ALSTEAD, N.H. – The Orchard School and Community Center in East Alstead, N.H. is now open. Guided by a leadership forum of ten women, the center reopened after a brief hiatus to restructure from September 2016 to March 2017.
The Orchard School was created in 1991 as the first full-day early learning center in the area. Teachers Eleanor Elbers, Kathy Torrey, and Kathleen Vetter, their husbands, and 375 community volunteers constructed the building that currently houses the community center. In 1993, the school was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Until 2016, The Orchard School welcomed 2,000 children and teens.
With their newly expanded mission, TOSCC aims “to foster community learning, healing and sustaining. We encourage programs that provide inclusive learning for children and adults. We provide healing space for movement, expression and the restoration of vitality. We sustain the community by encouraging connection with the land, the arts and diversity of cultures beyond our rural community.”
TOSCC offers arts and ecology after school, home school programs, and school vacation camps for school-aged children. Day camps and child care are offered for five weeks throughout the summer. Community members and teachers offer a wide variety of workshops, classes, and events year round for all ages in the sunny great room.
Currently, there is live music, storytelling, performances, women’s circles, herbal and alternative health workshops, yoga, and Orisha dance classes held at the center. One recent addition is the Orchard Hill Quakers who meet and welcome the public each Sunday at 10 a.m. for Quaker meeting. The center invites leaders and educators to propose ideas and use this unique venue to gather and host classes. TOSCC is inclusive and open to children and adults of all abilities.
Recently, Eleanor Elbers received the 2018 Educator of the Year award by the Cheshire County Conservation District. Elbers remarked on the need for TOSCC quality extended learning opportunities.
“These days one of the most important pieces educators can share is a sense of wonder for life.” Elbers stated in a CCCD press release. “If we are lucky, we work in schools that invite the child to walk through a portal on their own. Not away from the real world with all its injustice and sorrow, but close to the heart of hands-on situations and projects. I work from a curriculum that strives to find a zone of connection for each member of the group.”
In 2014, studies showed 50 percent of kids enrolled in quality camp, after school, and nature based programs do better in school. This fall, TOSCC children released 16 monarch butterflies, trekked through the forests and streams, harvested from the gardens, prepared food and created all manner of art.
Upcoming events include the annual Lantern walk Wednesday, Nov. 7 and an artisan fair at the Walpole Town Hall, Dec. 7 and 8. For more information, visit www.theorchardschool.org.