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Putney Post Spring 2016


Register now for

PUTNEY REUNION 2016! Register and find weekend info: putneyschool.org/reunion 802-387-6273 or alumni@putneyschool.org

Classes of 1946–47, 1956, 1966, 1980–82, 1991–92, 1996–98 June 10–12, 2016


Contents 2 Message from the Head of School Fostering broad and open minds

4 Cover Artist: Jane Dickson ’70 Taking art to new places via the anti-craft ethos of the punk rock era

6 News

11 Doing Something Right A recent Putney graduate confirms that cultural fluency and collaboration are useful things in real life

13 Graduation Requirements 2.0

23 Alumni News Alumni authors, events, and more

27 Alumni Notes 48 In Memoriam

Moving from “chair time” to competency in defining Putney graduates

Oxfam Hunger Banquet, blood drive, student art show, sugaring, Chard deNiord, new solar array, winter concert, and more

theputneyschool

theputneyschool

ThePutneySchoolVT

The Putney School Network

<top> LV7 4 (RED ROOF), BY JANE DICKSON, 2012 , OIL ON CANVAS,

48 X 30 INCHES 58 X 32 INCHES

ON THE COVER: <front> BLUE BRIDGE—GW 1, 2007 , OIL ON ASTROTURF, <back> PRATER

6 , 2010 , OIL ON WOOD, 18 X 18 INCHES

@putneyschool


EDUCATION IS ABOUT MORE THAN SEAT TIME. HERE, HENRY ’16, CURRENT CO-STUDENT HEAD OF SCHOOL AND CABIN DWELLER, TAKES A BREAK FROM HIS WORK IN A SCHOOL GREENHOUSE.

A Message from the Head of School Dear Putney alumni, parents, and friends,

Emily Jones Head of School

Broad-mindedness is related to tolerance; open-mindedness is the sibling of peace. —Salman Rushdie

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When Mrs. Hinton founded Putney in 1935, she was able to staff it partly with Europeans fleeing the chaos that was overtaking their homelands. In those first years, the adult population was considerably more cosmopolitan than was the student body. In Putney’s middle years, both adults and students were almost entirely Americans, and the few foreigners who broke the pattern are well remembered. Today we are a quite various and polyglot community, although the diversity of the faculty and staff lags well behind that of the students. Students’ homes are in 14 countries, and they hold passports from 17; these lists often don’t overlap. Many of our students born and raised in the U.S. are frequently multi-cultural in one way or another, born to immigrant parents or two parents of very different backgrounds. Our adult community includes only natives of Afghanistan, China, England, France, Mexico, and the U.S., and despite our sincere efforts, is much less diverse than we would wish.

All of this raises inevitable questions about curriculum. It is hard to identify a “canon” appropriate to this student body. If it is our responsibility to be sure that American students are well-versed in the history of their country, is it less important for Chinese students to know their own history? Or is it actually as important for students to learn each other’s histories? How can we best teach the habits of mind that will predispose students to understand other cultures and to work effectively with different people? We have terms abroad in China, France, England, and Mexico, and have recently approved a new one in Nicaragua. We have written into our new graduation requirements (see p. 13) that all students must spend a minimum of one month living in another culture. This does not mean a “foreign” country, just somewhere with a culture that differs significantly from the one they grew up in.We are gradually finding it easier to persuade students to spend time away from Putney, and


Sylvie Littledale’s presentation in assembly (see p. 17) provided a great vision of how opportunities can open up to a prepared mind. Without an open and at least somewhat educated mind, though, travelers are just tourists. We hope that with our diverse student body, our emphasis on inquiry, and our insistence that students spend time as a “foreigner” in another culture, we will help to foster genuinely broad and open minds.

Putney Post The Putney School Elm Lea Farm 418 Houghton Brook Road Putney, VT 05346 802-387-5566 www.putneyschool.org

—Emily

Emily H. Jones, Head of School

2015–2016 Trustees

PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS MEMBERS EVALUATE AND DISCUSS

Tonia Wheeler P’99, Chair Ira T. Wender P’77, ’89, Vice Chair Randall Smith, Treasurer Katharina Wolfe, Clerk Supawat ’16, Student Trustee Thanh Ha ’17, Student Trustee Michael Sardinas, Faculty Trustee Libby Holmes P’15, ’17, Faculty Trustee Lakshman Achuthan ’84 John Bidwell ’78 Daniel Blood P’15,’18 Dinah Buechner-Vischer P’14 Lee Combrinck-Graham ’59 Freddy Friedman P’12 Joshua Rabb Goldberg ’75 Stephen Heyneman ’61 Dana Hokin ’84 Emily H. Jones Bill Kellett G’02, ’15 Joshua Laughlin ’82 Christopher Lehmann-Haupt ’52 Franz Paasche ’79 Peter Pereira ’52 Robert G. Raynolds ’69 Marni Rosner ’69, P’04, ’07 Iris Wang P’16

Trustees Emeriti

THEIR WORK.

“TO WORK NOT FOR MARKS, BADGES, HONORS, BUT TO DISCOVER TRUTH AND TO GROW IN KNOWLEDGE OF THE UNIVERSE . . . ” —CARMELITA HINTON, “FUNDAMENTAL BELIEFS,” 1954

Barbara Barnes ’41 Kate Ganz Belin ’62 Joan Williams Farr ’49 Sarah Gray Gund ’60 Kendall Landis ’42, P’73, ’79 Bici Binger Pettit-Barron ’48, P’77, ’79, G’07

The Putney Post is published twice yearly for the alumni, parents, and friends of The Putney School. We welcome your comments and ideas. Please direct your correspondence to: The Editor, Putney Post, Elm Lea Farm, 418 Houghton Brook Road, Putney, VT 05346; 802-387-6213; email: putneypost@putneyschool.org

