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.


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.

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.

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.

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