Memorial Day traditionally marks the collectively acknowledged beginning of summer, a time for reflection, relaxation, recreation, and (especially) growing. Everyone, kids and adults, however, have been “done” with the formalities of the academic year for a few weeks now. Yes, even at Deep Root Center where June 2nd is our last official day and where ventures, procedures, and structure are always completely individualized, voluntary, non-coercive, and non-compulsory.
Active participation has dwindled since the beginning of May, while lassitude has run rampant: projects are left unfinished; ideas and plans are produced at a rapid rate, but not followed through; excursions and outdoor adventures have become a daily practice; reading and staring off into space is a common sight and this past week some students simply stayed home.
Lest you believe I am only describing the kid’s behavior, please let me reassure you, the staff has been infected with these summertime anticipatory afflictions as well.
As you may have noticed, I am not expressing concern, annoyance, or even disgust by this, end of year, conduct. I fully comprehend and celebrate the necessity for downtime: a time to drift and dream, to plan and conjure, to play and cavort, and to merely rest. Our brains, especially, need time to sift, filter, and organize the multitudes of information they have accumulated over these last few months. Leisure is, indeed, a recognized and essential component in everyone’s life plan.
This is, therefore, your official invitation, and permission slip (if you need one), to take advantage of the summertime heat to: tune out, “veg”, explore your inner thoughts and constructs, eat watermelon, read a cadre of books, build a sandcastle, and frolic in the delights of impromptu spontaneity. Happy summer!
Summer Programming – Register your child today! A calendar with the weekly themes and the registration form can be found on our website.
Apprenticeship – DRC is hiring an apprentice to help develop, implement, and facilitate a program, based on Montessori and other child centered philosophies, for young elementary students, between the ages of 5-8. This person will be fully engaged with all aspects of Deep Root Center. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Maria.
End of Year Celebration- This will be our last hurrah for the academic year. Join us, June 1st at 5:30pm, for a potluck, art show, and observance for all the hard work and achievements we have all accomplished throughout this academic year.
Dairy Princess Parade- June 4th, look for the awesome, kid designed and implemented, DRC float. This is also a time to learn more about DRC. We will have a table in front of our building and tours of the facility. Bring your list of questions; we will be happy to answer them!
Opportunities for volunteering – We are already in planning mode for next academic year. Our kids have expressed interest in a variety of subjects and we are looking for tutors to help them explore these on a deeper level. Your time commitment can be as little as 1 hour/week for a ten-week block. If you are interested in learning more about helping our dynamic educational community please get in touch. Below is a preliminary list of subjects:
Ancient Eastern Asian Studies Algebra Japanese French Earth Science Biology Music – looking for someone to help develop and lead a band Carpentry Art – sculpture and mixed media Psychology Animal behavior Working with Animals – pre vet tech Script writing
The Liberated Learner philosophy is based on the simple fact that we are all growing and learning in an integrated society throughout our entire lives. We embraced that concept literally, two and a half years ago, when we opened DRC, and offered our program and facilities to children from the ages 7-18, because we believe a real world education requires a firm grasp on the real world which includes the opportunity to participate in a community filled with a variety of ethnicities, abilities, eccentricities, economic backgrounds, religious beliefs, gender identities, as well as a spectrum of ages.
We can proudly report that this decision has grown an amazingly diverse and close knit collective at Deep Root Center that play, converse, and learn together on a daily basis. Everyone takes the six-year-olds’ concerns and talents as seriously as the seventeen-year-olds. They nurture and support each other through all their imaginary games, personal projects, and explorations.
It is amazing to watch (and listen) to a thirteen year old and seven year old become deeply engaged in conversation that feeds both of their spirits or a group of multi-age kids devise an apartment house with a variety of furniture and recycled materials to act out fanciful scenes (this past week, they were preparing for an inspectors visit) for hours on end.
Last Thursday I walked, with ten kids, to the Canton Pavilion to play kickball in an official field. We discovered, upon arrival, that eight of the ten kids had no earthly idea how to play kickball. The two thirteen-year-old boys quickly took the situation in hand and chose up teams with a complete lack of ego or competitiveness. They immediately understood that this was going to be a “game” that involved very little real kickball action and much hilarity. They made up arbitrary rules to assist the younger (and the oblivious) kids and guided everyone indeterminate of which team they were on. Needless to say, I spent most of the time rolling on the ground in laughter as their antics became increasingly absurd (yes, this probably explains why the photos I took to document the day are so unfocused - bad). The game lasted for two “innings” and eventually devolved into several kids making up imaginary games on the bleachers and others showing off their gymnastic skills on the grass. Watching children from all age groups romp and play together is, indeed, one of my greatest pleasures.
