The Chicken Coop at the Farm School is a full-time Middle School for local children. It offers local middle-school students the opportunity for an excellent education in North Orange, MA. Graduates of the Chicken Coop have excelled at Athol and Mahar, Monty Tech, Franklin County Tech, Northfield Mt. Hermon, Cushing Academy, Winchendon Academy, Pioneer Valley Performing Arts, and Four Winds Charter School. The total class has 10-14 students. There are often two teachers in the room, so children have some classes in groups of 6. Teachers are able to meet students where they are as learners and then challenge and extend their thinking by engaging them in year-long projects that lead to a deep understanding of the topics. Most importantly, the teachers know their students and have the time to be joyful with them. The students leave the Chicken Coop more than prepared for any high school. Students can study math through quadratic equations, develop their thinking in the weekly 5 paragraph essay, and get plenty of experience reading critically and thinking carefully.
The Chicken Coop curriculum covers a full range of subjects including Social Studies, Literature Studies and Writing, Math, Science, Physical Education and Art and is organized around a number of core principles. For a list of the skills we attempt to teach, click here. These principles include:
- Interacting with the world from a place of kindness and generosity
- Practicing joy
- Considering any idea or situation from multiple perspectives
- Being able to function in a democracy, and having the necessary reading and writing skills to do so well
Children get an extensive written evaluation of their academic progress twice each year. The students are not graded against each other, but are instead evaluated as to their own personal learning. For a sample evaluation, click here.
Wendy Davenport and Molly St. Clair are the principal teachers at the Chicken Coop. Both have many years experience educating young people. Each of them has been at The Farm School for many years. They love their jobs, and enjoy watching children learn and grow.
Wendy Davenport, Co-Teacher Wendy has been teaching since 1981. She earned her BA from the University of California Berkeley and her MA in Education from Tufts University. She attended the Teacher Training Course at the Shady Hill School in Cambridge, MA, where she also taught fifth grade and then sixth grade for 14 years. She has taught English and Writing at the Chicken Coop School since its start in 2002 and believes that teaching middle school is one of the best and most interesting jobs there is.
Molly St. Clair
Molly St. Clair, Co-Teacher Molly graduated from Vassar College, where she completed the Graduate Fellowship in Education and earned a New York State Certificate in Elementary Education. Molly first came to The Farm School as a visiting middle school student in 2001, started working in the summer programs in 2008, and became a full-time farmer/teacher at the Program for Visiting Schools in 2013. She brings a deep understanding and love of the farm as well as a sharp mathematical mind and a broad world view.
Time Subject Sample Content 8:30-8:50 Morning Meeting The students check in with each other and the teacher, play a singing game, and learn what the day’s adventures will be. 9:00-10:00 Literature or Social Studies The children study literature with Wendy or Social Studies with Molly. In literature, they might be carefully considering a book such as To Kill A Mockingbird, Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry, or a more contemporary novel. In Social Studies, they might be making a board game that depicts the path a bill takes in becoming a law, or analyzing the role of Gandhi in the thinking of Martin Luther King. 10:00-10:10 Snack and Break In most all weather, the students have their breaks outside. They might climb trees, visit the chickens, or chase each other through the snow. 10:15-11:45 Writing and Math half groups Our small group size allows the teachers to effectively meet individual learning needs. Children are enabled to advance, but they are also encouraged to take their time and really learn the material well. 11:45-12:30 Lunch and Recess The kids eat lunch together in the farm house. They might chat with a farmer at lunch, to see what they are up to on the farm. Lunch is always lively. After they finish eating, the kids play outside. 12:30-1:15 Essay Students might read and discuss an article that they will write about in their weekly essay. They often get the essay started at school, and then finish it for homework. 1:15-2:00 Science, Art, Construction, Gardening, or Chores Every afternoon is a little bit different. Some days they do a science experiment in the garden. Recently they did an investigation of the simple machine while disassembling a tractor engine. 2:00-2:15 Tidy The students maintain their own office spaces and the shared spaces on the farm and in the classroom. 2:15-2:45 Quiet Reading The children read any book that is interesting to them. The teacher confers with them about their reading and their selection of books. 2:45-3:00 Read Aloud 3:00-3:15 Meeting and Homework 3:15-3:45 Dismissal
Children get about an hour of homework each day.
We convene during typical school hours with activities based at the Chicken Coop at Maggie’s Farm (thus the name), which is a part of The Farm School. We are organized in the form of a home school cooperative: we provide parents with our curriculum, which fits within the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, and the parents then submit the curriculum to their school district for approval for their child.
We aim to cover the teachers modest salary and any expenses for in-school supplies with contributions and tuition. Tuition for the 2015-16 academic year is $4,120, paid in monthly installments, plus a $275 supply fee. This fee covers about half the total cost of the education – the other half comes from fund raising in the community. Tuition can be reduced to match the particular capacities of individual families.
If you are interested in exploring the Chicken Coop for your child, please get in touch with Wendy Davenport at firstname.lastname@example.org , or call 978-248-9426 to arrange a visit. If you’d like to apply after seeing it in action, we have a simple application process, the core of which is a conversation with the parents. Let’s work together to figure out if this is a good match and that, indeed, we can serve you and your child well!
Download the Chicken Coop Admissions Application here (pdf format).
The Farm School does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, family structure, or national or ethnic origin in any of its school administered policies or programs.
Chicken Coop at The Farm School
80 Athol Road
Orange, MA 01364
The Chicken Coop School
at the Farm School
The Farm School’s own middle school for local children