It’s a different year but a strong one so far! We made the decision to base everything outdoors this fall for safety. We’re finding so many other benefits as well: lots of movement, social interaction and connections, less anxiety, much joy. And academics remain strong. Students adapted and settled quickly into our new normal and love being outside.
Brendan Collins, core middle school teacher, commented recently in an update to parents: So, the rhythm of the days, weeks, and even the seasons feel a bit different this year. Being outside most of the day, students (and teachers) are immersed in the natural cycles as well as the many meteorological faces of Vermont. Fog one morning, wind the next, migrating birds another, sun and moon, crickets, frost, more wind, corn harvest, hawks overhead, circling around the fire, autumn colors, falling leaves, rain and snow on the peaks. Without walls, the world of ideas and their possibilities seem more tangible than ever. Horizons are no longer out the window but just over the hill.
Our K-6 students have been on-site, in-person, five days a week since the first day of school in September. Our middle school students are on-site three days a week, on a school science-based field expedition one day, and working remotely one day.
Early Winter Update:
As winter arrives we continue to be committed to basing our operations outside for the most part. Some classes are held inside but the majority of classes and activities are based outside. The two large metal frame, poly covered greenhouses we put up are serving us well. Everyone has learned how to dress appropriately for the weather. We alter sitting activities with high energy movement to stay warm. And we’re enjoying lots of hot fires.
We are modifying our weekly schedule to support the ability of students and staff to maintain their energy and engagement. K-6 students will be on-site four days a week and at home doing async remote learning on Wednesdays. Middle School students will be on-site three days a week and at home doing remote learning two days a week.
Pictures on our Facebook page.
From the spring during the period of remote learning:
During these months of ‘distance’ learning, Red Cedar has been active and connected. We have worked to keep the community and relationships strong, and we’ve been immersed in substantial academic learning. Live daily classes have continued much the same through video conferencing. The focus for the youngest students has been more on tutorials. While it hasn’t been the same as being together at school and we can’t wait to return, the past months have been fruitful.
Our groups have been engaged in different activities specific to the class and developmental level, but all told students have: designed simple machines and built models that work; created short films about books; written literary essays, narratives, pandemic journals, and poetry; created and annotated maps; developed backyard field guides; explored cycles of history; done outdoor field observations and recorded them in science journals; discussed books they read together; carried on with daily math classes; built hummingbird feeders; participated in reader’s theater skits; learned Japanese calligraphy; done word study; sewn masks for the community; done research projects in areas of interest; painted water color minis of the emergence of spring; learned bird identification; participated in musical improvisation; enjoyed reading, lots of reading; recommended books to each other; listened to read alouds; received new bags of books and materials periodically; enjoyed regular morning meetings; shared laughs; and remained connected.
We can’t wait to be back together again. Based on current developments in Vermont, we anticipate that it’s likely we’ll be at school in person in the fall. In addition to following the safety protocols and parameters set by the State, we are planning to increase our outdoor focus. As a school with a strong outdoor emphasis already, and developed outdoor classroom spaces, we are well positioned to do this. Our faculty team is underway with plans for outside projects and explorations that integrate collaboration, creative thinking, problem solving, academic skills, content knowledge and the arts.