History + Traditions


Glen Urquhart School evolved from the commitment of a group of parents, led by Lynne and David Warren, to create a school where children would be stimulated to learn for its own sake because the process would totally engage them physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

Established in 1977 as North Shore Middle School in the basement of a local church, Glen Urquhart School took residence on the former 23-acre Orchidvale Estate in Beverly Farms in 1982. Here, where Albert Burrage had raised thousands of varieties of orchids in 28 greenhouses, the buildings and grounds were transformed into a vibrant place of learning. In concert with the founding vision for the school, the boundaries between inside and out were virtually erased by large windows with views to the natural world. 

When the school moved to the former Orchidvale property, it adopted its present name, Glen Urquhart School, to honor the family legacy of the school’s founders. The school chose the Scottish surname of Urquhart and combined it with “glen,” the word for a green, shady place (replacing the word “vale” in the property’s former name), creating the name Glen Urquhart.

Today, Glen Urquhart, affectionately known as GUS, has more than 200 students from 25 towns and cities on the North Shore of Boston. Our teaching continues to be informed by a commitment to knowledge, creativity, and character.

The school’s motto, “Meane Weil. Speak Weil. Doe Weil.,” taken from the clan of Urquhart in Scotland, expresses the values promoted in the school every day.  “Trust and go forward” is the Urquhart clan battle cry and provides inspriration for our community. Both phrases appear in our school song.


Glen Urquhart School takes pride in the traditions and special events that stem from its philosophy and heritage.

The history of the name “Urquhart” reveals that it was a place name in ancient Scotland. The first Urquhart was Conacher Ach Mohr, the clansman who slew a great boar, thus ridding Urquhart of a terrible menace. At the 1982 dedication of the School’s new building, the Laird of Clan Urquhart, Chief Kenneth Trist Urquhart, gave his formal permission for the School to use the name Urquhart, and with it, the tartan, the motto, the battle cry, and the ancient boar’s head crest. These clan traditions provided the young school with an ancient and colorful history.

There are several versions of the Urquhart tartan; the School uses the modern one, which is a navy blue and dark green field with one red, two black, and two white stripes. The tartan, in the form of ties and sashes, is worn by our eighth graders on special occasions, like graduation. The School colors are gray and green and were inspired by the sight of present day Castle Urquhart on Loch Ness. The remains of its tall stone tower, assorted walls, and foundations are surrounded by soft green plants. This gray and green expanse, silhouetted against the blue of lake and sky, prompted the school colors of gray and green: gray for the castle’s hand-dressed, hand-placed stones, and green for the natural world around them.

Below is a list of the major events and traditions as they occur during the school year.

Grand Friends’ Day

Grand Friends’ Day, held in the fall, is an opportunity for all students to share their school experience with extended family and friends. The majority of our students invite a grandparent. If a grandparent is not available, we welcome your child’s special adult friend, such as an extended family member, a neighbor, past teacher, or parent. This day includes a variety of sharing activities, including a morning coffee, classroom visits, and a musical performance. Each student is encouraged to invite at least one grand friend to enjoy this special day. Eighth grade students do not participate in this event; instead, they can use this day to visit secondary schools.

Bread Day

Bread Day takes place on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Families in designated grades are asked to bake breads from their family heritage. The assembly explores the rich variety of grains that serve as the “staff of life” around the world, focusing on bread as a symbol of world unity and ethnic diversity.

Winter Solstice Assembly

Winter Solstice Assembly celebrates the beginning of winter with music, stories, and legends of different cultures. Our Solstice Assembly occurs on the final day before winter break.

May Day

May Day is an all-school celebration of spring. Students create flower baskets to share with neighbors, and the eighth graders perform a traditional Maypole Dance.

Evening with the Graduates

Evening with the Graduates occurs the night before graduation. Each eighth grader delivers an original speech about something they have come to believe in deeply. At the end of the evening, the Urquhart tartan and the leadership it symbolizes are passed from the outgoing graduates to the incoming eighth grade in a candlelit ceremony.

Partner Classes

Students in grades kindergarten through four are paired with a partner in grades five through eight. For example, kindergartners are paired with fifth graders. Through shared activities, partners develop a special relationship that provides the younger student with an older buddy and gives the older student the opportunity to be nurturing. In this way, the school encourages friendships to extend across the school community. Partner meetings happen regularly throughout the year.


Beginning in fourth grade, each class has at least one extended field trip that involves being away from school (and home) for one to three nights. These overnight trips are described in more detail below. 

Fourth Grade Trip to Mystic Seaport

Fourth graders participate in a three-day, two-night, hands-on experience at Mystic Seaport, Connecticut. Students investigate and try to resolve issues that might have challenged early sailors and seafaring communities.  In addition, they climb the rigging, row small boats, and sleep on a square-rigger. The past is brought to life as students create their own scrimshaw and sing sea chanteys.

Fifth Grade Trip to Chewonki

In conjunction with their theme “The Land,” fifth graders spend four days and three nights at Chewonki’s Outdoor Classroom in Wiscasset, Maine. Working in teams, they are encouraged to learn camping skills, develop respect for the environment, solve group challenges, and explore various ecological topics.

Sixth Grade Cultural Studies Trip 

In the spring, the sixth graders go to the Heifer International Global Village in Rutland, MA, and are immersed in the study of cultures around the world.

Seventh Grade Wilderness Trip

In the spring, the seventh graders, along with some of their teachers, spend a few days hiking together in the White Mountains of New Hampshire on a trip led by staff members of the Appalachian Mountain Club. This trip proves to be an effective way to strengthen class bonds, foster interdependence among students and faculty, and nurture respect for individual differences.

Eighth Grade Trip to New York City

In September the eighth graders go on a three-day trip to New York City.  The focus of the trip is immigration and is a natural extension of their eighth grade study of United States history.  Students look at immigration from a variety of viewpoints, informed by tours of the United Nations and Ellis Island.  In addition, students attend a Broadway play and visit one or two museums.  

Eighth Grade Work Week

As the culmination of our community service program, our eighth graders participate in an extended community service activity either internationally, nationally, or locally. Eighth grade students participate in a week long, service-oriented trip, usually in April. A portion of the class travels to the Dominican Republic, where they work at an orphanage; other students travel to Washington, DC, where they work on community projects with the homeless.

Upper School Retreat

On the Thursday and Friday of the second week of school, the sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, along with their teachers, spend two days together at Camp Winaukee in New Hampshire working on individual and upper school goals. The object of this trip is to build a community within the whole upper school and set goals for the year.

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