A November Day at Common Ground High School

by Joel Tolman, Director of Impact & Engagement

What’s a typical day like for the 224 students at Common Ground High School? This time of year at Common Ground, as the weather snaps cold … 

The Flyer for our 9th Grade Food Night — an opportunity to share math, science, social studies, and English work with a real audience!

Ninth graders are gearing up for their annual Family Food Night, where they will present what they have been learning about the science behind nutrition labels, the mathematics of garden planning, the history and cultural significance of food grown at Common Ground, and close reading of Omnivore’s Dilemma in English.  

Tenth graders are started a new unit on justice & change — exploring what changemaking strategies they think work best in addressing educational justice, housing justice, and environmental justice. In Social Studies, for instance, they’re diving into the budgets for Common Ground and other local school districts, to understand how those budgets reflect priorities in education, funding gaps and inequities, and more. Later in the unit, they’ll interview local education justice advocates, travel to Hartford to meet with legislators and lobbyists, and turn what they’re learning into an interactive play to perform to peers. 

CG students at the college fair in Bridgeport.

Every member of our junior class seeks out college options that match their passions at a college fair in Bridgeport — building on an essay they just completed in Junior Seminar, where they identified a career they’re interested in pursuing, learned about the college majors that could get them on track to that career, and researched several colleges that offer that major to understand their offerings and requirements. Because we believe all our students are college material, and deserve lots of opportunities to find the post-high school option that’s right for them, 10 students go on to spend their whole weekend visiting colleges in New York State, thanks to above and beyond effort from several of our staff.

In our Senior Social Justice Capstone class, students are diving into the research that will lead to their capstone projects. They’re using the United Nations Sustainability Goals framework to think about what local challenges they want to learn more about, and then help to address by partnering with a local community organization or member of Common Ground’s staff. 

Outdoor Leadership students on a weekend 2-night camping trip in New Jersey.

Beyond these core classes that every student takes, there’s lots of rigorous, relevant learning going on as well. Ten students from our Outdoor Leadership course — a new elective that meets outside every day — hop in two mini-vans and head out on a 2-night camping trip in New Jersey, where they put some of their growing leadership skills to work! AP Language & Composition students are editing papers written by students at the University of Connecticut, to get a real taste of college-level expectations. French students practice their world language skills while cooking — and eating! — crepes.

Students make crepes and practice and practice their spoken French skills.

While sophomores and juniors eat lunch — today featuring a salad from the high tunnels on Common Ground’s lower garden — 9th and 12th graders meet in their guidance groups, a 4-year family within the larger Common Ground community. Ninth graders circle up to talk about their strengths and challenges in the first half of the semester. Seniors are working toward deadlines for the common application for college, and for the home pages of their online leadership portfolios — where they share who they are, their own personal leadership definition, and examples of leaders that inspire them. 

Before and after school, there’s plenty of learning and leading going on as well. Over breakfast, students play chess on an oversized board in the cafeteria, with lots of advisors and fans looking on. Freedom Squad meets to plan our annual Mix It Up Day, when students connect across lines that usually divide them, this year with a focus on community wellness. Students brainstorm nature-inspired solutions to climate change for the Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge. The Schoolyards Crew of our Green Jobs Corps heads to Bishop Woods School to winterize the school garden, schoolyard habitat, and outdoor maker space there. 

This is just a taste … If you know a middle school student who might be interested in learning opportunities like these, or are a middle school student yourself, check out an upcoming open house and other opportunities to learn more about Common Ground on our web site! 


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