Work Activities

Afternoon Work activities meet once or twice a week. They are group activities that a student does in addition to their normal job as part of the 6-day Work Program.

Cabin Design Build

This activity will be a long term project that this trimester's group will start, with subsequent groups to follow each term. The project is to replace the Arms Cabin, which is in very sad shape.
This term, we will focus on the design, starting with site-work and hopefully getting a post foundation into the ground. If we get that far, the winter group may be able to do the framing, and the project will continue until it is ready to occupy. Some demo work on the old cabin may be involved as well. This is hands-on, sometimes hard, dirty work; the reward is in contributing to a building that will serve for the cabin program for many years to come.


Basic carpentry skills are introduced including the use of hammers, saws, measuring tapes, levels, and squares. Students assist in ongoing repairs and construction projects on campus.

Cider Making

Apples are collected from campus or at a local orchard, then converted into cider. Here teamwork and cooperation are emphasized, both while pressing and, later, while cleaning. Each student rotates through the various tasks so they learn all the steps in making cider.

Community Service

Students do a variety of volunteer work, such as assisting senior citizens with yard work, picking vegetables for the Vermont Foodbank, and doing trail maintenance with the Putney Conservation Commission. Other options may be available, based on students’ interests.

Child Care

If you love working with young kids, this is a chance to do so in the afternoons at Elm Lea Child Care, our on-campus child care center for infants through five-year-olds. Student workers help out in the afternoon assisting trained child-care professionals. Reading books, digging in a small garden, playing tag, some light cleaning, singing to babies, and generally having fun with young children are all part of the activity. Students must be 16 years old, have an interest in working with young children, an ability to jump in when needed, and a love for being creative and having fun with young people.


Students are engaged in all aspects of running a diversified farm. Activities may include: fencing, haying, sugaring, animal husbandry (cows, chickens, sheep, pigs, turkeys, etc.), building, and clearing land.

Garden / Greenhouse

Growing food locally and sustainably is an important way to address global environmental issues. It is also a rewarding and enjoyable way to connect with the earth that sustains us. The work in this activity varies seasonally. In the spring the work involves seeding, transplanting, and work in the greenhouse. In the fall, time is spent harvesting and preserving veggies, flowers, and fruits.


Students work in the kitchen preparing dinner for the entire school. They are introduced to such basic kitchen skills as handling a knife and preparing salad and learn cooking techniques such as sautéing, steaming, boiling and roasting. Duties may also include cleaning and stocking. Students are expected to maintain a professional level in terms of cooking skills, cleanliness and high food-quality standards.


Students work on the grounds of the school campus. They prune large and small shrubs, plant, weed, dig, transplant and plan. Students put gardens to bed, and then wake them again in the spring. They work with all kinds of plants and flowers all around campus and learn about invasive plants, healthy trimming, maintenance and clean up. Students learn how to think about aesthetic choices in landscaping as well as functional and practical overseeing of the plants around dorms, offices, and pathways. The activity involves mostly manual tools and provides a way to fulfill the land use requirement.


Reality and its practical applications are given the hands-on approach in this activity. Carmelita Hinton’s work ethic versus the Victorian school of condescension toward dirt under the fingernails is at the heart here. Entropy, creating order out of chaos, a priori philosophical constructs, and how to unclog a sink drain are all part of learning “grunt” work at Putney.

Putting Food By

This activity will focus attention to the preservation of food from the gardens here at school. It will combine gardening and food processing and cooking, so that our community can enjoy on site produced food more often. Students will learn and practice a variety of kitchen and garden skills. Wednesday afternoons.


Recycling is an active activity, responsible for collecting and monitoring our recyclable waste. Students rotate through the buildings collecting recyclables and keeping the collection areas as sanitary and organized as possible. More than just collecting cans, the purpose is to educate the community about the reuse and recycling of waste.

Sheep Farm and Dye Garden

The Sheep and Dye Garden Activity meets in the fall and spring trimesters. Students care for the sheep, including cleaning their pen each week and assisting with trimming hooves and shearing. Students will also wash fleeces in preparation for hand spinning and tend the dye garden. This includes growing plants, weeding, and harvesting dye materials. Students will have the opportunity to dye Putney fleece and yarn with the dye plants that we grow. This activity provides a land-use credit.

Sustainability Crew

Sustainability afternoon meets two afternoons a week and allows students the time and guided support to work on projects designed to address the sustainability needs of our school. Projects can range from designing and updating signage and creating assembly presentations to raise awareness about important environmental issues to conducting campus audits to update the recycling program and researching concepts like net-zero in order to create educational materials like magazines and digital tours. Projects must meet a need of the school, but students have autonomy to work on things about which they’re passionate.

Theater Tech

Tim Ellis

This activity is responsible for the physical elements of the current play in production. We build and paint the sets and fixtures, design and install lighting and so creating the magical elements that are part of a theater production. The students are included in the design concept and give input toward that end. They also learn how to use both hand and power tools, to mix colors and paint scenery.

Theater Lighting Tech

Tim Ellis

This activity is responsible for lighting the current play in production as well as other performances. We will work as a team to design a light plan, hang, cable, focus and gel the lights. For those who can work methodically and safely to install a plan that uses one of the most nebulous of mediums, pure light in a dark room.

Woods Crew

This activity involves both firewood preparation and forest management. Students share responsibility for producing and transporting sufficient firewood for a number of heating stoves on and near campus, as well as the wood-fired baking oven in the school dining hall. This is a rigorous outdoor activity that acquaints students with Putney’s wood lots, teaches them responsible stewardship of the land, and instills in them a sense of self-reliance in a rural setting.

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