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.

Conservation Crew

The Putney School campus sits atop 600 acres on a beautiful hillside in Vermont. Our campus is and has been used for many purposes since its founding as a farm school and care has to be taken to give back as much as we take from the land. A part of living in community on the land involves stewardship as stated in one of Putney’s Fundamental Beliefs: To steward and protect the land, to seek ways to live on the earth that are healthy for all beings, and to shape our community as a model of sustainable living. This activity will give students the opportunity to get to know our beautiful campus in a more intimate way as we work to remove invasive species, maintain trails, cultivate student gardens (pollinator garden, edible forest garden, herb garden, and KDU roof garden), and work on monitoring long-term ecological studies in our woodland campus. We will often collaborate with a professional forester as we work to conserve our land in a way that meets everyone's needs. GIS (Geographic Information Systems) mapping work will also be a part of this afternoon as we continue to add to the electronic data of our campus. This is not a Land Use distribution cerdit.

Trail Maintenance

Roll up your sleeves and be ready to get to work. The recreational trails around campus need your help! Come get muddy and help sculpt the natural landscape to prevent erosion and provide a safe trail system for our community. This is not a Land Use distribution credit activity.

Cabin Design Build

This activity is part of a long term project that the Fall trimester's group started. The project is to replace the Arms Cabin, which is in very sad shape.
Last term, we came up with a design, got footings and a post foundation in the ground, had the new site cleared for solar, and milled the wood for the cabin from the trees that were cut down.

Our new plan will feature a maple post and beam frame. This term's team will build the floor system and start cutting the maple timbers. The project will continue into at least next year, until the cabin is finished, at which point the existing Arms Cabin will be taken down.


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.

Farm - Land Use

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. This is a Land Use distribution credit.

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.


Cleaner Woodshop- In this position the person reports to the school carpenter for various woodshop duties. Tasks include sweeping the floor, cleaning off the work benches or helping out with any task the carpenter may need help with. This is a six day job that happens right after lunch.

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.

Farm - Land Use

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. This is a Land Use distribution credit.

Flower Garden

The Putney campus has decorative flower gardens (“perennial gardens” because the plants return perennially -- year after year) alongside our buildings, ornamenting our landscape. This activity will care for these gardens: in some cases by weeding what has intruded and dividing what has overgrown; in other cases, by rethinking what plants make sense for a labor-intensive landscape and program like ours. We’ll dig, weed, plant, and learn. [We’ll hope to invite landscape professionals to teach us a few times, and we’ll begin a campus documentation of the gardens and what’s growing in them.] The group will also collaborate with our garden manager for seeding and planting flowering perennials for use at school celebrations. A rain-or-shine activity! This is not a Land Use distribution credit activity.


Foraging for Wild Edibles
In this activity we’ll spend our time walking through Putney’s fields and woods foraging for wild edibles. We’ll use sustainable foraging practices to pick plants both for the KDU as well as for personal use/consumption, for making salads, teas and other dishes. Plants that you’ll learn to identify in this activity include wild leeks, wild ginger, fiddleheads, garlic mustard, nettle, trout lily, burdock, purslane and many others. This is not a Land Use distribution credit activity.

Garden / Greenhouse - Land Use

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. This is a Land Use distribution credit.


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.

Sculpture Maintenance

Help maintain the various sculpture gardens across campus. Trimming, pruning, and pulling weeds are all on the docket. This is not a Land Use distribution credit.

Sheep Farm and Dye Garden - Land Use

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

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 create the magical elements that are part of 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

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 - Land Use

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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