Every private school has a core curriculum—and Berkshire’s is one of the best, with all the fundamentals required for students to excel academically, socially, artistically and athletically. In Berkshire’s residential community there is so much to be learned from interactions with faculty outside of the classroom. What sets our school apart is what happens at the periphery of this exceptional core.
In these programs, students engage in academic opportunities outside the core curriculum and put them to practice in real-world settings. Grounded by a core college preparatory foundation, this balance of rigor and possibility is what makes Berkshire unique—and our students so well-prepared to contribute to the world that awaits them.
Students in Advanced Humanities Research collaborate on their scholarly projects which will be presented to the Berkshire community.
Advanced Humanities Research is offered to students with a deep interest in the humanities—languages, literature, history, philosophy and the arts—who wish to build on the knowledge acquired in the traditional humanities curriculum.
A Unique Program
In the first quarter of the year, students have a traditional classroom experience, in that they study a curriculum based on several seminal “artifacts" of western culture, from Raphael's School of Athens to Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, from Schubert's die Winterreise to Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Throughout this portion of the course, students learn the theoretical frameworks in which the scholarly literature about the humanities is most commonly voiced. Students come to understand, for example, how structuralists read a text differently than post-colonialists do, and in the process they are exposed to a rich array of academic schools of thought and controversies.
Next, students define a research topic and question. By the end of the second quarter, students will have prepared a full-length literature review, in which they summarize and critique the contemporary scholarship relevant to their chosen topic. At the same time, they are working with the instructor to find appropriate professionals in their fields—mostly scholars, but also trade professionals, such as architects—to supervise and comment on their work. Unlike their peers in the AMSR course, students in the humanities course do not need to do their research in a laboratory, and so the possible pairings with scholars and others include remote, internet-facilitated affiliations.
In the second semester, students work on their own to produce a publication-quality paper, and then present their work to members of the Berkshire community. When feasible, students will make visits to archives, examine primary documents first-hand, attend academic conferences, and/or submit their work for publication consideration.
The Berkshire Scholar
Each year, AHR students edit and publish The Berkshire Scholar as part of their course work.
Dr. April Burch, Director of the Advanced Math/Science Research program, works closely with students in the lab where research is tailored to the interests of each student, conducted at the graduate level and completely student driven.
Advanced Math/Science Research offers students seeking an independent laboratory experience an opportunity to design and execute an original research project of their choice in the biological, physical, or social sciences. What sets Berkshire's course apart is the program's design: students intern with a professional scientist to conduct real-world research in world-class facilities. The course culminates with a critical review paper and a research paper, both in scientific format. Students present the results to members of the Math and Science Department and the Berkshire community
Berkshire and INTEL
AMSR students regularly compete in the INTEL Science Talent Search Contest, the nation's oldest and most distinguished science competition for high school students. Over the past seven years, 22 Berkshire students have entered the contest and seven have been recognized as INTEL Semifinalists, a distinction earned by only 300 students in the country per year. Working closely with professional mentors, student projects have ranged from better understanding cancer immunology to creating a new type of LED lighting.
College Matriculations for AMSR Students (2008-2015)
|Boston College||Harvard||University of Rochester|
|Brown||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||University of Southern California|
|UC Berkeley||McGill||Syracuse University|
|Caltech||University of Michigan||Univ. of Texas-Austin|
|Dartmouth||University of Pennsylvania||West Point|
|Franklin & Marshall||Rochester Institute of Technology||Williams|
In March, students travel to Lakeland, Florida to spend a week at Tailwheels Flight School where they typically fly 1-3 hours each day.
Aviation Science is a semester-long class that prepares students to pass the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Ground School Certification Exam, an initial requirement for anyone hoping to earn a pilot’s license. The course focuses on the study of aerodynamics, meteorology, navigation, radio communication, and instrumentation as they relate to flying an airplane; each student takes between six and ten hours of flight training at Great Barrington Airport, located about five miles from the Berkshire campus. In addition to the semester-long classroom experience, students also have the opportunity to participate in the Aviation Science program's Pro Vita trip to Lakeland, Florida each March.
The program's director, Michael Lee (parent of Jack ’10, Josh ’06 and Chris ’94), is a native Australian and licensed commercial pilot. He brings over two decades of expertise and passion to the classroom.
The history of Education with Wings began in the 1940s when the Army and Navy sent air-cadet trainees to Berkshire, where they received academic instruction and went to the Great Barrington Airport for flying lessons. The cadets slept in Spurr House and ate in the dining hall. Berkshire boys could participate in the flying lessons as well, and nearly a third of the school was involved.
A recent Berkshire graduate developed an Independent Study around the Dixon Observatory, leading to his decision to study astrophysics and cosmology in college.
Independent Study at Berkshire allows students to pursue an academic interest that extends beyond the core courses and the dozens of electives offered in the regular curriculum. Working with a faculty mentor, a student designs a course and directs its in-depth development in either a one-semester or year’s study. Independent Studies may combine academic work on campus with shadowing area professionals or volunteer internships at local organizations and are taken in addition to a full course load; grading may be a letter grade or pass/fail.
Recent Independent Study projects include:
Biodiesel Fuel Engineering
Digital Music Composition and Sound Design
Fly Fishing Rod Building
History of Graffiti
Mathematical Modeling and 3D Art
The Independent Study Program is directed by Linda Bellizzi, a member of the English faculty. For more information, please email her at email@example.com.
Berkshire students recently traveled to Guatemala for a week-long service project which included building a new addition to a school and teaching basic conversational English to local students.
