Category Archives: Field Studies

Inly’s Service Learning Curriculum and the Season of Giving

by Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Assistant Head of School


UE students visit with the elderly at the Scituate Life Care Center

Each year at this holiday season, we take a moment at Inly to give thanks for family, friends, and community, and we look for ways to contribute to others from this place of abundance. We teach our students that service to others and developing an understanding of ourselves in relationship to a larger community and world, are central to personal development and fulfillment.

Seeds of service learning

The seeds of our service-learning curriculum are sown in our toddler program, take root and grow through each level of the school, and extend into our alumni community. At the heart of this curriculum is Maria Montessori’s mandate to empower children to become agents of change, and our personal mission to create global citizens. The goal of the service work we do at all levels at Inly is to promote the development of life long lessons in empathy, hard work and cultural awareness, while giving students a sense of belonging to a community.

Service learning through the years

As you walk the halls at Inly, you see examples of service. Our Toddlers and Children’s House students learn to recognize the needs of another and to offer help and support through our formalized grace and courtesy curriculum. In Lower Elementary, our students are coming to understand our shared needs as humans though their study of fundamental needs. In Upper Elementary, students go out into the community through a formal service learning program that takes place each Friday. In Middle School, our complete 20 hours of service each year as a part of their program of study. For the third year, our graduating 8th graders and high school alumni will have the opportunity to travel to Guatemala to participate in a two-week service learning program. And for the second year, the adults in the Inly community have the opportunity to touch lives in our own community through the small moments campaign.

School Wide Fundraising Project: Heifer International

Additionally, this year our school wide project is supporting the work of Heifer International ( Led by the Community Service representatives for the Inly Parent Committee, each classroom from Children’s House through Middle School has chosen a target goal. In Children’s House, students are bringing in change to purchase ducks, chickens, a goat and a pig. Lower Elementary Classrooms are working to purchase sheep, rabbits and a heifer. The Upper Elementary Classrooms have set the goal of raising funds to subsidize a community health worker,  to purchase a llama, and to buy assorted trees for reforestation projects. While Middle School students are committed to sending a girl in a developing country to school.

Throughout the year, our students will engage in a multifaceted Heifer curriculum to deepen their understanding of the work of development, to learn more about different regions of the world, and to connect more closely to the lives their gifts will impact. Already, some classrooms have reached their first goal and have adopted another.  Students from 4 to 14 are talking about ways they can earn and then donate their money to this worthwhile cause, and some have shared that they have asked for gifts to Heifer for Christmas. This feeling of giving is contagious, and our community is marked by it.

As you share this winter break with family and friends, we encourage you to keep this conversation alive with your children. Support them in recognizing the needs of others, create the opportunity for them to give from a sense of abundance, reflect on the connection we all share as humans, and celebrate together that most precious gift of relationship. 

Inly 8th Graders Attend NuVu, Center of Innovation, Technology and Hands-On Learning

Last month, we wrote about a new, experiential program that Inly 8th graders would be taking on later in the spring at NuVu studio in Cambridge, MA (you can read the previous article here:  Inly 8th Grade Students Get Crash Course in Real-World Problem-Solving).

Our students have since attended NuVu and had an amazing, enriching experience. They were each tasked with designing a prosthetic hand for a child that would assist him or her in something playful. For example, a prosthetic hand that would help the child throw a ball, or play an instrument.

To watch a video recap of our student’s experience, please watch the video below.

To read about each student’s project and see sketches and animations of their prosthetics, click on the following link: DIY Prosthetics.

8th Grade Students Get Crash Course in Solving Real-World Problems at NuVu


NuVu is a magnet innovation center for middle and high school students.

Eighth graders from Inly Middle School will be attending NuVu this month, a full-time magnet innovation studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Amazingly, Inly is the first middle school that NuVu has ever worked with. Prior to this partnership, NuVu worked exclusively with high schools.

