Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fall Overnight: Olney Friends School

Every autumn, the 7-8s embark upon an overnight trip. In recent years, we've gone to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, to Iowa, and to Detroit. This year, we went to Olney Friends School, a Quaker institution founded in 1837, located in Barnesville, Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Like Summers-Knoll, Olney is a progressive school.

What follows is a brief account of our trip.

At the Main Building, built over a hundred years ago.
The Bus Ride
We left on time--seven in the morning, an hour-and-a-half before a usual SK day begins. The kids were wonderful on the bus--no small feat, given that we spent eleven-plus hours in those cramped quarters between the long trip down and the mercifully shorter trip home.

Owen and Niko on the east side of the farm.

The Classes
The kids were attentive, proud, and participatory in every class: Japanese, Ecology, Statistics, Humanities, Chemistry, Visual Communications, and Spanish. Leonard the Ecology teacher passed out handwritten handouts and sent his six kids out with our three to observe different ecosystems: forest, meadow, and vernal pool, beginning with ten silent minutes, which strikes me as a quintessentially Quaker thing to do. Carrie the Spanish teacher helped the students write a story, building vocabulary as they went. The group of seventh graders were positively brazen in a Humanities class in which they conceived and designed an original early civilization (that kind of activity is right up Summers-Knoll's alley). The 7-8s got a taste of high school, and they found that it was good.

Cave painting, before we turned out the lights.
The Activities
In the evening, the kids frolicked on the school's central green. They participated wholeheartedly in a group sing, nominating songs and occasionally finding harmonies. Best of all, two teachers set the kids up with an activity whereby they painted pictures in the style of early humans. They used pigments and materials that would have been available to prehistoric humans (berries, turmeric, charcoal, sticks; candlelight to mimic the illumination of a cave). They painted wolves, arrows, giraffes (!), and other images, most of which called forth a successful hunt or fruitful collecting.

Oli and some of the goats he named.
The Farm and the Food
When we were arrived, Aaron, the Admissions director, led us downstairs to the cafeteria for fruit, water, bread, and a spicy Israeli stew called shakshouka. We ate pulled pork at other meals, bean & corn salads, hard-boiled eggs from the farm, soft tacos, produce from the garden. The kids observed a moment of collective silence before the meals (as well as collection with the entire school at other times). The food was wonderful, but the organic farm was even better, especially the chickens and the baby goats. Anyone will tell you that the baby goats were the highlight of the trip.
Hothouse flowers.
Facing the pond after classes.