On Giving and Receiving
What's Happening at School this Week?
If last week was full of veiled allusions to the possibility of springtime, this week has been the dramatic reveal. Yesterday, I was laying in the grass at 5:00 PM, pleasantly warm in the shade in only a long sleeve t-shirt! The warm weather has brought a pleasant ease to the school, along with the transition from the heady design work we've been doing into the more relaxed and familiar atmosphere of crafting and making. As we turned the corner into the hands on portion of the project, some kids who had been struggling finally came into their comfort zone, blissfully cutting, sewing, glueing, sanding, and scraping. Others continued to be challenged, even frustrated, as their limitations of knowledge and dexterity made it difficult for them to bring their designs into being.
Today and tomorrow, we'll be presenting our gifts to our parents, telling the story of our interviews, our designs, and the process of crafting our containers. This is yet more uncharted territory for most, the often intimidating, sometimes exhilarating world of "public speaking". For whatever reasons, perhaps because of my background in theatre and the performing arts, watching kids stand up and present in front of a group of adults is one of my all time favorite parts of teaching. There is something so magical and life-affirming about a child on a stage, soaking up the adoration and attention of adults. So often, we are too busy with our adult concerns, and our children run on a deficit of our focused and undivided attention. Having the opportunity to speak their piece to a captive audience of loving adults can do wonders to balance this deficit.
At the same time as this three week project is wrapping up, our final projects are being introduced. The goal of the final project is to make a gift, an object and a container for that object, for a certain villager here at Earthaven, selected at random. The tricky part is that the gift needs to represent the unique gifts of that person, their specific way of being in service to the village and the world. This has given us the opportunity to have some rich conversations, to unpack big thoughts like the phrase "where your joy and the world's need meet", to deconstruct the word "represent" and talk about the use and meaning of symbols, and to dip our toes into imagining what our own unique gifts to the world might be. Like everything we've covered this session, I could do a whole session on this concept of Gifts, but for now just a little taste and then we'll be wrapped up for the winter.
Which brings me, of course, to the main preoccupation of much of my days and quite a bit of my nights recently: what is happening next session? Spirits willing, and if everything goes according to plan, we will be located next session in the Forest Garden here at Earthaven. For a long time, various tenders of this under-utilized and perhaps under-appreciated agricultural area have envisioned it as a learning and teaching center. My hope is that the kid's presence there can be not only a fantastic educational opportunity for them, but also a gift to the community, through their labor and daily tending of the land.
Yesterday, I spent the afternoon slowly introducing myself to that place, one that I have moved through many times, but never slowly or deliberately enough to feel familiar and at home there. I sat underneath the great-grandmother hemlock to the north of the garden beds, speaking out loud to the land and its people, rooted, furred, feathered, and otherwise, telling them about myself and my intentions, hopes, and dreams for the school's presence in their company. I acknowledged the inevitable taking and destruction that would accompany our presence there, and spoke my prayer that even in our taking and destroying, we could learn to be in relationship with the place in a way that feeds and improves the land, and that that gift could be carried by these children to many other places throughout their lives. I wandered, and noticed, and rested, and received. I felt deeply fed, deeply welcomed, deeply honored.
So this is the main trunk of the "curriculum" for our next season of school: What does it mean, what does it look like and feel like, to fall in love with a place, and to express that love in words, thoughts, and actions, in tangible, physical tending and care for the land? What is food? How are we fed, and how do we feed those around us? What do we take from the Earth, and from where, and how, and to what ends? And what can we give back?
How can you support the school?
Let me peruse your library
I'm always on the lookout for inspiring and amazing pieces of writing, both for my own inspiration and enjoyment and to share with the kids. If you ever have a recommendation of something to read that touches on the subjects we are exploring, feel free to let me know, and if you're open to me coming to check out your selection for myself that would be wonderful as well.
Come tell us a story!
In this unit on adulthood, coming into our gifts and finding our unique path of service in the world, it would be wonderful to have some personal stories from villagers about their unique life path so far. If there is a story bubbling in you about where life has called you that you may not have suspected, please get in touch and we'll make a time for you to share it!
Donate money or leaps
Donations are always welcome, in any amount. Financial support is needed in order to ensure that the program remains affordable to all of our hardworking families here at Earthaven. Donating is easy and satisfying! Consider signing up as a patron with a monthly donation, as this predictable income is especially valuable in supporting the financial health of the school.
For our upcoming summer session, The Village School is in need of the following items. If you have any to donate they would be greatly appreciated. Please get in touch with me and I can come pick them up!
Farming and gardening tools of all kinds: Pruners, hoes, rakes, shovels, pruning saws, wheelbarrows, etc...
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What are we reading at school this week?
Loretta Little Looks Back by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Told in the voices of three generations of the fictional Little family, this recreation of African American oral history tells a story of resistance and cultural transmission in the face of sharecropping, Jim Crow, and the white conservative backlash during and after the Civil Rights Movement. Based on members of the authors own family, the Littles tell their story in a voice and style all their own, and convey not only the history, but also the lived experience and the creativity and generative "soul-force" that grew and blossomed through the generations in their family, both out of and despite that experience.
What's the teacher reading this week?
I haven't been taking the time to include this section recently, but I thought I'd at least give a brief list of some of the books that have been inspiring me as I look forward to our next session...
The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver