By Brenda Erickson
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” The child answered, “A caveman!”
That question was asked of Jay, a Counterpane student when he was very young. Jay has always been interested in living in the woods. Little Jay joined the Boy Scouts, and later, as a teen, he came to discover that there was a whole world of wilderness skills. Now, he has his own collection of wilderness books and backpacking supplies. All these resources fell into place, as Counterpane students are encouraged to select year-long research projects on topics of their interest. This year, Jay, as a freshman, is researching his passion: living in the woods!
An important aspect of researching your passion is practicing what you’ve learned and, subsequently, discovering new things for yourself. For example, Jay, at one point, was lamenting to his teacher that he didn’t know what he’d do without his knife if he was lost in the woods. So, the teacher suggested he head outside and see what he could do about fashioning a natural replacement tool. As Jay was trying to break a rock to create a sharp edge, he noticed that the rocks sparked when they were thrown together. Eureka…fire!
When asked what his favorite thing about Counterpane was, Jay had not just one answer, but three. Immediately, and to no surprise, Jay said, “I get to run around in the woods at school!”
He went on to say that he can do the work that he loves and find ways to incorporate what he needs to learn what he wants to learn. He made a striking remark as we finished our conversation.
“At Counterpane, I get to make my own choices. I get to make decisions and most importantly, deal with their consequences, good or bad, in a safe place before heading out into the real world.”
Knowing of Jay’s interest, we saw an opportunity when an applicant to our school visited with his family. Magic was in play: Chris, the applicant’s father, is a wilderness teacher and was looking for work in his favored field, outdoor classrooms. Counterpane has dreamed for years of further developing our outdoor education activities for Counterpane families as well as community families.
What delightful conversations ensued with Jay, Chris, and Counterpane staff, watching the threads unfold and dots connect. Jay can have a real flesh-and-blood teacher of wilderness skills, and Chris, with his immense body of knowledge and experience, can further develop our wilderness program.
Counterpane is so excited to begin offering wilderness weekends for our extended community of little people and their families when the weather is warmer. We will even be designing a low (very low) ropes course for our little people to help with team building, and Jay wants to help Chris build the course. Therein is the magic of Counterpane, where a dream is the first step on the path to reality!
We believe all children need nature – the outdoors – to survive, thrive, and grow. You can help us continue to make our outdoor classroom inspiring and engaging for our students by supporting Counterpane. We thank those who donated to our outdoor classroom dreams on GAgives Day. Our message is: We are building upon our outdoor/nature experiences with wilderness skills classes for our students and our community.
“There is no description, no image in any book capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them in a real forest.” – Dr. Maria Montessori
Watch for updates and announcements at Counterpane Montessori School’s Facebook page and on our website at counterpane.org. You are also invited to drop in on Wacky Wednesdays between 8:30 and 10 a.m.
Brenda Erickson is the founder of Counterpane Montessori School, which has been serving the Fayette community for more than 40 years. Counterpane is nestled in a 14-acre forest off Hwy. 314 in Fayette County. The campus includes a small farm, woodland gardens and a grove of trees which embrace children ages 3 to 18 who are learning and growing, building their independence and interdependence in the land of Counterpane.