May Experiential Learning Program (MELP)
"MELP" is Rectory's signature program that takes place one week in May during the spring term. Students eagerly anticipate MELP throughout the year for exploring a topic in-depth through hands-on experiences, sometimes off campus and out of town.
The program encourages alternative learning styles, creativity, and problem solving.
“MELP really helped me to understand and appreciate the value in seeing things firsthand. I realized that learning on location makes absorbing what we are being taught so much easier. Every year I think that the next year won't possibly be any cooler than what I have just experienced--but it has. I think we are so lucky to be able to travel off campus and explore together. I only wish it was longer than a week!"
Samir M., Student
- Airline Trail Exploration & Geocaching 101
- Behind the Scenes
- Charter Philly
- Flavors and Foodie Finds of New England
- How It's Made: The New England Edition
- Inside New England Sports
- Martha's Vineyard: Health & Wellness on the Island
- Museum Madness!
- Nantahala by Bike, Boat, and Bipeds
- Over the Hills We Horseback Ride!
- Puerto Rico: Island of the Natural Wonders
- Surf N Turf: Huntington Beach
- The World Around Us
- Unlocking the Everglades: Key Largo, FL
- Westward Bound! Discovering the Beauty and Wonder of the West!
Though the rails are long gone, this rail bed once offered fashionable, rapid train transit from New York to Boston. Those who travel the corridor today witness the same inspiring panoramas and absorb the same solitude that has greeted travelers since the line was constructed. Stretching across eastern Connecticut from Thompson to East Hampton, this linear trail dates from the 1870s, and today draws walkers, hikers, horseback riders and bikers from across the state for the views, relaxation, and solitude.
Our exploration will cover the 25 mile segment at the northern segment of the Airline Trail as we travel daily along portions of the trail from Willimantic to Thompson. We will stop for outdoor lunches "picnic style" each day while we enjoy a trip filled with pieces of history, land conservation, and exercise. We will be outdoors enjoying nature all day, rain or shine, so bring a good pair of walking shoes or hiking boots, a water bottle, and a positive attitude.
We will travel from the Rectory campus each morning to one of the designated entry points on the trail. Once there, we will spend a few hours hiking and exploring along the trail, stop for lunch along the way, and then circle back and return to campus in the late afternoon. We will also take side journeys to Mansfield Hollow Dam near Willimantic, the CT Audubon Society trails in Pomfret, Mashamoquet State Park, Old Furnace State Park, and visit the Tri-State Marker of the Airline Trail where three states intersect! As an added element of exploration, we will be using GPS receivers to practice navigational techniques and locate some of the Geocaching treasures to be found in our region.
The Behind The Scenes MELP is a way for students to explore the many facets of theater that are not always visible to the audience when seeing a performance. Students will learn about costume and set design, lights and sound, props and stage managing, as well as other production elements that are involved in the world of theater. This MELP will be led by teachers who have experience with theater from all aspects of the production, ranging from acting to set design.
The week will include some time on campus actively designing and creating set pieces, props, and costumes for Rectory School’s spring production of Into the Woods. This hands-on activity will allow students to explore their artistic talents by drawing, painting, building, and sewing when necessary while also giving back to the Rectory community.
Students will also go on short day trips which will include visits and tours of professional and regional theaters such as the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, CT and Trinity Repertory Theater in Providence, RI, where they will also get an inside look at the history of these unique theaters and participate in an acting workshop.
Students will also take a day trip to NYC to watch a production of Wicked on Broadway.
The Charter Philly MELP is focused on community service and outreach in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During MELP week, mornings are spent volunteering at the West Philadelphia Achievement Charter Elementary School (WPACES) where Rectory students will have the opportunity to assist classroom teachers from kindergarten through second grade. This MELP allows Rectory students to interact with underprivileged students who live in low socioeconomic areas and lack many opportunities outside of their communities. Students at WPACES have the ability to learn from and connect with our students from all over the country and world. (*Activities at the school are dependent upon COVID and are subject to change.)
Afternoons will be spent touring various historical landmarks in chaperoned groups. The Ben Franklin Institute is a state-of-the-art science museum that features new themes every year. Across the Delaware River in Camden, New Jersey is the Adventure Aquarium. There, students will learn about aquatic animals and take part in hands-on activities. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to learn about the history of Philadelphia and how various landmarks and artifacts contributed to the Constitution of the United States and the history of America through touring museums and taking a comfortable and entertaining ride on a double-decker bus. Nighttime activities include, but are not limited to, the movies, Dave & Busters, a ghost tour, and dinner and shopping at the King of Prussia Mall. During the mall trip, students in groups of three or more will have time to shop independently, checking in with faculty on a set schedule.
