April 6, 2017
by Kyle Callahan

Our Therapeutic Goals

Before anything else, LiHigh School is a therapeutic school, which means that all of our students, along with developing their academic skills, also actively work on their social and emotional skills.

Each student, regardless of which program they’re in, has up to three therapeutic goals assigned to them. In some cases, the therapeutic goals are guided by the student’s IEP, but in other cases, they come from the student’s experiences here at LiHigh School.

All of our teachers are aware of each student’s therapeutic goals and work to embed the social-emotional learning into our academic classes.

The therapeutic goals also inform what kind of extracurricular programming the students are able to access. For example, to attend field trips and overnight camping trips, students must be able to, among other things, use respectful communication, respect others’ safety, and be responsive to redirection when they’re escalating towards aggression.

As explained by the Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning:

Research shows that [Social-Emotional Learning] not only improves achievement by an average of 11 percentile points, but it also increases prosocial behaviors (such as kindness, sharing, and empathy), improves student attitudes toward school, and reduces depression and stress among students

A lot of schools are forced to ignore social-emotional learning in order to stay on target for “the test.” But here at LiHigh School, we realize that every student, regardless of their special education status or lack thereof, needs to be an active participant in their own holistic growth, and without a firm commitment to improving their social-emotional skills, they’ll have difficulty developing into the healthy and flourishing adult they’d like to become.

If you have any questions about how we integrate social-emotional learning into our day to day activities, we invite you give us a call at (802) 287-2411.

March 9, 2017
by Kyle Callahan

Seeking Support for Our New Garden

We’re starting a school community garden this next season to grow food for our students and school kitchen at our off-campus site in Wells. This project will be a lesson in not only how to grow food, but also how to consume the food grown. LiHigh staff with expertise in gardening will help guide our students in growing the veggies, while the school kitchen will work with students to teach them how to prepare the veggies grown.

The students involved in the garden project have been corresponding with local farmers, such as Kris Jacoby-Stevenson at Old Gates Farm in Castleton and Scout Proft, the Farm to Community Mentor from NOFA VT, to gather as much knowledge as we can from our local farmers. As the students plan our garden, they’ve received generous donations of garlic seed from Purple Burdock Farm and vegetable seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds.

Not surprisingly, there’s a lot more to gardening than just seeds. Our students would like to continue to reach out to the local community for more support. They are looking for compost to enrich the garden soil, a hula hoe and weed wacker to help weed the rows, trays to start seeds, a garden rake, a sharp hoe, and a broad fork.

If you would like to help out the students in their garden endeavors, please contact Colleen or Monica at (802) 287-2411 or email Colleen at colleen.adams@lihighschool.org. Our students would love to talk more with you and share their vision for their garden!

Thank you in advance for your generosity

February 27, 2017
by Kyle Callahan

Games in School

Like many teenagers, a number of our students are avid video game players. Some of these students have challenges when it comes to learning traditional subjects, such as Math, Language Arts, and Social Studies. A gamer herself, our program guide Ashley Converse quickly discovered that all of these traditional elements can be addressed with the use of certain age-appropriate video games.

For example, the popular game Minecraft has proven itself to be effective for math. In one assignment, Ashley’s students had to recreate their classroom by translating its measurements to Minecraft. In another, she asked them to design a house using certain dimensions and requirements. A third assignment tapped into multiple subjects, calling for the students to be critical thinkers while building a village fit to sustain itself during a zombie apocalypse. For this assignment, students not only had to build the village within Minecraft, but they had to address a list of issues that Ashley created and write the backstory of their village’s origin.

Ashley has also found roleplaying games (RPGs) to be powerful and enjoyable tools for students. For reluctant readers, RPGs provide an interactive story with written dialogue, and during gameplay, Ashley discusses the storyline and character development with the students. The students also respond well to brainstorming ideas for original RPGs, to the extent that we are looking into purchasing software that would allow our students to create their own games.

Social Studies is a subject where many students struggle when it comes to interest and application. Ashley has found that the computer game Civilization V provides both. Her students select a major world power and literally build it from the ground up. The game begins in the ancient era, allowing the players to develop their land, culture, economy, military, technology, and religion over thousands of years. Famous quotes are integrated into the gameplay, as well as an encyclopedia that explains the history of each civilization and all of its elements. Students also improve their geography skills by learning how to read maps and deciding on settlement location based on defensibility and access to natural resources.

