Compass School students immersed in community organizations

Compass students working with the Bellows Falls Historical Society. Photo provided

WESTMINSTER, Vt. – The Compass School in Westminster recently completed “Winterm,” their winter term where students work with organizations in the surrounding community. At Compass School, the grading system includes a range of proficiency life skills including communication, collaboration, self direction, problem solving, and attention to detail.

Director Rick Gordon explains in Winterm, in addition to learning, students develop a connection with the community and learn to care about the world around them.

Nine students chose to work with the Bellows Falls Historical Society and professional designer Jenny Fulton to build a display for the front window at their new location on Westminster Street. They also helped Chris Glennon choose photographs that best fit the window’s theme and archival of court records from the 1920s.

Humanities teacher Gabe Allen-Fahlender commented on the smoothness in which the students collaborated without any real leading. Everett Graves, a junior at Compass said he enjoyed the wonderful history you would not expect from a small town, adding “You forget Bellow Falls was a bustling town.”

Glennon acknowledged that the historical society hoped to secure an intern and planned to be open at least once per week. Their archives include private records, textile artifacts, and BF Times from 1908. They can be reached at for help on local research.

One group of students worked with director David Stern and Main Street Arts on their “Chicago” set for the show in the Bellows Falls Opera House, set for March 28-30 and April 4-6, helping with painting, props, and costumes. The volunteer construction crew built an elaborate multi-level set with LED lights and moving parts, which needed a lot of painting. Other students also helped with sewing.

Gordon said students “learn through direct experience, [but] find it hard to identify how much they are gaining.” He added, this project required a lot of attention to detail. Transporting expensive lights and painting a set that hundreds of eyes will see is different than handing in an assignment graded by one teacher. Students are learning that quality work and follow through matter.

Another group formed what is referred to as The Compass Minstrels. This was their 16th year bringing theatre visits to ten area preschool and elementary schools.

The Compass School Winterm is generally at the end of February. For more information about Winterm, visit

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