Food is one of the most exciting features of the trip for most students. During the trip, we enjoy Italian, Japanese (Hibachi), and American food. On the day we tour the city, students will explore the famous Redding Terminal Market. We will travel by train to Philadelphia where students will be driven by faculty in rental vehicles.
In this MELP we will visit and experience New England’s many exciting flavors and diverse food cultures. We will explore several historic towns such as Newport, RI, Mystic, CT and Federal Hill in Providence,RI, all known for their many eclectic flavors. We will sample foods each day that are associated with the area we are visiting, including famous eateries such as Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock in New London, CT, Nancy’s at the Airfield in Stow, MA, and other uniquely New England traditions.
We will also explore and taste different ethnic foods scattered around New England that include Italian bakeries on Federal Hill in Providence, RI, mezze at Ed Hyder’s Mediterranean Marketplace, and Venezuelan arepas (among many other samplings) at the Worcester Public Market. Through all this, we will learn about the rich and varied cultures of this place known as New England.
Students will also have the experience of creating a food blog capturing our daily adventures with food. Each student will have a role in blogging our daily travels, documenting and photographing our experiences with the restaurants and flavors we encounter.
Additionally, we will have a day to explore a local farm and have the opportunity to cook and taste the flavors of local, seasonal ingredients. Through our explorations of food, we will be learning about the history and people that make New England what it is today.
Come join us on this delicious culinary tour of some of New England’s eclectic food opportunities and try your hand at food blogging as well!
Have you ever wondered how soda is made, or how ships sails are constructed? Do you know how they make millions of delicious kettle chips? Do you want to make your own blown glass paperweight? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then we have the perfect MELP for you!!
How It’s Made in New England is a program designed to expose students to the vast manufacturing base found in the tri-state area (Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island). With a different focus in each state, we will begin by exploring the historical roots of industrialization at the Samuel Slater Experience in Webster, MA where Samuel Webster set up his ground breaking textiles mills and thus initiating America’s own Industrial Revolution. With this historical context in mind, we will move on to witness how his legacy continue in the extensive variety of manufacturing still going strong in this area. These visits will include hands-on activities with students “manufacturing” their own products as well as numerous private tours of commercial plants. Where permitted we will be walking the shop floor of traditional heavy industries as well as high tech modern plants. These visits may include but are not limited to Avery’s Soda’s, Cato Corner Farm Cheese, Unicorr, Dimensions Polymer Sail Cloth, Spirol, Hauser Chocolates, Wayside Gristmill. Cape Cod Potato Chips, Yankee Candle and more. The tri-state area Manufacturing Associations are assisting us to ensure that we provide a broad experience for all our students.
We will travel off campus each day in the Rectory buses, eat lunch on the road and return to campus each afternoon. Students will be chaperoned at all times and will comply with all necessary safety protocols within the visited facilities. Come and have a great week as we look behind the products we enjoy each day and find their roots.
Inside New England Sports is an active on-campus MELP offering for students in grades 7 and 8. Throughout the week, students will learn about sports in New England, the business behind them, and their impact on the region.
Trips are taken to the New England Patriots Hall of Fame, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the New England Sports Museum, and includes a tour of historic Fenway Park.
Students will also spend each afternoon doing a physical activity encouraging lifelong health, including taking a CrossFit class, indoor rock climbing, and going to an American Ninja Warrior gym. The highlight of the week will be going to a Boston Red Sox game.
If you love sports and want to spend the week both learning and being active, come join us!
LET’S JUMP ON A FERRY! Students will have the unique opportunity to travel off campus to Hyannis Port, MA to sail on a ferry for the island of Martha’s Vineyard. We will be housed in a post & beam colonial home located in the Katama area close to South Beach. There we will begin our health & wellness adventures in a beach community, while engaging in life skill activities.
We will exercise daily beginning with morning yoga. A local yoga instructor will give the group a lesson on what yoga is and how we can incorporate it into our daily routine. In addition, we are planning a session with a local therapist on mindfulness/ healthy coping skills for everyday living as well as while under stress or coping with anxiety.
We will also visit with a local nutritionist who will educate students to do grocery shopping and prepare daily healthy meals. Each mealtime will be designed by 4 different teams, each with a faculty member to plan the meal, along with evening discussion topics. Most of the great teaching and conversations is centered around the love of food and one another’s company. After mealtime, we will play board games, watch movies, and learn practical craftsmanship lessons.
Outdoor activities will be a big part of this journey. Students will participate in various activities including bike riding, walking/jogging on the beaches, and volunteering cleaning-up of a local bay accompanied by local conservationists. If the weather permits and the stars align, we will go whale watching.
