothing game. Since then, my range of playing has widened to include theater, both plays and improvisation, roleplaying games such as Dungeons and Dragons, the drums, creating short films, and 3D game art and animation.

As for interests not necessarily involving play, I have been a part of several classes ranging from various math classes, to creative and compositional writing, to art classes, and even astronomy. In the last five years I have become very involved with the Fairhaven judicial system. I have been elected as JC clerk and alternate more times than I can count, as well as for one term of School Meeting chair, and am currently the elected student Law Clerk. While having learned valuable lessons from nearly everything I have done at Fairhaven, I feel that involvement with the judicial system has taught me about problem solving, adaptability, and responsibility in a unique way that without Fairhaven I never would have had the opportunity to experience.

Problem Solving

When someone is playing a game, what are they doing? Whether it is chess, dungeons and dragons, pokemon, or even tag, a game is something where there is always an obstacle of some sort that must be overcome in order to achieve success. I have been solving problems since my first day at Fairhaven. I did not need to realize it, or understand the significance of it at the time, but I believe the abundance and variety of my play has taught me to solve problems in ways I never would have known how to otherwise.

In a game like Pacman, the obstacles as well as the decisions you are able to make are very straightforward. This leads to formulaic game play. Which means, while it can be difficult to succeed at first, through an understanding of the game as well as a mastery of the basic motor functions required (which are both gained by playing) the game can become quite simple. This is an example of a problem that can be overcome by having the experience of certain situations. Many problems in life can be thought of in the same way, such as cooking for yourself, managing your own time, or caring for an animal. While these problems may seem daunting to someone at first, through experiencing them yourself and developing the skills needed, they become simple everyday activities.

However, there will always be problems that cannot be solved by simply having the necessary experience to deal with them. Dungeons and Dragons is a game in which a player is constantly presented with obstacles which they could have had no way of accounting for. Unlike in Pacman, the actions a player can take are limitless. This makes the ability to approach a situation with creative and intelligent problem solving skills an incredible strength. For example, if a player is put in a situation in which they must slay a rampaging, giant boar that plows through every tree or building in its way, and the player knows they cannot fight it head on, simply having more experience with the game would not solve that problem. Having the idea to climb a nearby structure and leap onto the creature’s back in order kill it takes inventive thinking, rather than mere familiarity.

I have had ample opportunity to learn these methods of problem solving at Fairhaven, as well as opportunities to put them to the test. One such opportunity is when I felt that it made no sense to have to be a member of the Kitchen Corporation in order to sell anything at school, as the Kitchen Corporation is responsible for maintaining kitchen supplies. So a friend and I went through all the proper channels of the school in order to charter Vendor Corp. This meant bringing a motion forward to School Meeting, stating the reasons for why Vendor Corp would be a positive addition to the school, and debating back and forth before finding a solution that passed. It was difficult to come to a conclusion that appealed to everyone, but eventually we were able to reach a compromise that felt fair for all parties.

One of the most common opportunities for problem solving stems from my involvement with the judicial system. Whenever a problem emerges involving the judicial system, which happens often, whether it is something smaller like the sentence lists not being checked, or something as impactful as a lack of student interest in JC clerking, as the Law Clerk and an involved School Meeting member, it is my duty to see that these issues are met with a solution. I have spent hours in the weekly School Meetings discussing these problems and having to solve them in thoughtful and innovative ways in order to consider not only the judicial system itself but also the students involved. As if this was not difficult enough on its own, it also has to be done along with other school meeting members, each with their own opinions of right and wrong, in a space where everyone has the same amount of say in the end.

The field that I will be pursuing next year is 3D game art and animation, and the majority of that work is done in group projects. I feel that the experience of solving problems with a group of people rather than just on my own, and in creative and intelligent ways will serve me excellently in the future.

Adaptability

One thing that I feel greatly helped me develop the ability to adapt to different situations was improvisation. When I first joined the improv class at school, I realized that it was an activity that I had been searching for my whole life. It felt like an activity that allowed me to express my creativity in a way that I had always longed to do, but never knew how. Creating worlds in an instant, where anything I could convey became reality, was an incredible thing to discover. Ever since that first class five years ago, I have rarely gone more than a week without it, from taking the classes at school, to going to shows on the weekends, signing up for camps over the summer, and even joining an out of school improv troupe.

Improv perpetuates an environment of spontaneity, in which a player must accept any offers a fellow player makes and incorporate that into the reality of the scene. There are many skills I have learned from improv, and there are some I feel relate directly to adaptability in the world off-stage. The ability to listen to your fellow players is critical to a great scene. If you are unable to listen, then you are unable to know when a change has occurred, and how to act accordingly in order to drive a scene forward and keep things from becoming confusing. Intuition is something equally as important in improv. When in the middle of a scene, you do not have the time to think through your next action. You have to trust yourself to advance the scene, without choking on the thought of making the “wrong” decision. I know that these skills of being perceptive in my environment and trusting myself to take action, have helped me to become an adaptive individual.

Outside of improv, another key to being adaptable that I have learned at Fairhaven, is the ability to manage my time. Though you are never required to take part in anything scheduled, I always feel as though there is something I need to get done. Finding a way to balance classes, theater, judicial responsibilities, and time for playing is something that I have had to do for myself my entire time at Fairhaven. At present and in the most recent years, I have been able to make a schedule that works for me fairly easily; however, that has not always been the case. There have been occasions where I have struggled to make time for everything I felt was important. Often this lead to me having to take a step back and let something go. While this was hard for me, I feel that having to determine what the best thing for me was at the time was a necessary learning learning experience in order to develop adaptability.

