In the spring of 1989, a group of farmers, parents, scientists, writers, and local business people met over a period of time and, in the end, said YES! to a new, (and at the same time, very old fashioned) model of education.
We recognized the need for balance in education, for the physical body, the emotional life, and the mental capacities to work together in harmony, through a direct connection to the earth. We saw the need for children to be part of a community. We formed the Millers River Educational Cooperative, Inc. (M.R.E.C.) and opened the Village School as a small preschool in September 1989. The Village School grew as other parents, teachers, and community members connected to the vision of the school and became involved in its operation. Today the Village School offers a comprehensive and tested preschool through 6th grade education on its own 50 acre Camp Caravan campus in Royalston.
Origins and Influences
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, John G. Bennett, philosopher, scientist and educator, founded an academy in England, for post-college and older adults, teaching practical ways to bring balance to human development. He addressed the overemphasis on intellectual development in modern education, by employing methods to develop and integrate the emotional life and the life of the physical body.
Bennett felt strongly that much of the difficulty of modern life stemmed from a disconnection to nature, so as part of the educational program, students worked in the garden, learned forestry, and in the process, learned how to become centered within themselves. He also taught methods to develop the attention, using it as a key instrument in the learning process. Today this is sometimes termed “mindfulness.”
Many of Bennett’s American students returned to the U.S., settling in the Boston area. Seeking a more rural life, a number of them settled in the beautiful, quiet Athol-Orange area over time. They began to look for an education for their children that would provide the balance that was missing from their own childhood. They began to meet regularly.
In the spring of 1989, this group of parents incorporated as Millers River Educational Cooperative, Inc., and opened the Village School preschool, welcoming parents and children from the local community.
As the school grew, influences from Maria Montessori, Elizabeth Bennett, A.L. Stavely, and Waldorf education were integrated into the curriculum. Balance was addressed by incorporating music, art, fairy tales and fostering a strong sense of community for the emotional life, physical challenges for the physical body, and lots of direct contact with nature. Each year, another grade was added, up to the sixth grade.
In 1998, Millers River Educational Cooperative purchased the Camp Caravan property in Royalston for the site for the future home of the Village School, and for a campus for practical adult education, as envisioned by John Bennett. The school moved its new home in August 2018.
Some of the present Village School Board members, staff, and Director have studied the methods and philosophy of John G. Bennett. The Millers River Educational Cooperative continues to meet and study and is working on improving the buildings and land at Camp Caravan.