Spring Is Building

No season explodes with activity quite like spring at Fairhaven School. Some field notes:

The newly chartered Garden Corporation has already tilled a plot in the backyard by the millstone, planting greens, potatoes, onions, and marigolds. Steady rains have eased their watering burden. Taking advantage of the state of Maryland’s discounted native tree program, the School Meeting has purchased three high bush blueberry bushes and two black tupelo trees. We’ll plant them next week.

Dozens of students have been playing Capture the Flag. Skateboarding, rollerblading, and bike riding are back. Many students joined a high jumping contest by the circle. Boys (and the occasional girl) are playing their gun games. Players are bouncing balls on the parking lot in games of basketball and foursquare. We’ve seen frisbee and kite flying. Kickball can’t be far around the corner.

Some girls have been playing what they call “Survivor” outside, creating intricate homes from boards, logs, and other found materials. Theirs is yet another version of created games that involve not only physical space but imaginary space, games that develop relationships, commerce, and entire worlds. In the clearing between the woods and the driveway, a younger group of girls and boys have made their own informal “Builders Club,” again arranging a physical space (involving, among other structures, two small lakes!) and relationships to suit the needs of their game.

Older teens have partnered with our alumni intern to revive the Tree Fort Corporation. They have a preliminary, triangular design, and they have selected a site just past the field. They have begun moving scrap lumber to the site. School Meeting has empowered the Grounds Clerk and the Building Clerk to monitor the project. Now that the intern has purchased a bag of lag bolts, it appears they mean business. Will they dismantle the old tree fort for scrap materials? Time will tell.

One instructive way to understand Sudbury schools is to think of the students as “model building.” (Sudbury Valley founder and writer Dan Greenberg has written extensively on the subject.) Given free time, our students literally build their days. Inside, they may take the improv class. They may join their friends in the art room, creating “clay worlds” on trays with multi-colored plasticene (a definite cousin to “Survivor” and the “Builders Club.”) They may navigate the latest dungeon in D&D; they may be trying to “beat the level” in an onscreen game. Many activities defy easy description. All, however, develop young minds and sensibilities in comprehensive ways, and, this time of year, we get to see this process outside. Busy, sweaty, on the go, our students pass, often a blur. Is there a better sight?

Around the driveway circle, three shades of pink bloom on the trees. Leaves are budding throughout the forest, and songbirds will soon be nesting. After rain, toads and peepers call. Fairhaveners are integrated into this spring picture, building their days into lives well worth living.

Mark McCaig

April, 2009