This past weekend, we invited families from our program to come help us clear brush and dig up some earth in preparation for an additional learning space. On Friday morning, both parents and children went to work chopping privet, briars, and kudzu. It seemed daunting at first, but after just a few hours, we had cleared the space and were already discussing what we should do the following day. We decided it would be wise to use the next day to dig up the dimensions of the space we wanted to create so we could prepare for putting in a floor. But where should the building go and which direction should it face? The movement of the sun was the “guiding light” which lead us to orient the length of the structure facing south. This southern exposure would allow for passive heat and light during colder months. We marked the corners and the vision of what we would be creating together continued to take shape.
We had more families join us on day two, this time wielding shovels and mattocks. These tools helped us remove the top layer of decomposed wood, brush, and roots. One of our student’s older brother commented on how fast we were able to move when we had a lot of people there. Another one of our students younger brother also carried a child’s sized shovel and joined in. Even the goats and the dogs were involved. We took water and snack breaks, the children played intermittently as they watched their parents work, waving from the window, or coming out to grab a shovel and contribute their own efforts. The energy was flowing through our bodies, our conversations, and our shared project. Again, in just a few hours, the space again looked very different than when we started and a clear outline of the space was ready for the next stage.
This project is so much more than having an additional learning space, if it was, we could hire someone to come in, clear the land, design a building and construct it. Our approach allows for an opportunity to be part of the process, to have the children witness and feel connected to the stages of work and see their families and teachers working together to make something that will benefit us all. It creates a different relationship to the land, the building, and those involved with bringing it to fruition when you are a part of the experience first hand. Children are curious and want to help when they see their parents helping. The journey is just as important as the destination and we want our children to feel that for themselves. There is great meaning in witnessing just how much we can accomplish when we work together; we can create, we can collaborate, we can learn, and we can enjoy the process. This will then translate to other life endeavors. It is not about getting an answer correct, or attaining a high test score, we hope to create a resonance of learning through a holistic approach of head, heart, and hands.
We are tremendously grateful to all the parents who continue to support our program. It is a great reminder that we can’t fully support our children’s ability to flourish without a united effort. This project is also an opportunity for us as parents and teachers to learn and grow. Roots of Life is a place where the adults are not the bearers of all knowledge, tasked with bestowing all information they deem important to the children. It is a space where every individual involved has a chance to learn and grow together. Therefore, we plan to offer more experiences that invite parents to participate, such as in building projects, gardening, yoga, and inquiry groups.
This coming weekend we are excited to be participating in TerraMar’s Earth Day celebration. The day will feature yoga for children and adults, local vendors, and a live variety show. A few weeks ago, we shared with the children about this event and asked if they would like to be involved. We discussed some of the activities and skills we have from our program that might align with earth day and on their own they suggested some of our circle time songs about the earth, seeds, and trees, as well as spring time yoga poses. They also had the idea to share about gardening. We have been since preparing, having the children create a presentation of songs and movements for the the variety of the show, as well as starting turnip, cucumber, and sunflower seeds in flats. On earth day, we plan to bring their sprouts so they can share them with the community.
This event will be a chance for our students and families to connect with the greater community and also give the children a chance to apply what they have learned beyond themselves. This is a helpful question to ask ourselves, even as adults, how can I use what I know/am good at to be of service beyond myself. What benefit is it to know how to do something and keep it all to yourself? What we know and can do are gifts and gifts are meant to be given. This is another core value of what we hope our children will develop. The ability to recognize and participate in ways which use those skills for a greater purpose. We are good at starting seeds… ok, so what?… We can share them so others can start a garden! We are good a making bread… so what do we do with that?… We can bake at home for our families! It brings a depth of meaning to what they are doing that leaves a lasting impact. They feel their efforts and skills are valued and needed in our community thereby inspiring the ongoing learning process.
Living is learning and all the activities from parent work days to community Earth Day events are a part of that. As soon as we isolate learning, we stunt it’s potential for growth. Imagine telling a seed it can only grow between the hours of 8:30am-12:30pm. Growth happens at every moment and we can learn to watch and nurture it as it takes it’s natural course. May we continue to find ways to learn and grow together.