Recently, I published a sketch of what a school at Chestnut Ridge might look like. Since then, several families and educators have responded with enthusiastic support. Our board approved the creation of a task force to flush out the idea. The kids in our community are ready to start a countdown.
We adults know there is much more to it than that. I do believe, however, that it may be time to formalize some ideas and plans. With the groundwork laid in place, we could begin schooling at Chestnut Ridge in the 2010-11 school year.
What would this school look like? What mission might it have? What grades would we serve? How would we find the right teachers? Would we need any additional buildings? How many backpacking trips can we incorporate into the curriculum? How about drama, folk arts, and farming? Those have been the topics of back porch conversation.
We need to hear from other educators, people who have experience starting a school, people with passion and vision, and people with a passion for creating life-long learners.
If that’s you or someone you know, please join us for more back porch conversations. We’ll gather next from 5:30 – 6:30 pm on Wednesday, August 26 . (Our hope is that you can still make it home in time for supper; kids are welcome to hang out while we talk). Bring ideas, friends, and energy. Rocking chairs provided.
We were hiking and looking for ginger when he said it. A simple sentence by an eight year-old that's begun an exciting conversation. "I wish I could go to school here."
So do I, I thought. And a dream was planted. We continued that conversation about what a school might look like at Chestnut Ridge. A school focused on learning largely outdoors, by experience, and alongside caring educators.
I'd like to have gone to school at a place like that.
Chestnut Ridge calls forth dreams I would never have imagined on my own. The people, the space, and programs, they all speak to me of the gift of time and a place to grow, to discover ourselves, each other, and the world we share. Every day, this space and community transforms lives in remarkable ways.
The thought that young boy shared has sparked a new dream: The School at Chestnut Ridge.
At the moment, it's a fledging dream. But, I can see how a school might fit into the overall mix of life at Chestnut Ridge. The forest, the lake, and the bog lend themselves to scientific exploration and discovery. The challenge course and a plethora of initiative games suggest a focus on good relationship skills and character. The gardens and animals lend themselves to teaching skills of a bygone era, one which must be resurrected in part if we have any hope of feeding ourselves and our communities in a sustainable manner. Dramas and language. Art and music. Service learning and outdoor education. Learning primarily through experience and hands-on activities.
It makes my educator's heart thump wildly to think about the possibility of a community of learning at Chestnut Ridge. A place where school wouldn't feel like school, but rather a boundless invitation to learn and grow.
So, dream with this young boy, with me, and with others. What would this school look like? What would it take to move from dream to reality? How might this fledging dream take flight?