Despite their often negative reputations, video games can be powerful learning tools, often reaching students in ways that traditional instruction cannot. Whether they are tackling a specific academic subject or conducting a therapeutic class in Video Game Reviews, our program guides have discovered yet another vehicle to engage and connect with our kids.

February 6, 2017
by Kyle Callahan

Announcing the Localmotive Cafe!

LiHigh School is providing a real world education with our new cafe, Localmotive. Located on Main Street in Poultney, you can find Localmotive where the old Mad Hatter Cafe was. With the new cafe, our students will be learning the ins and outs of running a cafe. They will be driving the creation of the cafe by building the business plan, preparing the space, brewing the coffee, cooking the lunch and breakfast items and baked goods.

The students want to create a place for the community to enjoy quality Vermont coffee, tea, freshly made food, and other refreshments. There will also be consignment items from students, staff, and the community for sale, which could include clothing, artwork, and other items.

We will have a soft opening at the end of February with a grand opening to follow a few weeks later. Hours will be Monday through Friday 9AM – 3PM. In the future, we are planning to expand our hours, accept phone/email orders for carry out, and we are looking to host community events like open mic nights, art showcases, poetry slams, and live music. We also encourage community members to contact us about hosting discussions, classes, and workshops at the cafe.

Get on track and start your day with the Localmotive. See you soon!

August 25, 2016
by Kyle Callahan

Now Hiring For Licensed Special Educator

You’ve never worked in a school like ours.

Because our students are unlike anyone else’s. Most of them — but not all of them — are diagnosed with behavioral, emotional, and/or learning disorders, and some of them are on the autism spectrum, all of which means our students need to work with incredibly patient and incredibly empathetic people, people who can move beyond the student’s oftentimes challenging behavior to a place where they’re able to develop mutual trust.

And because our work environment is unlike anyone else’s. First, due to the nature of our students, you’ve got to be ready for anything. Second, our staff (who love to collaborate with one another) are given an unprecedented level of freedom to develop the content and scope of their classes (most of which are one-to-one or with very small groups). Third, our campus is — quite literally — boundaryless. While it includes two main buildings in the heart of Poultney and a seven-acre camp on a large private pond in Wells, we expect our staff to take advantage of all of the learning opportunities Vermont has to offer.

There’s so much more we could tell you about LiHigh School, and you can find out a whole lot more on our website: http://www.lihighschool.org/therapeutic-program/, but until you’ve seen our school for yourself, there’s a real chance you simply won’t believe it.

Licensed Special Educator

We now have an immediate opening a Licensed Special Educator for middle-school and high-school students. If you are open minded, creative, self-guided, and an excellent communicator who loves to collaborate with an energetic team, please contact us ASAP by sending a cover letter, a resume and two to three references to our co-director, Greg Rosenthal, at greg@lihighschool.org.

Seriously, this place isn’t like any other school you’ve ever heard of. It’s LiHigh School. And we’re now hiring.  

LiHigh School is an approved independent school for ages 11-21. Selected applicants must have a cell phone, valid driver’s license and a reliable car, as well as a willingness to transport students to and from school in their own vehicle. Applicants must also be able to pass a background check. Positions are part time at roughly 25 hours per week (not including compensated transportation of students), with the potential to become full time for those who consistently demonstrate a commitment to the growth and excellence of the school and our students.

July 14, 2016
by Kyle Callahan

We are now hiring.

You’ve never worked in a school like ours.

First, our students are not like anyone else’s. Most of them — but not all of them — are diagnosed with behavioral, emotional, and/or learning disorders, which means our students need to work with incredibly patient and incredibly empathetic people, people who can move beyond the student’s oftentimes challenging behavior to a place where they’re able to develop mutual trust.

Second, our staff is not like anyone else’s. While it is true that we’re a school, we don’t necessarily require that our teachers have experience as…well, teachers. What matters more is that they are great communicators who are passionate about learning and deeply interested in developing real and lasting relationships with their students, making them less like teachers and more like mentors. You don’t have to be a certified teacher to work here, but you have to love — and we mean love — working with kids, as well as be absolutely committed to learning and growing as an educator.

