May 18, 2011 at 9:28 pm

GSA’s miniature neighbor: The Harbor School

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Article by Lucy Jakub and Nolan Ellsworth.  Elle Duncombe-Mills contributed reporting.

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The Harbor School used to be a pizza place. It is located across the stream from GSA.IMG_0825Max Hurvitt (left) and Kyle Chick (right) tell the Procrastinator about their school. Max Hurvitt (left) and Kyle Chick (right) tell the Procrastinator about their school.

 

The little building down the street from GSA used to be a pizza place, as many locals fondly remember.  Today it is home to the Harbor School, a public project-based learning school.  Students are taught by a faculty of advisors, or they teach themselves.  There are currently fifteen students attending, but plans to expand and create room for more people are in the works.  They have a small porch (with a few gardening projects), a kitchen, one bathroom, and one central classroom.

One of the students we met described the Harbor School as “a magical land.”  And it is indeed like stepping through a wardrobe into an otherworldly sanctuary.  When you walk into the Harbor School, there is a carefree air about the place.  Everyone is happy to greet you, show you around, and explain the many projects happening in the school.  Andrew Dillon, the head teacher, is always welcoming, even when visitors are interrupting a class.  Often one can walk in to find kids kicking hackeysacks and jamming during their free time.

The little school feels intimate, perhaps because it is so small and bright inside.  Each student has a wooden dubicle (desk+cubicle=dubicle, in harbor lingo) and a spinny chair for their personal workspace (some students have considered transferring primarily because of the spinny chairs).  Kyle Chick stated that it would be easy to match the dubicles to their owners if you did not know who sat where, as each workspace is littered with the belongings of its occupant and is highly personalized.  Taped up on his own dubicle are black and white photos of favorite photographers, and a jar of tea sits next to his computer.

We asked the students why they chose the Harbor School.  Vida Poole attended GSA for two and a half years before transferring to the Harbor School.  “GSA wasn’t working out for me,” she said, “the curriculum is designed for a bunch of people, not individuals.”  Kyle and Max (remember them?  The substitutes still read their names off the class lists) expressed similar sentiments.  Kyle grew up as a homeschooler, and after attending GSA for a year and a half felt that an alternative education was more his style.  Finnian simply stated that he was “fed up” with his regular high school.  Brittany Courtot is one of the few who started there as a freshman.  She says that the school keeps pace with her.  This way she isn’t bored in a subject she picks up quickly, and she isn’t struggling to keep up in subject she has a hard time with.  At the Harbor School students can work at their own pace and on their own time.  Some do not find it necessary to come to class to do their work, and instead work at home; there are few due Harbor School, cont. dates, and instead of grades students receive evaluations from their advisors.  All of them can agree that the opportunity to study subjects that are truly interesting to them is a big plus.  Their chosen studies range from photography to philosophy to family history.  Vida is currently enriching her portfolio for art school.  Kyle is working on what is to become a book about local agriculture.  Finnian is writing a psychological portrait of his grandfather.  Max is studying Plato and Descartes.

When asked how he felt the relationship is between GSA and the Harbor School, Andrew Dillon expressed that it was positive.  It’s important for students to have a choice in what kind of high school they want to go to, he said, and that’s why the Harbor School is here.  Andrew also said it was nice that GSA students felt comfortable coming down to visit the Harbor School (like we did), and vice versa.  So don’t be afraid to visit.

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