Our 365-Acre Classroom at South Whidbey State Park
Calyx Closes Its South Whidbey State Park Program
Like so many organizations, Calyx and its small staff have been challenged by the demands of the times. Our commitment to children and to the earth remains strong. However, our capacity to give full expression to that commitment has been compromised by the unexpected challenges over the last 2 years. After careful thought and consideration, we have decided to indefinitely pause our South Whidbey State Park program starting this month, January 2022. We find ourselves, as individuals and as an organization, needing time to reflect and regenerate in order to determine our paths forward.
During this time, Calyx plans to continue partnering with South Whidbey School District to further develop the pilot Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) for 1st through 8th grade students. The ALE partners with parents and community members to support student learning, and provide in-person learning opportunities embedded in the community and anchored in outdoor experiential learning. The ALE has been an exciting step toward fulfilling one of Calyx’s broader visions of educational transformation within a public school setting.
The Calyx Difference
Calyx's school-year program for children ages 5-11 operates as a supportive learning environment for home-schooled children and in collaboration with Alternative Learning Experiences (ALEs). Calyx students receive academic mentoring in the areas of literacy, science, social studies, math, fine arts, and health which often correlate with state 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.