Finally, our environment is not like anyone else’s. First, due to the nature of our students, you’ve got to be ready for anything. Second, our staff (who love to collaborate with one another) are given an unprecedented level of freedom to develop the content and scope of their classes (most of which are one-to-one or in very small groups). Third, our campus is — quite literally — boundaryless. While it includes two main buildings in the heart of Poultney and a seven-acre camp on a large private pond in Wells, we expect our staff to take advantage of all of the learning opportunities Vermont has to offer. We want them to take our students to explore its rivers, hike its mountains, bike its roads, climb its trees, visit its museums, and most importantly, converse with its great and gifted people.

There’s so much more we could tell you about LiHigh School. But until you’ve come to see it for yourself, there’s a real chance you simply won’t believe it.

While you should be prepared to offer classes outside of your comfort zone, we also have some very specific needs, for which we are now interviewing candidates. If you share any of the following passions, please get in touch with us as soon as possible:

Carpentry & Practical Arts
We are searing for someone who truly understands and loves the craft of carpentry and who is also comfortable with a variety of practical arts, including electricity, plumbing, auto mechanics, metalworking, etc. You’ll be expected to help our students develop visions and plans for their own hands-on projects and help them realize each step of those projects. You’ll also be expected to develop projects that our school requires to achieve the greater good, projects that may come from anywhere but which will still involve authentic learning opportunities for your students.

Game-Based Learning
Our kids love games: video games, board games, role-playing games, games of chance, and just about everything else. And we love using games to provide them with valuable lessons about the real world. But now we want to hire someone who is just as passionate about gaming as they are about working with kids, someone who speaks the language of games and who is capable of going toe-to-toe with an autistic 12-year-old boy about the relative merits of various Pokémon. You might teach a class where the lessons are best delivered through games of MineCraft or Civilization or Dungeons & Dragons or Chess. Maybe you’re even working with the kids to develop games of their own. But at the end of the day, regardless of what you’re playing or sharing with the students, you remember to stay focused on helping the student make real advances in their understanding of and negotiation with the real world.

Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics
You are a STEM person. Some people are poets. Some are painters. Others are ballet dancers. But you…you’re a STEM person. You’re interested in things like robotics, chemistry, algebra, physics, nanotechnology, astronomy, and everything else that makes our world and our universe work. You’re just as comfortable helping a 14 year old explore the structure of the atom as you are helping a struggling 16 year old memorize her math facts. You know how to lead students through testing the soil in our gardens, as well how to use the construction of a chicken coop to deliver lessons on geometry. When a student tells you they want to build their own drone from scratch, your first question is, “When do you want to start?”

Fish & Game
When you think of your dream job, maybe you see yourself kneeling on the shore of an out-of-the-way pond, helping a teenager decide which lure to try this morning. Or maybe you’re teaching a young girl how to draw back a bow. Or maybe you’re snowshoeing with a small group of students through the woods, pointing out various tracks. It’s not the subject that really matters to you — because you’re comfortable with all of it; no, for you, it’s about where you are and who you’re with. You want to be out in nature, engaging with the rivers and forests, and passing on your experiences and your native wisdom to the next generation of Vermonters.

Seriously, this isn’t like any other school you’ve ever heard of. It’s LiHigh School. And we’re now hiring.

LiHigh School is an approved independent school for ages 11-21. Applicants should send a cover letter, resume, and three references. Selected applicants must have a cell phone, a valid driver’s license and a reliable car, as well as a willingness to transport students to and from school in their own vehicle. Applicants must also be able to pass a background check. Positions are part time at roughly 25 hours per week (not including compensated transportation of students), with the potential to become full time for those who consistently demonstrate a commitment to the growth and excellence of the school and our students.

Apply today!

June 2, 2016
by Kyle Callahan

Meet the Class of 2016

We’re proud to introduce you to our two graduates for the class of 2016! Both of these students have worked very hard to reach this milestone, and we couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments.

Hannah Strohmaier

1604659_1603154226582058_4679373850014358545_nHannah joined LiHigh School just thirteen months ago, but in that short time, Hannah has become an integral member of our communty, serving as unofficial notetaker and caregiver to both the students and the advisors. Hannah has also been a role model of academic focus, demonstrating every day to the younger students what it means to organize one’s tasks and accomplish one’s goals.

