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Kids building a wooden bridge outdoors

Kids building a bridge outdoorsSo what sets Free Union apart? Who better to ask than our students—experts on all that happens inside and outside the classroom. Twenty students weighed in on all that they liked and disliked about their school. Here is what we gleaned, with some grown-up extrapolation:

  1. Our 6-acre outdoor campus,
  2. A passion for active, hands-on, brains-engaged learning, and
  3. A collaborative community where kids learn from and with each other.

When students are asked what they like most about Free Union, invariably they say, "the teachers and having lots of time outside." When parents are asked, they say, "the teachers, who really know my child." Ask staff and they say, "the kids and my colleagues." A common thread: the teachers, 100% of whom are vaccinated and whose biographies may be found here.

Tents in the morning sunThe sun shines through. Dew is on the grass. And our outdoor classrooms await the arrival of eager students. Outdoor classrooms are just one of the many ways that Free Union Country School has kept safe, in-person learning going both last year and into the fall opening of school this year.

Not masks, not social distancing, not even a deluge could dim the light beams shooting from the eyes of students and teachers alike, this first week at Free Union Country School. "You guys are awesome!" (Blair, Laura, and Ronée)

Tent Learning

A week before students arrive, teachers are back at school preparing for your children by taking part in Jonathan Shay's Tangents class. As they pursue their own interests with hand-crafted projects, just like the children will, they come face to face with the spark of an idea to make fractions understandable in math, or to provide an incentive for expository writing as students divulge how they made a night light for reading under the covers at bedtime.

2 Eliza dropping a pen pal noteEach year our graduates give the graduation speeches: original, heartfelt, full of humor, brimming with gratitude, and invariably with warm reference to their buddies. At Free Union, each student has one—a younger or older student with whom they form a special relationship. But COVID-19 and the need for social distance has prompted a rethinking of how we do Buddies.

By happenstance, I witnessed something remarkable last week as our admin team met under the pine trees. Three third graders approached the Pre-K classroom carrying a small wooden table. As they stood somewhat uncomfortably outside Pre-K deliberating about something, I popped over to ask what was up.

sacred stumpsThe Sacred Stumpsacross the streamMixed-age soccer games, second and third graders reading to preschool buddies, fifth graders in charge of bi-monthly pizza sales―what's a school who prizes community going to do in the time of COVID? Improvise, guide, write, and share across class cohorts or from one tent to another!