Museum Madness is the ultimate field trip for 5th and 6th grade students exploring the culture, history and coastline of some of the original colonies of New England!
On Monday, we will explore Plimoth Plantation, “a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, a replication of the original settlement of the Plymouth Colony established in the 17th century by the English colonists who became known as the Pilgrims.” We will also see the famous site of Plymouth Rock, the famous landing point of the Mayflower! On Tuesday, students will discover the maritime majesty of whaling vessels AND some beluga whales! By exploring the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration and the Mystic Seaport, students will learn about the history of whaling and its ties to the great state of Connecticut.
On Wednesday, we return once again to the Bay State to Boston and the Museum of Science where students will explore the planetarium, OMNI theater and exhibits. From discovering how our land came to exist (even before humans inhabited the earth!) to how technology affects everyday life, students will find themselves immersed with all of their senses! On Thursday, we find ourselves in Newport to explore the mansions of the Breakers, the Car Museum and to the Newport coast where we will take part in the International Coastal Cleanup!
Friday we complete our tour of New England museums at the Dr. Seuss Museum and the Basketball Hall of Fame, where students will learn more about some of the athletes who made an impact on one of the most beloved sports in the state of Connecticut (go UConn Huskies!). Each day the students will enjoy meals off campus with snacks provided by Rectory School. This MELP is on-campus and available to students in grades 6 and 7.
The Nantahala wilderness area encompasses over half a million acres of old growth forest, mountains, and scenic rivers in North Carolina.
This MELP will offer a week of adventure like no other, as students use a variety of means to explore this diverse, rugged, and picturesque land. Across our five days we will paddle the whitewater of the Chattooga River; peddle the famous mountain bike trails of the Tsali Recreation; hike the paths of the Nantahala Forest; and kayak the Nantahala River. The adventure concludes with an awesome zipline experience that extends from one mountain top to another.
While gaining skills in this range of outdoor activities, students will also learn about the people of Cherokee nation, the original inhabitants of this region, and will take in some blue grass music one night around the campfire.
This MELP is high adventure, and high reward. Nights will be spent sleeping in tents with all meals, guides, and activities supported by the National Outdoor Center in Bryson, NC. Transportation will be via plane from Providence, RI to Charlotte, NC where we will rent two minivans to drive the remaining leg to the Nantahala Forest.
We hope your will venture into the wilderness with us on a most memorable journey!
Experience the New England countryside as few do these days - from the back of a horse!
Over the Hills We Horseback Ride! is geared to all students, from the beginner rider to the advanced. We will start the week with a mounted riding lesson and discussion of general horsemanship at Bramble Hill Farm and then venture forth throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to ride the trails, over hill and dale, through forests and fields, and along the beach. Learn the history of the area and how people have, for hundreds of years, travelled the trails that we will ride.
Come ride with us and enjoy the beauty of Southern New England from the back of a horse!
We are very excited to offer Puerto Rico: Island of Natural Wonders as our MELP. Puerto Rico presents the opportunity to explore history, ecology, marine life, culture, and architecture. While in Puerto Rico we take a sightseeing tour of Old San Juan, exploring historic landmarks, including La Fortaleza and Cathedral de San Juan.
Students learn about the two main forts– El Morro and Castillo San Cristobal. We traverse El Yunque’s Caribbean National Forest, walking among waterfalls and indigenous flora and fauna. Also included in our MELP is a catamaran trip to Icacos Island, where we spend the day snorkeling and swimming among the rich and vibrant coral reefs.
Students learn more about marine life while kayaking in the glowing Bioluminescent Bay. We absorb Puerto Rico’s culture through its music with Salsa dancing lessons and eating the native cuisine.
Surf and Turf MELP’s educational aim is to allow students to learn about, and experience, the various unique natural and cultural aspects of California’s Pacific coast. Students will learn about the wildlife, ecosystems, and natural resources of this unique area of the country through hands-on activities and volunteer opportunities at nature centers and wildlife reserves. They will be exposed to many aspects of Californian culture, and our experiences will revolve around the great outdoors, thus helping students to appreciate California’s beauty and uniqueness.
We will explore the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve where students will take a guided tour of the wetlands and get to see some of the diverse wildlife. We will take part in a community service at Bolsa Chica and activities may include the removal of invasive plant species, installation of native plant species, and/or trash removal from the Reserve. We will also work with the nonprofit volunteer organization, South County Outreach Food Panty, stocking shelves for the facility, which helps around 9,000 people yearly. We will hike through the famous Runyon Canyon, up to the Hollywood sign. Once at the top, we will be rewarded by panoramic views of Los Angeles and surrounding areas, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. We will visit the famous Griffith Observatory to view the stars through telescopes, explore exhibits such as a demonstration of the Tesla Coil, see live shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, and enjoy spectacular views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign.