Several families have approached me over the past year asking if DRC would consider creating a program specifically for young elementary age students, because they want to homeschool their children, but because of life's little realities, are not able to take on the process themselves. We accepted a six year old, in February, because she was completely miserable in Kindergarten (because, I simply couldn't say “no” to an unhappy child). She, as mentioned previously, has fit in, mostly, because she is a delightfully, independent little thing who requires very little from the adults (except to ask for her allotted ration of hot glue sticks everyday). She creates hands-on projects, researches animals on the computer, makes books with printed out animals, interacts with the other kids, reads with a volunteer, and plays with the toys everyday.
With this past year’s experiences and wisdom under our belt, Deep Root Center, as requested, is developing a formal program integrating Montessori, Waldorf, and other child-centered philosophies and is starting to enroll youth between the ages of five and eight now for this coming academic year. This will be assimilated into our existing program to allow for the organic and spontaneous multi-age activities, play, and projects to sprout up throughout the day --- enhancing our already dynamic community and making it even stronger.
This initiative is a team effort led by André, the new DRC apprentice, and me. Another volunteer, who is a trained and experienced Montessori practitioner, has agreed to guide us through the development process and facilitate for a few hours each week. The Montessori philosophy focuses on creating an environment that is accessible, engaging, enticing, interesting, and heterogeneous with open shelving that houses rotating activities, objects, games, and toys, based on particular topics, where children are invited to explore on their own initiative. Lessons are conversations built around those subjects and interests, and, like all DRC classes, are completely optional. A theme will be prepared for each month along with a variable schedule of activities, lessons, and games which allows room for extemporaneous roaming and rambling dependent on individual requests and needs. The learning is completely self-directed within our safe, non-coercive, friendly, yet structured environment.
This new program allows Deep Root Center to offer our brand of real world education to families with younger children who acknowledge and understand that learning is a lifetime occupation that takes on varying disguises and forms and is seldom quiet, complacent, or obedient, but is frequently active, loud, boisterous, quite often messy, and many times willfully independent. If this describes your ideology, give us a call or drop us an email; we would love to share our vision with you.
We are in the process of talking with people who are interested this dynamic and exciting apprenticeship and will be accepting applications through the middle of June. Please get in touch if you would like to explore this opportunity. The job description and application are available on our website.
We have you covered parents. Just say “no” to bored kids this summer and register today.
END OF YEAR CELEBRATION
Join us for a potluck and art show, June 1st at 5:30pm, to celebrate all the accomplishments and growth this past year.
DAIRY PRINCESS – JUNE 4th
Look for the DRC float in the parade and come and talk to staff and board at the DRC table in front of our building. We will also have the facilities open and available for tours all day.
Grand accomplishments go hand in hand with the personal traits and skills associated with hard work, rigor, grit, diligence, dedication, determination, fortitude, perseverance, and commitment. I will maintain, however, that these characteristics are not and simply can not be manifested because of extrinsic motivation, directives, coercion, and brow beating as our culture would have us believe. While also recognizing that, oftentimes, the amazing feats we celebrate are, in fact, false, because the criteria has been manipulated to make the tasks less daunting, intimidating, and of little consequence, or in some cases even designed to inflict harm (emotional and physical) on others. I am convinced, through both experience and research, that success (bold or modest), which can only be a direct result of intrinsic motivation fostered and guided by pursuing individual interests and enjoyment, passions, enthusiasms, personal concerns, and desire to solve a problem, should be measured by the authentic positive impact your achievements have on others. These particular thoughts are swirling (colliding) through my head today, less than twenty four hours after watching my son, Ian, receive his degree from Hampshire College during an emotionally charged ceremony that was replete with speeches recognizing the hard truths about life on a college campus as well as recrimination for administrative response to critical situations. For those unfamiliar with Hampshire, it is a rigorously academic school with no tests, grades, or majors, but above all, it is a place where students are expected to take charge of not only their educations, but all of their actions and decisions, and, it is where young people are encouraged to actively participate in local, regional, and global issues. Yes social, LBGTQ, and environmental activism are all alive and well on the Hampshire Campus. But even there, within all that, the accusations of being protected by the “Hampshire Bubble” were tossed around by graduating student speakers. Ian chose Hampshire College before speaking to anyone on campus, entering any buildings, or visiting any classes; he simply knew it was the right fit the first time he walked on campus at the age of sixteen, nearly six years ago. I am convinced it was because he has always been a highly creative, independent, intrinsically motivated, self-directed student and he immediately felt that strong vibe and energy of people getting important stuff done. (He would probably argue that point, but considering this is my version we'll go with that.) He spent three years narrowing his focus by taking classes at Hampshire, and the other four surrounding colleges, that interested him and informed his eventual Div. 3 culminating project. Ian spent his entire fourth year researching (everything from the Bible to Arthurian literature), writing, editing, conferring with his advising committee, revising, rewriting, editing and revising again his one hundred page, thesis entitled, “Be Ye a Good Knight:” Justification of Warfare in Three Evolutions of Idyllic Knighthood. This entire process required an extraordinary amount of resolve, hard work, tenacity, and resilience of spirit, which was all, sustained by his love and passion for his subject. As a young child and teen, Ian refused to listen to anyone who told him that he needed to study particular subjects, take standardized tests, or, most importantly, conform to societal expectations to become successful; he rejected proffered notions that studying and drawing knights and castles, and playing with swords was a waste of time. Ian, however, has always approached cultural messages and directives from authority figures non-combatively, by doing his own thing and simply presenting, the typically extraordinary, results as fait accompli. He is of the mindset – just work hard at what is best for you, at that moment, and ignore the critics and naysayers. Within that philosophy lays the foundation for his academic success, his kindness and empathy for others as well as his exceptional ability to have fun and be incredibly silly. As Peter Gray points out in his latest Psychology Today article, when you are given the opportunity to fail, struggle, and ultimately accomplish your goals, no matter what it is, you will feel the joy of having attained your hard won objectives, simply because they are your own ideas and aspirations created out of your passion and fervor. I will also add that the ability to choose a supportive, encouraging, and loving environment (whether a place of learning or job site) in which to engage in that work is an essential component to achieving the success you envision.
