Leading up to our 65th Anniversary celebration next March, here is a look at the history of the founding of our school, as recorded by Mary Mendenhall in the Monteverde Jubilee Family Album)
When everyone was situated in some kind of temporary housing in Monteverede the largest house, where the Dairy Plant now stands, was fixed up as a meeting-school house and a community center. Partitions were removed to make one large room. The outside walls were taken off the kitchen, leaving an open-air porch with an opening into the larger room, which gave it more air and light.
Elwood and Ruth Mendenhall unpacked their dining room table for a place for the older children to work. A packing box was made into a supply cupboard. The smaller children “made do” with the plank benches used for meeting. A box supper was held to get money to buy a water bucket, wash pan, blackboard paint, etc. That is some indication of our primitive accommodations.
The new school year started in March 1952. It was a wonderful time to be establishing a school. Everything was new and exciting: the climate, the mountains, the culture, and the never-ending discoveries, for instance a drop of water in a tequiqui leaf would run around like mercury if tilted, or could even be funneled into ones mouth. Or seeing a buzzard circling above the hill behind the schoolhouse, the curious children ran up at recess to find only a small dead toad. Now how, from such a height, did the buzzard know it was there? The whole setting fostered one of the goals of the school: to maintain the natural eagerness to learn which is typical of small children but is often lost in school regimens.
Because of several grades in the same room, class periods were held around a table, while pupils not in class studied at their desks. The latter required real concentration. Efforts were made to meet the individual needs of each child. Older children, or any who understood a problem were allowed to help a child when needed. When a teacher was absent, if we did not have a substitute, older children who had their word done, filled in.
Reports twice a year were written out by the teachers in an effort to report each child’s progress rather than comparing him to others as in a letter or figure reports. As little home work as possible was assigned, as most of it could be done in the study periods and time to be a part of one’s family after school seemed important.
Rick’s note: It interests me how many of those early traditions/characteristics are still central to our school 65 years later. Mixed grade classrooms, minimizing competition/comparison between students, peer tutoring, integrating the natural world into lessons, and most importantly, maintaining “the natural eagerness to learn.” If only (my children bemoan) we still kept a light homework load these days…