An afternoon will be spent taking surfing lessons at the Banzai Surf School. Students will be able to take surf lessons from experienced instructors, with surfboards and wetsuits provided. We will go on a whale watch to see giant blue whales, finback whales, gray whales and many more species of the west coast in their natural habitat. Before heading home, we will hike with wolves at Wolf Connections, a sanctuary for rescued big dogs, who serve the community with helping enrich the bond between humans and animals.
In our ever-changing world, young people grow when they connect to and understand the natural world. Young people need to learn about our Earth and its abundant resources., by reading, and taking the opportunity to observe some of the changes our planet is undergoing.
In this On-Campus MELP, we teach students about plants, animals, and the environment and how we are all connected. This five-day program, which combines on-campus activities with day trips, will focus on learning about the birds, farming, animals, and hands-on crafts. They will learn the importance of leaving a lighter footprint on the environment, the importance of plants, and the humane treatment of animals.
Day trips will include visiting the Audubon Society in Pomfret, Connecticut, where students will hike the trails and learn about birds in their natural habitat. We will visit several local farms. The week will culminate in a trip to Animal Adventures in Bolton, MA, where students will have interactive experiences with all kinds of animals. On-campus activities will include hiking the Rectory campus grounds, building birdhouses, making bird food, creating a terrarium, and other activities.
At the end of this program, students will have a more comprehensive knowledge and appreciation of the natural world around them.
This MELP offers students the opportunity to explore the history, culture, flora, fauna, and wildlife of the Keys in Florida, and the Everglades National Park. Students will interact with and observe the environment, landscapes, and history of the Everglades through a variety of facets and lenses. By interacting with the environment, students will gain an appreciation and understanding of the area, including its marine life, environment and the important role it has had, and continues to play in our lives and the world. The Keys have been a destination for artists, filmmakers and the like, because of its beauty and aquatic life. However, the Keys have also experienced the destruction and rebirth that comes from hurricanes. As a result, the people who call the Keys home have established a culture and heritage that is as resilient as the vegetation that encompasses it!
Students and chaperones will travel together from Rectory to Miami, and then, via chartered bus, to the Keys. Student activities could include, but are not limited to the following:
- Everglades National State Park: Participants will explore the Everglades and its abundant wildlife through a “wet walk” and kayak excursion with a guide who is a trained biologist and naturalist.
- John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: participants will explore the aquatic wildlife of the area by snorkeling in the coral reef. A scenic bike ride that winds through native landscapes, tell the secrets of over 4,000 years of local history.
- History of Diving Museum: Dedicated to collecting, preserving, displaying, and interpreting artifacts, antiques, books, documents, photographs, and oral history relative to the History of Diving.
- Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge Butterfly Garden: The native pollinator garden is a volunteer-built and maintained walk through over 50 species of native plants.
- Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center: Participants will volunteer at the Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center whose mission is to rescue injured or otherwise harmed birds, rehabilitate them, and release them back into the wild.
In 1872 the US Congress established the first national park for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. We will have the opportunity to visit two national parks. We will visit Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.
In Bryce Canyon National Park we will hike along the rim and down into the hoodoos along the Queens Garden Trial, view Thors Hammer and experience Wall Street (rock formations). We plan to take advantage of the dark skies of Bryce and to explore the splendor of the night sky and build our astronomy knowledge.
At Zion National Park we will follow the paths where ancient native people and pioneers walked as we discover Utah’s first national park. Zion is a noted for its colorful canyons, forested mesas, and striking desert, and we will be exploring by riding on horseback. We will have an opportunity to explore the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park where we will experience the ultimate adventures as we tour on UTVs through the sand dunes and hike to mini slot canyons. We will also try out Sand Boarding/Sand Sledding.
The first evening will be in a hotel and students may have the opportunity to swim in the hotel pool under the supervision of the Rectory faculty (no hotel lifeguard on duty). The following evenings we will return to “The Hacienda” which will be our home for the remainder of the week. It sits on 5 acres, has a game room, a billiards room, a workout room, and hammocks to enjoy after a full day of adventures. Here we will enjoy breakfasts and pack our lunches daily.
The Rectory School will provide transportation to the airport, where students will then be traveling by plane to Las Vegas, NV, from there we will drive east and begin to explore the region with faculty-driven minivans throughout the week.