Editorial Board: John Barrengos, Don Cuerdon, Alison Frye, Emily Jones, Hugh Montgomery Publisher: Don Cuerdon Director of Communications Editor: Alison Frye Alumni Relations Manager Alumni Relations Manager: Alison Frye Photographs: Don Cuerdon, Anne Helen Petersen, Jeff Woodward, The Putney School archives Design: New Ground Creative Please send address corrections and new phone numbers to: Alumni Office, The Putney School, Elm Lea Farm, 418 Houghton Brook Road, Putney, VT 05346; phone: 802-387-6213; fax: 802-387-5931; email: rlay@putneyschool.org

founder: carmelita hinton


Jane Dickson ’70 janedickson.com | By Don Cuerdon

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We caught up with Jane Dickson ’70 by phone in mid-February. She was in New Orleans starting an artist’s residency at the Joan Mitchell Foundation, which is good news all by itself. She was also celebrating the sale of her Fab 5 Freddy (the original Yo! MTV Raps veejay) portrait

to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, negotiating a 122x20-foot mural in Brooklyn for this summer, and had a show going entitled Pump Up the Volume, a two-person exhibition at Sacramento State featuring other hip-hop artists Jane had painted “back in the

day.” Jane’s work has been shown from the Whitney to New York’s 42nd Street MTA station. See her website for a more complete list, but plan to be there a while. Jane’s first medium was paint, but her work encompasses printing, drawing, murals, mosaics, public installations, and more. The anti-craft ethos of the early New York City punk-rock era drove her from the fine art of oil-oncanvas to seeking ways to expand the medium. It all started with a painting of the World Trade Center on plastic garbage bags, which she also showed recently. The meaning in that bit of art had also expanded, as we all now know. The following are Jane’s own words about her work, her exploration of paint and texture, and other details of telling stories visually. I am a storyteller. I love weaving stories, hearing stories, so I guess I am telling stories by another means.

<top> COVER ARTIST JANE DICKSON ’70, BY THE CONEY ISLAND FERRIS WHEEL THAT INSPIRED SEVERAL OF HER PAINTINGS <bottom> “REVELERS 52,”

2008, MOSAIC: A SAMPLE OF JANE’S REVELERS MTA MOSAICS, A 2007 PUBLIC PROJECT IN WHICH OVER 60 MOSAICS

WERE INSTALLED IN NEW YORK CITY’S TIMES SQUARE SUBWAY STATION

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I so appreciated Bill Hunt. Doing art at Putney was really, I think, crucial to my becoming an artist—just for the freedom that he gave us. Afterwards, I first went to art school for a year. I drew from a model every morning, and then I’d go out to lunch with my friends. Sometimes, I’d get back to my studio in the afternoon, sometimes I wouldn’t, and I thought to myself, “Oh, I must not be serious enough to be an artist.

I’m hanging out a lot, I’m not working all the time.” So I thought, “I must not really be an artist. I’d better go to university.” I applied to Harvard and I got in. I told them I was going to be an anthropologist. I thought, “I’ll be Margaret Mead. It will be really fun, and I’ll be naked on a tropical island.” I discovered that’s not exactly what you do as an anthropologist.You really spend your life at the library. I thought, “Ehhh, I don’t want to spend my life at the library,” so I ended up being an art major. After my years at Putney, I thought, “I want to go to the city.” I needed to see what our culture was doing. I felt like I wanted to get in the middle of it and respond to it and document it. I’ve always gone for the urban dark side. I got a job working on the first computer billboard— digital light board—in Times Square in 1978. I worked or lived in Times Square, which really is the belly of the beast, for 30 years. My first anthropology course was at Putney. The idea in anthropology is to look for the key issues in a culture—the key behaviors— that tell you about the shared values of the people. That’s an understanding that I took into painting.


each other and pulling each other, falling on each other—and they’re really about relationships. This was a time when I had little kids—and I was experiencing the charge of family and the pushing and pulling and being torn apart, and jostling together and all that.

<above> “FRED, ” 40 X 50 INCHES, ACRYLIC ON VINYL, 1983, WHICH JANE RECENTLY SOLD TO THE SMITHSONIAN’S NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY.

Whatever I’m struggling with in my own life, I look for to paint. For example, the paintings of Times Square are all people alone and waiting—because I was young and I was alone, and I was waiting to find out what my life was going to be, and who I was going to be with. Now, I find aging rappers who still shake it riveting. When I first came to New York, I joined with this fledgling artists’ group called Collaborative Projects. I got to be good friends with a lot of artists who went on to do amazing things, such as Kiki Smith, Tom Otterness, and Jenny Holzer. And I knew Nan Goldin from Boston. The great thing for me about Colab was a lot of the people had gone to the Whitney program, which is really a great intro to the serious art world. So people would make these shows and say, maybe, “I’m going to make a show about doctors and dentists in my loft.” Anybody could submit anything they wanted

on that theme, and they were free-for-alls, so you’d try and do things that would stand out. I started by painting on garbage bags and other industrial materials in the ’70s. The punk era was anticraft. It was “let’s try anything.” I painted an early piece of the World Trade Center in ’78 on garbage bags, which I exhibited again recently. Of course, it has a totally different reference now, because it’s gone. At the time that I did it, I thought, “Well, this building is so imposing.” Every time I looked at it, I felt like throwing myself on my knees and saying, “Yes, you are Oz, the Great and Terrible, and you dwarf me and make me humble.” The twin towers were made to domineer everything, and make you feel small. I thought, “I’m going to paint them on garbage bags so they’ll be trashy.” In the ’90s, I did all these New Year’s Eve revelers— on one level, they’re about groups of people pushing

I went to art school in Paris for a year after Putney, and the French were like, “Quoi, quoi, mademoiselle? Painting is dead. We did it. It’s finished.” They were on to conceptual art. And the attitude was, “You must be crazy to think you can pick up a paintbrush and describe the world now. We did it. The story’s over.” I said, “Well, I’m a painting addict. I can’t stop, and I want to go home and paint what’s American.” I thought, okay, maybe if I do it on garbage bags, they’ll stop me at the door and say, “What? You can’t do that.” Picasso, and his early sculptural experiments in the early 20th century, started using all kinds of industrial materials. Sculpture had moved away from clay and bronze 100 years earlier. Painting has been really slow to let go

of its traditional materials. I also thought, “I really want to shed some of the historical baggage of the same materials as Rembrandt, asking to be referencing that tradition and compared to that.” That’s a heavy burden. I’m not particularly interested in the quirky individual/eccentric. I’m looking at, “What am I interested in that says something about our culture—our time—and my personal experience?” Those are almost always things that I have mixed feelings about. I know of it. It’s great. I’m interested in the things where I set up a scene and you fill in the blanks—where it’s not clear. I do a whole lot of paintings of highways. The open road— it’s part of the American Dream. But usually, really, when you get in your car, you’re just stuck in traffic, right? You went to experience the country, but the country’s gone by as a blur.You’re out in the open, but you’re really just trapped in your car—yet for a lot of people, it’s your meditative spot, especially if you live in a city. So it’s not all bad. It’s not all good. It’s complicated.

