Friday, August 6, 2010

If only all children could have a school like this...

Today is my son's first day of school. He will be a student in the early childhood classroom of a Montessori magnet in the Chicago public school system. This school has a garden, albeit a few raised beds on an old asphalt basketball court. I'll take it -- any outdoor activity is a luxury in a school system imperiled by a city that pours money into TIF's instead of education. In honor of the start of his formal education, I wanted to share with you some images of the school I wish he could go to.

While in Santa Fe for my sister's wedding, I had the chance to visit the school where she works, Camino de Paz Montessori School and Farm. Here's a description from the website:

"Camino de Paz is located on a working organic farm.
Daily practical experiences, along with service learning,
outdoor education, arts and music provide a meaningful
context for academic studies"

Here are the greenhouses and cold frames where the students raise vegetables:

"[Students care for animals, prepare meals, process foods and help on the farm. They run a poultry business, selling their eggs at the Camino de Paz Farm booth in local farmers' markets. They construct and maintain animal habitats and their own garden plots"

Here is a loom in the fiber arts area, where folks can spin and weave the wool raised from the farm sheep:

Just a brief visit to this beautiful and purposeful school made my heart ache for all the kids in classrooms across the country who must make do with some houseplants and a gerbil and, if they are very lucky, a raised bed or two. Who needs gym class when you spend a morning shoveling compost or pruning grape vines? How can the students at Camino de Paz not have a superior education to the children who do not have the opportunity to participate authentically in the life of a farm? As Maria Montessori wrote, "[E]ducation is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment"


  1. Great post Abbie. I can totally relate to this as I taught Kindergarten for many years in the public school system. My graduate degree is in Early Childhood and Special Ed.

    My partner and I were totally into authentic experiences for children. We planned a literacy garden for the school grounds and ordered a plant light set-up for the classroom. However, our outside garden was never approved and we ended up with raised bed planters that we were told look messy when the Sunflowers bloomed.

    It will not change soon, in fact most districts are imposing more and more testing and inflicting textbooks on younger and younger students.

    Good luck with your new little student. Be a fussy parent and do what you can at home.


  2. Thanks, Eileen! I've heard this from other teachers, too, that their gardens are blocked by administrative rules. I just learned yesterday that schools exist within CPS that are "no recess". Sigh. Abbie