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Organization - The Greenhouse School

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The Greenhouse School
Last updated on October 14, 2013


A year-round private alternative school in Salem, MA, for kids from infancy through grade eight, our school is committed to true, lasting, comprehensive reform in education. However, also central to the idea of reform for us is the notion of access. Open all day and year round, we strive to serve the broadest possible base from several communities near our location in Salem, MA, providing an environment diverse in language, culture, class, race and learning style.

The school was founded in 1983 by Patricia Jennings-Welch, who has spent a lifetime dedicated to education, beginning with her own eight children. The Founder's vision draws from an eclectic mix of Piaget, Montessori, Dewey, Vygotsky, Bruner, Gardner and her own philosophies, allowing that each would have grown and changed given infinite lifespan, and accepting none as the holder of absolute truth.
The school has several components, ranging from infants and toddlers, through preschool, a primary day school, extended day program, and a summer session. Our school is rooted in the tradition of programs that have developed in response to the need for change in the traditional schools. Unlike much of the experimental movement, however, the Greenhouse School has chose to ground itself in the community. Indeed, we work miracles every day with a budget that would shock even most struggling charities; yet somehow it all seems to work. We do, however, have many needs and ideas that would benefit from the generous hand of supporters. Any and all donations are more than welcome.
We use a very strong base of language and mathematical/logical skills building, using individualized planning and manipulatives as much as possible. However, upon this base we set the larger spectrum of human intelligences, trying to nurture social/emotional, cognitive and physical growth through a wide variety of activities. Our heated, inground pool serves as an excellent teaching forum for physical fitness; additionally, we pursue art and music woven throughout the curriculum (a separate published paper on our approach to music is available by contacting the school), drama and video production, an intergenerational exchange, ceramics, gardening, papermaking, and so on.
We strive for every available avenue to reach a child, and we come to know our students very well. A series of two-week sessions in our summer program (the division is academic, since most attend all summer) culminates in 5 overnight camping trips to a local park. Last summer, we ended our theme "around the world in 50 days" with our own olympic games. The school was transformed into olympic park, complete with stadium, natatorium, parade of nations, and flame, and the whole four-day event was captured on tape for cablecast on local stations. The garden is possible because we are the regions only truly year-round school, giving our students time to plan, plant, tend and harvest their own garden. This year, our exhibits at the Topsfield Fair took home 2 first prizes, 2 second prizes, a third and a fourth. We are a small school and like it that way. The price for our commitment to community and diversity, however, is a smaller budget. But while our limited resources understandably deny us some of the facilities available to larger programs with much higher tuitions, we find our atmosphere more than compensates as a superior learning environment. We have alternately been dubbed a "private school for poor kids" or a slice of Europe or Africa in Metro Boston. We have had a variety of interns and volunteers from many countries and cultures, and have had great success.
The school has begun to honor this cultural convergence with a new tradition. Simple stanchions have been affixed to a cupola on the roof of the school; international flags fly on special days in the school's calendar. The flags represent the countries of origin of students, staff and family over the years. While we knew that the first wave of about 20 flags wasn't enough, we were amazed to find out how far off we were. A thorough check of the school's records reveals that over 50 countries are represented. We will continue to find new ways to add stanchions, fly flags in rotation, and reflect the diversity of cultures we embrace.
For 20 years, we have been trying to change the notion of what school can and should be. As we say in our brochure, we are trying to change the world, one child at a time. Won't you consider joining our dream?

Affiliated agency founded in 1979 in renovated greenhouse. Greenhouse School founded in 1983 when adjoining lot and 3-story residence was acquired. Patricia Jennings-Welch, founder and sitting head, designed much of the current structure and improvements. Enrollment has fluctuated over the years but remained small. The school from the beginning pursued agreements with the state to subsidize at-risk youth in its after-school and summer programs, as well as preschool and toddlers. This has been the mainstay of our grounding in the community, and a constant validation of our mission. A recent anecdote solidified our belief in this regard. A student approached Ms. Julia with a big smile, saying, "Ms. Julia--we have BREAD this week!" Nothing could more succinctly underscore the importance of our work, or remind us that our mission remains intact. Infant capacity was added in 1995, and the decision to raise the limit from 6th to 8th grade was taken in 1998 and is still on a case-by-case basis. A scholarship fund in the name of Mr. Frank Welch (the Mr. Frank Fund) was established in 1995, when Frank succumbed to prostate cancer. A major school event is the annual Cancer Walk, from which funds raised are split between the Mr. Frank Fund and local cancer charities. Fundraising and development have become the school's new frontiers, as we try to supplement--and thus minimize reliance on--tuition as a source of operating income. Also, the school looks forward to tapping its considerable green potential by pursuing funding to install a variety of improvements to make it largely energy self-sufficient by the year 2010. We are participating this year in the National Solar Homes Tour, and while somewhat intimidated by the goals we have set for ourselves, are looking forward to a bright (no pun intended) future.

Contact people:
 Daniel Patrick Welch, Administrative Director, (phone), (email)
Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde, Assistant Director, (phone)
Patricia Jennings-Welch, Executive Director, (phone)

 145 Loring Avenue
Salem, MA 01970
(See a map)

Web Site:


 by Public Transportation: take bus #455 from Haymarket. Bus stops directly across from school just past Salem State College South Campus. by car from Boston: Take route 1 North to route 16 to route 1a, which becomes Loring Avenue upon entering Salem. After large shopping district (Vinnin Square) stay north on 1A. Greenhouse School is appx 1 mile on right, #145 (Greenhouse Building) by car from 128: Take exit 25 East on route 114. Follow 114 as it winds through Peabody and Salem. At Salem State College Route 114 (Lafayette Street) intersects with Route 1A (Loring Avenue). Take right on Loring Avenue and follow through one large intersection. Greenhouse is apx 200 yds ahead on left, #145.
  Nearest Metro/Subway Stop: Salem Depot,
  Walk distance (in minutes): 15 min.
  Nearest Bus Stop: #455--from Haymarket, 0 minute walk
Last updated on October 14, 2013

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