<above> “GOD TRUCK,” OIL ON ASTROTURF, 37 X 36 INCHES, IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF JANE’S DESIRE TO SHOW US THE OPEN ROAD ON PUNK-ROCK SURFACES

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News S TUD EN TS H OST OXFA M H UNGER BAN QUE T B E N E FI T At this interactive event, the place where you sat, and the meal that you ate, were determined by the luck of the draw—just as in real life some of us are born into relative prosperity and others into poverty. Putney students and volunteers at the Putney Foodshelf organized an Oxfam Hunger Banquet that took place at the Putney Central School last December. Mary Starkey, program support coordinator for Oxfam America in Boston, was the keynote speaker and master of ceremonies. The Hunger Banquet can be an effective way to simulate the imbalanced distribution of food in our world. Participants represented various countries around the globe and received a meal that corresponds to that country’s economic status. The Hunger Banquet was an opportunity for our community to actively express solidarity with the poor around the world. The banquet was a fundraising event for Oxfam America and the Putney Foodshelf. Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organizations working in approximately 94 countries worldwide to find solutions to poverty and injustice. The Putney Foodshelf provides supplemental healthy food for area people in need. Miye ’17 and Maeve ’16 coordinated the event with The Putney School’s executive chef, Marty Brennan-Sawyer, and the Putney Foodshelf ’s Susan Kochinskas as projects stemming from their classes at Putney.

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Blood Drive The first-ever* Putney School blood drive took place in January in Calder Hall thanks to Lili ’16, community service activity leader Rachel Mason, and a slew of student and adult volunteers. Twenty-nine people made it as far as the health interview stage. Twenty-two were approved to donate, resulting in 19 units of “whole blood” and 3 units of “double red.” And no one passed out! The KDU provided recovery food and beverages and the Red Cross was grateful for our assistance and level of organization. It says a lot about the validity of student work and student agency at Putney. * This is the first blood drive as far as anyone can remember. If you have knowledge of a previous one hosted at The Putney School, please let us know!

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Vermont Poet Laureate Visits Putney

Sugaring Season Farm Manager and History Teacher Pete Stickney reports as of March 22, “We’re done. Short and sweet, over 100 gallons.” It was a strange season with many Vermont maple sugarers collecting sap as early as January. The students pictured stayed on campus for part of March break to help with collection and boiling.

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Chard deNiord, former Putney School faculty member, spent time with us recently to tell us about himself and to read his work aloud for the assembled school community. Chard taught here from 1989 to 1998 before moving on to Providence College in Rhode Island. He was installed as Vermont’s eighth poet laureate last fall and is charged with promoting and encouraging poetry throughout the state. He was more than successful in that mission in our presence, reading from his collected work, then hammering home the relevance of his art by requesting topics from the audience including cows, Work Day, and parenthood. And he left us thirsty for more, which is the goal.


Student Art Show So much student art is generated every trimester at The Putney School that is only makes sense to have an opening and show in one of the finest gallery spaces in New England, the Michael S. Currier Center Gallery. The first was held this year on November 21. On display was student work from painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, and other visual art classes and Evening Arts activities. These are only the pieces that came to fruition for the show and many were first attempts at a particular medium

by students who may or may not have previously identified themselves as artists. Creating art is an important aspect of every adolescent’s brain development and useful in fostering creativity across all educational disciplines, which is why we have always done so much of it at The Putney School. Search “Student Art Show” on our website to see images of the art that was on display. You will be awed.

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SOLAR ARRAY

Namasté Solar, an employee-owned cooperative and leading engineering, procurement, and construction provider of solar electric systems for commercial, non-profit, government, and residential customers throughout the U.S., and solar power developer The Atmosphere Conservancy (TAC), principals of which include Alex Blackmer ’75 and Putney board member Bob Raynolds ’69, have partnered with The Putney School to install a solar array at Lower Farm that will supply about half of the school’s present electricity needs. “Namasté Solar is proud to be a partner in The Putney School’s efforts to bring clean energy to their Net-Zero Energy Campus Master Plan,” said Cynthia Christensen, Namasté Solar’s commercial sales director. TAC is funding and managing the project, while Namasté Solar has been contracted for the creation of the array. Some of Namasté Solar’s most notable solar projects include the Denver Housing Authority, New Belgium Brewing Company, the Colorado Convention Center, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Boulder Community Hospital, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Putney will pay TAC for the clean energy drawn from the array over the first six years (the point at which other economic advantages end for TAC), then purchase the array at a much lower cost than the original construction, at which point the electricity drawn belongs to the school. In the Net-Zero Energy Campus Master Plan, the array is sufficient to provide all of the school’s electricity needs not already supplied by solar arrays. All of the required permits have been approved and construction is slated for this spring.

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Winter Concert 2015

CLENNON L. KING ’78 SHOWS CIVIL RIGHTS FILM As part of our MLK day events in February, we watched the documentary Passage at St. Augustine by Clennon L. King ’78. The film focuses on the turbulent civil rights campaign in the nation’s oldest city in 1963 and 1964 that was pivotal in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A question and answer session followed the screening. “I’m excited to be sharing this story with students at my old boarding school,” said Clennon, a former TV reporter and anchor and Putney School major gifts officer, now of Boston. “In the racially-charged atmosphere America now finds itself in, this film is both timely and relevant— giving us a chance to mark history, so as not to repeat it.” Some years ago Clennon shared a rough cut of the film with us, so it was a double treat to see how the film had progressed into the powerful piece it is today.

