Think / Do

Experiential Education

Education at Putney isn’t about a classroom and four walls. It is about opportunities to grow, learn and lead — through jobs and independent studies, at campfires and in classrooms. We know that outdoor experiential education is just as important as what happens behind a desk. With over 75 years as a leader in the successful progressive education style pioneered by John Dewey, Putney encourages students to flourish into well-rounded, engaged members of our society.

Our goal is to help stoke the inner flame of curiosity within students and to guide them into chasing those ideas and answering their own questions. We stress the importance of community, the value of individuality, and the ability to move within the world with confidence, responsibility and resilience. 

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Tula headshotPutney offered me the opportunity to explore many sides of my identity and discover my individuality, while showing me the responsibility of being part of a community and the importance of collaboration.” — Tula ’21

We understand that in experiential education, failure is an essential part of the learning process for humans when testing new ideas. And when pupils persevere and grow, that is when students shine.

Project Weeks 

From building an escape room to exploring the financial state of baseball, project weeks epitomize the Putney ideal: students working for the love of learning. 

Twice a year students have the opportunity to transform a semester’s worth of learning into a meaningful project, working independently or in groups under the guidance of an advisor. Inspired by curiosity and tied to academic coursework, students are challenged to research deeply, forge connections between disciplines, and communicate their project in compelling ways. 

Independent Work 

We believe students learn best by doing, and independent work prepares students for a world without roadmaps or directions. Students have opportunities to participate in intensive independent courses around topics such as science, music, theater and math, design their own independent course of study, and pursue a work term to explore an area of potential career interest. 


Allowing students to take hold of their education through personal responsibility builds character and resilience that ensures the success of our students. 

Jo headshotSince my first day at Putney, I have felt at home. Everyone in the community is always so accepting, and creates an environment where no one is afraid to be themselves.” — Jo ’21

Our curriculum supports growth along seven different throughlines, or overarching habits of mind, which are an important part of the Putney Core. Students will develop skills and thought processes such as:  

  • An understanding of ethical implications, the value of different perspectives and the complexities of social justice. 
  • How to pursue curiosity through clear inquiry and academic research. 
  • Active and productive collaboration in an intellectual, creative and engaged community. 
  • Effective communication through reading, writing, visual and spoken language. 
  • The ability to construct arguments, ask salient questions and evaluate claims. 
  • Practical problem solving skills and solution-oriented planning and execution.
  • A self awareness of personal learning styles, strengths and weaknesses. 
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