For the senior capstone project, Hannah developed an online support group for LGBTQ youth. The project utilized Hannah’s strengths in technology, communications, social networking, and empathy.

Hannah has already started taking college courses at Vermont Community College, with plans to transfer into a four-year college a little later down the line. But for now, Hannah’s main goal is to travel throughout the country and see what the world has to offer.

Ariella Zarfati-Eirmann

IMG_0774Ariella has been the longest-attending student in LiHigh School’s Social Entrepreneurial program, joining us as a ninth grader in our second year. Over the past four years, Ariella took more college classes and participated in more projects than any other student: almost 90 different projects, seminars, and courses over four years, including an academic trip to China!

For her senior capstone project, Ariella created a public art project that she titled, “I Dream Of…”, where she asked members of the community to share their dreams, which she then printed onto a piece of wood, with each dream accompanied by a portrait of the dreamer. She mounted the finished pieces on the fencing in front of LiHigh School on Main Street, giving everyone in the community the chance to learn more about the people they see everyday.

This fall, Ariella will begin her college career in the highly selective Global Scholars Program at American University in Washington, D.C.

Congratulations to the class of 2016!

June 1, 2016
by Kyle Callahan

We Don’t Give Grades

church-report-card-imageStudents in our Social Entrepreneurial program don’t receive grades for their work. There are several reasons for this.

First, grades do not reflect a student’s real learning; instead, they reflect the student’s ability to comply with their teacher’s expectations and to fit into a spectrum of their peers. At LiHigh School, we only expect a student to move forward with their learning: to improve on their current skills, to develop new ones, and to master strategies for overcoming internal and external obstacles. Just because a student is thirteen years old doesn’t mean she needs to have the same skills or knowledge as other thirteen year olds. She may have trauma in her past; she may not have enough to eat each day; she may have focused on developing as a cartoonist rather than a mathematician — with all of her differences, why should she be graded on the same scale as someone else?

Second, grades rarely take into account a student’s growth over the course of a quarter, basing itself on the final product or suite of products. I had a student who began a seminar on U.S. government with almost zero knowledge, much less than I had assumed for the base knowledge to begin the class, which meant that he was unable to succeed on many of the early assignments; his final project was also much more shallow than those of his peers. If I had to give him a straight up letter grade, he may have just cracked a C. But the growth he demonstrated from the start of the course revealed significant learning that he ought to have been proud of, learning that wouldn’t be captured by that “C.”

Third, the process of grading often prevents teachers from focusing on the actual teaching, stealing precious hours away from our prep time. I teach a lot of seminars in the humanities — philosophy, theology, history, creative writing, law, etc. In a traditional school, I’d probably spend a majority of my time developing quizzes to ensure students were doing the readings, grading papers using a point-based rubric, and tracking all kinds of numbers in a spreadsheet (not to mention uploading those grades onto a website where parents could track their student’s progress). But because we don’t have grades at LiHigh, teachers instead spend our time developing lesson plans that will bring the students into a subject in a smooth and engaging manner; we also have time to figure out strategies that will individualize the lesson for each of the students in the class.

The fourth reason we don’t give grades in the Social Entrepreneurial program is because grades prevent students from developing a sense of intrinsic motivation. Every year, our newer students are always asking us, “Can I get credit for doing X?” or “Will this count for Y?” I love these kinds of questions, because it gives me the chance to remind them, “We don’t do credits here.” We don’t ask our students to complete their assignments in order to earn a checkmark in some book. Instead, we ask them to be honest with themselves, and if they think something is important for them to learn, to then commit themselves fully to learning it. “Can I get credit for doing X?” Who cares? How about, “Why do you think doing X is important?”

Now, to be clear, just because we don’t give grades doesn’t mean we don’t assess our students. They are assessed on a daily, weekly, quarterly, and yearly basis. But they’re assessed for who they are and what they’re doing. They’re assessed for how they persevere when they face obstacles, for how they improve from where they are, for how they’re being honest and open with themselves, and for how committed they are to developing a true sense of passion.

Those assessments come in the form of conversations and stories. They come from portfolio reviews and long letters home to parents/guardians. They come from public demonstrations with audience feedback. They come from placing student products next to real-world examples of similar works and trying to figure out if and how they differ.