The Putney School orchestra and madrigals took the show on the road in December with three performances of Music of the French Cathedrals with the Bennington County Choral Society, reveling in the rich and diverse choral and orchestral tradition of French Romantic and post-Romantic composers. Music of the French Cathedrals included “Phèdre Overture” by Jules Massenet, Francis Poulenc’s evocative “Gloria” and Gabriel Fauré’s gorgeous “Requiem.” See images and two videos from the final performance at The Putney School on December 12, 2015 on our website.

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Putney Chef Featured on Food Network

FIRST-TIMER WINS MOUNTAIN BIKE RACE Senior class members, Ben and Anna (center, with sap bucket), participated in a mountain bike race at nearby Vermont Academy last fall with more than 200 racers from around New England. Although both were taking part in their first races, they both performed extremely well and Anna won her division, earning a coveted sap bucket! We don’t currently have a mountain bike racing team. This was just an exploratory adventure that manifested from our mountain biking afternoon activity, which is among our current recreational sports offerings. Matt Dall, one of our Center for Teaching and Learning tutors, is the faculty member who oversees the mountain biking activity. He has plenty of riding and racing experience and is prone to inciting enthusiasm among his students, regardless of the topic at hand.

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JD Mellowship, chef and assistant manager of our kitchen, was on the Food Network show, Cutthroat Kitchen, last fall. It’s a crazy competition among chefs from all over the U.S. in which they have limited time to gather ingredients and prepare specific dishes. There is also an option in which they can use their potential winnings to buy obstacles to impose on their fellow competitors. Crazy, yes, but at the core you really need to know your way around cuisine. All of our chefs have that, but JD can also talk smack as he chops, dices, and sautés. If you missed the episode, you might still be able to find it on the internet. The show was recorded in January 2015 and part of JD’s contract required that he not reveal the outcome before the show aired. It was a tough secret to keep, as you’ll see. We won’t spoil it for you here, but rest assured there are more TV show possibilities thanks to JD’s outgoing personality and positive attitude. We’ll see if we can get him to wear a Putney School logo next time!


LIBBY HOLMES, LEFT, DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS, HELPS SHAPE THE COMMUNITY THROUGH HER WORK WITH INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS FROM THEIR APPLICATION TO GRADUATION DAY. HERE, SHE WORKS HAPPILY WITH FRANCIS DU ’15.

GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS 2.0: Moving from “Chair Time” to C o m pet ency in Defining Putney Graduates by Don Cuerdon Nearly five years ago, it came to light that The Putney School’s graduation requirements were defined in terms of seat time, but had much more to do with the acquisition of skills, or competencies. As a result, some students were graduating not knowing some of the things we felt they should know. In hopes of changing that, the Educational Program Committee (EPC) began exploring other ways of looking at our graduation requirements that had more to do with competencies than credits. The challenge of creating a new list of requirements was soon brought to the full faculty. Half a decade later, we’ve learned that this is harder to do than to state. By the time you read this, we will be implementing the new system, and the Class of 2017 will be the first to graduate under this new paradigm.

the graduation requirements will influence student outcomes, but something needs to change, or the outcomes will remain as they are. Our best minds think this is a smart place to start.

The idea of considering competencies over course goals that don’t correlate exactly with graduation requirements is not a new one in the education world, but finding a model that has been successfully implemented is rare. We hope, as always, to help pave the way for other secondary schools to reconsider how we decide what it takes to be a high school graduate in this country. As always, we don’t know for sure how changing

THE DOMINANT PARADIGM Leadership Briefings on Proficiency, a document from the New England Secondary School Consortium, says the current paradigm of “seat time” graduation requirements “. . . dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, when America was struggling to create a formal public education system and standardize teaching across the country.” The current course credit system is

Putney Academic Dean Kevin Feal-Staub, Dean of Faculty Kate Knopp, and science teacher Glenn Littledale recently sat down to discuss with us the story arc and details of this initiative. Kevin and Glenn have been at Putney long enough to witness the entire process, from inception to implementation, while Kate has seen the evolution with fresh eyes as a faculty member and administrator over the past two years. No one individual is responsible for any of the change. They agreed to comment only as observers and participants in an effort that the entire faculty has brought to the fore.

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proficiency-based graduation requirements exist, they look more like the Carnegie Unit with a new paint job than a remodeling of a century-old educational program structure. The work is in designing the requirements in such a way that they can be assessed and implemented in a world where that hasn’t happened yet. This work involves knocking down a few walls and extending a few rooflines, which is exactly what The Putney School’s faculty has been doing these past five years.

GRADUATION DAY CELEBRATES THE COMMUNITY, THE COUNTLESS WAYS THE GRADUATES HAVE SHAPED PUTNEY, AND THE SCHOOL’S EXPANSION OF STUDENTS’ KNOWLEDGE, UNDERSTANDING, AND WORLD VIEW.

based on the Carnegie Unit, “. . . a time-based measurement promoted by industrialist Andrew Carnegie.” One credit equals approximately 120 hours of contact time with a teacher (one hour/ day x five days/week x 24 weeks). In other words, the creation of the credit system had very little to do with learning. The desire to standardize education has not faded, but it has begun to evolve. Vermont’s Framework of Standards and Learning Opportunities, the guideline source for public schooling in Vermont (which therefore excludes Putney), in the section titled “Definitions of Standards and Evidence,” states, “Standards identify the essential knowledge and skills that should be taught and learned in school. Essential knowledge is what students should know. It includes the most important and enduring ideas, issues, dilemmas, principles, and concepts from the disciplines. Essential skills are what students should be able to do. Skills are ways of thinking, working, communicating, and investigating. Standards also identify behaviors and attitudes related to success in and outside of school. These include (but are not limited to) providing evidence to back up assertions and developing productive, satisfying relationships with others. Frequently, standards are accompanied by evidence. The evidence is an indicator by which it can be determined whether or not the student has met the standards.” Though based more on what students have upon exiting high school, these standards are hard to define as requirements, and harder still to assess. Even in places where the theory of

