This weekend was spent visiting my cousins and their three young children out on their farm in Romsey. Growing up in the suburbs with nothing but a patch of fake grass and a swimming pool surrounded by concrete for a backyard, I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY by my experience over the weekend.
Upon arrival, I was handed a pair of gumboots by the oldest child (8 year old Brigitte) and a shovel by the two youngsters (3 year old Henry and 5 year old Will). I was overwhelmed by how much they knew (and could teach me) about gardening, looking after their veggie patches, taking care of their animals (chooks, horses, cows- the lot) but mostly I was incredibly AMAZED by their creativity.
I was taken for a tour around the farm where I was shown some of the many ‘shops’, ‘doctors surgeries’, ‘caves’, and ‘secret cubbies’ that the children had imaginatively created with as little as a bush, some rocks and a few twigs and sticks. At one point, Brigitte and Will pulled me aside into their doctors surgery and measured my heart beat with their stethoscope (made from a long stick with a leaf attached to the end) and checked my temperature with their wooden thermometer. I couldn’t believe how imaginative these children were and how enthusiastic they were about nature and making use of the environment.
I asked Brigitte the eldest, how she enjoyed school and though she said that she LOVES reading, drawing and writing stories, she also admitted that her classroom “isn’t very fun because we just have to listen to the teacher all day and she screams a lot”. Brigitte and Will were then very quick to inform me that next year they would change schools to ‘Candlebark’- a school run by John Marsden, who has adopted the Fitzroy Community School approach to education. The school is situated in dense bushland in Romsey, teachers are all on a first name basis and there is no school uniform. The school has two friendly dogs, plenty of veggie patches and chooks, and provides excursions and incursions regularly. The curriculum is implemented in a creative and innovative way that steers away from learning mathematics and English out of a text book. Instead, a typical school day may involve engaging with the outside world from gardening in the yard to excursions off-campus, talking with guest speakers, conducting experiments, and singing and dancing.
What I gathered from these children about their “really fun”, “cool” and “adventurous” future school called Candlebark, was that the “2063 classrooms with direct access to the yard” is a learning space that isn’t as far away into the future as we think….
I think I can safely say I have now been officially converted into this farmyard lifestyle. A future of educating students about sustainability, nurturing the environment and teaching students in a hands-on and engaging way that is purposeful and enjoyable, is a future that I certainly want to be part of.