But none of that takes the form of a grade.

And that is just one of the reasons why I love teaching here.

May 11, 2016
by Kyle Callahan

Student Journal: Lewis Deane Nature Preserve

The following was written by two students, Ariella and Colleen, for their Backpacking class.

The Lewis Deane Nature Preserve is an 85-acre piece of land overlooking Lake St. Catherine in Poultney, Vermont. It was donated to Green Mountain College by Bill and Linda Osborne in 2002. The preserve was named after Bill’s godfather, Lewis Deane, who gifted the land to his godson. The purpose of the preserve is to provide opportunities for education, research, and outdoor experience to students and the community.

Atop the Dean Nature Preserve

Atop the Dean Nature Preserve

On April 8th, LiHigh School students and advisors went for our first hike of the year on the preserve. We went to the ridge line on St. Catherine Mountain, an easy uphill hike with a few rocky sections on the trail. Besides witnessing a breathtaking view of the lake, the hike provided an opportunity for our backpacking class to put their skills to the test.

The weather on April 8th in Poultney, Vermont was snowy, cold, and slightly windy. Students and staff had to dress appropriately for the weather. This meant layering up in lightweight, warm clothing. It never hurts to have too many layers, which you can always remove if you become overheated.

Having appropriate footwear was also a necessity. While the day was cold and snowy, the past few days had been warm, which caused the ground to thaw and the trails on the preserve to become muddy and thus slippery. There were a couple of wet feet due to being unprepared. Thankfully since this was a short hike, this was just uncomfortable; over a longer time or in harsher weather, being unprepared could result in hypothermia or frostbite.

Hypothermia is a condition where the body temperature drops dangerously below the normal range (below 95°F).  If someone becomes hypothermic, it is important that they are moved indoors or somewhere warm as soon as possible. Once the person is in a warm environment, remove any wet clothing and dry them. Wrap them in warm blankets, towels, coats, sleeping bags, or anything that is available. It is important to protect their head and torso first. Use warm water bottles wrapped in towels (so they don’t come in direct contact with the skin) or other heated objects to gradually heat the hypothermic person up. Ensure that they are heated gradually so that heart arrhythmia doesn’t occur. If there is no other heat source, another person (preferably naked to provide as much skin to skin contact as possible) can provide warmth to the person suffering from hypothermia. This should be a last resort as it is not the most effective way of treating hypothermia. The healthy person would be much more useful building a fire, making sure no one else is suffering from hypothermia, and attending to other tasks.

Frostbite is a condition where blood vessels and the surrounding tissues freeze. Frostnip is a superficial cooling of tissues that does not involve cellular destruction. Frostnip can be treated by submerging the cold tissues in water that is approximately 105°F and no more than 108°F. People with frostbite can prevent further damage to their body by following the same heating procedure but should receive medical attention as soon as possible and no more than 2-3 hours after the frostbite occurs. In severe cases of frostbite, parts of the body may have to be amputated.

The weather on Friday provided the ideal situation for the backpacking class to put their basic survival skills to the test. The students created an emergency shelter. The spot we ended up in was a grove (which offered some protection from the wind) that was downhill from, but not out of sight of, the ridgeline. We were equipped with an emergency blanket and had to craft a shelter that fit two people in it. We found a dead tree that had one end propped up on another tree. We used this as a support beam for our emergency shelter.  It is important to have the heat-reflective side of the blanket facing inward to preserve body heat.  We placed logs on the outside of the shelter to hold the sides down and filled the holes at the foot of the shelter with pine branches. We also collected pine branches to layer the floor of the shelter with.  This layer offers protection from the cold, wet ground. Ideally the barrier should be at least a foot off of the ground, for an emergency shelter a few inches should provide enough of a barrier. Our next step would have been to elongate our shelter by propping up branches to provide a better wind barrier. The result is a 5-10 minute shelter that will protect you from the weather.

In addition to building an emergency shelter, the backpacking class started a small campfire.  The only resources we were provided were three “strike anywhere” matches. Unluckily, everything on top of the mountain was wet due to recent precipitation. Fortunately there were resources on the mountain that we could use to build a decent fire. We found a limited amount of semi-dry dead grass, white birch bark, some dead branches that had been sheltered by the forest, and some dry pine needles.  

