Lawrence Academy students are prolific young artists, adventurers, athletes, fundraisers and humanitarians. They canoe down the Rio Grande River, outwit chess experts at Harvard Square in Cambridge, follow Darwin’s footsteps in the Galapagos Islands, learn ancient farming techniques in Hawaii, scuba dive in Curaçao and volunteer as horseback riding therapists.
These thrills and feats are part of Lawrence Academy’s Winterim programme. For nearly five decades, students of this boarding and day school in Groton, Massachusetts near Boston, break out of their normal routines, opening their minds, bodies, and hearts to new experiences. Whether they find Winterim a cool, fun, and unique experience or an influence on what they choose to pursue in college or their future career, its impact is often transformative.
Spanning two weeks in March, it’s a mini term that embraces the idea of experiential education. More than just the educational wave of the future, it reflects the Lawrence Academy ideals. As they prepare for college and career, LA students are attempting something bigger: charting a life driven by conviction and meaning. They are looking beyond themselves, spreading well-being and goodwill to ever broader communities.
When Matt Noel ’19 headed to the northern coastal town of Cabarete in the Dominican Republic, he was confronted by the realities of an unequal world. It was more than just a lesson in global economics — seeing 7-16-year-old girls from extreme poverty shine with voracious energy and optimism sparked something almost spiritual in him.
“It’s one thing to hear about life in developing countries on the news and from other people, but it’s another thing to actually see it and experience it firsthand,” explains Noel. “The students and the teachers alike seemed extremely grateful that we were there to help them, and I felt the same in return. It’s something special to be part of a community that cares so much about the betterment of the world and encourages its students to be good people.”
Each year, Lawrence Academy offers around 44 Winterim options. Each course falls into one of five areas: cultural immersion, academic field study, service-learning, crafts and skills, or outdoor adventure. Whether on campus, in the Groton area, out of state – or even out of the country – they reap the full rewards of the academy’s distinctive approach to learning.
“Such full explorations of the human condition lead in turn to more genuine and meaningful processes of learning,” shares Head of School Dan Scheibe. “And genuine, meaningful processes of learning are key ingredients for a life in which an individual can contribute and prosper.”
‘My advisor is there for me’
All students learn differently. Each has unique passions and needs. Whatever they may be, it is important that every student, from the class valedictorian to the varsity athlete, feels respected, accepted and supported by teachers and peers.
LA recognises this. A variety of learning support initiatives and programmes help students work toward their potential. It starts with a learning profile, a one-page summary of a student’s strengths and challenges as a learner; recommendations made by a licensed evaluator, and accommodations for which a student qualifies at LA.
Armed with this, teachers know how to best serve their students’ needs. If accommodations are necessary for those with diagnoses, they can set extended time for in-class quizzes, tests, and exams; provide small-group settings for assessments; and employ the use of calculators or laptops, for example.
This individualised approach applies to all students. Instead of a numbers game — herding as many pupils into a class as possible — LA students can meet teachers personally to ask questions. If they need more help, learning coaches are available once or twice a week for 1:1 sessions in areas including reading, writing, mathematics, planning, time-management and/or organisation.
At the Evening Academic Centre, faculty members are on hand four nights a week from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. for math, science and humanities support, plus additional math guidance on Monday evenings from 5.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Students can ask for help to understand an assignment, complete homework, prepare for an assessment, write a paper, or review the content of a course. No appointment is necessary.
At the heart of the Lawrence Academy experience is the advisory system. Four to eight students from varying grade levels, backgrounds, and friend circles form one group, led by a faculty member advisor. Every school day, the group meets for a daily-check in. Twice a month, advisors send progress reports to family about each student’s welfare and academic progress.
Many of these groups quickly become a source of confidence and inspiration. Peers share both triumphs and struggles. Advisors provide guidance, motivation, and friendship. Every birthday and milestone are celebrated. It is, in the truest sense, an on-campus family. “From the beginning, advisory has set the perfect tone for my time on campus,” shares Kerri Murphy ‘19. “It is my safe place. Anything and everything — my advisor is there for me.”
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