Art & Culture

The Well School: Celebrating 50 Years

Imagine you’re five years old. Your parents take you to visit an idyllic hilltop school, just three simple buildings surrounded by places to play and explore: a playground, woods, fields, and a pond. People greet you with kind and welcoming words, smiles. While the grownups talk, a couple of children, with a teacher’s dog in tow, ask if you want to play. You run off to climb rocks at the edge of the woods nearby. It feels comfortable. It feels like home.

This is the school that Jay and Toni Garland created 50 years ago. Since its humble beginnings in a large brick house on Middle Hancock Road in Peterborough, The Well School has nurtured the whole child—in mind, body, and spirit—through all aspects of the School’s curriculum and environment. From encouraging excellence in academics, to promoting unstructured outdoor play, to inspiring creativity and passion in the arts, The Well has always emphasized a holistic approach to education, and this remains a guiding principle for the School today.

The Well is a place where kids can be kids. Our students are happy. They have a safe setting in which to grow, discover a wide range of interests, figure out their strengths and work through their weaknesses, navigate social relationships, and be part of a tight-knit community.

Woven through the framework of the School are the core values of kindness, cooperation, and respect. These values apply to everyday circumstances, for preschoolers through eighth graders as well as faculty, staff, the Board, and parents. The School has long held a deep conviction that one’s character and actions, both within our community and out in the world, truly matter.

Now imagine you’re 11 years old. You’ve been at The Well School for six years. It’s a familiar routine, and you’ve earned various freedoms on campus over the years. You know and call faculty and staff members by first name, and they know you and your family. You’re finding success in many of your endeavors at school—even discovering passions and talents—and you have great friends. But there are struggles.

You love math and art, working in the science lab, and being outside every day for Physical Activity class, but writing assignments are proving difficult, and just thinking about being on stage under that bright spotlight for poetry recitals and theater productions leaves you frozen. Plus, there’s a child in your class with whom you don’t always get along. Where do you go from here?

Of course, every child faces challenges at some point. What’s unique about The Well School is that not only do supportive adults help students find their way, but also students learn and practice specific skills from an early age to cope with struggles and manage relationships. Included in this is the tenet that everyone tries everything at The Well; children are encouraged to put in a genuine effort, and no matter the result, they will be applauded. For issues that pose a greater challenge than a child might typically be able to handle individually, a problem solving process exists to help students and teachers collaborate to find workable solutions. Ultimately, the familylike support system allows students to overcome obstacles, uncertainties, and fears.

Now you’re 14, and graduation from eighth grade sneaks up on you. Leaving The Well is harder than you expected. In your graduation speech, in front of all the parents and family members, faculty and staff, and your classmates, you joke about how getting up on stage isn’t so scary anymore. You describe how The Well gave you determination, the ability to follow through and take responsibility for yourself, and the tools to learn in any situation. You’re nervous about what’s next in high school, but you’re also confident and have a strong sense of who you want to be in the world. Most of all, you’re thankful for the nurturing base, the gift that The Well School provided: allowing you to experience and learn from all the best parts of being a child.

The Well School
36 Well School Road | Peterborough, NH