"Education is not the filling of a bucket. It is the lighting of a fire." -William Yeats
Mother Earth School
Mother Earth School is our affiliate year-round, educational resource center that demonstrates an outdoor immersion model. Not only do the children at Mother Earth School become familiar with their surrounding environment, they also develop a deep respect for it. These children are curious and confident because they engage so intimately with the mysteries and challenges of the natural world. The children are strikingly aware of their bodies' limits and capacities as they are allowed an unusually wide range of physical exploration. As the children spend their days outdoors in all weather they begin to naturally acclimate to their environment, and when properly dressed, the outdoor environment seems to boost the immune system as they develop stamina and are breathing fresh air.
The forest and farm provide many creative ways to take refuge from cold and rain. The outdoor kitchen provides cover for warm meals (find out more about rocket stoves and cob ovens) and herbal tea. The cob sauna becomes a warming hut for story time. The greenhouse is a dry space for picnicking and activities and the Cedar tree canopy is a natural umbrella. The grade school has a cozy yurt classroom which serves to procure focus and productivity for daily academic main lessons and fine motor activities.
The children are in daily contact with the elements and are learning important skills that are foundational to a core understanding of what it means to be human. Since sensory development is akin to brain development, the foundations of academic learning are achieved through playful engagement with the natural world. The children begin to know the plants of the forest and the garden as they participate in growing and foraging food. They learn to compost, gather wood for fire, make herbal teas and remedies, and build shelters in the forest. They witness bees pollinating flowers, dip beeswax candles, harvest food from the land then preserve it for winter. They knead bread dough to bake in the cob oven, prepare wool from the sheep, gather eggs from the chickens, and make cheese or ice cream from fresh goat milk. These experiences cannot be matched in a classroom, as they involve engaging in the fundamental processes of life in a hands-on way.
Because the skills the children are learning embody with the ethics and principles of permaculture, we consider this style of hands-on curriculum 'permaculture education for young children'. Permaculture is a holistic design approach that mimics natural ecosystems and encourages beneficial relationships. Since young children are naturally imitative, learning in an outdoor setting is like a language immersion program - the wisdom of nature's patterns are absorbed into each child.
Permaculture education is not only outwardly demonstrated through physical projects and skills, but is also implicitly demonstrated through healthy school culture, balanced administrative design and empowering social development. Our teachers are trained in the art of redirection. Instead of being told "no", children are shown what they can do. We speak a child's language when we do something with them. When activities each day happen in the same intentional order thereby creating a rhythm designed to serve the needs of the class, the children know what to expect next. Not only does this predictability provide a sense of security and stability, it also averts most needs for discipline by creating a comfortable social scenario into which the child can integrate. Free play is a valuable and essential element every day, providing the inspired fusion of freedom within boundaries. The roots of humanity are re-cultivated by raising children who harmoniously integrate with the natural world.