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Keeping Success Fresh! Earth School’s “Digging in the Dirt” Blog Inspires Comment and Conversation

Posted by on Jul 17, 2012 in Earth School | 0 comments

Editor’s note: In the 14-year history of Earth School in Westchester County, NY, its non profit sponsor, Something Good in the World has always excelled in capturing and communicating its achievements to the small community it serves. In 2011 Child Advocacy 360 proudly joined the Earth School sponsorship family, with a view to inspiring other communities throughout the country to provide similar after-school and in-school experiences for kids.

The Earth School concept already appears nationwide in varied forms. What is new, and very fresh, about SGITW’s program, is a cutting edge communication discipline—social media, yes—and punchy home-grown videos that work in tandem to keep the kids, and whole families, engaged.

Earth School’s blog program began 4 months ago with its Digging in the Dirt Series. Here are excerpts from the inaugural blog that captured the imagination of the SGITW community. Let us know what you think. Share your ideas and similar experiences with us, and we will enthusiastically post them on the CA 360 blog.

This blog is about digging – digging into understandings about education, about the needs of children, about what it means to educate children in a natural way, digging into the past, and digging a new pathway into the future.

And so I wanted to take a moment to dig into the beginning of Earth School, from the perspective of my own journey, how I came to want to do this work. But rather than a single, linear path, this story is one with many starts, many moments, like a mosaic. Like many seeds thrown across the soil, eventually becoming a garden.

There was the moment in high school, staring out the window during a monotone drone of a social studies teacher, literally watching the clock ticking second by second, and thinking, “there must be something more than this.”

It started with dreaming of a school where children could be doing something real, that applied to life, out in nature, where academic learning and the woods were integrated.

It began with visiting a school in 1996, in a small village in northern Israel, where children were so happy, outgoing, outspoken, confident, self-possessed, and thinking, “this is the way it should be.”

It was latent within the anguish I felt each day on my way into Manhattan for work as an actress, as I watched the cliffs of the Palisades across the Hudson River from inside the windows of a commuter train, and tried to imagine what the world must have felt like 200 years ago, even 100 years ago, when indigenous peoples still lived in harmony with nature.

And a day came, when I had to face the fact that working all day in a self-absorbed profession made me miserable, and wasn’t worth the health insurance or the pension plan. I took 6 months off to think and to write, living off my savings, while I identified a new path forward at age 36 (while everyone was telling me that I was crazy to leave a successful acting career at its high point). It had to be something with education, nature, and children. The name “Earth School” came with the idea that the planet is the best teacher, the outdoors is the best classroom, and learning is naturally fun.

With the little bits I had gleaned from my own experiences, what I remembered enjoying as a child and a young adult, and the philosophy that I had observed at the Golden Education Template (GET) School in Israel, I made a tiny start. Three sets of friends offered to lend me their 8-year-old children for 4 weeks, and we set off into a local nature center to try out my ideas.  The themes were teamwork, self-awareness, connection with the earth, theatre, and the arts.

This first group of children showed me the way. The first day, as we entered the woods, they were talking about video games (nonstop, loudly) for the first half an hour. Then for an hour they quieted, as we engaged in sensory games and exercises, then leaned up against trees and wrote in journals, and they told me, “I can think so much better this way!” And as we exited the woods, they got louder and began singing commercials and talking about Pokemon characters again.

I spent the next year taking group after group of children into the woods, finding nature centers that would accommodate homeschoolers, public schoolers and after schoolers, private and parochial schoolers.  It was pure heaven, total joy, true happiness.

And I never once regretted losing the health insurance.

Barbara Sarbin

 


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