WILLIAMSTOWN — Keeping active is a key way of beating the winter blues, so three years ago, when students and staff of the Buxton School campus complained the dark, droning winter days and nights were bringing them down, the school decided to start up a winter study program.
The classes are blocked as five-week elective programs, taught by staff, alumni and community members, designed to allow students in all grades to come together and work on projects based on common interests. This year's winter study swept across an interdisciplinary menu of topics like book arts, the "History of American Cuisine," and classic and contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare's "Macbeth," from stage to screen.
"The program allows for much more immersion into a subject and more capacity to do field trips and inquiries and show movies," said Buxton Director Peter Smith.
It's also a chance for teachers to share their own interests and things they love.
Greg Roach, the school's executive chef, and geometry and health teacher, Chiara Carrino, teamed up to lead the "History of American Cuisine," course, during which students planned menus, and prepared and served meals, based on recipes they researched from Colonial to contemporary times.
"It's all hands-on and they do it themselves," said Roach, noting that the students learned butchering techniques to prepare a lamb for a lamb ragout recipe.
English teacher Lizzy Beck said teaching the "Macbeth" course with drama teacher Peter Beck allowed for an immersion into the bard's work unlike anything way she experienced in college. The class read and watched films, saw plays, went to museums and then challenged the students to create their own interpretation of the play or a scene from it. The resulting projects ranged from piano and art compositions to podcasts and plays.
Senior Gabby Coe recalls the time before winter study was offered. "It's nice to have something new to try. The winter is a very short term and tends to be sad and dark. The winter study classes are a nice addition," she said.
She and junior Aba Lypps spent this session studying magazine journalism skills, which they are using to create a the "Buxton Alumni Newsletter."
"I've never done anything like this before," said Lypps, who said she's been able to apply some of her photography skills gained in a previous winter study class to the newsletter.
For Coe, it's been a chance to reinforce a passion. "I am slowly falling in love with journalism," said the aspiring broadcaster. "The program could introduce you to the next thing you really love."
Senior Kristhal Ayala had that exact discovery after taking "Materials Workshop," last year, giving her a chance to try carpentry, welding and auto mechanics. She's now apprenticing with Flamingo Motors.
Shop owner Kevin Leonard lauds the program. "I think it supports a whole new movement for people to learn more skills. It's great for them to get out to use their hands to make something happen," he said.