The Arete Project – Nunnian Education at Work

woman using a hammer

It is summer at Arthur Morgan School. Our students have left, and the campus is quiet. We miss their excited voices and constant energy. For years staff used the summer months as a time to tend to the school’s garden or make necessary repairs, but since 2015, AMS has put its campus to a more productive use.  Partnering with The Arete Project, a Nunnian seminar program, AMS now continues to be an engaging location for experiential learning throughout the summer as well.

The Arete Project is an intensive, residential summer program for college age students. The program embodies Nunnian education, a philosophy named after L.L. Nunn, who was an early 20th-century educator, philanthropist and entrepreneur. He founded Deep Springs College and the Telluride Association, both of whose educational work continues to this day. Arete was founded by Laura Marcus, who previously worked at Deep Springs. The project is built on three main pillars: “rigorous engagement with the liberal arts, physical labor undertaken in service of the land and community, and student self-governance over each other and the organization as a whole.”

The Arete Project at AMS

woman doing tile workAMS hosts Arete’s Blue Ridge session which is currently open only to young women.  For eight weeks each summer, 18 young women use our classrooms and work our land. The students spend their mornings developing their labor skills. Some of the them harvest or preserve food from our garden, or work with the school’s livestock. Others perform maintenance around the rest of campus, building structures and making repairs.

In the afternoon, the students attend a two to three hour course which pushes them academically and encourages critical thought about their daily activities. The professors live on AMS’s campus throughout the summer as well and often share meals with students, encouraging discussions to continue outside of the classrooms.

Nunnian Education at Work

Throughout the whole program, participants are tasked with the responsibility of governing themselves. They meet multiple times a week to make day to day decisions about the program.  Decision making structures, work distribution, and cultural norms are all within their purview. However the students also make decisions about The Arete Project as a whole.  They are responsible for admissions, hiring, and policy decisions as well. The students not only feel responsible for the success of their seminar but also for the continued future of The Arete Project.

Arete cohort backpackingAlthough much of the program’s structures are developed by the participants, AMS works alongside the Arete students to make their program a success. With such similar values between the two institutions, AMS and Arete make a strong partnership.  While they are developing their governance systems and making decisions, some AMS staff work along side the students to provide guidance and form a collaborative bond.

Kavita Hardy, AMS’s current co-clerk and farm coordinator, also serves as Arete’s program director. Although she does not actively participate in the students’ decision making, she offers perspective on how Arete’s decisions will impact the school and surrounding community. She also provides training and oversight of work on the school’s farm. Tal Galton, a former AMS staff member, is Arete’s labor coordinator. He helps manage much of the work the students will complete over the summer and encourages them to explore the land and community beyond the AMS campus.

Learn more about AMS’s Experiential Learning Program!

A Great Partnership

Since joining up with Arete, AMS’s summers have been much more productive and lively. The campus is no longer empty, anxiously awaiting the return of our students. The classrooms are filled, the garden is more productive, and good needed work is accomplished.  Thanks to Arete and its enthusiastic participants, we are able to keep AMS an engaging and exciting place to learn and grow all year long.

-by Nicholas Maldonado