Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Eco-cation: Schools for the environmentally-minded

I wasn't surprised to see a posting about a school with the environment in mind. I was, however, surprised to see that it was in Oregon. Not, of course, because it's not something Oregonians would fully support, but because I had already witnessed the creation of another such school.

I've had extensive opportunities to work and take classes with Terry O'Day, one of the founders of the Forest Grove Community School. The school serves students age 6 to 14, and provides them with a hands on education out in the real world. From the school's website:

Life lessons are learned by living. So, we created a school in which the students and teachers take the classroom into the world. Yes, they will study reading, writing and arithmetic (and much more), but the lessons will be held in the school garden, the wetlands, or downtown as well as in the classroom. These lessons will have impact, meaning, and lasting value because they are hands-on, here at home, dealing with real life issues.
I've supported the school ever since I first learned about it. I even started using GoodSearch with Forest Grove Community School set as my charity (and you should too!). It's because I feel school's like these are part of an important transition away from excessive consumerism and toward self-reliance (especially since Terry has been such a big influence on me, and has had her hand in developing this school from the beginning).

It's not only that. What about our own children? I don't have any of my own right now, and homeschooling could certainly be an choice I do, but is it the right choice? Some of us may not have the choice if we get as far off-grid as we'd like. For the rest of us, I think public schools have certain benefits, if they have the right mindset like these eco-schools seem to have.

Schools offer children an opportunity to develop friendships, social skills, public speaking skills, conflict management skills, teamwork, and more. Unless you have lots of kids, they might not get the opportunity to develop all of these skills. Not to mention, schools are going to provide children with necessary extracurricular activities. Kids need to experience different people and things.

And homesteading, for me at least, is not about disappearing from civilization. It's about going back to a time when people provided what they needed and helped those that couldn't. We're only as strong as our weakest link, so we have to help our weakest link be strong too. If our children grow up without having to develop these kinds of ties with each other, then what will their quality of life be like.

These eco-schools provide us with the best of two worlds. They share our enthusiasm about stewardship for the environment and working with our hands, but they also provide the community building and social skills necessary to make future generations work as "we" rather than as "me".

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