This is another nod to Ian's resolve and determination during this last year, which has not been easy, by any stretch of the imagination. Saturday's graduation ceremony was his opportunity to celebrate the whole experience and revel in his accomplishments. Congratulations, Ian! You are an amazing role model for the young people you work with and we are so incredibly proud.
. . . is the fundamental basis of my life philosophy. Many of you, as you read that statement, are probably scratching your heads, because my demeanor doesn't often convey a fun-loving, devil may care, irresponsible attitude that the word play is frequently associated with. I will contend, however, that play, despite the thesaurus's interpretation, is actually (or should be) the foundation for all creativity and learning.
Peter Gray, the pre-eminent developmental psychologist and author of Free to Learn, has spent much of his career researching the role of play in children's lives throughout the history of humankind and agrees that it is the infrastructure for all learning. He, in fact, goes into great detail discrediting the systems of education that utilize rote memorization and require students to be tied to a desk for hours at a time. He maintains that curiosity and movement are essential components of childhood and young people should be allowed to explore the world around them, yes, to gain knowledge, but to also acquire self confidence and assurance.
I would also argue that learning is a lifetime occupation; inquisitiveness, playfulness, and the desire to analyze through exploration can not, nor should it, be turned off at the ripe age of eighteen, twenty two or whenever formal schooling comes to an end.
I, honestly, refer to most everything I do as play. When I write, I am thrilled by the challenge of constantly manipulating the words, searching the thesaurus for new and exciting vocabulary to fit together, like puzzle pieces (although, I didn't inherit my dad's love of traditional puzzles or games). The sound and lyrical cadence of the language, for me, is the most important component of writing which probably explains my love - hate relationship with grammar and the rules of writing. (Okay I'll be truthful, I don't like to follow directions of any kind which probably explains my antipathy towards games.)
In my kitchen, cooking follows the same disregard for recipes. I like to experiment with ingredients that I have on hand and I quite often come up with something really tasty that can, unfortunately (much to my families chagrin), never be replicated. I am, however, never willing to compromise my fun and delight in creating new concoctions just for the sake of consistency.
My occasional forays into the art world are all about the pure pleasure of mixing together pigments to create fresh and exciting hues which then translates into a palette full of really awesome colors, and little else to show for all that fun.
My heart, therefore, breaks just a bit every single time a ten, thirteen, or sixteen year old looks at me with his or her brightly intense gaze and proudly states, “I have not played since I was six or seven”. My initial and honest response (yes, I am nothing but real with “my” kids) is always, “really, how can that be?” These are often the same kids who can not tell me what they are interested in, who are invariably “bored”, despite the legions of materials and resources available, and who get easily discouraged and quit whenever they hit a snag.
We have, therefore, taken on the joyful job of reigniting the desire to play and explore in these kids. The staff offers opportunities, during mentoring sessions, for their natural inquisitiveness to take over, and sometimes we are sneaky, feigning disinterest in their seemingly apathetic states. Many times, we act swiftly to capture a moment of student led inspiration, so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle. Which, as explained last week, often requires a boatload of patience and forbearance for the noise and activity associated with spontaneity, chaos, silliness, high jinks, and pure ingenuity. It also demands the space and tolerance for incomplete projects, moodiness, and agitation as well as an unflagging determination to offer affirmation and praise for hard work and perseverance, not to mention, the intense amount of energy necessary to facilitate all the above.