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CREATING THE NEW PARADIGM Here is what Kate, Kevin, and Glenn told us about the process of creating a new set of graduation requirements that have more to do with proficiency than seat time in a group interview in late February. You may be surprised at some of the conclusions made near the end of this long, thorough, exhaustive, and collaborative exercise. Putney Post: What led us to all this work to establish proficiency-based graduation requirements? Glenn Littledale: I think the original ideas came from the notion that, while the current graduation requirements might be producing the desired result, a number of kids were highly developed in some areas, and not so developed in others. And that their time spent here wasn’t optimized, because the way our graduation requirements were written required them to spend X amount of time in this seat, and Y amount of time in that seat, and Z amount of time in some other seat. PP: And how does a school go about changing that? Kate Knopp: It’s really just having the courage to describe what learning looks like, and throwing out a system of grading and measuring education by the amount of time you spend with a subject. How to do it? Therein lies the rub. Kevin Feal-Staub: There’s a set of learning goals that are standardized, but we’re trying to un-standardize the way a kid can arrive at the same learning—or, at least, much of the same learning. It’s not all the same learning for every kid. What we had in place before was a standardized system of how you work toward an end result, and we’re trying to un-standardize the system of how you get to the standard goals. PP: Who here has been working to rewrite our graduation requirements?


KF-S: The entire faculty, spearheaded through the EPC, and then broken out from there into working groups at department levels. It started there in the 2011 time frame. I think we said something like, “Let’s look at our graduation requirements. They’re not serving us.” Two years after that, we had a faculty vote to say, “Alright. Do we want to change it from a seat-time, course-based list of requirements to outcome-based requirements?” We got full faculty buy-in, via a vote, that we were all willing to go. PP: What concerns have arisen in this process? GL: How do you measure this stuff? The logical framework is portfolio assessment. So, one of the things we’ve been looking at is other schools that are doing portfolio assessment. My big concern is that portfolio assessment has been closely correlated with grade promotion—promotion by grade rather than promotion by portfolio. In very rare circumstances has the portfolio been used as the promotion tool. And it’s been really, really hard for institutions to decouple these things. When you really do what we’re proposing in its purest form, you don’t have “classes” anymore—there’s no freshman, sophomore, etc. class. The institutions that have maintained their classes, while maintaining portfolio assessment structure, find themselves, I think, at an impasse. PP: And has the goal changed at all since the inception of this work? GL: The original vision hasn’t changed enormously. PP: What has the faculty done to turn that vision into something tangible that makes sense: that seriously restructures the secondary school environment, but doesn’t scare off the rest of the educational world by being too radical to assimilate? KF-S: It started by our saying, “Alright, we want to change to a system of proficiency-based requirements rather than seat time-based requirements.” There was a coalescing moment when we realized that there were a lot of seat time-based things that we really valued here, like working in the barn, participating in the work program, evening arts, being exposed to a lot of art—that’s not a proficiency, that’s a thing that happens to you. GL: These are the experience-based points.

KF-S: We define it in two sections. There’s the proficiency section, and the experience section. PP: Will the rollout of these new graduation requirements necessitate some new areas of faculty professional development? KK: The development is in the art of teaching. We’re not talking about “Here’s a course, and how do I differentiate the structure for this child and for that child?” We’re saying, “Here’s a Putney education. How are you going to navigate through? You can take some standard courses, still, to meet these graduation requirements.” We have a lot of quirky kids at The Putney School who can get really excited and excel in one direction, but can’t get out of a cardboard box in another direction. I think that this is a more accurate way of saying, “That’s mostly okay with us. Be who you are. Pursue your intellectual curiosity in a way that makes sense to your growth.” [See sidebar: The Animal School: A Fable.] GL: With the caveat that you’ve got to be very, very careful about defining what it is that is non-negotiable in that education. And that’s what we’re doing. KF-S: I think having well-articulated, well-defined learning goals makes everything easier in terms of being a good teacher. One of our big goals is to serve a wide range of students—artsy students, outdoorsy students, kinesthetic students—all these different types of students. And if we have well-defined learning goals, that makes it really easy to provide different avenues for these different kinds of kids to reach the same outcome. PP: When will all of this hard work become a reality? KF-S: We hope to have the overall language agreed upon this spring—April— so we can go to press for admissions needs in the next admissions cycle, ’16-’17. The incoming ninth-grade class, in the fall of ’17, will enter with these new graduation requirements in place. KK: I imagine the actual execution, the implementation, the use of them to credit work, will be a work in progress. GL: It will have to be done with such a subtle and practiced eye, and that doesn’t exist yet. PP: What additional questions have arisen through this process? What outcomes? PUTNEY POST

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THE ANIMAL SCHOOL: A Fable by George Reavis Once upon a time, the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of a “new world,” so they organized a school. They had adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming, and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all of the animals took all of the subjects. The duck was excellent in swimming—in fact, better than his instructor—but he made only passing grades in flying, and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to stay after school and also drop swimming in order to practice running. This was kept up until his webbed feet were badly worn, and he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in school, so nobody worried about that . . . except the duck. The rabbit started at the top of the class in running, but had a nervous breakdown because of so much make-up work in swimming. The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class, where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of from the treetop down. He also developed a charley horse from overexertion, and then got a C in climbing and a D in running. The eagle was a problem child, and was disciplined severely. In climbing class, he beat all of the others to the top of the tree, but insisted upon using his own way to get there. At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceedingly well, and also run, climb, and fly a little, had the highest average and was valedictorian. The prairie dogs stayed out of school and fought the tax levy, because the administration would not add digging and burrowing to the curriculum. They apprenticed their children to a badger, and later joined the groundhogs and gophers to start a successful private school. Does this fable have a moral? Note: This story was written when George Reavis was assistant superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools back in the 1940s! This content is in the public domain, and free to copy, duplicate, and distribute. If you would prefer a full-color, illustrated book, one is currently available from Crystal Springs Books T N E Y P O S T or 603-924-9621 16 PatU 800-321-0401 (fax 603-924-6688).

