VISTA, Calif. — A non-profit school in the North County is offering on campus learning five days a week this fall by taking education outdoors.
In this Zevely Zone, I went to Vista to speak with parents and teachers at the Sanderling Waldorf School.
This fall when school starts, Nicole and Tyler Baldridge know what the plan is for their children.
"We are doing 5 days a week here on campus we are so excited," said Nicole.
I met Nicole, her husband Tyler and their two children Jonah (7) and Olive (4) in the garden at the Sanderling Waldorf School.
I asked Jonah: What is it about outdoor schooling that you like?
He told me, "There is more room."
The school will offer virtual learning and homeschooling in the fall but Tyler and Nicole want Jonah and Olive to learn with in person and with their hands first.
"This is just what we believe is the right education," said Tyler.
Nicole added, "We know that from research that children's math and science scores are better by third grade if they spent more time outdoors as small children."
The Sanderling Waldorf School is a self funded, non-profit, private school with tuition that ranges between $15,000 and $20,000 a year but the school is implementing a new Access to All program that allows parents to pay what they can.
I spoke to Dave Winslow who is a parent of a student at the school. Winslow is also a school board member.
I asked him: With so much indecision how does it feel to have a plan for the fall?
He told me, "Fantastic."
The school is private but still had to abide by the state and county guidelines and the Public Health Officer in order to offer on campus learning.
Winslow told me, "Even as a private school we have to follow all of the same guidelines and we really want to set an example for children that they can learn in a safe environment but there is going to be new rules and protocols we have to follow."
A Carlsbad company by the name of Compound Solutions provided the school's outdoor garden through the work and financial backing of their non-profit organization The Farmacy Initiative.
Chris Burroughs, a horticulturalist with The Farmacy Initiative, helps maintain the garden and teaches students about the importance of growing fresh vegetables. Students also learn about the importance of being good neighbors. The Farmacy Initiative donates food from the garden to local homeless shelters. For information go to https://thefarmacyinitiative.com/
This fall, students will practice social distancing and wear masks when needed.
According to the school's news release:
"Sanderling Waldorf Schools' educational philosophy is based on recognizing each individual as a unique expression of body, soul and spirit, seeking to engage the whole child through a developmentally appropriate curriculum that addresses the physical, emotional and intellectual aspects of a child. The school aims to further this philosophy with a hands-on farm, allowing children to be part of the full life cycle of other living creatures, purposefully fostering growth for both the child and the living environment."
Priscilla Dulin is a teacher and parent at Sanderling Waldorf.
"I think we are making the best of the situation. We have several classes that are quite large so in lieu of separating them and dividing them moving outdoors seemed like the natural choice," said Dulin.
Her 12-year old daughter Sofia agrees.
"I'd much rather be out here with my mask on and safety than at home bored without my friends," said Sofia.
When COVID closed the school down in April and May, Nicole Baldridge got a taste of the difficulties of teaching from home.
"I had no idea what to do if my child said he didn't want to do school that day," said Nicole.
Which is just one reason why her family is opting for on campus learning and hoping for a great education in the great outdoors.
"I am really happy for them that they get to be in the hands of somebody who is so knowledgeable, so calm so kind."
As I interviewed her family a chicken casually walked by.
"Isn't that just how it should be?" said Nicole.
The Sanderling Waldorf School teaches students from the age of three through their eighth grade year.
If you'd like to learn more information go to https://www.sanderlingwaldorf.org/