Learning Outside the Classroom

Sentinel Farm


The American Culture and Middle School ELL classes had an interesting visit to Sentinel Farm in Belchertown on Thursday October 15th.  Students began the day learning about the different types of apples and how to properly pick them. Then, we each received a bag to put the apples we picked. Some students even ate apples right from the tree!


After filling our bags, we watched owners Steve and Meg Lanphear grind, press, and then filter apples and their juice to make apple cider.  Steve explained the processes for integrated pest management, gathering and storing the apples, and then helped students choose the varieties they might enjoy for eating.


After picking their own apples, students returned to the shed and got to taste the cider. Meg one batch of heated and pasteurized cider and the other batch was cold and unpasteurized. Some students described the difference of the unpasteurized as thicker and more tart. Some students even spoke to the owners about what apple picking was like in their home countries. so that students could taste the difference. Overall, it was worthwhile trip, letting the students experience a quintessential fall experience in New England.

UMass Multiband Concert

On October 16th, the sixth and seventh grades along with the upper school performing ensembles traveled to the University of Massachusetts for their annual “Multibands” concert. The concert featured over twenty different ensembles from the university, including orchestra, jazz bands, percussion and vocals ensembles. The second half of the concert proved most exciting when the Minutemen marching band performed on stage, counting roughly two hundred and seventy students. The middle schoolers enjoyed exposure to different types of ensembles, instruments and music styles while the upper school musicians enjoyed exposure to the collegiate music scene, level and opportunities. It was an inspiring and fun event.

Doug Varone and Dancers

doug varone

Ms. Muzzy’s dance classes went to see New York City based Doug Varone and Dancers at the University of Massachusetts on Tuesday, October 20th. The performances showcased three pieces, one of them Varone’s newest piece, ReComposed, inspired by American abstract artist Joan Mitchell’s pastel drawings and set to Max Ritchter’s newly constructed version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.

Norwottuck Rail Trail


The Biology CP students were surprised with a balmy day Thursday, October 22nd as they headed to the Norwottuck Rail Trail and various other woodland locations to look at some examples of ecological succession.

After discussing both primary and secondary succession, as well as keystone and pioneer species in the classroom, the students set out to view some real life examples of these biological phenomena. Introduced by the fabulous Mr. Vennell, the main attraction was a large beaver pond, created at the eastern end of the rail trail decades ago, where there once was forest; maintained to some extent now by a few small beaver communities. The students were able to view several stages of aquatic succession and learn about some of the species integral to the process as they walked down the trail.


After a relaxing lunch accompanied by discussion of annual and biennial root systems, the last stop was a climax forest community on the nearby Robert Frost trail. We were able to observe the characteristic differences in species and other factors between this mature forest community, and the younger, intermediate-stage forest surrounding the beaver pond.

A day spent enjoying the fresh autumn air is always a pleasure, and in the process, the biology students experienced the added bonus of connecting concepts learned in the classroom to tangible examples in our local community.