KF-S: Some open questions are: What’s a transcript going to look like? How are we going to present this to colleges? Once we write our set of graduation requirements, is it 100% set? Are we going to look at a kid who’s got 87 out of 89 graduation requirements and say, “No, you didn’t meet our requirements?” GL: That would be an A+! [Whole room chuckles uncomfortably.] GL: Historically, the students here have owned the work program. And, strangely, they have not owned their academics. The idea is that this is a move toward student agency and ownership of the academics. That’s one of the expected outcomes. PP: Is there still a place for letter grades in this brave new world? KF-S: At the moment, they are totally separate discussions. The issuing of grades is on the table as part of this discussion. They are going to stay in place for now. We’re going to have maps, keys, whatever you want to call them, that say, “In English 10, we address this, this, this, and this graduation requirement.” Meeting all those graduation requirements while you take that class will not equate with passing the class, and passing the class will not equate with meeting all those graduation requirements. They’re different things altogether. GL: The logical extension of this is that passing the class really doesn’t have meaning. It’s how the student progresses toward meeting graduation requirements. When you look at the portfolio assessment based upon these rubrics, the notion of the A, B, C, D, or F is irrelevant, and it becomes an artifact. And yet it may be an artifact that we’re stuck with for a little while. I don’t know. KK: Over time, kids will come to not paying attention to grades; the need for grades will dissolve. GL: One of the things this is going to do is clarify our assessment, if we’re paying attention. As that becomes better and better, the need for grades is going

to evaporate as an in-house story, but whether or not to dispense with them altogether—I’m kind of suspecting we won’t. PP: We don’t work for badges and honors here. What would happen if we actually didn’t give grades? KK: We’re a school that believes in experience and failure. We say that in our publications. If you really believe that in the classroom, it means you need to have some colossal failures. And why would you average the failures in with the others? It confounds us, but there are teachers out there who do think of it that way. They’re thinking about trying to measure who that kid is over their five hours every week. GL: Who cares if that kid can write a mathematical model for a thing on October 14 or December 3? What you care about, when they walk away, is that they can mathematically model something. KF-S: We are a progressive school—well, progressive in terms of education— and that, I think, means teaching for citizenship rather than “workership.” It is also to progress rather than stay stagnant, and I recognize that there are a lot of problems that arise from teaching a Carnegie course-based system rather than an outcome-based system. The Carnegie Unit system standardized the time that kids spent learning, and left what kids actually learned as the variable. What we’re trying to do is standardize what kids learn, and let time be the variable. GL: With one caveat: a standard for what kids learn—a minimum standard. We’re not trying to standardize what they learn. We’re trying to set a threshold. Look for an update in the next issue with news of the exciting first iteration of The Putney School’s revised graduation requirements.


Doing Something Right A recent Putney graduate confirms that cultural fluency and collaboration are useful things in real life

Sylvie Littledale ’14 returned to Putney recently to read the following letter to the school at assembly one January morning. We think it’s full of experiences and observations that, at least anecdotally, support a lot of what we embrace in our curriculum and academic infrastructure here. And we thought you would like to know what Sylvie told us. Dear Putney, I want to talk to you about something many of you are already doing. Among you are students who have left their homes and cultures to come see what Putney has to offer. They have integrated themselves into this community, and have brought bits of their home to mix in. This is exactly the environment that initially sparked my interest in language study and cultural exploration. I grew up about five minutes down the road from campus, and, as we all know, Vermont is not known for its diversity. When I came to Putney as a student, it was the first international community I had ever been a part of, and this had a great impact. I got interested in languages, beginning with my Spanish classes, and later Chinese. This was before Putney offered Chinese classes, so I found a Rosetta Stone language software program for Mandarin, and worked with that on the side. During my sophomore year, Putney launched its first Cuernavaca program. At that time, it was a ten-day trip over spring break. You can imagine a girl from rural Vermont touching down in Mexico City . . . it was very different. That trip

showed me just how difficult it is to take yourself out of a place where you feel completely comfortable, and put yourself somewhere where you are totally disoriented. But it also showed me how important it is to do just that. Putney extended the program to a full trimester my senior year, and I was able to go back. At the end of that trimester, I noticed a transformation in my Spanish. I had gone in at an awkward, cautious, stuttering, classroom level, and came back with something akin to comfortable, conversational Spanish. I went on to college with the idea of looking for more opportunities to study abroad. During the spring of my first year, I took a class with about 160 people. On the first day, the professor began by giving a little background about himself. He said that he ran an archaeological dig in Peru, and that sometimes he took students down, and then he moved on to other things. I don’t think I heard a single thing he said after that, and after class, I elbowed my way through the group of students waiting to talk to him. Overly enthusiastically, I introduced myself and expressed interest in the project. PUTNEY POST

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“. . . my background growing up in rural Vermont on a farm, and my time at The Putney School, gave me this intimate and unique knowledge of livestock manure.”

Now, as a freshman at a big university, I was expecting his response to be something like, “Okay, take a few more of my classes, and we’ll see where you are your senior year. Maybe we can talk about your coming down then.” Instead, he said, “Great,” and told me to come to his office to talk more about it. I showed up, and he told me that he basically had two criteria for students who go to work on the project. One: that they do well in his class. And two: that they have a rudimentary level of Spanish, because the project is entirely in Spanish, and they would need to keep up. Halfway through the conversation, he switched, and started speaking Spanish. Apparently he thought that I could, in fact, keep up, so after that, I sold my soul to his class and ended up on a plane to Peru that summer. We were working on the northern coast of Peru, in the middle of the desert. The team consisted almost entirely of Peruvian archaeologists, and the boss of my unit didn’t speak a word of English. I had no prior experience in archaeology, and was at a language disadvantage because I was working with a bunch of native speakers. However, the team discovered some surprising ways in which I was able to contribute. We first discovered this when we were working in a colonial area, where we were not supposed to find any evidence that horses had been there; but we were finding some suspicious manure samples. We realized that almost everyone on the team was from the city of Lima, and that my background growing up in rural Vermont on a farm, and my time at The Putney School, gave me this intimate and unique knowledge of livestock manure. After that, I became the shit consultant on the project. Every time someone found a piece of manure, I would run over and help them differentiate between donkey shit and horse shit. Another situation similar to this occurred when we were classifying ceramic shards in the lab. The group I was working with had extensive knowledge of the time period we were looking at, but I realized that none of them had ever actually worked

