Our 365-Acre Classroom at South Whidbey State Park
Calyx School Continues to Meet During Pandemic
Our adaptive program focuses on meeting the social/emotional needs of our children during this time while diving into interdisciplinary hands-on projects that ignite nature connection, creative problem-solving, and resilience. We launched our "Online Outdoor School" on March 23rd, 2020 with great success and have slowly transitioned into our forest program over the past several months. We work closely with our families to ensure all children have access to the learning being offered. We are signing together, breathing together, creating together, and sharing our explorations of nature. Calyx has always offered a responsive education and we are grateful that our pedagogy and infrastructure allows us to easily adapt to these times.
The Calyx Difference
Calyx's school-year program for children ages 5-11 operates as a supportive learning environment for home-schooled children and as an Approved Learning Center for Whidbey children enrolled in Orcas Island's public school alternative learning program (ALE) called OASIS. Calyx students receive academic mentoring in the areas of literacy, science, social studies, math, fine arts, and health which often correlate with OASIS and homeschooling academic standards. Our approach in these subjects is through a social justice lens - one of inclusivity, compassion, and curiosity, and rooted in a deep connection to place. Calyx mentors and families work closely together to ensure our children experience a well-rounded education that prepares them with the knowledge and skills so deeply needed in our rapidly-changing world. Above all else, Calyx children are encouraged to develop into their authentic selves and to find their individual roots within a collaborative community. At Calyx, academic learning comes from our intentional, thoughtful, creative and responsive curriculum that engages children as active participants in learning, not passive recipients of information. That’s the Calyx difference!
Learning With Nature
Calyx children spend a large part of their day outdoors, learning with nature and coming to know the earth intimately and care for it deeply. As they come to know the earth, they come to know themselves. As they nurture the earth, they nurture themselves.
The benefits of time outdoors and nature connection in the development of the human brain has been documented by Richard Louv (author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle) and many others. Connection with nature and the multi-sensory experience that time outdoors provides, opens neural pathways and facilitates learning of all kinds. Time in nature helps children succeed in all areas of their lives and development -whether it’s learning to read or write or play a musical instrument or chart the phases of the moon.
A Whole-Child Curriculum
Calyx's curriculum weaves academics, social and emotional well-being, spirit and body well-being, and social justice practices into our everyday learning.
Calyx covers traditional academics through a developmentally appropriate and responsive curriculum that meets each child where he or she is developmentally. We believe that social and emotional development and play are essential aspects of healthy and whole child development and learning, and provide the foundations for lifelong human development and learning. We do not follow prescribed notions of what each child should be learning and when. Instead, we provide a rich and stimulating environment, with plenty of opportunities for emotional, social and academic skills-building, such as literacy, math, science, and social studies.
The emphasis on time in nature provides numerous opportunities for learning. It awakens the senses and stimulates the brain. Time alone in nature, listening for messages from the forest, is an opportunity to cultivate stillness and deep listening. Interpreting those messages, writing them in journals and sharing them with peers provide opportunities for writing, reading and communicating. Math can be found in the patterns and sequences of nature. Science is in the questions and observation of the natural world. Stewardship of the natural world provides opportunities to learn social studies, history and geography.
Learning to listen deeply is a core agreement at Calyx as we practice listening to ourselves, to one another, and to the earth. With thoughtful and gentle guidance from mentors, Calyx children are active participants in conflict resolutions and problem solving, gaining a deep understanding of the crucial role of diversity and how to come to peaceful solutions.
Stewardship is another core element of Calyx’s progressive, multidisciplinary, arts and nature integrated curriculum. Stewardship of the Park provides opportunities for applied science, math, literacy and social studies through research and documentation of the Park, its trails, its inhabitants and its history. Calyx students share in the responsibilities of the Park by serving as a much needed, year-round presence in the park, monitoring trails and reporting to rangers, and mapping trails and creating interpretive maps by and for kids.
Calyx’s School Year Program for children ages 5-11 is comprised of three terms (Fall, Winter, Spring). Our 34-week academic offerings include a three-day (Monday-Wednesday or a two day (Monday/Tuesday) option. We do not offer full week programming here at SWSP. However, children enrolled with an Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) program, may have access to further in-person programming to flush out the week. Other families choose to supplement their Calyx learning with at-home learning and/or alternative classes on and off island.
Calyx School meets at South Whidbey State Park, where our time is split between our 347-Acre Outdoor Classroom and our Indoor Classroom. Calyx children learn and grow side-by-side in a multi-age learning environment. Our small class size ranging from 15-20 students and our small mentor to student ratio allows our children to receive individualized attention and learning.
Calyx families of children aged 8 and above are responsible for reporting child progress to the State, either through homeschooling reports, OASIS reports, state testing, and/or the creation and presentation of academic portfolios. Calyx uses performance and observation-based assessment methods for our students and assists children in creating and presenting portfolios.
Funding and Fees
Calyx is a fee-based, cooperative program. Our program and operational costs are largely supported by generous donors, making it possible for us to offer our programs at low or no cost. Calyx is committed to inclusion and diversity, and will turn no child away solely because of the family’s inability to pay. For 2021/22, the class fees for the two-day program are $5000/year and $5500/year for the three-day program.
For registration information, please contact Maisie Greer at or call our office.
Calyx is an approved learning center for OASIS, the alternative learning program of Orcas Island School District in Washington State. Click below to see if enrollment in OASIS is a good fit for your child.
Calyx Connects, a semester distant-learning program for children ages 7-11 offers heart centered, emergent nature-based learning responsive to the times in which we are living, when connection to ourselves, each other and the earth are more critical than ever.