Open Air High School


Are you content with the educational experience being offered to your adolescent this fall?  Do you have concerns about their physical and psychological safety?  Stress and fear affect the human immune system and when we are in environments with these emotions, it is impossible to learn.  Consider the natural world for your child’s classroom.  How grounding and supportive it is to be surrounded by trees, birds, wind, and frog song?  I believe there is a way forward that offers a bridge for the adolescent from the way school was to what it will be. Adults are being asked whether we value the child’s coming to know themselves and their capacity to understand, question, and learn.  Are we empowering them to be strong in the face of whatever emerges?  The human-earth relationship needs our attention.  I believe one opportunity this time in history offers us is the chance to reflect upon the role of the human on the planet. At Heartmoor we will spend time in nature, we will read and discuss, we will ask challenging questions, we will envision a future for ourselves in vibrant relationship with the earth.

Due to the health crisis caused by Covid-19, I have decided to offer my vision of education to the community. Having worked with young adolescents for six years, I am turning my attention to older adolescent students, to those who are willing to truly engage with their environment, listen, and respond. Hosted at Heartmoor Farm Education Centre, my intention is to meet each student exactly where they are, to inspire them to grow in who they are, and to nurture their gifts so that they can contribute wholeheartedly to society.

In Nature we are able to listen more keenly, notice what surrounds us, tune into the rhythms and supportive aspects of the Earth. There is a great deal to learn about what the Earth needs as well as to acknowledge the incredible gifts on us she has bestowed.

Education in the twenty-first century should be about knowledge as understanding and knowledge as presence through which children and young people can find the meaning of their existence and their interrelatedness with all living forms. They need to develop interiority, a sense of wonder at the amazing differentiation in the universe, a sense of relationships, imagination, and the feeling of belonging to the whole universe. (Thomas Berry)

Each day (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) will begin outside, in the Bird’s Nest, with meditation and movement, we will outline the day’s activities before going to sit spots for journaling. After journaling, students will work in small groups delving into topics of study such as Nature Preservation and Ecology, Social Justice, World Religions and Language Arts. Math and foreign language study will be done remotely on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Lunch will be eaten outdoors and the afternoon work time will be spent in deep inquiry, book discussion, Socratic Seminar and projects (practical skills such as gardening and wood working as well as arts and music based endeavors). Communication and community development are at the heart of this educational experience.

Uppermost in my mind is the students’ access to nature and one another so that relationships in both of these arenas can thrive. Relations. Our relationships with one another and with the Earth are at the center of this educational model which is informed by Montessori and Waldorf principles.

Visiting specialists will bring new perspectives and expertise to the students and these experiences may lead to mentoring opportunities or shadow days with a professional.

Dialog with Peggy Whalen-Levitt, director of The Center for Education, Imagination, and the Natural World, has further inspired me in this work of guiding students in a natural setting. I encourage you to explore their website, offerings, and rich language around the human-earth relationship.

The classroom:
Nature (the woods, the creek, the animals – wild and domestic – the gardens)

The school: Heartmoor Farm Education Centre, Kents Store VA   23084

Who: 9th and 10th graders

When: Opening fall 2020, M, W, F 9:00 – 4:00 p.m./ Tu and Th remote classes

Prerequisites: Desire to engage in one’s own life and education, willingness to explore, listen, and respond.

Director: Elizabeth Hale-MacKinnon,

Enrollment: limited to ten

Course of study: Humanities and Science, inquiry and interdisciplinary investigation highlighted by visits from specialists

Tuition: Will be determined with each family based on the schedule selected for the adolescent.

Please review our COVID-19 HEALTH PROTOCOLS

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