NuVu’s founder and Chief Excitement Officer is Saeed Arida. When asked about the partnership with Inly, Arida said, “We are excited to be working with Inly students who already have a solid base in creative, hands-on learning. NuVu’s unique studio based pedagogy coupled with its emphasis on technology will enable the Inly students to utilize their Montessori background to create innovative projects.” Prior to founding NuVu, Arida worked as an architect and designer working on projects for MIT, LG, Samsung, and Microsoft. He received his bachelor of architecture from Damascus University and then studied design computation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he received a SMarchS and PhD. His doctoral research examined the intricacies of the creative process to understand what creativity is and how an educational environment can nurture creative learning. The architectural studio pedagogy informed this research that eventually evolved into NuVu Studio where students learn in a hands-on environment with coaches who help students create projects and move through many, many iterations.

NuVu’s pedagogy is based on the architectural Studio model and geared around multi-disciplinary, collaborative projects. With the assistance of “coaches,” NuVu teaches students how to navigate the messiness of the creative process, from inception to completion. Inly students will be given a real-world, open-ended problem and asked to device a solution in two weeks.

“Students get the chance to really show off the skills that they’ve built over their time at Inly in a very authentic and real world situation,” Tschol Slade, director of Inly Middle School, remarks. “As teachers, we know that our students are building next-century skills all the time. Their work at NuVu will make this learning really tangible for them in a really challenging, authentic and fun way.”

Donna Milani Luther, Inly’s Head of School, states, “Inly prides itself in creating partners in innovation to prepare our students for the ever-changing century that they live in. This partnership with NuVu will be a hallmark of the kind of excellence in education that we continue to provide for our Inly students.”

Inly International – Where Learning Intersects with Service

Inly Assistant Head of School, Julie Kelly-Detwiler is participating in a service learning program in Guatemala June 23-July 6 with recent Inly graduates Nick Bartlett and Cole Vaillancourt through the program Los Ojos Abiertos.  This experience is intended to be the first step towards Inly School developing an Alumni Service Learning Program which we plan to offer to our alumni next summer.  While on her travels, Julie will be checking in with us to let us know about the work and the learning that the group is doing.

Tuesday morning, June 25, 2013

This is our group – already beginning to form as a community-  as we leave our Hostel for Guatemala after two days of team building and educational activities in Boston. The group participating in the  2013 “Los Ojos Abiertos” which means “With Eyes Open” program, consists of two Inly graduating 8th graders, Nick Bartlett and Cole Vaillancourt,  Inly Assistant Head of School, Julie Kelly-Detwiler , 6  high school students from Sharon and Millford, Lauren Monroe, the Founder and Director of Worcester Think Tank, and the group leader, Roger Bourassa, founder and Director of Perduco and the Los Ojos Abiertos program.


This two-week experience is equal parts service and learning.  The first week in country will be spent introducing the students to various ongoing development work in Guatemala to help them develop a more comprehensive understanding of the history, and current economic/political situation here.   The second week will follow a set schedule and our time will be split between Antigua and Jocotenengo. We will spend our mornings improving our Spanish language skills at Proyecto Linguistico Maya in Antigua, and, in the afternoons, we will travel the short distance by local bus to Jocotenango, were our students will spend their afternoons at La Escuela Esperanza.  Here, students will help with lunch and recess, teach English classes to kindergarteners, and work in pairs with a Guatemalan teen in an after school program to create an artistic project, or to solve an engineering challenge.

Our home base during our time in Guatemala is The Black Cat Inn in Antigua, Guatemala.  The accommodations are modest but comfortable and our group  occupies most rooms in the inn which lends a real community feel.


We eat most meals here together and use our meal times to bond more closely and to process the many experiences of the day.


This is the little courtyard where we spend our down time.




Read more:

Day One:

Day Two:

Day Three:

Inly’s philosophy on Experiential Learning

Experiential Learning at Inly: Learning By Doing

“Education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

Experiential learning (“learning by doing” or “hands-on learning”) permeates every part of the Inly curriculum at all levels. It is an approach to education that actively engages students in relevant, authentic experiences that reinforce academic lessons or teach life skills. These hands-on experiences deepen a student’s understanding and have a lasting impact. Through experiential learning, students make discoveries and experiment with knowledge on their own instead of relying solely on the experiences of others.

At Inly, we refer to experiential learning that happens outside of the classroom as “Field Studies,” and this is exactly how we approach and think about them. Our Field Studies are integrated thoughtfully into what our students are learning in the classrooms and naturally extends their learning out into the world. Ultimately, venturing out into the world is at the heart of experiential learning. Our field studies give students the chance to explore in distinctive steps that have been thoughtfully created to support each student’s development and the curriculum in which they are currently immersed.

The 3rd years at Inly, for example, spend one night away at Camp Wing in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Inly’s 4th and 5th years venture farther, and spend two nights at Ferry Beach Ecology Program in Sacco, Maine. Our sixth grade students spend two nights sleeping outside in tents at Camp Chewonki in Wiscasset, Maine, and raise funds for and plan their own sixth grade trip. By 7th and 8th grade, our students begin and end the year with off-sites that involve rowing to and camping on the Boston Harbor Islands, sailing on a schooner with Ocean Classroom or living in global village with Heifer International at Overlook Farm in Rutland, Massachusetts. During their middle school years at Inly, students also have the opportunity to host students from Guatemala, travel to New York City to participate in Montessori programs at the United Nations, and participate in three, one-week long internships in a place of business in the community.

There is a natural and carefully considered progression to these experiences as our students mature. But each experience, from the very beginning, requires responsibility and independence. It requires each of our students to build self-confidence and to recognize, “I am an individual and I am away from my family right now but I’m in a supportive environment and surrounded by people I love and who love me. I’m going to figure out who I am in this experience and I will be OK.” This realization allows our students to grow and succeed. In this stretching of themselves, they become more independent, more self-reliant, more confident, and more capable. This learning carries back into the classroom and into their lives.

Montessori Education and Nature: What’s the connection?


“When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them up in cupboards.”
- Dr. Maria Montessori

We hope that you will all able to join us for our April 3 Omran Speaker Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle. This presentation has led us all at Inly to reflect on the close match between Richard Louv’s message and our mission at Inly as Montessori educators.

Montessori Philosophy: Combining indoor and outdoor classrooms

The Outdoor Classroom, nearly one year old, is already an integral part of the Inly curriculum at all levels—from Toddler through Middle School. It’s easy to think of this addition to our campus as a progressive new idea, but it’s actually rooted in a 100-year-old philosophy. Dr. Montessori was an early proponent of experiential learning and considered the outdoor environment a natural extension of the classroom. The Montessori connection makes sense: Contact with nature affords opportunities for rich sensorial experiences, a vital element of Montessori learning. It also supports the whole child—body, mind and soul—and promotes respect for all living things.

Dr. Montessori’s vision for schools was always a combination of indoor and outdoor classrooms. This was a way to study the interconnectedness of all things, a way for children to be able to study math and science, nature and the universe.

Montessori had deep reverence for the natural world, and her cosmic education curriculum, which runs from Toddler through Middle School at Inly, stresses the importance of grounding children in an understanding of themselves as a part of the greater universe.  She believed that we best develop an understanding of self when we understand the interconnectedness of all things— that true respect for self grows together with deep respect for others and for nature.

The Outdoor Classroom at Inly School: Integrating science, language arts, music and more

Our Outdoor Classroom is used extensively at all levels for many subjects—for science, language arts, music, art, practical life. We have a low ropes course for our upper grades to engage in leadership and trust activities, and outdoor music elements to enhance listening and creativity. Students are currently constructing a “secret garden” of their own as they read The Secret Garden with our school librarian and literature teacher. Each level at Inly now has its own garden. Even the toddlers have a garden of their own.

Students in Kindergarten and Lower Elementary (grades 1—3) have classes with Ellyn, an experienced and inspired naturalist, and our Upper Elementary and Middle School programs each have a trained natural scientist to weave scientific exploration and habits of mind into the all aspects of the curriculum for grades 4–8.

Outdoor Service Learning

In addition, in Upper Elementary, students begin participating in a service learning curriculum that includes partnerships with The North and South Rivers Watershed Association and Holly Hill Farm, and Middle School students leave campus for immersion experiences with the Hull Lifesaving Museum, Ocean Classroom and Heifer International’s Overlook Farm.

Integrating nature into the Inly curriculum

“Sit spots” are a good specific example of how we integrate nature into the curriculum. In Upper Elementary (grades 4, 5 and 6) students choose a spot on campus to visit each week throughout the school year.  From this vantage point they repeatedly observe their surroundings and watch how things change with the seasons. They sit with a journal and have been taught how to observe and then how to record those observations through writing, sketching, poetry. In this way, they are developing an essential scientific habit of mind – observation, but they are also being invited to do something even more rare in this age—to be still and to be present.

In Middle School (grades 7 and 8), this training continues with formal labs and lab reports;  with involvement in The Green Committee, dedicated to student initiated and implemented activities on campus to enhance Inly’s authentic commitment to green initiatives; and with “solo time,” a common component of Montessori middle school programs that deepens the practice of stillness—which is so essential, but so difficult for teens, and for us all.

To learn more…

Watch a video of outdoor experiential learning and Montessori “sit spots” here:  A Typical Day in an Upper Elementary Science Class Means Going Outside to Learn

Read an excerpt from Richard Louv’s bestseller Last Child in the Woods here:

Parting thoughts

“The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.” – Richard Louv

Middle School Internship Program: Authentic experiential learning in action

As we visited students at their internships the last week in April, we were yet again struck by the poise and maturity that comes through so strongly in these situations. The students’ hosts were so impressed with their work ethic and professionalism. We hope that this sense of accomplishment carried over at home, although we also know that fatigue may have stood in the way! (Who knew that 25 hours of work could be that exhausting?!?!)

A key component of the Inly Middle School curriculum, internships a great reminder to all of us about how important it is for adolescents to be authentically exposed to the larger society they will enter. Amid all the tumult, inconsistency and insecurity, we need to remember that they can do much more than we typically expect when given the chance and proper support.

The rationale behind Inly internships

Why do we do internships in 7th and 8th grade?

Middle school aged children are fascinated with their potential roles in the larger society and eager to explore these roles through their own participation. Authentic work experiences are an important part of their exploration of the world. At Inly we’ve designed our Internship Program to give students the opportunity to experience this key aspect of adolescent development and exploration.

The Montessori connection

The Montessori educational program leads each student naturally to the world of work. From the youngest age, the child’s activities in the classroom are referred to as “work,” and students are given substantial independence in how they approach this work in school and out of school. While their independence and initiative is encouraged, they are also taught that they are accountable for thorough completion of what they set out to do.

The connection with adults

At school they have developed many productive relationships with adults, including their teachers, the school administrators, and many parents, most of whom they are comfortable addressing by their first names. The Internship Program is designated to give our Middle School students further experience being supervised by adults, accomplishing important work, and meeting adults’ expectations.

What is a typical internship like?

There is no such thing as a typical internship. While each internship experience is different, all are valuable for the intern.  There is no “right” way to host an intern and no “rules” for the experience. The goal is that middle school students participate in authentic, productive, necessary work.

That being said, there are some uniform guidelines:

Inly interns work for at least 25 hours over the course of their week-long internship.

During internships, all students are required to keep a daily journal to help process the experience and prepare for their follow-up presentation. Specifically, they are asked to reflect on the questions below:

  • What did you learn about the organization you chose for your internship?
  • What was a typical day like?
  • What did you learn about yourself and your work habits?
  • What skills did you use or observe others using to be successful in this job?
  • Are you interested in this field of work?  Why or why not?
  • In hindsight, how was the process of securing your internship?  What did you do well?  What would you do differently?  What advice would you give to someone who hasn’t gone through the process before?

When students return from internships, they give oral presentations to faculty, family and other students. For seventh graders, this often sparks new ideas for next year’s internship!

Where do Inly students intern?

All over the place! Here’s a short sample of organizations and businesses that have hosted Inly interns over the past few years:

Advanced Food Systems Inc., Babycakes Bakery, Bayside Runner, Booth Hill Horse Barn, Company Theatre, Gary Land Photography, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Holly Hill Farm, Music Unlimited, NephCure Foundation, South Shore Art Center, South Shore Natural Science Center, Ventress Library, Weir River Farm

In addition, we’ve been fortunate to host talented interns in several departments at Inly School, including: Communications, Marketing, Events, Development and Alumni Relations. Those interested in early childhood education have also served as interns in the Toddler House and Children’s House preschool and kindergarten programs.

For more information, see the Middle School page on the Inly School website.