At Orchard House School, our traditions are meaningful and relevant to our school life and mission. Every class to graduate from OHS shares the memory and fondness for each of the following:
Each girl new to Orchard House School creates a hand-stitched quilt square. She starts from Langston Hughes’ poetry about dreams for the future and then she drafts her own Dream Poem. The poem is then translated into a quilt square - a visual statement of hope and a personal vision of how she hopes to contribute to the world. The girls present their quilt squares and an excerpt from their poem at Graduation Ceremony. The squares (and dreams) are pieced together over the summer and are reintroduced for the community to add their own stitches in silver and gold during the week leading up to Winter Ceremony. The colors symbolize friends old and new and the stitches represent community support for the girls and their dreams. Dream Quilts hang proudly on the walls throughout Orchard House School.
In 2009 Orchard House School institutionalized the annual eighth grade trip to Concord, Massachusetts. In the year leading up to the trip, girls study the social, ethical, and, historical implications of the Concord community. Along with visiting the original Orchard House, home of Louisa May Alcott, they also explore places such as the Old Manse, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and other activities driven by the interests and talents of the class. After reading Kasey to the Rescue, the girls are also invited into the home of Ellen Rogers to meet her quadriplegic son, Ned, and his amazing helper monkey, Kasey. The trip to Concord is about many things; learning from the past, getting ready to move on to the future, and understanding how people and communities are creating change and living courageous lives.
A significant rite of passage at Orchard House is the presentation of thrones to our eighth grade girls from their secret sisters in the fifth grade. In the weeks leading up to Winter Ceremony, the bond between and fifth grader and eighth grader develops as the girls send anonymous letters back and forth to learn about one another. Fifth graders then carefully paint the throne that is reflective of her eighth grader’s personality, strength, and spirit. Thrones are presented, one-by-one, at the Winter Ceremony. These symbolic seats of honor are highlighted at two other events throughout the year - once when an eighth grader leads a morning meeting and gives her “throne talk” and again at Graduation Ceremony. Many of our graduates maintain contact with their 5’s and come back to see them graduate three years later.
Orchard House promotes an environment that respects differences and encourages conflict resolution with adult guidance and a sense of open-minded dialogue. The emphasis is on each girl having a voice in seeking positive resolution. An important community aspect of OHS life is Town Meeting, where letters to The Cow are read. If a girl seeks peer advice about a personal or community concern, she writes an anonymous note to the cow-shaped mailbox. At Friday Town Meetings, notes are read and responses are solicited and facilitated by the eighth grader leading the meeting. The community works towards a collaborative resolution. Issues range from questions about navigating friendships to organizing backpacks to starting a new lunchtime club. The Cow provides the forum for real leadership on a very practical level as well as a safe environment to ask some challenging questions.
Graduation at Orchard House is an effort of the entire school. The Eighth Grade class performs two songs they select as indicative of their experience and legacy, while the Fifth Grade class presents their Dream Poem and quilt squares to mark the beginning of their path as budding leaders. After each graduating eighth grader presents a reflection of her years at Orchard House, she passes the torch of leadership to a Seventh Grader in a candle-lighting ceremony. Graduation ends with all students and attending alumnae singing the school song, “Simple Gifts,” and a reception hosted by the Sixth Grade class.
To recognize the important role grandparents play in education, every year Orchard House School welcomes grandparents to join us for a day of celebration of the bonds that strengthen a school community. Grandparents and grandfriends are invited to survey student projects and catch up with students, faculty, and the Head of School on what has been happening in school since last year. Our guests also participate in an activity designed for grandaughters and grandparents to connect with a shared project. We end Grandparents' Day with a book fair, carrying on the tradition of passing along books and knowledge.
Base Groups meet with Ms. Haskins on a weekly basis for tea in her office and a chance to pause during the busy day to connect with one another and enjoy one of life’s simple pleasures―good company and a hot cup of tea.