The Sussex Adventure Program teaches 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students mountain biking, basic rock climbing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and SUPing skills. Local experts and our physical education teacher cover basic skills and safety measures and then take the students to favorite climbing and biking areas and rivers to practice new skills. The program includes day trips to local rock-climbing haunts, river stretches, and mountain ranges. This program is a favorite with students, providing challenges for all levels of ability while building team spirit, as well as a development of confidence for students who approach it with some trepidation.
Bigs and Littles
Each year, entering kindergartners are assigned a “big,” an eighth grade student who acts as a guide, friend, and mentor for the school year. Similarly, first grade “littles” are paired with seventh grade “bigs,” second grade with sixth grade, etc. The designation of bigs and littles fosters both formal and informal interaction between age groups at Sussex and creates mentoring opportunities for older students.
Every two years, interested Sussex students prepare and perform a drama or musical production. Past productions have included themes as diverse as “A Christmas Carol” to “Willy Wonka Jr.” In addition to this large performance students have the opportunity to do smaller productions as a grade or informally through Samling, our all school bi-weekly gathering throughout the year.
Every spring all Sussex students perform a day of service for the Missoula community. Students gather pledges from family and friends for this day of service and these pledges are used to pay for spring field trips for all grades. Ecothon service projects include trash pick up, gardening, trail building, and spring cleanup at parks.
Each September, the Sussex School community travels to Flathead Lake to enjoy time together in the outdoors. This is a special time for the teachers, students, parents and other community members to bond while participating in activities like kayaking, fishing, canoeing, swimming, orienteering, hiking, ropes course, singing around the camp fire, and performing in a talent show. Students help with all aspects of camp life, including cooking and cleanup chores. Parents are also a vital part of the camp adventure, participating in and supervising activities, including overnights in the student cabins.
Coached by Sussex School founder and math teacher Bente Winston, 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Sussex School participate in Mathcounts, a national math competition sponsored by the National Society of Professional Engineers and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Sussex students compete regionally against other western Montana schools, with the opportunity to move on to state and national competitions if successful. Despite its small size, Sussex School has produced some of the strongest teams in Montana over the years, often placing first in the western region and winning multiple state level trophies. Moreover, many Sussex students over the years have placed in the top four in the state, earning the right to compete on Team Montana at the National Competition.
Community is at the heart of our educational programming at Sussex. From building a community in the classroom to connecting to the greater Missoula community, we value our connection to the world beyond our campus. Each grade at Sussex is paired with a service organization each year, providing support to mission based organizations such as the Missoula Food Bank, The Watershed Education Network, and The Springs Retirement Center. This partnership creates service learning opportunities for our students while assisting a group in need of volunteers.
Starting in January of each year, all Sussex students participate in the winter ski program. The school travels to Snow Bowl one afternoon per week for five-six weeks for alpine skiing, or snowboarding lessons. Sussex teachers and parents chaperone and supervise skiing when lessons are over.
Spring Field Trips/Expeditions
Every spring, all classes go on age-appropriate educational field trips. Past trips have included travels to Flathead Lake, the Big Hole Battlefield, Yellowstone National Park, and sailing on an historic schooner in Puget Sound. Teachers work with students to study the history, science, and cultural aspects of their destination before departing. Depending on the age of the students, the trips range from a single overnight to an entire week or more. Except for food costs, the trips are paid for by money the students earn during the annual Ecothon Fundraiser.
STEM is the intentional blending of four related disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These disciplines share an inquiry approach, where posing authentic questions leads to selecting appropriate tools and problem-solving techniques, applying them, and then evaluating the accuracy and effectiveness of those solutions. In isolation, each discipline is a powerful way to consider and approach the world. Together, the effects are multiplied. At Sussex, STEM is offered formally from 5th-8th grades.