MANCHESTER — Midday on Monday, 10 6- and 7-year-olds were quietly coloring or reading on the top floor of The Downtown School under the supervision of new head teacher Alley Mazzullo.
Mazzullo joined the team in May and oversees first and second grade. This year she'll bring her students to Mount Equinox every week, weather permitting, and teach them about the state's natural history.
"It's really a year about place and we're using Mount Equinox as a lens for examining that," she said. "The beginning of the year is about getting to know Equinox – the geography and making maps and looking at other maps and measuring distances and times."
Eventually the students will dig deeper into the birds, plants and mammals of the mountain. Within the larger study, students will learn math by calculating the time it takes to climb it, for example.
With almost two full weeks under her belt, Mazzullo has had nothing but a positive experience at the establishment.
"It's been great," she said. "We spent the first week getting to know each other and the classroom and the materials and our routine. We didn't start specials until this week. That's a big change that's happened."
Music, art, yoga and Mandarin are considered special. Through The Downtown School's progressive teaching style, academics are slowly worked in while the teachers and students get to know one another during the first few days.
The size and style of institution is different from what Mazzullo was used to at The Well School in Peterborough, N.H., especially because she was teaching preschool.
Mazzullo was born in New York but she moved around the Northeast between 10 years old and now. Her parents live in Vermont, so she decided to move back.
The first thing Mazzullo noticed upon arriving at The Downtown School for her initial interview was the student work plastered all over the walls. She said she was also struck by statements near the artwork that explained what the child was thinking upon creating the piece. Making their process visible was most appealing.
"Here, because we're a progressive school, there's a nice guiding philosophy, which is different," she said. "I think the community feeling is similar between the parents and teachers and students."
Mazzullo is looking forward to incorporating social studies into the curriculum the most.
"I have a philosophy rooted in place," she added. "If we immerse ourselves in one place and watch it change. For me, Equinox was a great place. [We get] to know it in a much deeper way."
The new teacher has a master's degree in elementary and early childhood education with a concentration of place-based learning from Antioch University New England.
The Downtown School welcomed 16 new students this year, about seven of which Mazzullo will be teaching.
For more information on The Downtown School, visit thedowntownschool.org.
Contact Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471.