Mission, Culture & Tone
The program of the School may be generally defined by four chief characteristics: educating the individual, close student-teacher relationships, active family participation in the school community and maintaining a strong connection to our island community.
Our educational philosophy based on individualization allows teachers to approach each child with his or her individual strengths, weaknesses, experiences, and interests in mind and make adjustments in instruction based on that information. In addition, teachers know students very well as people, not just as students in the classroom. We know when our students are thriving or struggling socially and emotionally as well as academically and spend as much time and energy in those realms as in academics.
The second characteristic, closely related to the first, is the close relationships between students and teachers. In order to teach the “whole child,” we do our best to present the “whole teacher.” Students are familiar with teachers as people and not just as instructors, and the bonds that are formed between children and adults in our school are extraordinary and atypical of most schools.
Active participation of families within the life of the school is our third characteristic. Parents are frequently present in the building throughout the school day and serve many roles. The school was founded as a parent cooperative and, until quite recently, parents assumed responsibility for many of the daily operational responsibilities. While the school has evolved and has become wholly self-sufficient in terms of daily operation, we still place a great deal of value on parent participation. Every teacher knows every parent by name, whether he or she has that person’s child in class or not. At our core, we are a family school.
A final characteristic is the connection between the school and the broader Nantucket community. As a small school on a small island, it is imperative for us to make deliberate connections to the island community and the world beyond Nantucket. We do this in two ways: through curriculum that is tied directly to the island’s history and/or diverse human and environmental resources, and through the participation/volunteerism/community service of our students on island.
In terms of tone, we are outwardly informal. Teachers and students refer to one another by first name. There is no official dress code. Classrooms are set up to provide a variety of settings for teaching and learning. There is no classroom in the school with desks in rows with the teacher at the front of the room, and instruction is multi-modal.
At the same time, our students are motivated and their parents place a high value on quality education. As a result, the work within the school is extremely purposeful and the results are of exceptional quality.
Unique characteristics and special programs include the following:
* Literature and love of reading is a central element of our school culture, and we take great pride in our graduates’ written and oral communication skills. Each day, the entire school participates in a 30-minute silent reading/read-aloud program.
* Each day we gather together as an entire school community (students, teachers, and administrators) for Morning Meeting. The meeting is run by a different group of students each week and revolves around a topic of their choosing. In addition, we celebrate birthdays and other milestones and discuss successes and challenges that face our school community. Each Friday, we welcome a guest speaker from the broader Nantucket community to Morning Meeting.
* We have one section at most grade levels within the school. Our smallest class has eight students; our largest class has eighteen students; the average class size is around ten students.
* We have a program called “Big Friend, Little Friend” that partners our older and younger students for planned activities each month. It is not uncommon to see a young student sitting on the lap of an older student during Morning Meeting.
* Approximately half of our graduates attend independent boarding schools after graduation; the other half attend Nantucket High School and are placed consistently in advanced or honors level classes.
* Our middle school student outreach focuses on three areas: school spirit, on-island activism, and global outreach. Community service is required, and activities are run almost every weekend. All our students participate in community service at some point during the year, most by their own choice. There is a formalized community service component to the upper school, culminating in each eighth grade student performing an individual community service project.
* Our students go out and practice “Random Acts of Kindness” in the community on a regular basis. This might entail delivering cookies to the fire department or Animal Hospital or performing some specialized service. We have received a good deal of attention in the media for our RAK on ACK (Random Acts of Kindness on Nantucket) program.
* Students begin Spanish instruction on an informal basis in Lower School; they begin daily classes in Spanish in grade five.
* Our 5th/6th grade ecology class is, in large measure, a field study of Nantucket. In the past, the class sponsored a debate on the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm, which was attended by over one hundred island residents.
* Each year we run an eighth grade spring trip. For the past three years the eighth grade have gone to Washington, DC. Other destinations have included New York City, New Orleans, and the White Mountains.