What Role Can a Preschool Play in a Just and Sustainable Future?
Systems and structures of empire, which include settler colonialism, racism, and patriarchy, are codified networks of relationships characterized by objectification, domination, and control. Within these systems, living beings (humans and non-humans) are used, coerced, forcibly managed, and/or disposed of as a means to an end. The massive ecological and social crises we all face are only the result of certain codified and institutionalized modes of relating to each other and to the natural world. A “just and sustainable future” lies not in technological solutions, but in a radical transformation of relationships across diverse scales of distance and time. In this way, a preschool really can participate in creating a future that we would pass down to our children with joy and confidence, because preschool is one of the first places we build and tend relationships beyond the home.
Beyond creating a safe and accessible place for children to grow, play and rest, the preschool we hope to make possible will support and sustain relationships rooted in love, care, and creativity. Relating in this way unfolds through:
Time Spent Together in Wild Places
At the core of our pedagogy, the natural world isn’t regarded as an advanced playground, or even something that exists for us to “discover”. It isn’t something we use, but instead is encountered as a teeming web of sacred life, full of beings with their own agency and lifeways. It’s the place where we come to learn and remember our unique role in something much larger than ourselves, and is the site of inspiration for our wildest imaginative play. Through the development of authentic relationships with other species, an ethic of care arises from within us, and children begin to develop their own understanding of how to lovingly relate to the natural world.
The collaborative creation of wild and wonderful stories and songs
Our original stories and songs are woven through and peopled with the beings and experiences that we encounter when playing in the forest. Over time, these songs and stories become the creative fabric of classroom life, and students recognize themselves in these creations because they were a part of their becoming.
The Practice of Human Skills that Enrich our Classroom Community
Daily classroom life is designed to include opportunities for preschoolers to learn important human skills and make meaningful contributions to our classroom community. These might include baking, gardening, classroom building projects, inventions that respond to a classroom dilemma, caring for special places in the woods, and preparing for events that include families.
Artistic and Physical Play
Our classroom is full of opportunities for creative exploration where imaginative impulses can move through our hands and whole bodies. We make art with diverse materials, and creatively improvise through dance and playing pretend.
Rhythms and Routines that Connect us to the Larger cycles of the Natural World
The rhythms and routines that populate and give structure to our days, weeks, months, and years are microcosmic expressions of the larger cycles of the earth. Children can relax into the structure of the classroom while also having an experience of connection and belonging within these larger patterns.
Conflict is a natural part of relationships. We don’t try to manage the classroom to be conflict free, but instead create a safe environment for young ones to practice creative collaboration, engaged and embodied listening, and strong boundary setting.