To start we built a nest out of the grass and filled it with bits of birch bark (which is highly flammable and water resistant). Once we had lit the nest, we fed the fire with more bark and pine needles.  As soon as the fire was big enough, we fed the flame with twigs and branches. We should have made a teepee out of small branches over the nest and built our fire up from there, but with many eager hands attending to the fire we ended up making a few mistakes. One of which was not building the fire the correct way. Another was making trails of tinder leading away from the fire.  We were lucky everything was wet because otherwise we could have started a forest fire.

The biggest takeaway from the hike was knowledge of basic survival skills. If you are stuck or lost in the woods, having these skills could save your life. Knowing how to dress, to create a basic shelter, and build a fire would keep you from losing your life.  Knowing how to build a fire could also be beneficial when it come to purifying water and cooking food, which could be needed skills if you are stuck in the woods for a long period of time. Having this knowledge is important when you go into the woods and will be useful during future hikes and backpacking trips.

March 10, 2016
by Kyle Callahan

What School Congress Has Done So Far

constitution-preamble-gavelAs you probably know, LiHigh School operates using a School Congress, where every member of our community, both students and staff, has an equal voice and an equal vote when it comes to proposing and enacting the laws of the school. In addition, a rotating group of students, advised by a staff member, make up the Judicial Committee, which is in charge of enforcing the laws of the school (i.e., instead of “getting sent to the office,” students at LiHigh School are reported to their peers on the Judicial Committee).

For this post, I thought I’d share some of the highlights of what School Congress has enacted so far this school year:

  • An amendment to Law 502, so that it now reads, “The judicial committee will consist of four members: one from each phase, plus a non-voting staff member to advise. The term for each member shall last for one quarter. The committee shall meet at least once every other week to determine which (if any) offenses to pursue, though if circumstances warrant it, the committee may convene for an emergency session.”
  • The creation of Law 609, which details what members must do to complete an independent project; specifically, that they must give an exhibition — “real demonstrations of learning” — in front of a panel, whom will be responsible for assessing whether the student has “passed”
  • The creation of Law 610, which requires members at the end of each quarter to “make a short presentation reflecting on their work for the quarter, highlighting their successes, discussing their challenges, setting their goals for the upcoming quarter, and discussing how they align with their learning plan.”
  • The creation of Law 320, which regulates use of the sole couch in the school by prioritizing members who are reading books or articles over members who are browsing Facebook, watching videos, or simply hanging out
  • The creation of Law 410, which gives Congress the power to create committees, as well as the makeup of power within those committees
  • The creation of Law 321, which enacts the “Dibs” rule and establishes that the member who calls “Dibs” on a chair has the right to control that chair until the end of the block
  • The creation of Law 411 and Law 412, which require Congress to hold semi-annual meetings to review, first, the school’s general compliance with the Lawbook, and second, the current Phase Level Expectations and to make suggestions for improvements if warranted.
  • The creation of Law 413, which details the duties of the Congress’s secretary
  • The repeal of Law 503, which had dictated the time and place of Congress’s weekly meeting but did so using an outdated schedule
  • The creation of Law 414, which reserves the right of Congress to regulate the use of devices (smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) within the school
  • The creation of Law 513, which details what happens when a student does not comply with the Judicial Committee, assigning the issue to the whole Congress to address
  • The creation of Law 611, which gives leaders of seminars, workshops, and presentations the power to regulate the use of devices during the seminar, workshop, or presentation, including the power to determine whether a device is properly “put away”
  • The creation of Law 322, which forbids members from putting their “shoes, socks, feet, or whole bodies” on the various tables in the school

As you can see, the Congress addresses a number of areas at LiHigh, not just behavioral issues, but also judicial issues, congressional issues, and in matters of curriculum design. The power that we give our students over their entire education is just one more reason why LiHigh School offers a truly unique educational experience for the teenagers of central and southern Vermont.

And in case you didn’t know, we are accepting applications for students interested in joining us, including students who are interested in finishing out their 2015-2016 school year here at LiHigh.

You can call us at (802) 287-2411 or email our director, Greg Rosenthal, if you have any questions about getting started.