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with clay before. My time in the Putney ceramics studio gave me a whole different angle for looking at the techniques, different types of clay, glazes, etc., and allowed me to contribute a unique perspective to the analysis. Both of these cases really crystallized the benefits of bringing a bunch of different backgrounds together to collaborate. After three months of working in Peru, I went back to college. My boss from the dig, after noting my enthusiasm for horse shit, invited me to start a separate research project on the role of horses in colonial Peru, and he started emailing me resources. These were Spanish documents from the 1500s. When I first started looking at them, I felt overwhelmed, and didn’t know how it was going to go. But after about two weeks, I realized that I could actually read and use the material. This was the first time that I really saw just how far my Spanish had come since ninth grade at Putney in Spanish 1. I had gone to Mexico and developed a conversational level of Spanish. This had allowed me to go to Peru, where I was able to build on that and develop a more specialized vocabulary in an academic and professional setting. These combined allowed me to engage with this material that I would never have had access to if I hadn’t invested the time in this language or had the opportunities that I did. Moving forward, it is pretty clear that I want language study and study abroad to be the focal point of my education, so I am heading off again. In a few days, I am flying out to Spain to study for the semester. I will be studying in Argentina in the fall, and will be finishing off by studying in China the following spring. As I was designing this three-semester-abroad curriculum, it was not particularly conventional and I had to jump through a few hoops. After going through the equivalent of Putney’s EPC committee to get this approved, I found that system was actually very flexible, and that it was possible for me to make this work. —Sylvie Littledale ’14


Alumni

News

Alumni Books

Please let us know when you have (or plan to have) your work published. Please consider donating a copy to our school library. Contact Alison Frye at 802-387-6273 or afrye@putneyschool.org. We wish these and other present and future alumni authors well in their endeavors.

eye-witness journalism Jan Carew wrote in those heady days of hope and struggle.

EPISODES IN MY LIFE: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JAN CAREW Jan Carew and Joy Gleason Carew ‘65 Peepal Tree Press, 2015

RETURN TO STREETS OF ETERNITY Jan Carew and Joy Gleason Carew ‘65 Smokestack Books, 2015

Joy Gleason Carew ’65 recently celebrated the release of two books by her husband, Jan Carew, which she helped see to fruition after his death in 2012. Episodes In My Life: The Autobiography

of Jan Carew, which takes in his political awakening in colonial British Guiana, his sojourns in communist Eastern Europe, his life as a writer, his return to the Caribbean in the nationalist 1960s and his presence as a reporter in Cuba at the time of the revolution, his years in Africa and role as an advisor to Nkrumah in Ghana and his restless coming to rest in North American academia and the struggle for black self-definition. Sadly, as Carew grew older his original plans for writing this book could not be realized without the assistance of his wife, Joy Gleason Carew. As well as what Jan Carew was able to write, the memoir was constructed from taped, transcribed material. Where there are gaps, Joy Gleason Carew goes back to some of the vivid,

Return to Streets of Eternity brings together, for the first time, poems written during a life-time of passionate engagement in anti-colonial, civil rights, black power, and liberation movements, including many previously unpublished tributes to nineteenth and twentieth-century revolutionary leaders and to writers like Martin Carter, Dennis Brutus, Agostinho Neto, Andrew Salkey, Alejo Carpentier, and Mumia Abu-Jamal.

STAIRWAY TO PARADISE: GROWING UP GERSHWIN Nadia Natali ’63 Rare Bird Books, 2015

Her father invented Kodachrome, and her mother—who sang and danced professionally—was the sister of George and Ira Gershwin. Growing up in Westport, Connecticut amidst great privilege and uncommon fame, Nadia Natali might have chosen a life of comfort and celebrity; but from an early age, she was driven to create one of great consequence instead, one in which she could seek her true purpose and life’s deepest meanings. When she met photographer Enrico Natali, the two embarked on a shared quest: not simply for adventure, but also to discover how their lives could most profoundly unfold. Their yearnings for lives fully-lived took them to a wild and wonderful piece of property surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest in the coastal mountains of Southern California—a place where they lived in a teepee, started a family, and carved out rich satisfaction as they transformed their beautiful piece of earth into Blue Heron Ranch. The 40 years between then have been filled with unimaginable adventures, the kind of tragedy that can utterly destroy the lives of those who must endure it and go on, deep introspection and personal growth, and joy and gratitude as bounteous as the natural world surrounding them.

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Stairway to Paradise is a memoir of uncommon honesty and clarity—the story of one woman’s determination to make the most of the gifts her family heritage has offered her, and to live wisely and honorably in every way. This is a book to savor, one that will make you marvel at how essential it is for all of us to bring a commitment to truth and openhearted honesty to all of our challenges, as well as our many blessings.

GREENPEACE CAPTAIN: MY ADVENTURES IN PROTECTING THE FUTURE OF OUR PLANET Peter Willcox ’72 Thomas Dunne Books, 2016

Peter Willcox has been a captain for Greenpeace for over 30 years. He would never call himself a hero, but he is recognized on every ocean and continent for devoting his entire life to saving the planet. He has led the most compelling and dangerous Greenpeace actions to bring international attention to the destruction of our environment. From the globally-televised imprisonment of his crew, the Arctic 30, by Russian commandos, to international conspiracies involving diamond-smuggling, gun-trading, and al Qaeda, Willcox has braved the unimaginable and triumphed.

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This is his story, which begins when he was a young man sailing with Pete Seeger, and continues right up to his becoming the iconic environmentalist he is today. His daring adventures and courageous determination will inspire readers everywhere.

army of North Vietnam; to the infamous break-in and the tapes that bear remarkable record of the most intimate and damning conversations between the president and his confidants, Weiner narrates the history of Nixon’s anguished presidency in fascinating and fresh detail. A crucial new look at the greatest political suicide in history, One Man Against the World leaves us with new insight, not only into this tumultuous period, but also into the motivations and demons of an American president who saw enemies everywhere; and, thinking the world was against him, undermined the foundations of the country he had hoped to lead.