Responsibility

Of the skills I have learned at Fairhaven, responsibility may be one that was not as directly developed by playing as much as some of the others. However, play had a large part to do with my initial experiences with responsibility. Once my interests at school expanded to include the computer rooms, where I spent countless hours with friends, playing more games than I can remember, I began to wondered why there were so many more rules about computers than there were most other parts of the school. This curiosity led me to join my first corporation at school, along with my friends. Being part of a corporation was unlike anything I had ever done before. Not only was I able to witness first hand discussions and decisions being made about the computers, but I was also allowed to have a say in them. The experience of having a real effect on my environment, made me realize the privilege of being at a place like Fairhaven and how important it was to be responsible with the impact I had.

Perhaps that message did not quite sink in until partway through my second year. While at an after school event, myself and a friend of mine went around the event saying and doing various inappropriate things. I thought it was funny and harmless. I did not realize at the time what I was doing to the school’s image, at an event with many people loved the school, like I did, and where for some people, it was their first time there. This was the first time my playing had a serious negative impact on anything. I never had to take responsibility for playing before, and it made me realize that my actions can effect others and the importance of considering what those effects might be.

I will always be grateful for the second chance the school gave me after what I had done. Even though I was suspended, and I believe I should have been, I learned a lot about what it meant go to a place like Fairhaven. It is more than a school, it is a community, and being part of a community means having to take responsibility for your actions. It means learning from your mistakes and becoming a better person because of them. It means giving back to the place that has given you so much. Since that experience, I have involved myself in countless aspects of the school, from joining several other corporations and committees, to being a part of creating them, as well as taking over a school business from one of my friends that graduated, and taking on many different positions within the school’s judicial system. Each of them has granted me the opportunity to become responsible for whichever group I was a part of, as well as for myself. Especially my time as JC clerk. During my time clerking, I feel that I became responsible for the school in a way that I never had in any corporation or committee.

The JC is an aspect of the school that I feel Fairhaven needs in order to provide a free and democratic learning environment to any student who seeks one. Overseeing not only its smooth functioning, but also its judicial integrity, has been an incredible experience about what it meant to be responsible. While I am not currently a JC clerk, I still take responsibility for making sure the judicial system is functioning and treated as an important facet of the school, but now as the Law Clerk. I do this not only because it is my job as Law Clerk, but also so that I can repay the school to the best of my ability for helping me become the person I am today.

The Future

To put it simply, leaving Fairhaven is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done. It has been so much more than a school to me, it has been my family. Even if I were to spend another year here, or two, or ten, or fifty, I would never learn all that I could learn from a place like this, but I know it is time for me to move on. I am at a point in my life where I have been met with crossroads, and I know which path to take. It is true I can never experience everything Fairhaven has to offer, but there are things in life that Fairhaven cannot. I am ready to experience those things, to face them head on, to show them what someone who has effectively used their time at Fairhaven can do.

Next year I will be going to Burlington, Vermont, to attend Champlain College, where I have been accepted into the 3D game art and animation program. I have been interested in 3D art and animation for close to four years, particularly character creation. Characters are one aspect of play that have always inspired my imagination and creativity. Characters have always played a large part in most of my interests, from video gaming, to D&D, and theater. Creating and playing characters that are unique and interesting has never failed to bring me joy, and I doubt it ever will. Thanks to the freedoms of Fairhaven I have had the time to realize that about myself, and use the skills I have learned here in order to ensure that in the future I will be able to pursue my passion in creating characters.

I cannot know for sure what life will be like next year, but I know that my time at Fairhaven will always be one of the most important things to ever happen to me. I know that I will always find a time for play in my life. I know that whatever problems I may face, I am fully equipped to handle them. I know that if things around me are changing in ways I did not expect, I have the knowledge and abilities to adapt properly. I know that I am a responsible individual that can make hard decisions when I need to. I know that Fairhaven has taught me lessons that are more valuable to me than I realize, and I will never forget my experiences here.

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How Early Academic Training Retards Intellectual Development

In the absence of an appropriate intellectual foundation and motivation to learn, students acquire academic skills by rote, in shallow, meaningless ways. This not only wastes students' time, but can cause serious harm to their future intellectual and academic development. Here's some of the evidence.

Comments off

How Early Academic Training Retards Intellectual Development

In the absence of an appropriate intellectual foundation and motivation to learn, students acquire academic skills by rote, in shallow, meaningless ways. This not only wastes students' time, but can cause serious harm to their future intellectual and academic development. Here's some of the evidence.

Comments off

How Early Academic Training Retards Intellectual Development

In the absence of an appropriate intellectual foundation and motivation to learn, students acquire academic skills by rote, in shallow, meaningless ways. This not only wastes students' time, but can cause serious harm to their future intellectual and academic development. Here's some of the evidence.

Comments off

How Early Academic Training Retards Intellectual Development

In the absence of an appropriate intellectual foundation and motivation to learn, students acquire academic skills by rote, in shallow, meaningless ways. This not only wastes students' time, but can cause serious harm to their future intellectual and academic development. Here's some of the evidence.

Comments off

How Early Academic Training Retards Intellectual Development

In the absence of an appropriate intellectual foundation and motivation to learn, students acquire academic skills by rote, in shallow, meaningless ways. This not only wastes students' time, but can cause serious harm to their future intellectual and academic development. Here's some of the evidence.

Comments off

How Early Academic Training Retards Intellectual Development

In the absence of an appropriate intellectual foundation and motivation to learn, students acquire academic skills by rote, in shallow, meaningless ways. This not only wastes students' time, but can cause serious harm to their future intellectual and academic development. Here's some of the evidence.

Comments off