The presence of mud and sand at the Seed is one of the residual influences of my childhood days. As children we flooded a backyard ditch on summer days, calling it The Stream. Around our stream an imaginary community flourished, created and sustained by neighborhood kids. It was one of the most profound and everlasting experiences of my childhood. As a grown-up I learned of another community made by children, Roxaboxen, in Yuma, Arizona. Roxaboxen, a wild desert “town” with river rock houses, decorated with colorful glass bottles, and secured by a kid-monitored jail, was made famous by Alice McLerran’s book of the same name. Communities like The Stream and Roxaboxen have found a natural place at the Seed.
When visitors come to see the school, it’s always interesting to see their response to our outdoor classroom areas. The outside spaces, designed to extend classroom learning, have everything from worn out pots and pans to discarded laptops and cellphones. These items are useful in children’s play in the dirt. They are the tools and props of future 21st century innovators. When visitors first gaze upon the apparent chaos of these raw materials, they often seem perplexed. However, after several minutes of studying the children’s creations, their facial expressions shift. Serious work is revealed. For those who have childhood memories of playing this way, there is a feeling of returning home.
Some may wonder why, in this era of testing, children at the Seed are permitted to spend part of each valuable school day digging in the dirt. Tonight as I listened to our president deliver his State of the Union Address, his words unearthed an answer. When he talked about the importance of creating more jobs, he mentioned creativity and innovation. He emphasized fostering innovative thinking as we move forward as a nation to “reinvent ourselves.” When I heard this phrase, the first thought that came to mind was the outdoor work at our school. Seed children, as they interact with each other close to the earth, have a chance to practice reinventing themselves on a daily basis. As they test out their innovations with what they build, as well as their relationships with each other, they forge a foundation for the selves they will become. I am confident that in reaching a certain comfort level with this process as children, it will enable them to transition with more fluidity into what will be required of them as adults.