Eleven months out of the school year, more than 12 hours a day, the children of the Epiphany School attend classes and take part in a rigorous program designed to accelerate their academic and personal development. There is no doubt, however, that important life lessons are also learned outside the traditional classroom environment. Children love hands-on learning and need to have new experiences outside the normal routine. Epiphany includes many of these exciting “outside the classroom” experiences as part of its program, and none is more special than the “Farm Trip”, five days spent living and working on Spring Brook Farm, in Reading, Vermont.
Epiphany master teacher Ryan Jones leads this adventure, along with several other faculty members and the terrific staff from Farms for City Kids. The daily schedule on the farm mimics the time commitment of a typical day at the Epiphany School. Our students are responsible for a series of daily chores in the morning and evening, for taking care of the farm animals, and for the production of vegetables, milk, cheese and maple syrup. Each day, students are challenged with a number of team-building exercises that reinforce and put into practice many of the lessons that they have learned in the classroom and push them to develop new skills that are vital to their future success.
The program is designed to take our kids outside of their comfort zones and, in doing so, challenges them to overcome new obstacles, develop a strong work ethic and develop important skills such as leadership, perseverance, respect, self-confidence and teamwork. The impact of the “Farm Trip” on our students is tremendous, and many of the lessons they learn in the countryside are translated into an academic setting and to life in Dorchester and beyond.
At Epiphany, the summer begins with leadership development for the rising 8th graders with a week long off-shore overnight sailing trip with the Ocean Classroom Foundation. The program includes authentic at-sea experiences that relate to academic activities. The hope is that each child will interact with the natural world as they test their knowledge and learn new lessons. Science, math, literature and history are all incorporated into a program of first-hand experiences. Each child is also given a number of responsibilities while at sea, and they must train and work together in order to operate the ship. The sailing trip is a wonderful leadership opportunity that challenges Epiphany students to work and learn in a new environment.
Each year, five Epiphany students participate in the Take5 program with photographer Brenda Bancel. Students work closely with Mrs. Bancel and with one another, learning the fundamentals of photography and expressing themselves through their photographs. At the end of the school year, Take5 holds a student exhibit showcasing each student’s best work from the year.
Step Into Art
Through our partnership with Step Into Art, Epiphany 6th-graders are introduced to portraiture using an interactive method that helps students observe, imagine, interpret, and make meaningful connections between art and their own lives. The program also includes an innovative writing component.
In preparation for a student exhibition, students compose written reflections on their studio projects, commenting on the artistic process, the choices they made, and the way their artwork relates to who they are and what is important to them. After students practice speaking about their paintings and writings, the program culminates in an exhibition of student artwork and writing at Harvard’s Gutman Library.