Pro Vita Winter Session allows Berkshire students, for one week each winter, to move beyond the core curriculum by participating in three unique, intensive courses of their choosing, taught by Berkshire faculty, parents, alumni and friends.
With more than 80 courses offered, students have the opportunity to explore the larger world around them and to apply the school motto, Pro Vita Non Pro ScholaDiscimus, "Learning—not just for school but for life.”
Recent courses include: Learn to Play the Bagpipes, Making, Branding, and the Science Behind Mineral Cosmetics, Writing for the Silver Screen, and Zen and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance. Students also have the option of pursuing site-based excursions during the week. Recent trips have included studying marine life in the Bahamas, working in local Mayan elementary schools in Guatemala, and backcountry skiing and leadership in Wyoming.
Check out the 2016 Pro Vita catalog.
Berkshire School boasts an asset no other college prepatory school can claim: Mount Everett, the second highest mountain in Massacusetts and a peak along the Appalachian Trail.
Ritt Kellogg Mountain Program (RKMP) uses Berkshire's natural resources to promote academic growth, to challenge students athletically, to teach leadership, to develop character and to foster environmental passion and responsibility. RKMP was established to honor Ritt Kellogg, a 1985 alumnus who died in 1992 while climbing Mt. Foraker in Alaska. The program offers a range of outoor-related activites such as boat building, mountain biking, rock climbing, and winter mountaineering.
RKMP faculty offer afternoon alternatives to traditional team pursuits and a Beyond the Mountain program through which they guide students on domestic and international wilderness trips.
Recent summer trips include: Climbing Kilimanjaro, Safari on the Serengeti Plain, Mountain biking in the Andes of Peru, Hiking in Machu Picchu, Canyoning in the Pyrenees of Spain, Visit to Barcelona, Deep water soloing in Thailand, Exploring Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Dune boarding the Sahara Desert, Surfing off the coast of Morocco.
Video: Boat Building at Berkshire
Photos: Maple Syrup Corporation
Photos: Rock Climbing
Each year, Berkshire students compete for the Sabin Entrepreneurial Prize, a prestigious honor awarded to the team with the best business plan for a financially feasible product, service, project or program that can also contribute to living in more sustainable communities. Through a collaboration with the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, competing students meet with professionals from the business and environmental worlds to develop their plan.
The Sabin Entrepreneurial Prize seeks to:
- Introduce students to the essentials of writing a business plan;
- Provide a real-world platform to practice public speaking and presenting;
- Promote the entrepreneurial spirit;
- Stimulate creativity and critical thinking as it applies to the area of sustainable living;
- Reward effective collaboration in the construction and promotion of a coherent and sustainable business plan.
The Sabin Entrepreneurial Prize is an initiative created with the generous support of the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation to educate and expose Berkshire students enrolled in Advanced Economics to entrepreneurship and sustainability. The Prize was modeled on a similar program for Yale students which you can read about here.
Berkshire’s STEAM Program provides students with opportunities to be designers, creators, innovators, risk-takers and entrepreneurs. In STEAM, students are asked to identify and tackle authentic problems in context and design solution-based prototypes using interdisciplinary approaches that bridge science, technology, engineering, math, and the arts. STEAM at Berkshire also fosters the true spirit of collaboration and teamwork to accomplish more than what would have been accomplished with a singular approach. By bringing together the diverse talents of Berkshire students and faculty, the STEAM program fosters a school-wide movement of collaboration and experimentation.
STEAM specific courses include Engineering, 3D Design, iOS App Development, as well as integration with Bio Mathematics, Environmental Studies, Sustainability, Digital Music and more.
Berkshire’s Makerspace is a creative place. From robots to interactive art installations, students are able to make their ideas into reality. It’s a platform for innovation and place to pursue personal int
erests. In the Makerspace, the faculty is committed to creating a culture of innovation.
Students are lead through the design cycle. In particular, students are asked to identify real needs and work to develop a solution. That being said, many of the students’ first (and even second or third) solutions fail, and that is okay. After all, in reality, it is simply the first (or second or third) step toward success. No amazing innovation is created on the first try. This teaches students to take risks and iterate from “failures” to achieve success. In so doing, students develop a growth mindset that helps them to believe that they can learn to do anything.
The Makerspace encourages students to tinker, play, and explore without any clear end goal in mind. In the Makerspace, students have the opportunity to utilize emerging technologies along side of traditional shop equipment in order to bring their ideas to life. Students new to making are welcome to follow tutorials or step-by-step instructions in order to develop their skills so that eventually they will be ready to choose more challenging projects and more interesting opportunities in the future.
The Makerspace cultivates students’ and faculty’s enthusiasm for learning. Making also fosters character-building traits including creativity, curiosity, persistence, resilience, open-mindedness, social responsibility, and collaboration. In the Makerspace, teamwork and community are emphasized as students band together to come up with creative solutions that they might never have invented individually.
The school's eight-acre solar field, featuring over 8,000 photovoltaic solar panels, came online in January of 2012 and produces approximately 40-percent of the School's energy needs.
Sustainability provides students with the opportunity to do real-world work in sustainable practices, learning to garner institutional support for adaptations that create a lasting and noticeable difference. Students recently proposed, designed and installed an electric car charging station at Berkshire, one of only a few in the area.
In 2013, Berkshire was named a Green Ribbon School by the Department of Education, one of 64 schools in the nation and one of only 10 private schools at the time. The award honors schools and districts for “exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics and green career pathways.” (US Department of Education)