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Upland Hills School celebrates 40 years



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Britta Scheibel, an Upland Hills parent from the 1990s, prepares to launch a rocket representing the independent K-8 school’s future. For more photos, please see Page 32. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
September 07, 2011 - In many circles these days, the focus of education seems to be quantity – specifically, how to increase the amount of students, revenue and facilities.

But that isn't the case at Upland Hills School in Addison Township.

"Expanding as a school and going from a student body of 90 to a student body of 1,200 – that we really don't have any interest in," explained Phil Moore, director of the independent K-8 school located at 2575 Indian Lake Rd. "Growing into a learning community that leaves a very light footprint on the earth (and) has community members in it from birth until death – that idea is very exciting."

Over the weekend, Upland Hills School celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding with a two-day reunion that included students, parents, alumni, teachers and supporters of all stripes.

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"I just feel a tremendous amount of gratitude for having found the calling of my life at such a young age and to still be actively learning, growing and changing with really as much wonder and excitement as when I first started," said Moore, who's been with the school since shortly after its founding in 1971. "It's a legacy that brings enormous meaning to my life."

The reunion weekend included loads of fun activities, educational experiences, the sharing of fond memories, great food and of course, rockets. Five rockets were fired into the heavens, four of which symbolized each decade of the school's existence, while the fifth represented the future.

"The 40th anniversary means a great deal to me," teacher Ken Webster, 63, whose classes include technology, algebra, woodworking and entomology, just to name a few. "It is the affirmation of the dream that is Upland Hills Farm and the dream that became Upland Hills School."

Webster's taught at the school since 1975 and is the son of Knight and Dorothy Webster, one of the institution's founding families. In 1960, the Websters actually founded Upland Hills Farm, from which the school sprang 11 years later.

"The premise of the farm was to educate city people about how a farm worked and farm life – to give them an experience that they would remember and enjoy and appreciate," Webster said.

Upland Hills School was designed to broaden that educational experience from knowledge of the farm to knowledge of life in general.

"They thought being out in the country, out in the wild like we are, would be a great place to have a school," Webster said. "The 40th anniversary is an affirmation of both (the farm and school), which are extremely important to me and integral parts of my life."

From its inception, Upland Hills School has taught students the concepts of envionronmental awareness, sustainability and green living.

"The school's philosophy really embraces the idea that nature should be a primary teacher," Moore said. "Learning from the natural world and forming a close bond and relationship with the natural world is a very important part of our school's curriculum."

Located on 12 acres of woods and meadows, the school is literally surrounded by nature in form of the Upland Hills Ecological Awareness Center, Upland Hills Farm and the Bald Mountain Recreation Area.

"It's about having a deep appreciation for the land, the animals that live on it – the wild and the tame– the food that's produced there, and the quality of what we eat," Webster said.

Classes often taken place in the woods or on trails.

Another facet of Upland Hills School that makes it unique is its embracing of "the theory of multiple intelligences."

"Altogether, there are 11 lines of intelligence," Moore said. "Our school honors all 11 and encourages and helps to teach all 11."

Moore explained that most schools only teach two lines of intelligence, which are language and mathematics/logic.

"To this day, most people think of school as reading, writing and arithmetic," he said.

Upland Hills School teaches the other nine lines of intelligence, which include spatial, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical, naturalist, spiritual, existential and moral.

"I think that's very different than most schools," Moore said.

"The education at Upland Hills is a unique education because not only are we concerned about the academic education of a child, we're concerned that they learn to appreciate the wild and each other," Webster noted. "We want them to find their own gifts because we believe every child is a genius and needs to find the gift that makes them feel most comfortable in life.

"We also want everybody to develop their self-confidence to the greatest amount that they can. People need to be aware of themselves, they need to be confident, they need to feel strong in order to pursue their lives after they leave Upland Hills School . . . The academic, the emotional, the physical, self-awareness and self-confidence are the important parts of Upland Hills School."

When asked what Knight and Dorothy Webster would have thought of the 40th anniversary of the school had they lived to see it, their son replied, "They would be so pleased."

"They would have been like I was, which was in tears at many points (during the reunion)," he said. "It's an affirmation of their very, very hard work."

For more information about Upland Hills School, please visit www.uplandhills.org.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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