When you come to understand that a real world education requires the space, support, and reassurance to explore the planet with curiosity, an open mind, and boldness to try new, sometimes, scary things that just may offer a lifetime of pure delight, you are determined to promote this approach to everyone you may encounter.
If you would like to explore this topic and Peter Gray's research further, please read Free to Learn, which is available at the Canton Free Library. (Sorry, my copy is signed by the author and I do not loan it out.) His articles are also frequently available through the Psychology Today website.
DRC is looking for a person who would like to become part of this dynamic, fun-loving, and inspirational community. If you are interested in fostering a love of learning through inquisitiveness and play,please contact ustoday. We are looking forward to introducing you to the philosophy of self-directed learning.
Ten weeks of fun, creative, original programming facilitated by Maria Vecchio, Megan Howard, and Emma Warner. Sign up today!
Wednesday, June 1st - Year-end Celebration
The DRC staff, Board of Directors, student members, and their families would like to invite you to a potluck, art show, and end of year celebration on June 1st at 5:30pm. The students will be delighted to show you all they have accomplished these past few months. They would also like to extend gratitude to all of the volunteers who spent their time sharing their passions and interests with them.
No one person is an island. We all rely on others for emotional sustenance as well as most of our basic physical needs. The best (easiest) way, I believe, to meet those requirements is through collaboration while participating in community. Our consumeristic culture, unfortunately, is driven by competition which is completely antithetical to cooperation and sharing. As a society, we, as a result, tend to make negative judgments about anything that smacks of synergism. We simply view any attempt to work together as cheating. It has been instilled into our collective psyche from earliest childhood.
One of DRC's most important assignments, within our philosophy, is to build community with these unique young people who have signed on as members. DRC expects each student member to participate at least three – four days each week. Because, if certain individuals don't get involved, the DRC community does not and will not reflect their distinct personalities and perspectives.
Within our community, we are creating a culture of kindness. Our one rule: Respect yourself, everyone here, and this space, hangs from the bulk head in the chill space. We have all agreed that if anyone's behavior goes out of bounds, we can call each other on it by simply saying, “that is not OK.” We also have a community meeting every Monday morning, where everyone is encouraged to bring news, questions, and ideas to the whole group.
Many of our student members have just recently left an educational environment that did not feel safe, where they were bullied and where they worried about fitting in. Consequently, they are all learning to be comfortable in their own skins, to be themselves, and to make close friendships, while acquiring confidence, without a sense of entitlement. These are probably some of the most important lessons they can possibly receive right now. This is why DRC encourages and celebrates social time amongst all of our youth.
Upon entering the DRC facilities on any given day, as I have mentioned before, it often appears that a three ring circus has invaded our space. Kids of all ages are often hanging out in the chill space conversing with each other and the adults, while playing board games, Minecraft, and retro Nintendo video games, or they may be using social media, and watching youtube videos. Other youth may be taking apart a bike in one corner. Some could be in the project room painting puppet characters, so they can create detailed storylines for a puppet show. There may be other students in the main class room covering our chairs with glue and fabric and some may be using the laptops to work on their math lessons through Khan Academy, finding images to print for a book they are making, or watching a documentary about wolves. You will most likely find a seven year old hanging out with a thirteen year old playing an imaginary game based on fictional characters. The music room is often occupied with one youth playing the intro to “Smoke on the Water”, over and over again with another joining him on the conga drum. Several volunteers come in to teach classes in subjects like: Japanese and photography. One or two young people are probably completely engrossed in a book and oblivious to the pandemonium surrounding them. Many of our teens also leave the Center to get lunch, walk to Heritage Park, or the Buck Street Playground to enjoy the sunshine and Spring weather.
All of these activities have one thing in common: they are all done in collaboration. If someone needs assistance, we encourage other students to help them, and, no-one can be accused of cheating when they ask for help or use a hack to find a solution.
When people say that building a collaborative, respectful learning community, with multiple ages, is not possible, I invite them to visit the DRC community to experience this phenomenon themselves. It is, indeed, eminently possible when: you trust each other, everyone understands they have options, and when kindness becomes the default mode for every single interaction within
If you are interested in exploring the possibility of joining our phenomenal learning community, please contact Maria C to schedule an appointment. We are meeting with families, now, who are interested in becoming members for the 16/17 academic year. We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Summer Programs – June 20 – August 26 We are very excited to announce that DRC has hired Maria Vecchio and Megan Howard to facilitate ten weeks of fun, creative, educational and original programming. Each week will follow a different theme and will include a field trip and everyday will feature project time, free play, and fun activities. This is open to youth 4-18. Please contact Maria Corse for more information and to register, soon. We anticipate these weeks will fill up quickly.