ONE MAN AGAINST THE WORLD: THE TRAGEDY OF RICHARD NIXON Tim Weiner ’73 Henry Holt and Company, 2015

Based largely upon documents declassified only in the last few years, One Man Against the World paints a devastating portrait of a tortured yet brilliant man who led the country according to deep-seated insecurity and distrust: not only of his cabinet and Congress, but also of the American population at large. In riveting, tick-tock prose, Weiner illuminates how the Vietnam War and the Watergate controversy that brought about Nixon’s demise were inextricably linked. From the hail of garbage and curses that awaited Nixon upon his arrival at the White House, when he became the president of a nation as deeply divided as it had been since the end of the Civil War; to the unprecedented action Nixon took against American citizens, whom he considered as traitorous as the

ORPHEUS, TURNING Faith Shearin ’87 Broadkill River Press, 2015

“If Orpheus, Turning doesn’t make you ache with the love of poetry, please have your vital signs checked as soon as possible,” is how reviewer Grace Cavalieri describes Faith Shearin’s latest book. Faith’s other books include The Owl Question, The Empty House, Moving the Piano, and Telling the Bees. She is the recipient of awards from the Fine Arts Work Center, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. Her recent work appears in Poetry East and Alaska Quarterly Review. Faith’s poems can also be found in The Autumn

House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry and in Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems, American Places.

ETHAN MURROW Ethan Murrow ’93 Hatje Cantz, 2016

A man caught in and behind wallpaper, a chimpanzee in a lifeboat, mountain climbers and hikers in the middle of a polar sea à la Caspar David Friedrich: Ethan Murrow plays with the dimensions with which we are familiar and tells a scarcely-conceivable story with each of his pictures. Their references lie in personal experiences, historical sources, and the romanticized landscapes of the Hudson River School, from which his fantasy springs. At first glance, one believes one is looking at edited black-and-white photographs, until it quickly becomes apparent that these are meticulously-prepared pencil drawings. Murrow examines the boundary between the artist’s fiction and depicted reality, and this volume deals with more than his pencil drawings: for the first time, one can also marvel at the extensive works he magically conjures on walls with a ballpoint pen. [Editor’s note: Find online by searching “Ethan Murrow Artbook.” You’ll see a different cover image for this book on the Artbook website.]


Alumni

News

AL UMN I EVE N T S It’s been a busy winter and spring, with three Putney events happening around the country. Small gatherings happened in Washington, DC, and San Francisco, and then a roomful of Putney alumni, parents, friends, and summer program students and faculty gathered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to sing Putney songs for two hours on a warm March evening. It’s a joy to see alumni connect with current parents, and the young connect with the not-so-young. Thank you all for joining us and for staying in touch.

<clockwise> JOHN BERLINGER, SARAH PARROTT BERLINGER ’95, JESSE KURLANCHEEK ’95, AND EMILY BUCKBEE CAREY ’95 AT THE PUTNEY SING IN CAMBRIDGE SUNDARA ZIEGLER

’14, MADDY PARRASCH ’14,

AND FLANNERY MCDONNELL ’14 ENJOYING AN EVENING TOGETHER AT PUTNEY’S CAMBRIDGE SING JANE GOTTSCHALK ’56 AND CHRISTIE POINDEXTER DENNIS ’49 AT THE PUTNEY SING

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THE WHERE IS MY FRIEND’S HOME CREW FILMING IN THE KDU

TYLER RASCH

’06, LEFT, SHOWS THE

CREW FROM KOREA AROUND CAMPUS

TY L ER R ASC H ’06 V I SI T S CAMPUS WIT H K OR E A N RE ALITY TV SH OW During his time as a student at the University of Chicago, Tyler Rasch ’06 spent three months studying Korean in Seoul. He returned in 2011 as a participant in the Korean Government Scholarship Program, and began a master’s degree in international relations there in 2012. Spurred by an interest in cross-cultural understanding, he started, with other non-Korean students, a webzine meant to bring Koreans and foreigners together. Since 2014,Tyler has been a mainstay on Korean television. He participates on the talk/variety show Non-Summit, which features non-Korean men living in Korea and discusses topics of Korean and other cultures. In the last year, Tyler has been a regular member of the show Where is my Friend’s Home, in which Non-Summit cast members visit their home countries and broaden the multicultural aspect of the two programs. In March, Where is my Friend’s Home filmed on location at The Putney School, with trips to the barn, the KDU, the art buildings, and more. It was great to welcome Tyler back to campus; we can’t wait to see the episode!

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Alumni

News

HARV EST FE ST I V A L We see alumni with their young children, faces painted and caramel apples in hand. We watch young alumni return, embrace, play Frisbee, and sing their hearts out. We laugh with the families who dance together. We wish we had the time to head into the trails with the Red Leaf Ramble 5K. And we thank the many alumni and friends who make the trip to campus every fall to join us in this special celebration. Harvest Festival 2016 is Sunday, October 9.

<clockwise> ALUMNI GATHERED FOR THE GROUP PHOTO AT HARVEST FESTIVAL 2015 (NOT PICTURED: PARENTS WITH YOUNG CHILDREN WHO REFUSED TO LEAVE THE BOUNCE HOUSES) KATHERINE LEE â&#x20AC;&#x2122;75 BROWSES THE GOODS AT THE HARVEST FESTIVAL FARM STAND RUNNERS TAKE OFF AT THE START OF THE HARVEST FESTIVAL RED LEAF RAMBLE 5K

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Bob for apples Swing from trees Pet the cows Toss the hay Linger on the lawn with old friends l

l

l

Harvest Festival 2016 Sunday, October 9 Fun for the whole family!


The Putney School Elm Lea Farm 418 Houghton Brook Road Putney, VT 05346-8675 802-387-5566 www.putneyschool.org

Parents of Alumni: If this magazine is addressed to your son or daughter who no longer maintains a permanent address at home, please notify the Alumni Office of his or her new mailing address. Thank you.

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Putney Post Spring, 2016  

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