“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” 

While children between the ages of 12 and 14 still thrive on Hayground’s intensity, emphasis of depth over breadth, insistence on authentic work, development of expertise, and the school’s powerful sense of community, they also seek new kinds of experiences and challenges.

With the distinctive characteristics of pre-adolescent kids in mind, in 2005 Hayground began offering a program designed especially for Senior Learner students that builds on the intellectual, artistic, and social qualities we value for the younger groups, yet accommodates the unique and dynamic needs of this age group.

As they begin to form their identities and thus look to adults in a new way, students have one head teacher who oversees their whole program, provides continuity to their experience, and helps them link different aspects of their work. This year, Charlie Freij’s classroom focus on “Philiosphy” examines the major question of “Why?’ throughout history and literature. Exploring and using the Socratic method, the learners in Charlie’s group are constantly questioning one another, pushing each other’s arguments to greater depths in their thinking and writing. The primary query of “what does it really mean?” is applied on a daily basis…what does it mean to be a friend, to be brave, to be a good person or simply, to be.

Students in this group delve deeply into how to craft an essay, as well as how to critically read and discuss a broad variety of literary works. In addition to their comprehensive writing projects (see below), this year many smaller writing assignments will be posted on so students can experiment with writing for a diverse audience. The application of techniques they use to gain followers on the website will inform students’ writing on the more formal essay for this exercise.

Along with 6-week rotations in Art Studio, Culinary Arts, and Garden, primary curricular components include:

Senior Learner Essay: A published writer offers a topic for the students to write about and complete in a finite time period. 2015’s prompt was “What is the purpose of school?”; in 2016, students were asked, “Imagine you encounter an off-planet being who asks you: what does it mean to be a good human?”” In past years, Susan Engel, Nicole Ferret and M.T.Anderson have read and critiqued these essays.

Apprenticeships: Students work as apprentices in an industry or place of business within the local community. These apprenticeships currently take place three afternoons per week and typically run for eight weeks per semester.  The experience concludes with a final written piece and a presentation to the school community.

Past Apprenticeships include:

  • Narrow Lane History Project
  • East Hampton Veterinary Clinic
  • Hampton Library
  • Culinary Arts Great Chefs Program
  • Second Star Toys
  • Studio with Artist Perry Burns

Senior Learner Project: In another effort to make their experience rigorous, each member of the class works on an ambitious long-term project resulting in expertise and a performance for a larger audience at the end of the year. Members of the local community are invited in to view and evaluate the culminating presentations and extensive work.

Past Senior Learner Projects include:

  • A study of Islam
  • A photography exhibit of remarkable abandoned buildings on the East End
  • Building a Solar Oven
  • Building a Guitar
  • A study of the art of comedy ending with a stand up comedy performance
  • A comparative analysis of school lunch programs
  • The Science of Waves
  • Special Effects Make-up
  • Silk Screen Printing