Parent Newsletter from Franny Shuker-Haines

Dear Buxton Families:

So much to say! So much to report! Your faithful correspondent has been testing your faith, I know, and all I can say is that it is further evidence of what a busy and bustling place Buxton can be! (At least, let’s tell ourselves that for the moment, shall we?)

The academic part of the winter term is already past the halfway mark, and I am experiencing a kind of mental whiplash as I watch so much whiz by. The winter study classes are zooming through material:

  • The Book Arts & Creative Writing class has already produced three books, with another in the works, and two more to go.
  • The class that’s focusing on The New Jim Crow is also trying to figure out ways to be effective activists in the fight against racism and mass incarceration.
  • Similarly, the class that’s reading The Sixth Extinction is also trying to leaven their distress about the fate of the planet by making concrete plans to move us in a better direction.
  • The Musical Theater class is, by all accounts, unbelievably fun and rewarding—and we’re all looking forward to a cabaret performance of their accomplishments.
  • The Social History of Popular Music class is frequently found bopping to hidden gems of the ’40s that sound as fresh today as they did when they were first recorded, or watching archival footage of the Jitterbug or the Jive.

. . . and much more! Ask your kids what they’re doing and how it’s going. From my perspective, these classes make Buxton a beehive of learning, doing, experiencing, and creating. What could be better?

As we all know, the winter term culminates in the annual Urban Intensive Trip—this year to Chicago. The school has broken up into project groups, each studying an issue of interest and/or significance in Chicago. The groups have been having weekly meetings to talk, do research, and start to figure out what they want to do, what they want to experience, and who they want to talk to on the ground in Chicago. After Home Weekend, they will meet daily to firm up their plans. It’s a rich roster of subjects this year. They are:

Art and Architecture (led by Henry)

Comedy and Theatre (led by Derek)

Crime and Gangs (led by Timothy and Rachel)

Education and Youth (led by Chiara and Callie)

Homelessness and Housing (led by Adrian)

LGBTQ Issues (led by Elissa)

The Music Scene (led by Story)

Neighborhoods (led by Otis)

Policing and Prisons (led by David)

Water and Urban Planning (led by Linda)

So: an impressive line-up.

As you probably know, we will be taking a two-day bus trip to get to Chicago, with a stopover in Erie, Pennsylvania along the way. We will leave on Saturday, February 25 and get to our hotel on Sunday, February 26th. We’ll be staying at the AC Hotel Chicago Downtown ( On the way back, we will be able to make it a loooong one-day trip on Saturday, March 4th, with Sunday set aside for sleeping and recovering. Then it’s “post-trip” week, where all the groups will synthesize what they learned and create a presentation for the rest of the school. Whew!

We’ll send another letter soon with further details about the trip—which is truly a highlight of the year and a centerpiece of the Buxton experience.

The trip exemplifies so much of what Buxton values and means. It is a place that encourages curiosity and connection, that asks students to get to know about people and places they had not encountered before—and to do so with an open mind and heart. All learning is, ultimately, allowing yourself to be persuaded by new information and new points of view. (I think we can all be grateful that we no longer view the world as we did when we were three or eight or thirteen, yes?) And Buxton allows, facilitates, encourages, and, in a way, even forces kids to do that both in their everyday lives, where they are living intentionally in a diverse community, and on the Urban Intensive Trip, where they are seeking out new experiences, new voices, and new perspectives.

Buxton has always valued inclusiveness and tolerance, has always opened its arms to students from all over the world and all over the country, has fostered truly integrated living between people who might not otherwise ever cross each other’s paths. Buxton’s founder, Ellen Sangster, brought students from Ghana to study in the Berkshires. We study dance and music and culture from all over the globe to this day. Whatever the current political climate may bring our way, Buxton will continue to stand for connection, community, and compassion.

More soon!

All the best,



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