Outdoor Education Center
The Mission of Vermont Commons School is Scholarship, Community, and Global Responsibility. We believe that Global Responsibility emerges from the understanding that our choices and actions impact our communities and require a commitment to service. In particular, one of our greatest Guiding Principles regards Environmental Stewardship, which we believe arises through experience and informed appreciation of the interdependence between oneself and the natural world. We have long held the value and practice of engaging students and teachers with the world through direct interaction and application of skills and knowledge, making it our classroom, lab, and studio.
As an intentionally small independent school currently of about 110 students in grades 6 – 12, Vermont Commons has over its three decades made use of locally available natural and community resources, starting with our main school facility, a repurposed office building at 75 Green Mountain Drive in South Burlington that has slowly been converted into an optimal indoor learning environment. Our footprint there is intentionally small, at just under 1.5 acres, and we rely on transporting students to the broader global classroom, be it rented gyms or fields (in the past!), trails for hikes, streams for water testing, or community partners for learning or service. Using what is there for all well and thoughtfully defines the notion of a Vermont-based “Commons”–a shared common wealth of resources and responsibilities–that gives our school its name.
In the fall of 2020, we explored purchasing a nature-based, outdoor, school facility, where students and teachers could pursue ecological stewardship through long-term environmental study and evidence-based and community-informed care, use, and preservation. Such a school facility would provide the opportunity for long-term field research, environmental responsibility, and stewardship. The OEC on Spear Street, Charlotte, Vermont is an ecological gem in all aspects. It is about a 13-minute drive in one of our 14-passenger buses (what we use to transport students) from our main South Burlington school campus.
What better place to cultivate curiosity than the natural world? The OEC has been an abundant stage for wildlife tracking Senior Projects, wetland research, and biodiversity collaborations with Peter Goff and a cadre of scientists from other educational institutions. Our students have built raised beds, developed a sustainable watering system, and tended a summer garden. We know that learning outside of the classroom is a thing – and we believe that our students flourish in the awe and wonder of the world. Insight, cooperation, and resourcefulness abound when we work and learn together.