Welcome to Inside Wolfeboro 2016

Jousson Dining Hall
Jousson Dining Hall

Please enjoy Inside Wolfeboro as your window into our session activities.

I’m Brian Fisher, the Communications Director at Wolfeboro.  I’ll work to be your eyes and ears into campus events and the lives and activities of our students through photographs, observations and the occasional interview.

I hope to give you a feel for the activity and growth that occurs in all of us every summer. Our students work hard, have a great time, and are guided by some of the best educators anywhere.

You’ll find a more complete introduction, including my Wolfeboro Experience, in the About section.

Play the Chess Masters

In the Vidigami albums, you may have noticed the pictures of the regular, ongoing chess matches on the Borg Campus (upper school boys) each afternoon. Between lunch and dinner, you can often see ten regulars players at the boards, as many as four games going on, and a few spectators.

While the matches include many boys, and players move in-and-out of their seats at the tables, Maurice and Harrison stand as Wolfeboro’s chess masters.

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Maurice and Harrison are Wolfeboro’s strongest players.

You’ll often find Maurice and Harrison teaching each other during quieter times with other players watching and learning.  Maurice and Harrison spend a good deal of time teaching.  Some players seek advice on openings and endings.  And, Wolfeboro’s chess masters also set puzzles and situations for other students to study.

“In order to learn, you have to first see the board better…We teach them openings so they know how to open up the game and be strong,” explains Maurice.

I asked Maurice if anyone has beaten him or Harrison yet.

“Not yet.  Everyone’s gotten better.”

We’ll find out how much better during this weekend’s chess tournament.

Ties that Bind: Charlie Frankenbach returns after a 27 year hiatus

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Mr. Frankenbach’s English Class
How’d you get to Wolfeboro?
Bill Cooper hired me in the spring of 1985, largely because my cousin Angus Mairs had worked at Wolfeboro the summer before.  Angus was heading to Choate, I to Loomis, and we both needed some “boarding school training” before we started what has turned out to be lifelong careers in education for both of us.  I was a counselor in 1985, 1986, and was an activities co-director in 1987 (with Mike Carswell, who did most of the work!).
Twenty-seven years is a long time away; what drew you back; what’s your Wolfeboro story?
My Wolfeboro story is the story of much of my adult life–no kidding.  Here I met Lauren, my spouse of 27 years, and John and Christy Cooper, two of our  closest friends on this planet.  I discovered that I loved working with young folks and colleagues committed to helping young folk through young folkdom.  I’m back here this summer because I know that Wolfeboro has always committed to a program that works.  I love teaching, and to teach small classes in the fabled tents was a draw.  (I also needed to make money for my own children’s educations!)  And I love loon calls…
What changes do you see?
Wolfeboro has evolved, as successful organisms evolve.  Not for mere survival, but for thriving with and in the times.  There’s still an atmosphere of rather austere attention to rules and decorum, but there is a lighter touch with admonition.  Still stern, but calibrated more towards encouragement and teaching moments.  The kids are more willing to have the Wolfeboro experience, and, in turn, a bit easier to engage and cajole.
What’s the best thing about being  back on campus for the summer?
Best part:  Old friends; good, upbeat kids; great food!; the reading festival I just attended (and seeing the grand master, Bob Googins)…And truly skilled residential life staff.  A tried and true overall system.  Old school is good school.

Back to Basics Teaching and Learning

Editor’s note: this post first ran at VIRGE CORNELIUS – JEDI MASTER: Math, Teaching, and Teaching Math.  Ms. Cornelius teaches mathematics at Wolfeboro and although Wolfeboro is unnamed in this piece (for her audience), you’ll know that Wolfeboro is her subject from the descriptions and pictures.

aptly named X, Y and Z

For the past 5+ weeks I have been teaching summer school.  As far as we know, the school is the only one of its kind: a summer boarding school which exists only for its summer students.  Unlike typical 9-month schools which lay mostly dormant in the summer, this school lays mostly dormant for 9 months.  Being in this environment is in some ways the most traditional, and yet in other ways non-traditional experience for the students and teachers alike.

For starters…  Say good bye to SmartBoards, lesson plans with integrated technology, and state testing.  The school has never embraced technology as part of its teaching and learning tools.  Students compose essays on lined paper and search for definitions in hand-held dictionaries.  Teachers write weekly reports on carbon paper half sheets which are reminiscent of old receipts.  (Use a ball point pen on a hard surface — there are four pages of paper to press through!)  Math classes focus on skill building and procedural fluency without dependence on calculators.  You never see a computer or smart phone anywhere except in the main office where administrative assistants print rosters for hiking trips and emails from parents.  In these ways, the school has a very traditional feel.

What is not traditional is that every student has a goals document and comes to the school to work on those goals.  (This is so much different than the outcome-driven nature of most high schools — public schools must worry about graduation rates and pass rates on state tests; private schools worry a lot about college placement as their published outcome.). Teachers meet the students where they are academically — easily done since the typical class size is five — and take them as far as they can go in six weeks.  Teachers have high content knowledge in their subject area and significant experience (average number of years teaching is in the 20s) with the age group they teach.  Academic growth is not measured by a score on a computerized final test, but by whether or not the student has met his or her personal goals, the center of which are not the “grades” of the successful student, but rather the “habits” of a successful student.

What supports this non-traditional mission is the traditional daily schedule which is a highly supervised, routinized program of family-style meals, classes, athletic and art activities, study hall, and lights out.  The objective is for the students to begin to internalize these habits so that they can put them into action in their year-round schools.

For example, a traditional aspect of this summer school’s day which has been all but lost in most families and schools is the sit-down meal.  We eat three of these meals daily at assigned tables that change weekly.  It gives us time to pause as a school community and time talk to each other before the busy morning class schedule, the afternoon activities, and the evening study hall.  Teaching and learning is going on in the dining hall, on the residential campuses, and during intramural games all the time in that the program supports healthy, connected community living.

Another traditional aspect of school life is the nightly study hall.  Students study independently for two hours without the help of parents, tutors, teachers or technology.  They are learning to be independent and resourceful through practice and experience.  The study hall buildings are closely supervised and it is silent in there (except for the 15 minute break).

As a teacher, one thing I cherish at this summer school is the sacred instructional time. No interruptions, period. No parents coming to check out their children. No leaving early for a track meet.  No missing class for a dentist appointment.  My attendance rate for my students has been 100% this summer.  When students are in class day after day (six days week!), they learn quite a bit.

Here are some typical classroom spaces:

channeling RW Emerson

it’s like one big continuous study session

all your classroom needs

I could go on and on about teaching and learning at this summer boarding school — but I can smell the burgers the cooks are preparing for us as part of out traditional Sunday picnic supper.  We have ten more days with our students and colleagues in this paradise.  See you in the classrooms and see you at the pond!

afternoon adventures await